This week, we had a noticeable lack of both Katrina and Andy, and that—well—that seems to be our indication that “For the Triumph of Evil…” is not part of the Headless Horseman/Four Horseman of the Apocalypse story arc.
Even though Crane kept insisting to Abbie—insisting to us—that the Sandman (aka Ro’kenhrontyes, an 18th century Mohawk story and just—no. Nope. We will be dealing with these shenanigans, I promise you.) is a “soldier in the army of evil sent against us. Against you. The capital W-witness.”
Yet—there are none of the usual indications of The Beginning of the End storyline: no Katrina being cryptic, no Andy being so done with this entire death and resurrection business, no Thing in the Forest being creepy and unnecessary (except in a flashback).
So, yeah. Third episode, and it may be too early to make such an assertion, but this is not our Regular Programming.
Abbie is the one that receives the Cryptic Message from the Supernatural, and I’m not even sure it was that, even though—again—we have Crane insisting that Abbie had a prophetic vision.
Really, in the little rooms of Abbie’s dream with Ro’kenhrontyes threading himself through Abbie’s guilt and memories, it seems more likely that it’s exactly what the Irving! Ro’kenhrontyes says it is: “We finally caught Abigail Mills. Mostly due to the good doctor here.”
The good doctor. Vega. The doctor who had initially treated Jenny years ago and who had believed that Jenny wasn’t actually delusional, that she had seen something in the forest.
The doctor who didn’t tell anyone that she believed a scared little girl.
Which is different than Abbie not having said that she saw the Thing in the Forest, different than admitting to having seen The Demon in the Forest because baby!Abbie was smart, so smart. She knew what would happen if they spoke up, tried to warn Jenny, and it’s understandable that Abbie would do what she could to save herself when Jenny wouldn’t let Abbie save her (which sounds like it’s kinda a theme in their relationship).
Yep, finally going to call it a demon since that’s what Jenny calls it, and Abbie is, still, not necessarily calling it “demon” with anything like regularity, which is perfect because—as much as she has accepted the existence of the supernatural, as much as Abbie is starting to actually admit to having seen Something Nasty in the Forest—she’s still fighting with it like any person faced with a change in paradigm would.
And, that all makes this episode more of a morality tale than something that fits the story arc thus far: wrong-doing (for certain values of “wrong-doing”) being addressed with non-nuanced retributive justice in a Eumenides-kinda-way where the Wrong-Doer (i.e., Abbie) is hurried to the Mystical Other—in this case, Seamus and his Longhouse of All Native Relics—who can help the Wrong-Doer to atone, and the Agent of Vengeance (our Ro’kenhrontyes) is turned away.
So, basically, Abbie is Orestes, and Crane is Elektra.
It’s a metaphor.
But, yeah. What baby!Abbie did as a kid—not speaking in defense of Jenny, not corroborating her story—sucks, but I’m not sure what Abbie did was actually wrong.
ABBIE: Fear is a pretty big motivation.
CRANE: Fear causes inaction. Inaction causes pain. QED, fear causes pain.
And pain leads to the Dark Side. Thank you, Jedi Crane.
How can Abbie have not made this crack?
Abbie wasn’t wrong to protect herself by inaction, but I don’t think Jenny was wrong either, and she has every reason to be epically pissed off.
I do think it’s curious that Ro’kenhrontyes was avenging betrayals against Jenny, and I have all manner of theories about that.
But, it’s also interesting that, once Abbie confronts Ro’kenhrontyes, he loses coherency and shifts to glass and sand—refraction and filler—Ro’kenhrontyes is less a “faceless nightmare monster,” and more the tangible guilt and shame and fear that Abbie has carried with her since the Demon in the Forest appeared in her and Jenny’s lives.
“Stop. I saw—a demon. I saw a demon in the woods, and I lied to protect myself. I was a coward, and I betrayed my sister. I turned my back on her when she needed me. And I will not do it again. It was my fault. You can come at me all you want, but I see you. I’m not afraid anymore.”
It’s also interesting that there are always mirrors (and windows) involved in Ro’kenhrontyes’ manifestation, which is a nice play at all of the myths and legends that involve mirrors—that involve revenge—that meditate on how mirrors are dangerous.
That meditate upon how doors and portals and windows fit into the idea of Entrance in the same way that “mirror” is also coded for and are similarly dangerous.
