Sleepy Hollow, Season 2, Episode 12, “Paradise Lost”
Written by M. Raven Metzner
Directed by Russell Fine
Airs Mondays at 9pm (ET) on Fox
The energy level greeting the return of Sleepy Hollow after its midseason finale is far different than the energy level that greeted its second season premiere. At that time, there were only vague concerns that the show couldn’t maintain this level of absurd energy; and now those concerns have been proven right. Sleepy Hollow’s second season to date has proved that there’s a limit to its madness, as lead actor chemistry and impressive visuals have been offset by some shaky plotting and the sense that the writers have no idea what to do with anyone other than Tom Mison or Nicole Beharie.
In that context, “Paradise Lost” is a midseason premiere that meets those expectations, an episode with a few lively action scenes and some solid discussion between witnesses but not one that provides reassurance the ship has been righted. With the Big Bad of the last season and a half reduced to a head and a pile of ash, Sleepy Hollow has shed a lot of its existing framework, and has the chance to forge a new path for itself. However, much as Ichabod and Abbie are gripped with some uncertainty about what comes next, the show feels similarly unsure of what exactly to do next, trying a few things out to see what works.
As is to be expected, the best parts of the episode are the instances where Ichabod and Abbie are bantering or having serious discussion, of which there’s quite a bit now that Moloch has been vanquished. Six weeks have passed without demonic intervention but that hasn’t stopped Ichabod from hunting for connections Carrie Matheson-style, trying to extrapolate demonic presences from a single whiff of brimstone. It exposes a nicely human side of the character, thrown off his usual sense of purpose and dealing with the bigger picture of living 200-plus years in his future, asking what it would mean to trade killing demons for dentist appointments. Abbie, while she has similar doubts, is better equipped to go with the flow, and continues to counterbalance him in all the right ways.
The more tangible change to the status quo comes in the winged form of Orion (Max Brown), an angel who left the heavenly host to fight evil directly and was imprisoned in Purgatory as a result. In some ways it’s reminiscent of last year’s Constantine episode “Blessed Are The Damned,” where once again the direct intervention of an angel takes the mortal characters by surprise. After all of the demons and dark spirits that the shows introduce, there remains something different about the sight of their lighter opposites, a feeling of reverence that still translates to viewers and characters, a reassurance that there are forces for good. Abbie in particular is swayed, his commitment to duty impressing the warrior in her. (Plus, she’s adorably bashful asking him about the true nature of God and creation, and if he’s ever seen a dinosaur.)
Unfortunately, like in Constantine, the angel is more than it appears—not a fallen angel in this case but an angel of death, a zealot convinced that the world needs to be purged entirely before it can be saved. The reveal isn’t entirely unexpected, though either because of the writing or Brown’s performance there’s a flatness to how heavily he commits to his course of action. Fanaticism makes an interesting counterpoint to the pragmatic approach of Ichabod and Abbie, and while it lacks subtlety here it’s still an issue worth discussing. The issue does remain on the table, as Orion remains alive—albeit de-haloed—at the end of the episode, flying off to lick his wounds. Presumably, he’ll be off having tea with the Kindred in the nether realm where recurring characters sit until the writers come up with an idea on how to use them.
As for Katrina, “ugh” is about the thing left to say. In her time away from Ichabod she’s been spending time with Abraham (evidently in between Hot Topic shopping sprees), and is researching a way to separate man from Horseman. Following the midseason finale The Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan did an interview with showrunner Mark Goffman where he sidestepped a lot of the criticisms about the character, and “Paradise Lost” introduces the suspicion that they’re now just trolling the audience. Not only is Katrina still willfully blind to what Abraham is, she’s so certain that she’s willing to turn him loose on only the strength of his word. And the fact that post-Orion confrontation she’s willing to let him stay hidden—and he’s evidently keeping his word—cheapens the struggles to bind him and his innate awesomeness as a villain. Ichabod expresses a tentative willingness to work on their marriage at the end of things, but the audience’s patience is presumably much thinner at this point.
Ryan’s interview also revealed the fact that Hawley was originally intended to be a romantic interest for Abbie, but that they eventually abandoned that arc—a decision that makes a lot of the start-stop nature of that relationship make a lot of sense in retrospect. Unfortunately, that leaves Hawley as somewhat lacking in purpose, one that winds up transferred to his ex-girlfriend Jenny. As much as Lynndie Greenwood would benefit from more material, getting the narrative equivalent of her sister’s leftovers isn’t very encouraging. (Plus, with dialogue like “Nothing can’t not matter, only something can” as part of the conversation, it’s even harder to get behind things.) There are a couple good moments as they banter over a Sumerian demon-tracking rock though, so hopefully the writers will steer into that vein and send the two off on a Tomb Raider-style b-story.
Again, Sleepy Hollow is not a lost cause yet, and enough of the problematic framework has been torn down that it can be rebuilt with some structural integrity. “Paradise Lost” is a shaky start, but it propels things forward in some important ways: The idea of all Moloch’s demon horde fleeing Purgatory scattered and leaderless maintains the town’s Hellmouth quality, and their hunger for a new master breeds hope for an interesting Big Bad replacement. If the show can balance this with Ichabod and Abbie’s desire to eke out some normality, it might yet find the solid ground it ceded last fall.
- Also, Irving comes back, dressed like an extra from The Wire and unsure if he’s in Heaven or Hell. Even given the “Six weeks later” chyron that indicates time has passed it’s somewhat discouraging to see the writers didn’t even let his metaphorical body grow cold before bringing it back, and doing so—at least at first glance—without any of potentially cool reinventions. Hopefully he won’t be wading in amnesia territory for the next handful of episodes.
- No sign of Henry this week, though John Noble does remain in the opening credits. As good as he is, with how crowded things are in Sleepy Hollow it might behoove everyone if he stays out of sight for a few weeks.
- The most maddening part of Katrina’s commitment to returning Abraham to humanity is it keeps ignoring the fact that he has no head. This raises the hope for some truly black humor where his soul returns to his body and slumps over dead because everyone forgot that one key part of a living human body
- True sign of how terrified Ichabod was in the uncertain aftermath of Moloch’s death: he calls Abbie by her given name instead of Leftenant.
- Dusty motorcycle sighted in the carriage house! If Ichabod wants to get some wheels—and keep busy until Katrina gets it together—a project has presented itself.
- “I did not mean in any way to imply a view that was demeaning to the common woman.” Damn straight, Ichabod.
- “Your jealousy was the spark that lit the flame of your anger.” Geez, Katrina. Stop listening to the goth kids reading poetry outside wherever you’re doing your shopping these days.
- “Witness represent.”