Sleepy Hollow, Season 1, Episode 6, “Sin Eater”
Written by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, Alex Kurtzman, and Mark Goffman
Directed by Ken Olin
Airs Mondays at 9pm EST on Fox
After a couple of weeks’ hiatus, Sleepy Hollow returns and opens with Abbie (Nicole Beharie) and Crane (Tom Mison) enjoying a baseball game. Abbie says she loves baseball because of its tradition, teamwork, and because it doesn’t discriminate. This scene is the foundation for the themes that Thomas, Kurtzman, and Goffman choose to develop in this episode. They focus on Crane’s past and give a glimpse of the man he was before he became George Washington’s spy and met Katrina (Katia Winter). There are lot of flashbacks in this episode, but they do an excellent job of showing Crane’s development from skeptic and loyal British soldier to one of the leading fighters in a bigger war between good and evil. “Sin Eater” also explores several different character relationships, from Crane and the Horseman to Crane and Abbie. It is an example of Sleepy Hollow at its strongest and thankfully, it doesn’t waste John Noble’s guest appearance.
So far, Sleepy Hollow has had a lot of crazy ideas, a few decent action sequences, and flashes of humor and characterization. “Sin Eater” mixes these ingredients together and gives the show a path it can follow for quite a long while. If Sleepy Hollow (and “Sin Eater) were to be described by one word, it would be “purpose”. Beneath the Biblical prophecies and references to American history, the main characters come together despite their enormous differences to save the world from the impending apocalypse. This idea is shown mostly clearly in the scene where Katrina meets Crane. Crane is a British officer who is “interrogating” a freed slave suspected of aiding the American colonists while Katrina is a Quaker healer, who believes in the freedom and dignity of all men. She sees that he has a conscience underneath his “loyal soldier” veneer and helps him take the first steps of forgiving himself for some horrible past actions (seen in this episode) and learning about the real war being fought under the guise of the American Revolution.
“Sin Eater” also has a trio of excellent guest stars. James Frain, who has appeared in genre shows like Grimm and True Blood, appears as the Freemason Rutledge whose goal is both similar and diametrically opposed to Crane and Abbie’s. He flits from ally to antagonist on a scene by scene basis and adds an extra layer of conflict to the episode and the series as a whole. Rutledge wants to stop the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but he lacks the personal connection that Abbie has with Crane and sees him as a little more expendable. Tongaya Chirisa (Crusoe, American Horror Story) brings a great dose of humanity and heart to Sleepy Hollow in his role as freed slave and Patriot Arthur Bernard. Like Katrina, Bernard realizes that Crane is a good man and teaches him about demons and the supernatural. He gives Crane a sense of purpose, but their relationship is painful as well. The final guest star is John Noble (Fringe, Lord of the Rings) who is very integral to the plot and cements “Sin Eater’s” twin themes of purpose and relationships through his dialogue and actions. These guest actors add depth to Sleepy Hollow’s mythos and also echo the themes of the episode, as well as move the plot forward.
“Sin Eater” has a few problems, such as long periods of exposition, a slightly rushed third act, and the continued underuse of series regular Frank Irving (Orlando Jones). However, these weaknesses are counterbalanced by strong guest performances and the series’ best flashback sequences yet. The writers have also begun to get a handle on Sleepy Hollow‘s deeper themes and weave them into the plot and characters. “Sin Eater” is a strong outing for a show that is much improved after its hiatus.