This week, Sleepy Hollow is sorry for everything that's happened in Season Two. It still loves you, and it wants you to come back. It even makes two promises that could change the show – but can it deliver?
In discussing last week's episode, in which the show assumed Katrina would be a valuable asset to the ensemble despite twenty-five episodes to the contrary, I said that some things Sleepy Hollow has correctly gotten flak about – sidelining Irving, introducing Hawley as a substitute for Jenny's screen time, and making Katrina a substitute for Abbie's – lingered because there wasn't enough lead time to course correct as critical feedback rolled in. In "Kali Yuga," however, we might be running into the beginning of the Feedback Singularity, because this marvelously unsubtle episode reads like a pitch-meeting mutiny in the writers' room.
As I'm not going to waste your time the way the second season has wasted ours, let's get right to the first big promise: "Kali Yuga" suggests we've seen the end of Hawley.
I know, right?
Specifically, what happens is that his mentor/surrogate mom, Carmilla, shows up asking for help heisting the Knox family vault for a statue of Kali, because when casting about for other cultural signposts to carelessly mine, Season One has nothing on Season Two. Carmilla's been turned into a vetala and needs that statue to "Break the Curse," for definitions of that which mean "Also Make Hawley One." The team triumphs, but Carmilla escapes, and because of this danger to those he cares about, Hawley must leave town forever.
Jenny drew short straw for the goodbye wagon.
Okay, that may be a little harsh. Hawley's narrative useless in a show that already had a lead pair with all the necessary chemistry and also had Jenny Mills in it, but Matt Barr has tried to deliver on a role that makes Han Solo look deeply nuanced, which is a tall order, and he acquits himself decently in what might be his final bow. This show has pulled fast ones on us before (remember how it wrote Frank Irving into a hole so big it literally had to kill him just to give him something to do?), but the entire episode was so full of meta-amends that I dare to hope he's gone for good.
So how does a show try to win you back? Let us count the ways.
1. Karaoke! We open with the karaoke trope, in which Nicole Beharie nails Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" with the glee of someone who's using this on her sizzle reel later. Later, Tom Mison hilariously nails his rendition of "Locke Hospital" with awkward sincerity and an uncannily similar cadence to a guy I once saw do Radiohead's "Creep" at 7pm while silently crying. (Abbie gives him her best supporting whoops anyway.)
But mostly, Ichabod nails looking at Abbie like she hung the stars, which is the first of many "We promise we heard you all about Season Two" signposts we'll run into this episode.
Ichabod, get a room. (For one, please. You have some things to work out before you can start inviting people.)
Jenny, child of a very weird time-traveling divorce, has a particularly rough night. She loses Hawley to a potential deal (he doesn't want her to come, because literally no reason, you should WISH for Jenny Mills to go with you anywhere, damn, Hawley). So she spends the rest of the open shout-talking over whoever's singing, trying to make sure Abbie and Ichabod are going to be able to sort their problems out. For Ichabod, "Seems you two have been spending a lot less time together lately."
For Abbie, mid-whoop, Jenny's hopeful but skeptical: "You and Crane are okay? Talked it out?"
Ichabod's very concerned at the hint that things aren't going well. Abbie just makes a stoic face and changes the subject, because there is nothing to say about Ichabod Crane that she hasn't said to his face. (The episode will literally lock them in a room together later to work this out, and she will still continue to communicate with him as he ignores it.) That subject: Hawley.
That expression: an older sister who knows her sibling could do better and is trying to be supportive at a delicate time but is slowly, inevitably failing. (She also brings up the succubus thing later, to which Jenny gives the only possible reaction.)
Don't worry, you two, an inexplicable plot is going to come by and fix everything.
2. A Caper. See, Hawley's aunt, who raised him from adolescence despite looking only about five years older than he is, has been made into a vetala by a cult she ran into while looking for him, and needs his help to reverse the curse or she's going to kill his friends but only because she needs him so much so he'd better already be helping or else. I'm impressed by the sheer strength of this guilt trip (no wonder he liked Abbie so much), and the caper itself requires just enough plot to fill one brief action scene in every act, but am mostly distracted that this is the place Hawley agreed to meet a guy who owns his own store:
It's no wonder he's in trouble all the time. Rookie mistake, sir.
This, by the way is the caper location: a party being thrown by Theodore Knox (of Those Knoxes) at his estate. It's a black-market soiree to buy and sell illicit occult items of immeasurable value.
I guess the majority of this week's budget went to music licensing rights for karaoke music? Jaime Murray should count herself lucky they sprang for teeth she could talk around.
She does, in fact, enunciate perfectly around her monster teeth. It's the only part of this episode she puts any effort into, but I am not going to ding her for that, given that her part is largely word salad about having raised Hawley and/or being a demon lately, with a dose of Oedipal demon-ing right at the end when he's knocked down and she crawls right on top.
For one night only, Sleepy Hollow IS Bates Motel!
3. Reunited Partners. The show has been promising us this for the better part of a season, and it would take a smoother delivery than this one to make this work out. But "Kali Yuga" gets full points for trying. Even the camera gets in on it.
