Sleepy Hollow, Season 2, Episode 7, “Deliverance”
Written by Sam Chalsen and Nelson Greaves
Directed by Nick Copus
Airs Mondays at 9pm (ET) on Fox
After a string of episodes where Sleepy Hollow has run the risk of feeling too formulaic, “Deliverance” is a welcome breath of fresh air for the season. The show has always done a better job than it needs to of balancing episodic concerns with the broader arc, but “Deliverance” is the first time since the premiere that it’s been able to cede the entire running time to character arcs over cool monster design. It’s a well-constructed hour of the show, one that hits a lot of emotional beats and even draws close to the idea that it might excise one of its main cast before the midpoint of the season.
The member of the cast in the crosshairs is Katrina, who was seen last week swallowing a demonic spider Henry conjured up with the jincan poison. That spider is the latest effort to bring Moloch forth into the world, as it literally takes root in Katrina’s body to transform her into an incubator for his new form. Episodes of Sleepy Hollow that focus on Moloch’s return are typically stronger installments of the series because they remind both the Witnesses and the viewers of the high stakes in this war, and “Deliverance” maintains that trend. Henry and his Hellfire Club minions move with a firmer purpose, not merely tracking down trinkets but preparing to welcome their dark lord and savior into their midst.
And by making Katrina the center of this effort to raise Moloch, “Deliverance” also manages to build the personal stakes to higher levels. Katrina has always been kept just out of reach for Ichabod but never in immediate danger, preserved by a mix of her power and Abraham’s twisted affection for her. Here, her death is the natural result of the plan, forcing Ichabod and Abbie into higher levels of urgency than ever before. By setting the sundown clock on the plan, it keeps the episode’s action kinetic at every turn, and raises the idea that everything they do may not be enough. And as it builds to the final moments, screams and hellfire surrounding Katrina before she goes limp, it feels like a very real possibility that Sleepy Hollow may have the nerve to take her out of action for good.
Going hand in hand with these efforts is the level of work the episode does with the Ichabod and Katrina’s relationship. As contrived as the idea that Katrina needs to spy on the Horsemen and stay away from Ichabod has felt, the distance between the two in the real world has strained their marriage in a way Katrina’s stint in Purgatory didn’t. Here, even with the imminent arrival of the demon spawn, the two have a legitimate conversation that makes them feel like an actual married couple, seriously discussing what they think of their son and sniping with each other over lies and third parties. (On the latter, the writers manage to get some humor out of the terror once Ichabod learns that Katrina has been conversing with Abraham, leading to a wonderful deadpan Tom Mison delivery: “How can a Headless Horseman say anything?”) It all feels earned, with the writers laying the right groundwork to justify spending this much time on Ichabod and Katrina working out their issues, and providing the emotional payoff when the two enjoy their first peaceful embrace in centuries.
Abbie stays out of their discussion for the most part, serving as the voice of reason—and audience surrogate—as she continually reminds them that Henry is a Horseman first and their son second. This has been one of the shakier aspects of the season, as while the reveal that Henry and Jeremy are one and the same was a gut-punch in the finale, the parental conflict in season two isn’t entirely convincing. (Given that John Noble is older than Mison and Katia Winter put together, even with Henry’s centuries of imprisonment it’s difficult to accept them as his parental figures.) What does work is the bitterness that Henry feels at his abandonment and the confrontation between Ichabod and Henry gives Noble some of his best snarls to date: “Don’t say no. Say rise. Rise, my horrid king.”
Where “Deliverance” stumbles is the way it resolves its central conflict, when Ichabod realizes that one of Ben Franklin’s inventions is the key to saving Katrina’s life. Leaving aside that the solution is hilariously absurd even by Sleepy Hollow standards—they abort the demon baby by simulating the aurora borealis via a talisman hidden in an ancient tablet!—this is a path the show has been down one too many times. Ichabod’s eidetic memory and gift for being connected to all the major historical figures of the Revolutionary War continues to pay dividends, but the longer it goes on the more it starts to feel contrived that he knows all of it. Some variety in the source of information—Hawley digging up a reference Ichabod doesn’t know, for instance—would be appreciated to mix up the formula.
More promising for the future of the season is the way that Abbie finally finds a way to make peace with Sheriff Reyes, using images of the Hellfire Club’s lair to convince her that police action is necessary. Using Reyes as a bureaucratic antagonist for our heroes doesn’t serve the character or the narrative well, but the idea that they can use half-truths to bring her on their side has potential—plenty of the things they fight have enough grounding in reality that they can justify police intervention.
While it backs away from a major upheaval, “Deliverance” is an encouraging step for Sleepy Hollow and one of the strongest episodes this season. The action has been getting cluttered in the last few weeks with Jenny, Irving, Hawley, Corbin’s son, and Reyes all jockeying for screen time, so it’s a relief to see an episode where the bulk of the action focuses on only three characters. Katrina still lives, but her new importance to Moloch—and Abraham’s murderous rage at her appropriation—indicates a return to the old status quo isn’t possible. And on a show like this, the status quo is the greatest enemy.
- This Week In Ominous John Noble Arts And Crafts: Beyond using his own mother as an incubator, Henry’s constructed a new contraption to capture the red smoke and lightning left over from the failed Moloch birth. Evidently in response to his father drawing out the small boy inside him, he now needs the world’s most upsetting night-light.
- This Week In Ichabod Hates Ben Franklin: Although Franklin’s report on the aurora borealis provides the key to saving Katrina, Ichabod still finds a way to insult him. “His handwriting was so abysmal it could be considered encryption on its own.”
- Getting Katrina out of Horsemen captivity also allows her to react to the modern world, something she’s been spared engagement with in Abraham’s desire to create a safe environment. She refers to the radio Ichabod gives her as “magic,” and remarks on how fashions have changed once Abbie procures her a drunk girl’s outfit from the lost and found. (Ichabod has mixed feelings on how “form-fitting” the latter is.)
- The deus ex Franklina of the aurora prism is a stretch, but the silliest moment of the episode is when it turns out ‘666’ is the code to access the tablet. To paraphrase Dark Helmet, that’s the kind of code an idiot Satanist would have on his luggage.
- Irving barely appears in the episode, but it’s a nice touch to use him as the intermediary for a summit between father and son. Even Henry has to begrudgingly give his father credit for the deception.
- “George Washington gave each voter a pint of beer at the ballot box!”
- A terrific moment for Abbie when she responds to Ichabod’s pro-early democracy rant with the fact that back in those days, she’d have been turned away from the voting booth twice. Ichabod’s sheepish response: “Actually, you don’t own significant tracts of property, so… thrice.”
- Ichabod’s new categorization: “A criminal profiler with emphasis on acts of historical imitation.” CBS is already green-lighting this idea for next fall.
- “We stopped Moloch. Today was a win.” Fist-bump!
- Vote on Tuesday, everyone! Make Ichabod proud of how much you appreciate the democracy he fought for more than 200 years ago. And remember that Proposition 3 on zoning rights is a travesty.