Sleepy Hollow, Season 2, Episode 14, “Kali Yuga”
Story by Heather V. Regnier
Teleplay by Sam Chalsen & Nelson Greaves
Directed by Doug Aaronowski
Airs Mondays at 9pm (ET) on Fox
It’s interesting that “Kali Yuga” is an episode that centers so heavily on Nick Hawley and Frank Irving, because those two characters are indicative of the attention deficit disorder Sleepy Hollow has with its supporting cast. Hawley, brought in to add roguish flair and romantic interest to the show, has since drifted to the point that even the showrunner admitted they threw out their original conception of the character. And Irving, after going from an implied villain in the pilot, has been shuffled from ally to asylum to afterlife so much that it’s become wearing when the show has to give him screen time. “Kali Yuga” tries hard to give both of these characters a bit of shading, but unfortunately the fact that it tries to do both means the thinness continues to persist.
Hawley’s plot is the more interesting of the two, both because it wraps things up in a lively caper setting and because it’s heavy on established backstory. His godmother and former legal guardian Carmilla is back in town, and she’s recruiting her protege to help out on one last job. Played by Dexter and Spartacus veteran Jaime Murray, Carmilla’s a lively presence even before the fangs and black eyes come out, someone who makes it clear where Hawley got his fascination with occult relics and their associated wealth. Her cavalier attitude both reflects Hawley’s and also shows the difference between the two, when he reveals that seeing her kill someone was what set him on a roaming path.
Disappointingly, the caper aspect of the episode—rob the vault of Henry Knox—is underplayed as the vault is almost ridiculously easy for Hawley to open once he finds the levers. Instead, the plot gives way to a sudden yet inevitable betrayal when Carmilla reveals that rather than trying to reverse her condition, she’s interested in applying it to Hawley so the two will never be apart again. As impressive as the visuals are in these moments, some of the emotional impact is lost because this is only the first time we’ve met Carmilla and gotten a sense of what Hawley’s past means to him. There’s a feeling of fast-forward in these moments, and the impression that some extra foreshadowing or backstory would have helped what happens land with greater impact.
The moments that work best for Hawley in this scenario are the ones where he’s allowed to relate to the rest of the team, and the history that’s been established between them comes together. After seeing Ichabod gradually warm to him over the last few episodes or Jenny enjoy a comfortable banter with him makes the scenes where he has to take their weapons and lock them up sting all the more. Despite the digs thrown at his character since his introduction, he’s grown to feel more a part of the Sleepy Hollow universe as time’s gone on. Sleepy Hollow feels particularly crowded these days, so he won’t be terribly missed as he hunts down Carmilla in whatever nether realm the show’s bit players hide in (where is the Kindred, anyway?), but at the very least “Kali Yuga” leaves viewers with the feeling it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he came back at some point.
Irving is still around however, and unfortunately none of the work they do with him feels remotely interesting. After wiping out his legal difficulties with the tissue-thin excuses of invalid confessions and the state not pursuing—inexplicably casting Mrs. Irving as his defense attorney to boot—he tries to settle back into his life. However, it’s a transition as problematic for his wife as it is for the audience, given all the baggage about the claimed soul and unexplained resurrection thing. Katrina’s séance both simultaneously clears up and complicates matters, as she reveals that whatever hold War had on Irving’s soul has apparently been relinquished—a relief that lasts only as long as it takes for him to realize he no longer has a reflection.
The problem with the entire Irving situation is that it requires a degree of faith in Sleepy Hollow’s long-term planning that no longer exists. The show’s track record with both the character and similar situations (i.e. Katrina’s entirely early season two arc) makes these mysterious developments feel like a holding pattern until they can figure out a way to use the actor correctly. There may yet be a way to steer out of the skid—Henry’s narrative in season one proved the writers can do arcs right for secondary characters—but the character’s sense of limbo isn’t doing either him or the show any good at this point, and it’s increasingly hard to say he shouldn’t have stayed dead for at least the rest of the season.
As always, the best parts of the episode are the ones that follow Ichabod and Abbie’s partnership, which the writers have done a good job as portraying as increasingly frayed since the events of “The Akeda.” The show’s lack of direction is now being written onto the characters, as they recognize that without Moloch’s threat keeping them together there are plenty of other elements to pull them apart. Orion’s talisman from “Paradise Lost” is the big one, but even more effective are all the little things: Abbie not telling him about the silent alarm on the archives, Ichabod’s terser tone when he tries to explain the choices he’s making.
All of which culminates in the sequence where the two are trapped in the vault, wherein Hawley unintentionally shoves them into a room to work out their differences. Director Doug Aaronowski takes advantage of the confined quarters with a tracking shot to pan around and between the two Witnesses, both of whom are getting understandably worked up when they can’t distract themselves from their realities. It continues the positive Sleepy Hollow trend of not trying to brush over these issues or draw them out into caricature—an easy thing to do on a show where discussion of said issues transitions into a spike trap—but depict both of them as reasonable and practical human beings willing to talk it over.
And then of course, there’s the karaoke. As cliched as the idea of putting Ichabod in another uncomfortable modern routine is, that doesn’t make the scene of him trying to rouse the room with “A Sailor Cut Down In His Prime” any less entertaining. Even more enjoyable is the reminder that Nicole Beharie is a Julliard-trained actress, as her rendition of “Crazy” is lively as hell. Both actors have a strong set of pipes on them, and the pairing of the two of them singing Creedence at the end is the rewarding close to “Kali Yuga” everyone needs—which is why it’s so maddening that they chop half of it off to give us one last Irving scene. For the love of God, Sleepy Hollow writers, go the full “Once More, With Feeling” route and roll out the musical episode. Given the random directions that the show’s been bouncing in all season, it certainly wouldn’t feel out of place.
- This Week In Ominous John Noble Arts And Crafts: Henry remains MIA for three episodes. Maybe he’s taken up model trains in the interim?
- This Week In Ichabod Hates Ben Franklin: Nothing, although I’m sure he has a few stories about Franklin belting out a bawdy tune at the bar.
- This episode brought to you by Ford! Normally Sleepy Hollow isn’t this blatant with product placement, but between the lingering shots on Hawley’s car that may well have been taken from a Mustang commercial and Ichabod’s clear joy behind the wheel (“My first time driving a car with real horsepower. Can you blame me?”) it’s forcing the car down our throats even more than that New Girl episode where Jess played Ford Fusion pitchwoman.
- That being said, Tom Mison voiceovers would be a welcome element on many actual car commercials.
- Ichabod not guessing that gold would be the correct element in a vault built by Henry Knox strains credulity. Though admittedly, not when compared to the Psychlos of Battlefield Earth not learning about Fort Knox for a thousand years when they explicitly came to Earth for gold.
- There’s an engaging little bit of dialogue between Ichabod and Katrina midway through the episode, as he tells her the story of Mary Poppins. Katrina isn’t impressed: “A witch specializing in housework, it hardly seems progressive.”
- “Are you having a moment?” “I believe I am.”
- “Thank you, yoga class.” “I’m still not going back.”
Story by: Heather V. Regnier
Teleplay by: Sam Chalsen & Nelson Greaves