We even have a red door in the Valley of Death (which looks pretty much like the World Between Worlds that Katrina and the Demon in the Forest are rocking) that leads Crane to Abbie’s challenge against Ro’kenhrontyes.
I am never going to be comfortable near a reflective surface or a ‘tween place ever again.
So, Sleepy Hollow. Making everyone uncomfortable since forever.
But, we’re still being presented with Ro’kenhrontyes as a “demon” that amounts to the same narrative function as the Eumenides did for Orestes, so not evil but necessary and expected.
Ro’kenhrontyes is coded as evil even though he’s really acting more as a figure of non-nuanced retributive justice that can be deterred by admitting and accepting that you have Done Wrong—so nothing problematic in that portrayal, especially when we’re told that Ro’kenhrontyes is a Mohawk story.
Doesn’t that seem weirdly like Serilda of Abaddon who speaks in Romani Greek?
We’re told that they’re evil and see something circumstantial that makes them look evil for certain selfish values of evil when, really, we don’t know.
Crane doesn’t know.
Abbie doesn’t know.
Revenge isn’t evil; it just exists outside the Law. And, Ro’kenhrontyes, who appears both sightless and voiceless, takes retribution for those without a voice, yeah? Because Jenny doesn’t have a voice anymore.
And, Ro’kenhrontyes is acting as an agent of Jenny’s vengeance.
No, sir. I don’t like it. There’s something odd happening in Whoville. Hopefully, it’s something wondrous and deep and subversive ‘cause, otherwise, it’s going to be the Land of Tropes and Problems that would make Jeff Davis blush.
It’s not like we’re not kinda already having that problem in this episode when we have the appropriative mash-up and misrepresentation of Mohawk culture for narrative reasons.
Kinda like the Romani took a similar pass last episode.
I AM FEELING SORELY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU, SHOW. YOU KNOW BETTER THAN THIS.
This episode is like weirdly appropriative but in a way that’s not just misappropriation but, like, malicious fabrication with heavily imposed Christian morality. And, yeah, Handsome Lake integrated a lot of Quaker and Christian elements into his Gaiwiio (or, “Good Word”)—and many of the Haudenosaunee actually were Christian—but this just seems—weird.
Like, really weird.
For instance, Ro’kenhrontyes looks and reads like something out of ancient Egypt crossed with fairytales and Cycles Play from the Middle Ages. With Silent Hill dripping all over his aesthetic.
And, when Abbie is in the Valley of Death (and isn’t that a very Christian phraseology to use), Ro’kenhrontyes says to her that “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”
That’s some straight-up Egyptian Book of the Dead scary there.
Ro’kenhrontyes even dresses more like something out of The Mummy and has skin brands that look more Egyptian than Mohawk, and he swirls around in a whirlwind of sand.
Why would a divinity, demon, or spirit from the East Coast be sand? That’s like a water-based creation story for a historically desert-dwelling people. It’s illogical.
I think Ro’kenhrontyes may have hitched a ride on some guilty person to the Colonies. It makes more sense than Ro’kenhrontyes being, originally, a Mohawk story.
But, yeah, the entire “let’s appropriate someone else’s cultural stories and characteristics and make them evil” is getting old, Show. Especially when something appears to be made up of whole cloth.
Which—again—they could be preparing for something massively subversive that’s going to change their instituted paradigm of Good and Evil, but right now, it’s problematic like whoa.
At least, the episode is giving us some acknowledgement of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s part in the Revolution, even if it did skip over the fact that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was really divided between the British and the Colonials; that the Haudenosaunee were, in fact, called the Haudenosaunee and not the Iroquois, which was a French imposed named; and that the fundamental basis of American Democracy (oh, irony, since the government is shut down right now) is the Haudenosaunee’s Participatory Democracy.
And, Seamus Duncan (Michael Teh; Sharknado and Breaking Point)—that name, you’re parents were so mean—calling Abbie and Ichabod out on their assumptions that because he’s a Mohawk—because he’s an enrolled member or descendent of a Nation—that he’s going to automatically be a shaman, a Holy Man.
That’s some Grade-A problematic assumptions there.
Although Seamus is some cleverly sly commentary with his Geronimotors and “Tomahawking prices since 2008”, his wooden “Indian” and his barn filled with non-Mohawk paraphernalia and art and objects. It’s like Seamus had a “white people aren’t going to know the difference anyway” and used it to his advantage because there’s an assumption of cultural ubiquity and homogeny in this country. One that isn’t remotely accurate, is political in nature, and causes the erasure of individuated cultures.
