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Sleepy Hollow S01E05: "John Doe"

So Sleepy Hollow had a baby with House, but was seeing Lost on the side and the result was "John Doe." Boom, review complete. (J/K.)

I'll admit that when I read the description of this week's episode I was a little concerned. And by a little concerned I mean I groaned and banged my head against the wall repeatedly. Because if there's one TV genre that I kind of dislike, it's the medical drama. A mysterious child with a mysterious disease and who's speaking a mysterious language that only Ichabod can understand does not sound like a great episode to me. But I think the batshit revelation that Thomas and the entire population of Roanoke (LOL @ that btw) were dead the whole time was just the right amount of crazy that I expect from Sleepy Hollow, and was enough to save the episode.

But let's rewind and start from the beginning. Ichabod has moved out of the motel and is now living in Sheriff Corbin's old cabin. Following an amusing moment about the meaning of spackling, and an even more amusing moment in which Ichabod was brought down by the hard plastic casing of doom that always covers literally everything of use to us (we've all been there, Ike), Abbie received a call and the two were off on their next case. 

Quick question: How much time has actually passed since the premiere? It can only be a like a week, right? I know that sounds ridiculous, but it doesn't seem like the world's done all that much turning between episodes. And if that's the case, shiiiiiiiit. Like, take a day off. Go get a beer. Relax. You deserve it!


When the dynamic duo arrived on the scene, they found a little boy who appeared to be suffering from Evil Willow Disease. Symptoms include black veins, speaking in ancient languages, and in advanced cases, flaying people alive. Luckily, Thomas—as we soon learned was his name—was only showing signs of the first two "afflictions." He spoke only in Middle English, a language not from Middle Earth as we had all hoped, but from the Middle Ages. Naturally, Ichabod understood it because he's a fancypants former history professor from Oxford who studied the language and took to it like I take to sleeping.

The bulk of the episode was spent tracking down the people of the Roanoke colony—that's where Thomas claimed he was from—and figuring out what plague he was carrying as quickly as possible so Abbie and Ichabod could keep it contained. It had already begun to spread to the first responders and nurses who were responsible for Thomas's care, and it made fast work of everyone from present day because they'd been vaccinated and their bodies didn't have the right antibodies to fight it. Abbie and Ichabod did eventually find the people of Roanoke, because after their colony had been infected by the plague, everybody packed up their belongings and followed the spirit of Virginia Dare—a real historical figure whose claim to fame is that she was the first child born in the Americas to English parents, and in this case the first person to fall victim to the disease—to a small island in the middle of nowhere near Sleepy Hollow. This series really should come with a disclaimer: WARNING: Don't think too hard about Sleepy Hollow otherwise your brain is likely to explode.


This week's plot is just the latest example of how Sleepy Hollow uses historical fact to its advantage, and the history nerd in me loved it. But I'd like to call shenanigans on Abbie never having heard of Roanoke before. Anyone who grew up in the United States and took a middle school history class learned about the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Maybe they taught it during those four days Abbie was passed out in the woods with Jenny and she never made up the homework, I don't know, but Roanoke and the story of its mysteriously vanished residents is pretty common knowledge. Guess Abbie's not done with the book-learnin'.

After Ichabod was infected with the mysterious disease, Abbie turned to God and asked for a sign. This was supposed to be a turning point in her character's story arc, as she believed and had faith, and therefore she was able to discern that the water in and around the island where the Roanoke people lived was what kept them from dying of the disease themselves. But I felt nothing about Abbie's arc this week, because even though she said the words "asking for a sign," you could tell she didn't rightfully believe that anything that happened was actually a sign from a higher power. 

I call this the Supernatural effect, because despite knowing there's a hell, despite knowing that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are out there just waiting for the right time to emerge and bring about the end of the world, despite literally seeing all of these demon-y things with her own two eyes, Abbie still doesn't really believe in heaven or God. Similarly, Dean and Sam didn't believe in angels or God or the existence of heaven, even though they knew of the existence of hell, demons, and every other creature that went bump in the night. It was ridiculous, but you could also chalk it up to them having been jaded by their upbringing, and because up until the moment Castiel gripped Dean tight and raised him from perdition, neither of the Winchesters had seen an angel or any existence of heaven. Abbie wasn't raised with the knowledge of hell and demons, so her disbelief must therefore stem from her own adolescence. But it's going to take a lot more than some holy water to cleanse Abbie and make her believe. Maybe this was the first step toward renewing her faith, but to me it just felt a bit false.

There was, of course, a reason for this magical medical mystery episode even if it wasn't immediately apparent. On first glance a plague episode didn't appear to tie in to the season-long story arc; it felt like filler. But "John Doe" introduced us to another Horseman, therefore making this episode just as important as both last week's episode and the series premiere to the overall mythology of the series."John Doe" was really a way to introduce the Horseman of Pestilence—sometimes called Conquest—who had infected the men and women of the colony of Roanoke off the coast of present-day North Carolina in the 1500s with this unspecified disease. When the residents of Roanoke moved to Sleepy Hollow, the water contained the disease so it wouldn't spread. The reveal that Thomas and the rest of the Roanoke population had been dead the entire time and that Thomas had been lured out of the colony by the Horseman as a way to spread the disease and allow him to return to Earth was a clever way to introduce ol' Pestilence (who is rightfully the first Horseman of the Apocalypse), and a pretty neat switcheroo that made the episode feel more like Sleepy Hollow and less like a very special Halloween episode of House

This was the last episode of Sleepy Hollow before Fox's annual Fall Baseball Hiatus, and it looks like when we return in three weeks, Steve the Headless Horseman might be on his way back to Sleepy Hollow after his version of a power nap. Also: John Noble! James Frain! Eeeeee! Until then. 



NOTES


 Decapitations this week: 0

 Things that confused Ichabod this week: plastic, tape, cameras

– We received a bit more of Ichabod's backstory this week: His father was a nobleman, and he had a regal upbringing that he is happy to be rid of. But his time spent hunting foxes in England taught him to be an excellent tracker, a skill that came in handy in this episode.

– Abbie's ex-boyfriend Luke contacted the University of Oxford to confirm Ichabod's status as a history professor. And it definitely checked out. Which begs the question: Who called Luke back and told him that Ichabod was on loan for law enforcement? Was it a phone call from the past? No, of course not. Phones didn't exist then (OR DID IT?). This just got a lot more mysterious. 

– Katrina's trapped in purgatory, where the demon Moloch is in charge of the final destination of the souls that end up there. But why is Katrina trapped there? Why wouldn't she tell Ichabod the truth? Why is her soul in Moloch's possession? Did she sell it? I NEED ANSWERS!

– Captain Irving was very quick to let Abbie take Ichabod and Thomas out of the hospital. In fact, he's been pretty open the past few episodes about their weird predicaments. What does he know? What's he not telling us? Is his surname of Irving just an homage to Washington Irving, or something more?

– According to Ichabod, Thomas Jefferson loved puns and John Adams had a diary of unsavory limericks. Guys, I can't. I want so badly for this magical history of the U.S. to be real.

– Another week without Evil John Cho. I miss him. But he was in the previews for the next episode, so yay!

thekaitling:list:sleepy-hollow-whats-the-diagnosis-for-john-doe/

 

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 1/20/2014

Season 1 : Episode 13

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