Sleepy Hollow 1.09 “Sanctuary” is a Decent Breather Episode Weighed Down by Cliches and a Weak Villain

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Sleepy Hollow S01E09 promo pic 2

Sleepy Hollow Season 1, Episode 9 “Sanctuary”
Written by Damian Kindler and Chitra Elizabeth Sampath
Directed by Liz Friedlander
Airs Monday nights at 9pm ET on Fox

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Sleepy Hollow decides to indulge in the haunted house horror genre. However, “Sanctuary” fails to be scary in any way because of shoddy camera work from director Liz Friedlander and an overall lack of atmosphere. The monster of the week is a mix between the tree rapist in Evil Dead and Treebeard from Lord of the Rings. He/she/it is just another generic monster that is somehow connected to Ichabod (Tom Mison), Abbie (Nicole Beharie), and the end of the world.But even though “Sanctuary” suffers from a lack of menace, there are some strong scenes that show how Ichabod, Abbie, Frank (Orlando Jones), and Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) desire a normal life and are all estranged from their families in different ways. There is an interesting subplot with Frank and his ex-wife and daughter, but this story line is left dangling.

The desire for home and somewhere to belong is the main subject of characters’ discussions in this episode and even finds its way into the plot towards the end. (There is a twist that will either shocks viewers or cause them to roll their eyes.) Even though “Sanctuary’s” plot is stand-alone, Damian Kindler and Chitra Sampath integrate last week’s developments in Ichabod and Katrina’s (Katia Winter) relationship to emphasize his loneliness and pain around the holidays. He shares a nice moment with Abbie where he waxes nostalgic about his dad telling him stories on his holidays from Oxford. The whole Thanksgiving theme might be overemphasized, but after the plot-heavy events of the past few episodes, Kindler and Sampath take time to reflect on how the events of Sleepy Hollow have affected its characters.

All the stress and long hours that Frank has been working finally come back to bite him in “Sanctuary” when his ex-wife and daughter Macy come to visit him on Thanksgiving. When his ex-wife asks why he hasn’t been able to visit Macy, Frank says that he has been busy even though Sleepy Hollow is quite a small police precinct. This small scene shows how taxing the secret supernatural war has become to its fighters and the effect it has on interpersonal relationships. In Sleepy Hollow, normal life gets put on hold. For example, Ichabod and Abbie don’t even have time to finish their McDonald’s drive-thru before investigating a haunted house. The scenes between Frank and family add even more layers to his character, and he emerges a fully formed member of the main ensemble.

Even though it has a strong central theme and some good reflections of character relationships, much of “Sanctuary” is weak and cliched. It tries to be a horror-centric episode, but can’t muster any good scares. The monster is connected to Ichabod and early American history, but in a very tangential way. The owner of the haunted house Lena Gilbert (Erin Cahill) gets little to do except scream, and most of the scenes in the house are just running around and yelling. Kindler and Sampath use some of the time in the house to explore Ichabod and Katrina’s relationship with it and each other, but these flashback sequences suddenly turn into convenient plot devices. After a run of strong episodes, “Sanctuary” is just mediocre filler.

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