There’s also the distinct possibility that it’s the Show being not-smart and appropriative, but considering that Seamus says things like “You want me to go all Kemosabe, cast a spell, and do a rain dance?” and “I don’t know where you came from, but you can drop your ‘friend of the tribe’ shtick. No one’s a chief, no lives in teepees, and no one has powwows.”, it seems unlikely.
Which, while A+ snark, 10/10 would watch you dress-down Ichabod again, it’s somewhat hollow coming from an actor who isn’t affiliated with a Tribe or a Nation.
We also have Abbie explaining to Crane that there aren’t that many enrolled members or descendents of the tribes and nations that Crane new anymore. What Abbie leaves out is that the Colonist and the newly made American government were the aggressors more often than not, which is either some sort of weird erasure or trying to ease Crane into the present.
But it’s kinda frustrating too.
Honestly, it’s not much—not nearly as much as the Nations in America deserve—but it’s something.
It’s a start.
In this episode, the Dead Department consists of:
- Dr. Vega (Mary Kraft; Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell and Squidbillies), jumped to her death after Ro’kenhrontyes’ tender ministrations
- Garrett Gillespie (Pete Burris; Army Wives and Veep), shot himself after Ro’kenhrontyes was being all stalk-y
A Headless Easter Egg Hunt and Other Important THINGS:
- Was that supposed to be Joseph Brant in Crane’s flashback to the story of Ro’kenhrontyes? Because, that would be interesting.
- I swear there needs to be a Crane Is Captain Obvious count or something because—OMG—he really needs to stop stating the obvious, like, now.
- In addition to being Captain Obvious, Crane is also a proponent of ALL THE CLICHES HELP. Just—no.
- When Abbie tells Crane that he was in her dream (re: nightmare) and Crane’s all “Oh? And what, pray tell, was I doing in your dream?”. Just—Crane, stop flirting. You are not subtle at all. And, Abbie’s response? “Freaking me out more than usual.” Apply ointment to burn, son. ßThere may be shipping going on. Sssshhhhh.
- Can we talk about how Abbie is always “Lieutenant” or “Miss Mills,” and Jenny is “Miss Jenny.” That’s the most adorable nod to Crane’s origin and upbringing in England. Very Jane Austen.
- Okay, the continued prevalence of mirrors is not making me happy but is completely Magical Logic, so get comfortable. More creepifying mirrors will be coming. Whether we like it or not.
- Okay, either Abbie doesn’t remember everything that happened in the forest, or Jenny saw more than Abbie did. On one of Vega’s video-ed sessions with Jenny—which how did they get all of Vega’s confidential files on a patient?—baby!Jenny is telling Vega about what happened in the forest: “I saw a demon, and a voice said ‘Come and see.’ And, I wasn’t in the forest anymore.” That’s noticeably different from Abbie’s remembrance. Abbie said that, after “Come and see.”, she woke up. And, it sounded like Jenny had more to say if Crane hadn’t hit the VCR button and made it slow-mo into demon-voice. What did Jenny see?
- “You already know what I do. It’s all over but the crying.” Oh, Jenny, this is so going to be bad, especially since Jenny seems to be The Key to Everything.
- We have some color importance kicking around in this episode: white and red.
- White can mean a lot of things, but interestingly, white is innocence, purity, and—loyalty. Seems odd that Ro’kenhrontyes’ victims’ eyes would turn white, yeah? But, white can also mean sacrifice as in a sacrificial animal way, to be a sacrifice. Were Vega and Gillespie redeemed or were they sacrifices? And, if they were sacrifices, what were they sacrifices for?
- Red can mean danger, sacrifice, passion, and evil. A prayer to Isis (there’s that Egyptian gesture again) pleas “Oh Isis, protect me from all things evil and red.” Please note that, to get to Abbie and Ro’kenhrontyes in the Valley of Death, Crane has to pass through a red door.
- The number four kept showing up in this episode. Remember that Abbie said she saw four white trees? Well, now her and Jenny were missing for four days. And four? It can symbolize the world and completion, be the realization of power. It can mean renewal—like, maybe, the End of the World for the New World. Yeah, forgot that the Christian Apocalypse is all about Heaven coming to Earth, didn’t ya?