“Sleepy Hollow” Season 2 Post-Mortem: Part 1

I took on the challenge to rewatch Season 2 of Sleepy Hollow to see just how good or bad the season actually was without the fandom influences of #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter and other fan-based movements. I wanted to see the series just like how the average non-fandom viewer would. I even took notes. The results were interesting.

I was surprised to find that there were some definite throughlines in this crop of episodes, despite the clear waywardness of the writing as the season went on. Some of those were:

• Ichabod’s hope that he could save his family (something I’ve written about many times before)

• Katrina’s reliance on men (also written about several times)

• Katrina’s crutch of guilt coloring her actions and relationships

• Katrina being oddly selfish and self-serving, which is especially apparent when even the villains don’t understand her motives.

• Reason vs. emotion

• A clear switch from a focus on POC storylines (which are actually the main storylines) to a focus on Katrina storylines (which should remain secondary or main-adjacent)

• Henry did have very apparent mother issues that could have been explored even more in the series than they were

Okay, some of these throughlines have been discussed to death already, like Ichabod wanting to save his family, Katrina being redonk, and Henry starting out as a cool villain and devolving into a sad baby of a man. But there are a lot of nuances that I didn’t see the first time around that I wish had been explored a lot more. If Sleepy Hollow doesn’t have a continuity editor (and they should), they need one, because I think a lot of these things could have been caught.

The four throughlines I want to expound more on are Katrina making guilt-based decisions, reason vs. emotion, Henry’s mother issues, and the neglect of POC storylines. I’ll also touch on the biggest story mistake made this season.

Guilt-based decisions

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People have complained a lot about Katrina making weird decisions that don’t make any sense. Katrina asking to be saved from the Horseman by Ichabod only to decide to stay with the Horseman to “spy,” Katrina’s ill-advised mission to go back to Frederick’s Manor to kill baby Moloch only to somehow think that the baby was a human baby, trying to save baby Moloch, releasing Abraham to wild after she learned Orion was out to kill him, and ultimately siding with Henry, thinking he could be changed for the best with her love, are just a few in a litany of decisions (not counting killing-not-killing Mary just so Ichabod wouldn’t go back to England with her).

A lot of fans have just written off her bad decisions as bad writing. I believe it’s more about bad direction than bad writing, since it now seems clear to me that the writers were doing the best with the vision they were provided by Mark Goffman. Far be it for me to tell someone how to do their job,but if I were Sleepy Hollow‘s showrunner, I would have taken a look at the sum of Katrina’s actions from Season 1 and made it very plain to the viewers that Katrina’s undoing is her inability to make decisions that aren’t laced with her own guilt and manipulative tendencies.

One of the quotes from one of the episodes includes Ichabod discussing Katrina’s “deep and mysterious” heart. I’d say the only deep and mysterious about it is her depth of guilt. The kicker is that her guilt is all self-inflicted. She’s the cause of her own demise. Yeah, I know Ichabod killed her with the knife, but she’d been leading herself down the path of no return for a long time.

Most of Katrina’s guilt stems from her lost chance at motherhood. She gave up Jeremy/Henry in an attempt to save him (supposedly), but she ended up never returning to him after being cast away in Purgatory and, of course, Ichabod was already in the ground. She sees herself as the reason for her Henry’s turn towards evil.

It should go without saying that I’m not questioning a mother feeling guilty about their actions, or that leaving your child in the care of another. My own mom was left in the care of another family member, so I get that sometimes, being raised away from the biological mother might be the best decision for a child’s wellbeing. But as a witch who should, to borrow a Dragonball Z phrase, be able to read power levels, shouldn’t Katrina have been able to sense that Grace Dixon wasn’t powerful enough to handle a child like Henry?

I had always been of the conclusion that even though Grace was a powerful witch, Grace’s magic was even more “of the earth” than Katrina’s, who seemed to rely a lot more on literal spells and enchantments than Grace, who relied on both spells and herb mixtures (we saw her concoct such a mixture during “Tempus Fugit”).

So what is Katrina’s guilt really based on? Is it solely on not taking care of Henry, or is it a combination of losing Henry and inadvertently causing the death of Grace? Is she even concerned about Grace? This point leads to something else I discovered during my rewatch, which I’ll get to later. In any case, her motherhood guilt should also be accompanied with guilt about Grace, but we never see her thinking about Grace, or other people in general, unless their names are Henry, Ichabod, or Abraham.

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Instead of feeling sad about Grace, her motherhood guilt is accompanied by guilt over leaving Abraham. But didn’t she choose Ichabod over Abraham for the good of the mission? Why did she even lead Abraham on? There was some kind of lame attempt made at explaining away why Katrina went with Ichabod instead of Abraham—something about Abraham and money or whatnot—but to me, Katrina’s actions only came off more as wanting to get with the man who has the most power at the time. Abraham might have been rich enough to overlook her witchiness, but Ichabod was the Witness! That’s way more important than being the wife of a rich gentleman! So obviously, even though Abraham seemed to genuinely love her, she went with Ichabod.

