So, my smart-arsed comment in Episode 2’s review about Nietzsche’s famous quotation being too subtle for Sleepy Hollow now looks a little oblivious. As well as fully embracing the show’s horror aspect (which we’ll get to), And the Abyss Gazes Back also does something we might not have been expecting: it largely focuses on family and relationships. This isn’t to say that the show has suddenly gone all Next Generation on us, but interpersonal dynamics nevertheless play an important role.
The relationship between Abbie and Sheriff Corbin (who was played by the ever-wonderful Clancy Brown and sadly offed in the pilot) has been touched upon often enough for us to appreciate what a huge influence he was on her life, least of all getting her off the path of delinquency she was careering down and becoming something of a surrogate father to her. However, it now transpires that such attention was given at the expense of his relationship with his own son Joe, with Corbin becoming so absorbed with both his fight against supernatural forces and ensuring Abbie’s safety that he didn’t realise the extent to which he was alienating him, giving some light to the human factor of the supernatural war raging largely unseen in the shadows. It’s quite unusual for someone to get post-mortem character development, and it gives further insight into the mind of a man who might otherwise have been chalked up as just another casualty of Moloch’s campaign.
Joe has now returned from deployment in Afghanistan full of anger and resentment, the sole survivor of his platoon after it came under a mysterious attack and the bodies of his comrades were torn apart. It doesn’t take Ichabod long to deduce what they’re dealing with, which is done by way of another of his regular anecdotal revisions of popular American history (which also suggest that there seems to be nobody of note from the Colonial period who Ichabod didn’t know personally), coming this time in the form of Daniel Boone, with Ichabod indignant at Boone’s renown as “the guy with a raccoon on his head,” amusingly mimicking an American accent in the process. Incidentally, Boone never actually wore such a garment, but the notion was popularised by a ‘60s TV show where the actor portraying him did so by more or less reprising his previous role as Davy Crockett from a decade beforehand, fur cap and everything. Anyway, Boone’s brother was a soldier at Valley Forge, where a harsh winter killed well over 2,000 American soldiers, and resorted to eating human flesh to stay alive, thus tainting himself with the curse of the wendigo.
And so to the monster. From The X-Files to Teen Wolf , wendigos have periodically cropped up in numerous genre settings in all their slavering bestial glory. A creature from Native American mythology, the wendigo is typically characterised as someone who was once human, but cannibalism has unleashed the monster within in a rather literal manner. This wendigo was created by Joe receiving a letter covered in bone powder laced with black magic to curse him into transforming into one, retrospectively making sense of the odd scene at the end of episode four where Henry was seen grinding up the flute of the pied piper. It would seem that the magical properties of the instrument were irrelevant; what was significant was that it was made from human bone. The wendigo seen here is the result of some fantastic creature design, not just from its goat-like face, stretched and hairy sinews and animalistic growling, but also that its appearance remains just human enough that the form of the man beneath the cursed metamorphosis can still be glimpsed, reminding us that despite killing dozens of people Joe is not truly responsible for his actions.
Elsewhere, Henry continues his attempted corruption of Irving, pointing him in the direction of the drunk driver responsible for crippling his daughter with the expectation he will take his vengeance. While the man’s lack of remorse and refusal to accept responsibility for what he did might have been a little too deliberately provocative, Irving’s reaction shows that he is still fighting against the demonic destiny his apocalyptic visions are prophesising, and so Henry will have to work much harder if he wants to bring about the will of his dark master.
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