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Sleepy Hollow, Ep. 2.09, “Mama”: Focus on family rights the ship

Sleepy Hollow, Ep. 2.09, “Mama”: Focus on family rights the ship

Sleepy Hollow S02E09 promo image "Mama"

Sleepy Hollow, Season 2, Episode 9, “Mama”
Written by Damian Kindler
Directed by Wendey Stanzler
Airs Mondays at 9pm (ET) on FOX

This week, on Sleepy Hollow: Abbie and Jenny free their mother, Frank makes a break for it, and Ichabod tries Matzah ball soup

For months now, Sleepy Hollow has struggled to regain the magic of its first season. Episodes throughout season two have been entertaining, but they’ve lacked the punch of the best of season one. The series has been too focused on Abraham, the potential redemption of Jeremy, and Hawley (the Manufactured Mills Sister Love Triangle Instigator), and moved away from what it worked so hard to establish in season one, the bond (platonic or otherwise) between Abbie and Ichabod and the recovering relationship of Abbie and Jenny. Moving Ichabod and Katrina’s marriage from epic fairy tale romance to occasionally struggling, realistic partnership has worked well, but keeping Jenny MIA and trying to force a connection between Abbie and poorly written Han Solo knockoff Hawley has not.

Thankfully with “Mama”, Sleepy Hollow rights the ship, focusing on the Mills sisters’ relationship to deliver the season’s most powerful episode yet. Rather than detached, clockwork schemes-within-schemes, this installment embraces emotion and dredges up memories and secrets the characters would rather not face. It’s the second time the writers have used this formula recently and not coincidentally, “Mama” and “The Weeping Lady” feature the strongest character moments of the season.

Sleepy Hollow S02E09 promo image "Mama"One of the best things this episode does is immediately sideline Ichabod. His trademark quips and fish out of time humor are still present, but much of this season has focused on everyone’s favorite revolutionary—it’s about time Abbie got the spotlight. Plus the notion of the stalwart Ichabod being rendered useless by cold season is delightful and Tom Mison plays his few moments with comedic gusto. Ichabod remaining mostly offscreen also allows the episode to backburner Katrina, at least for a week. She’s still present, mired in another of Henry’s underwhelming plots, but these scenes are thankfully kept to a minimum. Whereas the end of season one mined depth and pathos from Henry’s connection to Ichabod and Katrina, the writers and actors have struggled this season to recapture that. This episode’s evil Moloch baby to young boy twist is only the latest in season two’s long line of hollow machinations and the artificiality of the continuing Henry/Jeremy drama is only highlighted by the power of the main plot.

It’s surprising it took this long for Sleepy Hollow to take advantage of Abbie and Jenny’s connection to Tarrytown. While Abbie’s relationship with Sheriff Corbin has been foregrounded several times, Abbie and Jenny’s mother mostly remained a mystery until now. “Mama” proves to have been worth the wait. Baggage abounds for the Mills sisters and writer Damian Kindler does a good job unspooling different threads of their regrets toward and troubled relationships with their mother over the course of the episode. Both Nicole Beharie and Lyndie Greenwood are on point, delivering moving, but restrained performances until the culminating scene at Tarrytown, when emotions finally boil over.

The small moments throughout are just as meaningful as the episode’s climax; a simple gesture like Abbie taking Jenny’s hand as they prepare to watch one of their mother’s therapy sessions is just as effective as their mother’s eventual goodbye. The vulnerability and parity of the sisters as they stand, watching their mother at her most pained, is striking. The specter of their mother is something both sisters have long feared, even if they’d convinced themselves they’d moved past it long ago, and it’s great to see them approach her and their past as equals, rather than falling into a stereotypical younger/older sister dynamic.

Sleepy Hollow S02E09 promo image "Mama"As the true villain of the piece, Cynthia Stevenson is a lot of fun and it’s nice to see Orlando Jones finally get something to do. Frank’s end of episode jailbreak promises much more of interest for the character moving forward, a chance for him to once again be an active part of the story, rather than a passive victim. Even Hawley works here, given a smaller support role and dialogue that doesn’t try to play up his bad boy cred or flirtatiousness. The heart of the episode, however, is the final scene with Abbie, Jennie, and their mother Lori. Aunjanue Ellis sells the alternating horror and relief of the eldest Mills and while a bit more concern on the mother’s part for her younger daughter would have been nice (Lori is rather focused on Abbie the Witness), this inequity doesn’t feel inauthentic and could easily be explored further moving forward.

Hopefully “Mama” will mark a turning point for the season and Jenny will return to prominence, featured just as frequently as (if not more than) Katrina, and certainly more than Hawley. Hopefully Frank will continue to be involved and Henry’s scheming will take a back seat until the final episodes of the season. Hopefully Abbie’s relationship with her sister will continue to be important to her and her past will continue to shape her decisions in the present. Unfortunately, it’s such a departure from the approach of the rest of season two that it seems more likely “Mama” will be an anomaly. Halfway through its sophomore year, Sleepy Hollow is struggling, but as this episode shows, it is still more than capable of being an incredibly satisfying and moving series.

Other thoughts:

  • This Week In Ominous John Noble Arts and Crafts: Does jewelry-making/enchanting count? Henry is proving to be quite the handyman
  • This Week In Ichabod Hates Ben Franklin: Ichabod’s too sick to even remember he’s supposed to hate Hawley. He certainly doesn’t have energy to hate on Franklin.
  • The mural on the whole looks great, but how hard is it to accurately write out the melody to “You Are My Sunshine”? What a silly thing to get wrong. The syllables of the lyrics don’t even match up to the incorrect notes.

Kate Kulzick