But it’s only after she realizes that Ichabod is aligned more with Abbie (romantically, friendship-wise, whatever) and that Abraham seemingly has the slight upper hand (with Moloch exhibiting more power and that her son is working with Abraham), she starts siding with him, even while she’s supposed to be a double agent. All Katrina’s ever been after is power because she acts in a way that strips her own self of power. The irony is that she’s supposed to be a “powerful witch.”

In short, her guilt over Henry and Abraham led Katrina to do everything short of selling her soul to the devil to get her son—who impregnated her with Moloch—on her side, win back Abraham, and somehow become the mother/savior to Baby Moloch, even though she knew going in the house that the only baby in that place would have to be Moloch.

Reason vs. emotion

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Katrina’s actions generally aren’t based in any reason at all, despite the OOC moments when Abbie would inexplicably state that Katrina was right to do some bone-headed thing, like let Abraham go. In some cases, it seemed like these types of statements could be read as a way to make Abbie the buttress to Katrina’s bad decisions, a new way of having a black woman play apologist for a white woman’s decisions (ex. “the sassy black friend” who is the buttress for the “main white female” character). I didn’t really like those moments.

Instead of using reason, Katrina’s actions are largely based on selfishness. For instance, her decision to flip-flop between Abraham and Ichabod, even after Ichabod saves her from baby Moloch. “You’re betting an awful lot on Abraham’s love for you. And Crane’s,” Abbie tells her. She eerily replies back that “love is a dangerous weapon.” Indeed, it’s a weapon she tries to use as a way to serve her own ends.

She uses what she considers “love,” which is actually emotional manipulation, to get her way. She holds her guilt over Ichabod’s head and repackages it as their shared parental guilt. She holds their marriage over Ichabod as well, saying that it’s their love that turned Abraham into the Horseman. She even uses Abraham’s love for her as a way to string both Abraham and Ichabod along.

As Katrina herself says to Ichabod, “I simply wanted you to support me, to believe in me.” As he says, “When have I not?” When has he not? All Katrina uses as the sustenance for her soul is manufacturing guilt for Ichabod so he can remain tethered to her. She only knows herself as a prize, and it seems like, for all her talk about Mary Poppins not being progressive, she’s the least progressive woman since Doris Day’s movie heroines.

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Contrast this to everyone else’s use of common sense. When Jenny, Abbie, and Ichabod are trapped, either in a warehouse, Purgatory, or a pine box underground, they all use their wits to get out of their situations. Irving does his best to keep his sanity and what’s left of his soul. He even tries to keep his family safe from himself when he realizes he’s still at the mercy of Henry. Even Hawley gets credit for using common sense. When push comes to shove, he will do whatever he can to get the job done and stay alive.

If there was more focus on Katrina’s manipulative thought processes, I think Katrina would have been a much stronger character. A character who is clearly struggling with being manipulative and dealing with intense motherhood issues would be a lot more compelling than a character who may or may not be a manipulative and may or may not be evil.

I think if Katrina was a stronger character, she’d be a great candidate for the Horseman of Pestilence. Aside from being another word for the bubonic plague, “pestilence” also means “something that is destructive or pernicious.” Pernicious means “causing great harm or damage often in a way that is not easily seen or noticed.” I’d say Katrina’s definitely pernicious.

Henry’s mother issues

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Henry could very well be this year’s Norman Bates. He’s often working from a place of pain, but a lot of the pain that was directed at both his parents eventually became reserved specifically for Katrina. There were many times during this season that Henry played specifically on her guilt, such as resurrecting Mary, making baby Moloch look like a human baby, killing Moloch after he wanted Henry to kill Katrina to start the Apocalypse, etc.

But I wonder why this wasn’t made into a much deeper storyline. There could have been a lot to explore here, especially since Henry has inherited Katrina’s power (and, to be honest, has surpassed her).

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I thought it was a little ridiculous to keep Henry harping on Ichabod not being there for him when he should know by now that Ichabod was dead to the world before he even knew he was a father. It made a lot more sense for the writing crew to shift their attention to Katrina, since she was the one who was alive for 230+ years. It’s also clear that Katrina, as Orion told Abbie harbors the world’s villains by always working to “save” them. Orion said there’s no place for people that harbor evil, so it would have been interesting for Henry to truly think about why Katrina’s so bent on saving and harboring him, despite everything he’s done to her. “But we saw him discuss that in ‘Awakening’!” You might say. Well, yeah. But was mostly done as a patch job. If the show really wanted to investigate it, this would have been set up a lot earlier.

Part Two is here!

Photo credit: Brownie Harris/FOX, Screencaps 

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