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Sleepy Hollow, Ep. 2.03, “Root Of All Evil”: Heads or tails, Mr. Crane?

Sleepy Hollow, Ep. 2.03, “Root Of All Evil”: Heads or tails, Mr. Crane?

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Sleepy Hollow, Season 2, Episode 3, “Root Of All Evil”
Written by Melissa Blake and Donald Todd
Directed by Jeffrey Hunt
Airs Mondays at 9pm (ET) on Fox

It’s fairly obvious that to the Sleepy Hollow writers, the entire American Revolution is a bucket of plot hooks, which is why it’s surprising it’s taken them a season and change to find a reason to use Benedict Arnold. One of the war’s most notorious figures—as Fat Tony’s henchmen would say, the same Benedict Arnold who plotted to surrender West Point to the hated British—he’s a persona that even someone with a surface knowledge of American history could identify. And given Sleepy Hollow’s keen interest in the ideas of loyalty and betrayal, he’s a prime candidate to fit into the show’s narrative and prompt questions about whose side someone is on.

By that logic, it’s surprising that Arnold’s introduction in “Root Of All Evil” uses him largely as a stepping stone to another story, one equally full of betrayal. A silver coin is popping up in the hands of Sleepy Hollow residents before they undertake violent plots—a silver coin that turns out to be one of the 30 silver shekels paid to Judas for his betrayal. That same coin was what corrupted Arnold centuries ago, a man who was previously a loyal patriot and (of course) a good friend of Ichabod. While at some point inserting Ichabod into every Revolutionary War event Forrest Gump-style might run out of energy, the show hasn’t reached that point yet largely because of how good Tom Mison is at imbuing these connections with real emotion. His regret over what happened to Arnold is palpable, particularly as he recalls the moment where he saw the doubt on his friend’s face during their final meeting.

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For all that connection though, Ichabod is spared the brunt of the coin’s evil effects, as it’s Abbie and Jenny who get caught in its deadly chain letter effect. First it’s Abbie having to deal with people she knows turning into psychopaths (an effect animated very well with subtle shadows playing over afflicted faces) and then it’s Jenny set on a violent path that almost takes out the new sheriff. While “The Kindred” pointed out that friction still exists between Ichabod and Abbie despite their bond, “Root Of All Evil” gets to remind us that 13 years of distance don’t vanish overnight. Even if it’s not Abbie in Jenny’s crosshairs—a nice bit of misdirection by the writers—Abbie knows it easily could have been, and Nicole Beharie makes all the guilt and worry come through.

If there’s a problem with the conflict, it’s that the effort to raise the stakes may have led Sleepy Hollow to move too early on a plot point. While we’ve known that the sisters were placed in foster homes since early in the series, their mother only came into focus last week when Reyes alluded to a troubled past. Rather than building to a reveal, Jenny winds up dumping a lot of exposition on the viewer as she discusses how their mother was committed and eventually took her own life. There’s still enough tension between the two that this reveal wasn’t necessary to drive it up, and it plays a card that should have remained in the hand. (On the other hand, the reveal does provide some more shading to Reyes, who despite being amusing in how she flusters Ichabod still exists largely as a narrative obstacle.)

The search for the coin also introduces a new character to the mix in Hawley (Matt Barr), an old friend of Jenny’s and expert on antiquities. Coming on the heels of Reyes last week and more regular appearances by Abraham, the cast continues to swell—albeit in a way that makes sense, because Abbie’s observation that they’re short on allies is entirely correct. Hawley doesn’t leave much of an impression in his first appearance, not doing much to correct Ichabod’s original dismissal of him as a “privateer” even as he provides some useful tidbits about containing the coin’s power with stained glass. Much like Reyes, his better moments come when he’s a foil to Ichabod, who does not respond well to intellectual competition and reaches new heights of indignant sputtering.

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On the other side of the plot, Katrina is busy using her position as captive of the Horsemen to sew seeds of discontent. While the idea that she is staying for her son alone remains a flimsy justification, “Root Of All Evil” uses her well to exploit the increasingly clear human sides of her captors. War has clearly supplanted Death in Moloch’s favor and Abraham chafes at being left out of these plans, while at the same time wondering about his partner’s loyalty. And while Henry shakes off any maternal outreach from her, the closing scene where he sets the bed ablaze—the same bed frame he was born in—proves that he’s nowhere near as unfeeling as his animated armor, and that unlike that armor, he may have some cracks forming.

The episode’s final scene, where Ichabod talks to Abbie about the importance of trust, is fairly on the nose, but it does the job of setting the mood. Three solid episodes in, season two of Sleepy Hollow is already shaping up to be a more focused effort than the first, giving the feeling that the deployment of the Kindred and the shekel are merely the opening salvos in a serious conflict. And given how Abbie and Jenny rise to the occasion—and how Ichabod’s able to outsmart his son and make contact with Irving—that conflict promises to get even better the deeper into it we go.

Other thoughts:

  • Ichabod’s wide-brimmed hat is tremendous. The sooner he can add a copy of that to his present-day wardrobe, the better off everyone will be.
  • Speaking of hats, Ichabod is far more stunned at the fact that men are allowed to wear hats indoors than he is at the idea of gay marriage, as he was open-minded about the latter topic even in his day. (An attitude supported by the fact that he watched the finale of Glee.)
  • Between the cursed fountain pen last week and the model town this week, John Noble Builds Things Ominously is turning into a welcome regular feature of Sleepy Hollow.
  • Henry the attorney verbally sparring with Ichabod is a prime example of why the show needs human villains every bit as much as otherworldly ones: “Your son’s a lawyer. You must be very proud. … Is this to be an attempt to start over? Are you going to take me down to the fishing hole?”
[wpchatai]