"Oof," you maybe thought after last week's demon pregnancy, "how awkward is it going to get now that Katrina's part of the fold?" Not nearly as awkward as when a succubus shows up and everything resets!
This episode felt less like a straight line than a yo-yo being swung in increasingly tight circles. Not all of that is bad—there's something to be said for an episode that picks one theme and sticks to it—but it does mean that we end up back where we started, right up to the point where Katrina gets ensorceled into cooing over a demon baby, because Katrina has caught fewer breaks so far this season than anyone else in the history of any other show, and I'm gonna go ahead and count whoever on Supernatural ever ended up in Hell over hiatus.
This episode, Wil E. Henry attempts to finally achieve something by summoning a succubus to feed energy to the Moloch baby he's nurturing.
(That heart pulses. John Noble is a very good actor.)
Is it the world's most tenuous connection between a demon baby and a trope that's famous for representing sexually voracious women who seek satisfaction in an explicitly childless way? Oh, it super is. Does it matter? Not to this show. The point of the succubus is to draw on people's hidden desires to seduce them and drain them of life force in a thematically-applicable way, and that she does.
First it's a man at a nightclub, even though when a woman describes a hunger she needs satisfied and asks, "Wanna dance?" that's a cinematic promise of a musical number that we never get. Next, meet Becky, whose crush on her friend is cockblocked by the boyfriend. He's tired of Becky's crush...on him!
"You've got it all wrong," Becky 1950s-pulp-dialogues as she runs out of the diner. Milkshake Joint Vixens in Love!
Sadly, it's Becky who gets succubused and not the boyfriend, who continues to walk the earth doing all sorts of stuff the man just does not need to be doing, like breathing. But this was a love triangle with one person suffering on the outside, and we'll be seeing this again.
In totally unrelated news, Katrina and Ichabod are finally navigating the modern era the way a modern couple should, by fighting over reality shows.
"Shameless groundling Kabuki," Ichabod mutters, not entirely inaccurately I suppose, but it's clearly only because the Suitor didn't choose Amber.
And since they're already talking about elaborate shams of nonexistent love, they might as well spend some time talking about their relationship.
Ichabod has concerns, but Katrina's optimistic about the future. "Who I was never changed," she promises about all the tall tales she's told him, so he doesn't worry that she's changed. She's been a liar since forever!
Inevitably, of course, Abbie shows up and it's time to manufacture tension between the women, which becomes repetitive even in a single episode. It's fine in the quieter beats, like when Ichabod's concerned about Katrina's headache (which Abraham Headless could cure with the tea he brought her, by the way, just in case you thought Katrina was capable of not making things awkward), and Abbie's left behind alone with the research and nobody to split egg rolls with.
But there's just too much nonsense Katrina's dragging behind her to make this feel like a fair fight, or even an interesting one. We know the winner; we've been watching two seasons of the show, and the only real variable (Ichabod's loyalty) has gone to Abbie when the chips were down. So when we're not looking at succubus procedurals, we have more than one scene where Katrina's upset that everyone insists on thinking poorly of her baby boy just because he's tried to kill them half a dozen times in an attempt to raise Satan, and Abbie has talking points like, "I am a Witness and he's one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse."
Crane somehow thinks he can improve the situation by telling them to stop fighting. He is pathologically conflict-avoidant, isn't he? Sometimes a knock-down drag-out is the only thing that's going to sort shit out, Ichabod. Life's a mess sometimes.
Ichabod, that's twice in three weeks. if you give us those mansplainy wait-for-it fingers one more time, I swear to God, I hope Abbie shoots them off.
The lopsidedness of the topic aside, this seems just about the right level of hostility for how the season has gone, from a woman who's feeling increasingly hopeless and a woman whose friends and loved ones refuse to source any non-corset clothes for her.
In general, because it keeps coming up without actually shifting much and we can just talk about it once, Katrina's presence does exactly what we always assumed it would. Ichabod and Abbie are not technically at a point of recognizing Feelings for one another (Romantic Lead Face aside), and Ichabod has always talked a big game about his love for Katrina, but put back together Ichabod and Katrina can really only talk about their relationship; it's a feedback loop that gets old pretty fast. It also neatly shuts out Abbie, who ends up being—not quite jealous, but peeved at the loss of someone whose time and focus has been more or less at her disposal. However, she has nothing against Katrina qua Katrina, and by episode's end they're able to have a candid chat, the whirling yo-yo of this subplot having swung right back around to break the wrist of whoever's swinging it in circles.
The only important bits in the actual succubus procedural part are 1) this:
The part of Me is being played by that dude behind the tape.
2) Ichabod's boasting about his dance prowess, including the Viennese Waltz. I actually went to Wikipedia to check on the dates this waltz would have been widely danced before I remembered this is the show that wants you to think the Roanoke colony spoke Middle English. (For the record, it checks out with the appropriate standard deviation for handwaving.)
3) This screencap that highlights just where these two are in terms of their goals and trust in one another, and also gave me an earworm.
"You give me a time and a place, I give you a five-minute name drop." (A REAAAAAL HUUUUMAN BEEEEEING...)
And 4), his mentioning that faith can pay off, as Katrina was returned to him: "So were you." Fact check I did not have to go to Wikipedia for: Katrina "was returned" to him because after weeks of imprisonment she got impregnated with the devil via her own son and ran out of the woods screaming for help, and Abbie "was returned" because Ichabod broke into Purgatory to get her back about 20 minutes after she went missing.
(The least important part of this procedural is the eleventh-hour moment when they remember to check the trace they put on Henry's online activity. This entire investigation is raising serious questions. No wonder demons just feel free to move in.)
