The History Lesson Of The Week: remember the story of Judas? He was that guy who betrayed Christ, it was in all the papers, just Google it or something. Anyway, Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for his crime, and it turns out those pieces of silver—coins, really—aren’t just collector’s items. They’re cursed, and whomever picks one up is cursed in turn to give in to their darkest impulses. Once upon a time, Ichabod was part of a special mission ordered by George Washington to track down these cursed coins before they could be melted down, re-stamped, and put into circulation. Benedict Arnold made the mistake of picking one up, and, well, we all know how that turned out. In present day, Henry exchanges one of the Judas coins at a Savings & Loan; a friendly teller picks it up, and falls immediately under the coin’s spell, grabbing a guard’s gun, shooting him, and taking the bank hostage. Abbie tries to talk her down, but Reyes shoots the woman; the coin falls out of her hand, and a man picks it up. He decides to build a bomb. And so on.
A totem that brings out the worst in whomever is holding is it a pretty standard genre concept; it serves the double purpose of creating monsters that are just as much victims as the people they prey on, and also raises the possibility that one or more of the heroes might fall under the object’s sway. While we never really get to know either of the coin’s first two victims (not in a bad way; Abbie makes it a point to stress that Miss Galloway, the woman at the bank, was super nice, and we know just enough about David, the bomb guy, to understand why he did what he did—this is efficient storytelling that provides just enough info for context, but doesn’t strain too hard to create pathos for people who don’t stay around for long), Henry does manage to get the coin into Jenny’s hands, which gives the episode a third act. There’s a lot of talk about his “plan” for the town, and for bring Moloch into the world, but on a practical level, not a lot seems to happen with the coin, no matter how elegant his machinations are. A few innocent people die, Jenny and Abbie have an impromptu encounter session in the forest, and the coin winds up in the collection of this week’s new recurring character, Hawley (Matt Barr), presumably fair from Henry’s reach. None of our heroes compromise themselves, or even end up mildly scathed.
But who cares? “Root Of All Evil” wasn’t quite as much of a rush as the first two episodes of the season have been, but it was solid, and the show is doing a good job of balancing various subplots without getting overly bogged down in any of them. Reyes continues to worry me, and for most of the episode she seemed to be doubling down on her “Let’s spoil all the fun, shall we?” act from last week. But much of her behavior here was probably meant to pave the way for Jenny’s attempt on her life during the story’s climax, and Reyes’s decision to give Abbie her mother’s file is an important one. For one thing, it raises a backstory thread for Abbie and Jenny that I’m sure will continue to matter for the rest of the season (Mom wasn’t just crazy, she was literally hounded by demons and desperate to protect her daughters); for another, it suggests that Reyes isn’t just a joyless obstacle, doomed to keep our heroes from chasing monsters in the manner to which we grew accustomed last year.
As mentioned, the episode also brought in a new handsome man, a former contact of Jenny’s who irks Ichabod to no end, even as he proves an invaluable ally in the fight against darkness. And, again, very handsome. There’s no immediate indication that Hawley will be back, at least not on a plot level, but the instant frenemy chemistry between him and Ichabod suggests a character who raises too many interesting possibilities not to bring back. And with John Cho gone, and Irving stuck in the asylum, Ichabod, Abbie, and Jenny could use the help of some supporting friends.
Still, the main focus of the hour was on the more familiar faces. Ichabod, sparring (and being roundly defeated) by Reyes, Ichabod trying to talk with Henry and getting mostly grinning threats as a result. And Abby and Jenny, arguing about their mom in a scene that sets up the confrontation at the end of the episode, when Jenny as the coin, and Abbie has to distract her from shooting the new police chief. These “Even though you are under the grip of an evil spell, I’m going to try and reach you emotionally” conversations are another staple of the genre—people are always getting taken over by spirits or suffering under the grip of some alien presence or whatever, and their sister/brother/husband/wife/etc is always showing up and begging with them to fight back. These scenes are difficult to play, in part because they are so familiar; and in this particular case, there’s not a lot of suspense in the sequence, since it’s pretty certain that Jenny wasn’t going to kill Reyes. (I was mostly worried that Reyes would hear all the commotion, but apparently she did not.)
Yet it worked, because it was less about the immediate suspense, and more about working on the relationship between Jenny and Abbie. This, to my mind, is the second most important relationship in the show: Ichabod and Abbie are the more central pairing, but their basic chemistry is one of very good friends who occasional spar a bit. That’s terrific fun, and I hope I never get tired of watching them do their thing, but it’s useful to have some more contentious pairings hanging around as well—people who fundamentally love each other, but still have some serious (and, when needed, drama generating) arguments. People like siblings, in other words. Watching Abbie try and reach Jenny through her coin-induced fog of rage was a way to both strengthen their bond, and remind the audience of just how much shit they’ve been through. That shit is going to be important as the season goes on, I think, and it’s reassuring to see how well the show manages to set its building blocks firmly in place, even in a good-not-great episode like this.
- Henry likes building models. Which is creepy. (God bless John Noble. Henry is a fun part, and he’s making the absolute most of it, lending weight and ominous portent even to the most cliched of villain threats.)
- Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve This Week: Hawley, men wearing hats indoors, the need for identification papers, the image on bottles of Sam Adams beer. He is, however, perfectly fine with gay men. He knew some in his time, and he’s also seen the finale of Glee.
- Henry: “Your son’s a lawyer. You must be very proud.”
- Oh, and Irving’s still screwed.