How we begin: Professor Mansplain Holds a Mandatory Seminar.
They're reverse-engineering the caper. It leads to the usual. Knox "had a singular obsession – locks and puzzles," Ichabod informs them, which is fun for later when we find out he was also super into gambling and alchemy; Ichabod Crane can't even name-drop accurately any more, what is this season coming to? He also gets frustrated Abbie has things analyzed without asking him. She even installed a silent alarm after he moved out of the Archives so they could clock all the people who are constantly breaking in! Ichabod's so upset! It's almost as if Abbie's had to do damage control and solve all problems without consulting him while he's been totally caught up in dull bullshit!
How we proceed: The Mills team does good-cop bad-cop work and artifact investigating in a thrift shop that generously allowed a Vaguely Questionable Home Accessories section to be set up in the middle. In their spare moments, Jenny rattles off more questions about the state of Abbie and Ichabod's partnership, one step away from Parent Trapping herself to get these two back together.
How it eventually falls out: Hawley locks Ichabod and Abbie in the Knox vault, and for once, it's Abbie's time in the foreground!
…as Ichabod tells her that everything that's been happening is really BOTH their faults. "Perhaps we both decided it was easier to act than to talk." Oh, Ichabod. You both sure did, except that when you decided to act, Abbie communicated exactly why it was a problem every time, and when she decided to act, you justified doing whatever you wanted and kept causing problems until she literally turned to Heaven for help.
4. Metatown. The entire conversation in the vault sounds like notes being passed in the writers' room that got transcribed by accident: "Maybe our whole thing is starting to go awry," and, "These problems have always resolved themselves in the past. What if this is indicative of something larger?" At last, we land on an in-character Ichabod deflecto classic, "I have felt our bond sorely tested," as if someone else came in and sawed on it for a while while they were both innocently napping and Ichabod wouldn't know the first thing about it.
He does, however, get them out of the Star Wars compactor problem, which earns him finger guns and some lovely pink lighting that makes the iron death spikes look slightly like party lasers, which I'm into.
But I'm not into that nearly as much as Jenny is into shirtless Hawley manfully catching a lit torch and menacing his demonic surrogate mom:
(I laughed out loud. I'm not made of stone.)
And even she can't hold a candle to how much Ichabod is into finally reuniting with Abbie for a rendition of "Proud Mary."
Does Ichabod know "Proud Mary?" Nope, and the other laugh-out-loud moment this week is Mison's breathlessly delighted delivery of Ichabod's first reaction when Abbie announces it's duet time: "Lieutenant, you learned my shanty!"
It's such an enjoyable reminder of what this season's been missing that this entire scene is the equivalent of a note under everyone's door reading, "I listened and I'm so sorry. Hope you still love me. xoxo, Sleepy Hollow."
But the dramatic course-correcting doesn't stop there! Because Irving is inexplicably cleared of all charges (remember the charges? I hope so, because the show's not going to repeat them, because it's so thoroughly abandoned him this season that it might not even remember what he did if you asked), and happily tells Cynthia he'll be moving back in, to which she reacts the only way you possibly could if your undead ex-husband wanted to move back in and you were pretty sure he was the puppet of a Horseman of the Apocalypse:
Seems about right.
But her concern about Irving brings us to the episode's last big promise, that better be a promise and not just one of the half-dozen suggestions this season has made and then let fizzle.
5. She's a maneater! When Frank goes to Katrina for a soul checkup, she asks him where Henry is with the intensity of a thousand suns (for Katrina), to the point it worries him. It should also worry him that Katrina's so into the apocalyptic images that her candles go out, and that after she assures Frank she can't sense the Horseman's influence any more, this is the face she makes:
We're gonna need another shifty moustache if this keeps up!
Seriously, though, I have been asking for Evil Katrina since before the halfway point of the first season. It's the arc that made the most sense and frankly, the only thing that would have made sense of her vague unhelpfulness. And we saw her ruin the lives of everyone she ever met, but somehow that wasn't evil, and her coven cast her out and somehow that wasn't evil, and it didn't happen and it didn't happen, and finally I assumed that being the vaguely petulant confidante-hostage of the Headless Horseman was all we were going to get out of her in terms of a real arc, and then she'd just be nebulously present forever.
And given all that's clogged her character since those early days, making her evil now is still too little too late. Making her Gandalf right now would still not be enough to get me interested. But it's worse is this is just more treading water, isn't it? If she really is evil, and she's lying in order to draw Henry out or something, then that's motion toward something, and I will take that if it's what the show is offering.
However, I suspect we might have gotten a glimpse of our real back-four villain:
Good luck, Irving. You'll need it.
So! Not a subtle hour. This was definitely the television equivalent of someone grabbing the wheel from the passenger seat and crossing four lanes of traffic to get the right exit. On the other hand, we needed to get off that road somehow, and if this is how it happens — Hawley closing up shop, Katrina finally revealing her villainy, Abbie and Jenny having sister time, and Abbie and Ichabod once again talking to each other about something besides Ichabod's family life, then I might just be curious again. The floor's yours, Sleepy Hollow. See you next week.