Of course they have to consult Hawley to look for the out-of-body heart that's the key to controlling a succubus, and his feelings for Abbie are just everywhere, which would be fine ("fine") if she looked less uncomfortable.
Just the dynamic everyone loves: woman who would just as soon not and guy who won't stop trying to wear her down. Sexy! Joe Corbin's gone forever, right? This is the outsider we're going with? I'm just checking. (Poor Matt Barr. He's totally fine, and is doing a nice job of the moments where his guard is down, but he is just a walking plot point, isn't he?)
Ichabod, once he catches on, tries hard to be a supportive buddy and suggest that should Abbie wish to attend a private dance hall, if you know what he means, then that would be fine. He has no problems at all with Abbie dating the guy who has pretty much only ever been the worst, so long as that's where Abbie's heart is, and that is where it is, right? I mean, there's nobody else where Abbie's heart is, clearly. Right?
Abbie, of course, sees no room for love in their quest to be Witnesses, even if that duty these days is mostly arguing with Katrina about whether Henry's actually a nice guy or not. Ichabod, huge softie: "And since when has opening our hearts to new possibilities been a complication?" Abbie, pragmatic and repressed to the core: "Since always."
Once the external heart has been pinpointed, the group splits. Jenny is assigned to guard the Canadian border. Abbie and Katrina seek out the heart to destroy it, which results in a scene where Katrina sees rats and Abbie sees a bucket of maggots she has to stick her hand in to break the spell.
NOPE. NOPE. ABSOLUTELY NOT. Katrina's supposed to be the most powerful witch in the world, if she can't banish a couple of hallucination maggots than quite honestly, why is she even here?
Then Katrina gets zapped, because even when she's present in the scene with a legitimate witch reason to be there the show will stop at nothing to sideline her. Abbie shoots the urn that did it and finishes the incredibly dangerous incantation on her own, completing her arc of just naturally being as good a witch as Katrina, only with more common sense and a gun. (Abbie has literally never met a supernatural thing she was not willing to shoot five times just in case it worked.)
And Ichabod and Hawley visit the local club (Club Twerk, which earns just the double take from Ichabod that it deserves), where youths gather to express emotions relating to desire amid musical accompaniment and libations!
Very few scenes in this show, or any other show, have ever carried this level of emotional honesty. I believe we have this amazing actress to thank. Just watching her, it feels like you're really there with her, amid all the excitement and bracelet-glue of being young and full of life in you don't even know how to express.
The other emotional honesty happening in this scene is that Hawley tacitly admits he's interested in Abbie, and Ichabod tries to figure out his intentions. I'm guessing Plotcakes with a side of Angst that will crest right around sweeps?
Naturally, it's Ichabod who ends up alone with the premiere diagnostician of hidden feelings in the tri-state area.
(AAAAND A REAAAAAAAAL HEEEEROOOOOOOO)
Once she gets him alone, she diagnoses him with a case of Soured Desire that, for all his concern about being locked in with a succubus, he doesn't seem particularly surprised to hear. "That is the taste of doubt," she says, as shippers nod sagely. Ichabod just stabs her. He's not ready! It's not sweeps!
(It doesn't go well; she's halfway done draining his life force by the time Hawley shows up for the action scene.)
This whole thing is such a tight eddy that the two beats at the end of the episode feel disproportionately huge. Abbie's gift of charred succubus heart and her first-aid assistance are baby steps in the romantic direction that feel like a major declaration just because we're breaking the holding pattern.
Honest question: Why? Did he do anything that would earn the love of a woman who has severe trust issues in even her most platonic relationships and requires a level of reliability and honesty that not even Ichabod Crane has managed to her satisfaction? In this episode, Hawley: hit on her while she was clearly uncomfortable, hit on women in front of her in a fit of pique, almost got eaten by a succubus as a result of all that hitting-on, and lost someone in a half-full nightclub. It's love! (I guess!)
"Curse this ab wound of mine! Now the hottest part of me shall bear a sexy scar!"
And while we know we still have to sit through this thing actually happening, Abbie and Hawley do the "the woman who nearly stole your heart" and "not every day a girl gives me her heart" thing to remind us however long this lasts, it will feel twice as long as that.
Finally alone, Abbie announces that Katrina has left them, due to this season being totally stumped. They discuss how bold and great it is for Katrina to go back to Abraham Headless to spy for them (again). "She's also a highly skilled operative," Ichabod says with a straight face, even though this is about the time the narrative yo-yo swings back so tightly it hits them in the face.
Though even that's not as right-back-where-we-started as poor Katrina, highly skilled operative who shows up back at the homestead to be Headless' prize.
(Headless: last year the Captain of Hell, this year waiting in his cabin in case his hostage feels like coming back. Also, when they finally kiss, and they absolutely will, I want a shot of her making out with thin air, because seeing this guy with his head all the time is robbing me of the shirtless-headless joy we once had.)
And turns out she's returned to the fold just in time to be spy for Ichabod by being ensorceled into falling in love with the Moloch baby.
It was all John Noble's idea. This light-bulb shot makes sure you know. (That's your mom, sir. I don't even know with you.)
And just like that, the show has robbed me of any joy from Katrina, ever. No one has campaigned harder than me for Katrina as awesome villain, but that only works if it's not an enchantment! She needs to choose evil! This is just one in a series of creepy violations being visited upon her. Katrina Crane: inheritor of the sad trombone, at the end of a monster of the week that only reminded us that the dinghy of this season is going in circles.
Next week: Jenny returns from Canada! They hunt their mother's ghost! I AM READY.