Ah, Sleepy Hollow, you giveth and you taketh awayeth. “Spellcaster” literally features a scene with Katrina demonstrating her increasingly bad-ass powers and explaining to Ichabod and Abbie how her magical mojo is getting stronge; and later, she goes toe to toe with this week’s History Bad, a creeper warlock with the vaguely familiar name of Solomon Kent, in battle of sorcery that’s actually reasonably close to bad-ass. But just when Katrina is starting to seem like a valuable member of the team, the writers decide that’s too powerful and pull a Dark Willow on us. Solomon tells Katrina that she won’t understand the true scope of her powers unless she embraces the dark side of the Force (something like that), and by the end of the hour, she’s done the “My eyes have gone all white so I’m EVIL” thing twice, and she wrecked up that pretty flower she was playing with earlier.
It’s not necessarily a bad idea to have Katrina get tempted by darker magics, but there’s little to no justification for the switch. Her character has little center, so her behavior always appears to be entirely dependent on situation. (As opposed to a good character, who shifts to fit a situation but who has a core that makes their actions more dramatically interesting; like, Abbie will behave differently around Reyes than she does around Jenny or Ichabod, but her Abbie-ness is consistent throughout.) The drama of a good character being tempted by evil is in the push and pull between their better and worse natures. Here, Katrina shows off her magic and it’s keen, and then somebody says, “You should be more evil” and whoa there she goes. Maybe this is supposed to be a payoff from all her time with the Horseman and Henry, but there isn’t enough connective tissue between that event and this to work. Instead, we get what feels like a creative team grabbing at the next available cliche.
Which is a shame, because much of “Spellcaster” has Ichabod and Abbie back to their old routine, facing off against a historically based foe and quipping to beat the band. Solomon Kent is a nasty piece of work, a warlock who apparently jump-started the Salem Witch Trials when he inadvertently killed a woman he was crushing on and changed her corpse to resemble a demon’s. (One of the unintentionally creepy angles of the episode is how various characters keep talking about how Kent murdered someone he loved, like it’s some grand tragedy, instead of a creepy stalker clumsily knifing a lady who wasn’t into him.) Moloch’s death releases him from Purgatory, and he tries to put together the Grand Grimoire for the power to go back into the past and change what happened. Which is actually not a bad premise for an episode, although it’s unfortunate that the time travel element barely factors into things.
Still, we do get a climax of Ichabod facing off against Solomon using modern technology (“In the mid-twenty-first century, we make our own lightning.”), and that’s swell. His amped up need to defeat the warlock for interfering with Katrina is fairly ridiculous, given that Katrina didn’t suffer that much; there doesn’t necessarily need to be an emotional component to every battle the Witnesses face, although this episode even found time to work in another personal connection between our heroes and the villain. (Katrina’s ancestor was somewhat close to Solomon, demonstrating yet again that the Van Tassels, Ichabod aside, do not have great taste in men.) It’s not the worst of the episode’s flaws, but there’s something repetitive about needing to pretend that this fight is somehow more serious than all the other fights. It’s a dude in a cloak who wants to wreck up time. We don’t need “How dare you interfere with my wife, sir!”
Apart from that, there was Irving finally showing his true colors (at least to us). We don’t know exactly what the deal is with him, but we do know that he grabs the Grand Grimoire after Solomon is defeated, and kills Solomon himself to make sure the theft goes undetected. Then he brings the book to Henry—who, it turns out, is still alive, and is hiding in a motel somewhere, murdering local toughs just because he can. It’s too soon to know exactly what to make of these developments, although if Irving is going to continue to be a presence on the show, he’ll probably be more interesting as a baddie. As for Henry, my love of John Noble remains boundless, and he makes the most of his few scenes, playing out a seemingly familiar scenario (powerful being makes friends, defends them) with just enough of a twist to keep it from being stale. The problem is that the “twist” (Henry isn’t defending his “friends” so much as killing dudes to show he can) indicates that Mr. Parrish’s brief foray into decency didn’t really take. It’s possible that this new, Moloch-free version of Henry will be more compelling as a Big Bad. Or it’s possible that his sloppy characterization has reduced a once promising figure into a formless, unmotivated mess. Fingers crossed, I guess.
- Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: He’s not big on the aggressiveness of modern advertising, but he does love mini-muffins.
- Speaking of, while the idea of Ichabod trying to buy a house for himself makes no practical sense (as the characters themselves are quick to point out), it still makes for a fun little scene. Even when everything else is a mess, Ichabod and Abbie are still great.
- “From here on, destiny bends to my will.” Sure it does, Henry. Sure it does.