SLEEPY HOLLOW Season 2, Episode 15 'Spellcaster'

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The renegade angel Orion’s assertion that he is far from the only one to escape purgatory is proven correct with the violent arrival of warlock Solomon Kent (Johnathon Schaech; Star-Crossed). If his name and appearance both seem familiar, it’s because he’s heavily modelled on Solomon Kane, a Puritan warrior from the pen of pulp fiction god and Conan creator Robert E. Howard (and also the eponymous protagonist of a supernatural horror film from six years ago that was seen by approximately 37 people).

After Kent accidentally killed his unrequited one true, instead of fessing up he diverted attention by magically giving her the face of a hideous hag, only to inadvertently kickstart the infamous period of mass hysteria that was the Salem witch trials. One of the early victims was Katrina’s grandmother for no narratively significant reason at all, and only confirms that Katia Winter is far more fetching as a redhead than a blonde. His actions were eventually uncovered by the surviving members of Granny Van Tassel’s coven and he was banished to purgatory as punishment.

Now escaped from the hell plane, as well as having had well over three centuries to hone his craft to channel malevolent forces and his character to channel ‘80s-era Rutger Hauer, his powers have been augmented by stealing the Grand Grimoire, a tome of black magic compiled by John Dee, the Elizabethan mathematician, philosopher and astronomer who was also a dedicated occultist (a vocation with actual historical accuracy for once, rather than the show’s wild imaginings). The book’s pages hold magic strong enough to raise the dead or allow its wielder to travel though time, so obviously our heroes cannot allow such power to remain in the hands of a murderous madman, leading to a couple of wonderful set-piece confrontations.

First is a gloomy warehouse where Katrina and Kent have a full-frontal witch-off while Ichabod and Abbie face down a couple of demonic gymnasts summoned from a bubbling pool of Kent’s blood, during which Ichabod attempts trash talk (“Curb thy foul stench, unholy minion!”), which is far too magnificent an experience not to become a staple of every episode from now on. Second is at night in a forest, where Kent’s magic is combated with modern science, Ichabod fully embracing his role as a warrior of the 21st century, also going a little Hulk Smash in the process as payback for Kent harming Katrina.

Speaking of Mrs Crane, she seems to have now gone all earth goddess, initially showing up in a vibrant woodland grove lit by angular shafts of bright afternoon sunlight, tinting the flowers with some colourful highlights. If Ichabod and Abbie hadn’t appeared she’d have probably started singing to some cutesy animated animals. The point was to show Katrina at her most emotionally benevolent, since frolicking in the beauty of nature is relatively easy to visually contrast against to convey when her affinity for the more shadowy side of magic begins to adversely affect her, something we’ve had cause to be at least a little suspicious of for some time. It seems even more likely now, with Kent suggesting that if only she knew the power of the dark side she would be able to realise her full potential, and presumably actually become the powerful witch that everyone keeps saying she is despite evidence of such failing to materialise time and again, to endless viewer frustration.

Aside from all the magical mayhem, the episode’s most significant event is Henry finally making his inevitable return. Surprisingly, it was not in some explosion of spectacular histrionics, but slouching in a motel armchair watching insipid TV. Since his disappearance after destroying Moloch and evidently escaping destruction from the backbiting power of the Sword of Methuselah, he has apparently been languishing in a directionless malaise. After spinning a sudden one-eighty at the very moment that all he had planned for two centuries was about to be realised, it’s understandable he’s a little unsure about what exactly he’s going to do next. Fortunately, a trio of anonymous thugs are on hand to set him back on the right track. Not from their mindless intimidation of a single mother and her son awakening some latent protective nobility in him, but because seeing them do so reminded him that such petty hard-man posturing is largely all that the world has to threaten him with and that he is so far above them it’s not even funny, efficiently demonstrated by effortlessly slaughtering them with some merciless neck-breaking psychokinesis.

Jenny has once again disappeared (see previous reviews’ bitching about the unwelcome regularity of this), although even if Abbie’s mention of her being “off chasing the Orb of Mystical Awesomeness” is just paying lip service to her absence rather than something significant to later come into play, at least they’re actually bothering to acknowledge it. This specific niggle aside, Spellcaster is a marked improvement over the last few weeks, and it seems the show has finally been taken off cruise control, getting things properly back on track and setting the scene for the build up to the series finale.


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