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It’s always nice to make new friends, but our second outing with Mr. Hot New Friend Hawley has me concerned. There’s something surprising, and more than a little forced, to have him return so soon after last week. We’ve never seen this character before this season, and while there’s always a certain amount of messiness when a show tries to turn someone new into a regular, to have Abbie and Ichabod investigating another case and just happening to stumble across Hawley, who also just happens to be searching for the item directly involved in their case—it’s a bit much. The episode tries to cover for this with a mild last minute twist (in that Hawley is, without knowing it, working for Henry), but as charming as the guy is, his presence felt shoehorned in, up to and including our heroes’ efforts to run a Han Solo on him. (“You should fight for our cause!” “He’s only in it for the money.”) Then there’s the fact that we don’t get any real explanation as to why Hawley survives his initial encounter with the Piper. The creature leaves him chained to a stone in the woods which, while certainly unpleasant, isn’t necessarily fatal.

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Maybe I missed something. Regardless, while Hawley remains a potentially interesting character, his presence here was unnecessary, making for a clumsy episode that tried to accomplish too many things at once. Most noticeably short-changed was Beth Lancaster, the mother of the girl (Sarah) whom the Pied Piper kidnaps at the beginning of the hour; Beth is the descendant of Daniel Forbes Lancaster, a one-time associate of Ichabod’s who stayed out of the Revolutionary War until it became obvious that Washington’s side was going to win. Centuries ago, Lancaster hired the Piper to remove a garrison of redcoats who were stationed in his home. The Piper did the job as ordered, but Daniel betrayed him. The Piper had already sold his soul to Moloch for his special piping-based powers (also super speed!), and thus began the Lancaster curse: every generation, the Piper would take a ten year-old descendant of Daniel Forbes out into the woods, where he would kill the kid and use the child’s bones to make a flute.

Harsh but fair. (Well, no, not fair, but soulless demons who use sound as a weapon don’t tend to take a “turn the other cheek” attitude to betrayal.) The twist that Ichabod and Abbie discover late in the hour is that if the child somehow escapes the Piper’s grasp, all the Lancaster children will die. Beth, Sarah’s mom, knew of this curse, having lost her own sister to the demon years ago; she’d adopted several children in the hopes of stopping the Piper (because the kids wouldn’t be of the Lancaster blood), but ended up having Sarah instead. When our heroes are able to rescue Sarah from the Piper, Beth decides to bring the girl back into the woods, thinking it’s the only way to save her adopted children.

It’s all a bit complicated and more than a little absurd, in a way that doesn’t really hit home until I type the whole thing out. I like impossible moral choices in drama, but I get very frustrated when a situation is too obviously contrived to force a character to make such a choice; that’s what happens here, what with all the convoluted rules. What makes it worse is that Beth is barely a presence. Her defining trait is that she helped Abbie and Jenny when their mum went spare. Which is nice, and helps to prevent her from being a villain, but the decision she tries to make at the end is horrifying—sacrificing one child to save others isn’t something that comes easily, and by keeping her in the background for so much of the hour, we’re robbed of the chance to get to know her as anything but a temporary antagonist. Plus, there’s the “Jesus, does Abbie know everyone in this town” factor. I realize Sleepy Hollow isn’t New York, but she doesn’t have to have a personal connection to every case.

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All that negative aside, “Go Where I Send Thee…” still had enough positives to be entertaining. The Piper itself was a marvellously creepy monster, even if its abilities weren’t quite as fully realized as one might have hoped. (Why did he never try and entrance the people tracking him with his flute?) The Ichabod/Abbie antics were up to their usual standard, including a bit about Ichabod “learning” how to drive a car, and their use of modern tech to track the Piper was pretty clever. The Irving plot is progressing nicely: Irving gets a vision of the future with himself as a demon murdering the hell out of people, then Henry drops by for a visit and some light threatening. Again, we see the usefulness of having an actor like John Noble around; I don’t know how plausible any of his threats are, and I’m not sure you can trick someone into selling their soul quite that easily, but Noble’s gravitas and wicked sense of humor makes it work. You automatically believe what he’s saying, just as you believe, say, Tom Mison ranting about banks or Nicole Beharie saying “No more kids” as she rams a spike through the Piper’s chest. Sleepy Hollow is often a very smartly constructed series, but weeks like this, when the writing fumbles in the execution, it’s clear how crucial these actors are to holding everything together. Without them, this would’ve been a mess; with them, it’s a lumpy but fun hour of television.

Stray observations:

  • Abbie and Ichabod are pretty smug about their eventual win over the Piper, but I gotta say, Sarah is going to need years of therapy.
  • Abbie tells Ichabod “Finish this!” and sends him after the Piper. Minutes later, she catches up and kills the Piper herself. Make up your mind, lady. (No, actually this was awesome.)
  • Guys, when you’re tricking a baddie in the woods who uses sound as a weapon, and at least one of you has already fallen under the spell of his magical bone flute (not a euphemism), maybe you should grab some ear plugs before your first assault. Just a thought. (Not that the earplugs do Ichabod much good when he does have them.)
  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: A light week for contempt, this. He complains about the odometer, but that’s really to set up another joke. And he rails about the smallness of fancy coffee servings, only to fall in love with the beverage after sipping it.

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