Family Trees and Evil Trees in Sleepy Hollow: “Sanctuary”

Sleepy Hollow knows how to fold important emotional plot into action, and this week they hit X-Files levels.

On one level this episode was a Haunted House story, and hit all the right notes. The house itself is creepy from the moment we see it. Mills and Crane are sent to the house to track Lena Gilbert, an author/philanthropist, who has unfortunately been Evil Dead-ed.

Sleepy Hollow Sanctuary

Ichabod is rather perturbed to learn that Lena is a billionaire: “That’s the gross national income of all thirteen colonies! In my lifetime.” He’s also confused that a billionaire would be dating “an Irishman” like George Clooney…

Anyway, we learn that Fredericks Manor, the haunted house in question, was a charmed place in Ichabod’s time—in basically every sense of the word. The house used to be the home of Lachlan Fredericks, who believed in equality, and paid freed slaves a fair wage to work at his home. Ichabod and Katrina visited shortly after their marriage, and met his house matron, a woman named Grace Dixon, who was apparently well known for helping “those in need.” Lachlan’s house was a sanctuary for escaped slaves, and, we later learn, the heart of a powerful coven. Lachlan “protected” everyone who came to his property, both physically and magically.

Once Abbie and Ichabod are inside, the house closes itself up and traps them. This leads to one of my favorite lines so far—I know, I say that every week—“Haunted Houses do not work for me. Not as a child, not now, not ever. I draw a line.”

Wait, the Devil is okay, but you draw the line at haunted houses, Abbie?  

They manage to break poor Lena out – she’s been trapped by a crazy bleeding root system. They hack at the roots to free her, which awakens…HOLY FUCK IT’S AN EVIL TREANT.

Sleepy Hollow Sanctuary


I can handle a lot of stuff, show, but I draw the line at angry trees. The angry tree chases them through the house, they get separated, and he grabs Lena again.

Meanwhile, Jenny invites Capt. Irving over for Thanksgiving dinner:

Irving: “We act like normal people for a change?”

Jenny: “One night only, I promise.”

Awww, see, I told you guys this was a ship. You don’t take down an evil Hessian terrorist cell without a few sparks flying. But then Irving’s ex and daughter show up! The daughter, Macy (who’s in a wheelchair) confronts Jenny in an awesomely bratty fashion. Irving’s ex, Cynthia, says something about how she and Macy are dealing with “it” and Irving gets really quite really fast, which makes me wonder if there was an accident? Cynthia threatens to take custody away completely if he doesn’t spend more time with their daughter. He can’t very well explain that he’s trying to fend off the Apocalypse…

So, fresh off this talk about fatherly responsibility, we cut back to Abbie, who has followed the ghost of Grace Dixon into a bedroom. She has a vision of Katrina giving birth to a son.


Abbie tells Ichabod immediately when she finds him – again these people have no sense of timing. Like zero. Maybe go find Lena first, and then break the news to him gently, rather than blurting it out? But they piece together that the evil attacked the house to get at Ichabod’s son. Sadly, Lachlan meets his Ent at the business end of an Evil Tree Limb:

Abbie’s nested flashback is broken by Lena screaming. They find her, and what follows is a goddamn symphony of shadows, flashlights, and lens flares. Abbie shoots the roots until she sees Grace Dixon again. Grace leads her out a secret passage – seemingly the  same one she used to save Katrina and Ichy Jr. from the Tree-demon. Ichabod, second week in a row, disregards Abbie’s pleading with him to control himself, and runs back into the house to chop the Tremon to bits while yelling. He finally ends by saying, “Give Moloch my regards.” And burying the axe in the Tree’s head-ish-bits.

Which leads me to wonder – when is Ichabod’s comeuppance coming? He promised to listen to Abbie, but now ignores her and tramples her good sense to exorcise his pain. But the episode ends with another revelation: back in their office, Ichabod is pondering his fate, and tells her about his father, and how much he wanted to be an Oxford professor with a son to share joy and pride with. Abbie tries to talk him into joining her for Thanksgiving, but he doesn’t think he’ll be good company, so instead they share a cup of rum while looking through files Lena sent them.

One of the files is Grace Dixon’s family tree. She is, in fact, a direct ancestor of Abbie and Jenny. So Abbie’s great-great-great-grandmother brought Ichabod’s child into the world.

Abbie and Ichabod toast newfound family, swig their rum, and say, “To Finding Family.”

I’ll admit I really wanted the big shot of everybody around the table, including Irving, both Mills sisters, and Crane, but the fact that they don’t force that is maybe better? Crane’s gutted. Doing the table shot would feel pretty false, so I’m glad the show went with sharing rum in the face of impossible odds. 

Ichabod Struggles with Modernity:

McDonalds isn’t Scottish enough! Whaddya mean, billionaires! We should have enough time to eat, dammit! The Pilgrims ate venison, thank you very much.

Sleepy Hollow’s Struggles with Facts:

Ichabod has said that he’s from nobility, but now we learn that his father was an Oxford Professor. Oxford Professors were not generally nobility, they were academics, and certainly upper-class, but not nobility in England. More importantly, they weren’t permitted to marry freely until I believe the 1860s, so his story of a happy father coming home for holidays doesn’t work. Plus of course…depending on which denomination Ichabod is, presumably Church of England, I’m not sure which holiday he’d be celebrating with a jolly fireside feast…

Abbie’s Struggles with…Anything?

None, really. She accepts the ghost of Grace Dixon, and tears up when she sees her family tree, but doesn’t really seem to be that blown away. She even works through her terror of being in a haunted house pretty quick. She seems to have been so worn down by all the mystical occurrences that she’s just going to be OK from now on.

What’s Irving’s Deal?

Um, he’s a separated father, who loves his daughter, and maybe had something to do with the accident that put her in a wheelchair. Seriously – he’s not a demon, or an angel, or anything? He’s just a hardworking guy who’s doing his best in the face of a tragic accident? Well…shit.

Just How EEEEvil is Katrina?

Not very, it seems. She’s a grieving widow who is afraid to face parenthood alone, but lights up with joy when she gives birth to her son. She seeks help from a trusted friend, and that friend gives his life to protect her. Well…shit.

Okay, could Andy come back or something? Now the show’s just making me kind of sad.


Leah Schnelbach really wanted to get more of the Evil Tree’s backstory. You can find her not-at-all evil Twitter thoughts here.


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