SLEEPY HOLLOW Season 2, Episode 9 'Mama'

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A recurring problem with Sleepy Hollow’s structure is its inability to streamline the use of its core cast, with numerous supporting players relegated to bit parts or even not appearing at all so that character prominence can be appropriately distributed without each scene becoming cluttered. Surprisingly, it’s Ichabod who’s sidelined this time, spending much of the episode incapacitated with some kind of flu, while Abbie and the second-tier heroes investigate a mysterious suicide at Tarrytown, the psychiatric hospital at which Jenny was a former guest and where Irving is currently incarcerated.

Speaking of Jenny, she’s finally returned to play a significant role in this episode’s story, although her extended absence goes unremarked upon, meaning that it wasn’t through some advanced planning or story significance that she’s been missing, but merely a disappointing case of the show’s writers simply not knowing what to do with her. With her reappearance comes a personal encounter for her and Abbie that the episode’s title pretty much spells out.

On the infrared security footage of the suicide there is a clear image of the sisters’ mother in the corner of the room being all mysterious and suspicious-looking. Of course, it later turns out that she wasn’t the whisperer of suicidal influence after all but was attempting to save the victim, but her reappearance digs up some old ghosts for the sisters, and not just of the literal kind. Plagued by demons when Abbie and Jenny were girls, their continued presence was the result of her emotional instability and subsequent treatment at Tarrytown, ultimately leading to her own death, a loss that left deep emotional scarring on both the sisters and had a major effect on the direction in which their lives went. The eventual reconciliation with their mother’s spirit is as touching a scene as the entire series has thus far managed.

Often when dealing with a subject like suicide, it’s easy to jump to the extremes of portraying it as a selfish act of ultimate surrender or a checkout from life intended to attract as much attention as possible. Here it’s handled far more sensitively and emotionally, acknowledging the feelings of despair and utter hopelessness that often accompany suicidal thoughts; and similarly with the connected issue of mental illness and how the possibility of its hereditary inheritance can taint a person’s actions throughout their life.

It also turns out that Mama Mills had a hand in the occult as well, and was in possession of a book of magical mojo that belonged to Grace Dixon, the family ancestor who was servant to a member of Katrina’s coven and who aided her when she gave birth to Henry. The cyclical destiny of ancestors and descendents has been a recurring theme throughout the show, and it would be nice to think that it will have some later significance that goes beyond mere narrative synchronicity, but with the ill-defined way the background story has been developing this season, that may well be wishful thinking.

Meanwhile, after Katrina finally got to actually do something in the last episode, she has frustratingly returned to her default setting of spying on Abraham and Henry, and also to be a surrogate mother to the Moloch demon baby, who she believes to be a simple foundling Henry picked up to torment her over her guilt from abandoning him. The baby’s appearance is evidently affected by the same enchantment that allows Katrina to see Abraham, making her perceive it as an adorably squidgy blob of infancy badly in need of some proper nurturing, rather than the horn-headed, charcoal-skinned hell-wraith it truly is, and is probably making her set to go full-on Rosemary Woodhouse in an episode or two since that seems to be the primary inspiration for this entire development. We also get another needless reminder of Henry’s lingering abandonment issues, which after a couple of centuries of chaos-mongering service to a demon lord, you’d really think he would have got over.

While it was interesting to see that a story can still engage largely without one of its lead characters, it’s nevertheless emblematic of the show’s inability to properly balance its myriad plotlines and character arcs, their developments becoming secondary considerations to the usually one-shot alpha story of the episode, if they are even considered at all.

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