We Paint A Happy Little Serial Killer in Sleepy Hollow: “Pittura Infamante”

So the Sleepy Hollow team is talking about the fact that Season 2 has not been as good. Apparently some execs feel that it became too serialized, but I would argue that they added too many side characters, when the central relationships were squandered. People started saying “Ichabbie” for a reason. They practically kicked Captain Irving, a great, a compelling twist on the cliché of the Angry Black Police Chief, most of the way off the show. Finally, and most problematic, they ignored the mystery of the Mills sisters and their mother (the thing that produced the most compelling hour of the season, “Mama”) to focus on the Crane’s marital troubles, with an extra dose of Headless angst.

I’m not sure that last night’s Katrina-centric episode is the right move, but, it mostly worked as a tense, Monster-of-the-Week entry, and we did get some great Mills sister banter.

And so…

The first five minutes are probably the best since “Mama”! Art restorer works on a painting that doesn’t seem creepy at first, it’s just a painting of a guy working on a painting. But the guy has his back to the viewer, in away that slowly become unsettling. What if he turns around? What will his face look like? While I’m waiting for that, a completely different horrifying thing happens: the painting starts bleeding!

We cut to Ichabod preparing for a date! Oh, but it’s with his wife, who got a bunch of people killed and actively did the opposite of cancelling the Apocalypse. He’s taking her for a festive evening at the historical society, and he is vexed about his clothing. How, he enquires, can one can be both business and casual?


Abbie is openly disapproving of the date, and of Katrina in general. But Ichabod insists that he and Katrina have to try to see whether their marriage still works. “Who are we to each other in this new modern context?”

Abbie reminds him not to drop any names at the society, try not to mention his apprenticeship with Ben Franklin or his dalliance with Betsy Ross, as Katrina comes out in an LBD.

“Betsy who?” Ichabod asks, ogling his wife. “Good answer,” Abbie replies.

I have to say, while they’re harping on Katrina not being comfortable in the modern world, she’s certainly taken to skin tight clothing… but enough of that, there is infodumping to be done! It turns out that not only did the Cranes know John and Abigail Adams, but that Katrina was Abigail Adams’ midwife, and that they were besties.

Then we learn that the part of Abigail will be played by Dawn Summers in flashbacks. ’Cause putting Dawn in the care of redheaded witches always goes so well. Anyway, the art restorer is apparently another friend of Ichabod’s that we’ve never met before. He tries to ask Ichabod about spirits, but gets interrupted before he can finish his question. Meanwhile, The Worst Witch senses a Dark Presence, but doesn’t do anything about it…. this should end well.

Back at the station: Irving shows up! Abbie is shocked.

We cut back to the Historical Society, where Katrina is having flashbacks. Abigail Adams toasted Katrina on the news of her pregnancy, telling her that Ichabod will love the baby “until he meets the little monster.” Wait, what? But no time for that, the art restorer has been murdered! He’s been hung upside down from a chandelier, and is dripping blood all over the parquetry.

Soo… we’ve killed another potential ally, one who seemed interesting, a little nerdy, and open to belief in the spirit realm. Nuts. And yet Hawley lives!

Suddenly, the audience is told that the art restorer’s hanging is reminiscent of The Hanged Man, the 12th card of the major arcana. I’m not sure who tells us this, since right after we get a flash of a card from Katrina’s perspective, Ichabod walks over and starts expounding on it. They muse on the card’s allegory of “a struggle from death to rebirth.” Could it be linked to Irving’s rebirth? Is Henry somehow behind this?

Sleepy Hollow Pittura Infamante

Before we can ponder that possibility, more sepia-toned flashbacks invade! Apparently there was a rash of killing in 1781 that resemble this murder, and apparently Katrina helped Abigail Adams investigate them. So, I’m not sure what all of you learned about Abigail Adams in school, but I already knew that she was extremely smart and well-educated, an advocate for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery, and much more politically involved than other early First Ladies. I did not, however, know that she hunted serial killers in her spare time. Once again the Sleepy Hollow writers illuminate U.S. history! Katrina muses on Abigail’s theory that, since the murders require an intricate knowledge of surgery, perhaps a surgeon is responsible, which causes me to yell “Holy shit it’s Undead Jack the Ripper!”—I missed the next sentence because I was apologizing for scaring my dog—but then Katrina shyly suggests that Ichabod turn to his own Abigail for help.

Awww…but no. Ichabod is determined to make this marriage work! They will solve the supernatural murders as a couple!

Speaking of Ichabod’s Abbie, she’s busy having an awkward conversation with Irving. See, he has no memory of the battle, and doesn’t, well… how do you tell someone they’re dead? If you’re Abigail Mills, you say “We won the battle, but there was a cost. You died.”

Man. Nice bedside manner, Abbie.

Poor Irving tries to absorb this, but Abbie doesn’t really give him much time, reminding him “Your soul belongs to the horseman of war, so as far as I know your being here is a sign of danger.” Irving insists he’s not dangerous, and begs her not to leave him alone, but she’s already disobeying Reyes by speaking to him. She promises to talk to Cynthia for him, and leaves as he calls after her.

Ichatrina keep working on the mystery of the hanged man. They see blood on the painting again, run their fingers lovingly over all the evidence, and finally agree that the artist in the self-portrait must be the killer. In fact, they happily exclaim this right in front of the painting! You know, where the supernatural killer lives! And then look back at the painting to see the painter has turned its head and is looking at them.

I knew they were going to do that but then they did it when I wasn’t expecting it and now it’s even worse. (And then the ad break featured TWO of those creepy Matthew McConaughey Lincoln ads, which I guess made up for the lack of Hawley?)

Now Ichatrina have to figure out how the painter is getting into their world to murder people. Katrina suggests that since Moloch used mirrors, maybe the painting can act as a doorway? That…hell, in the context of this show, that actually makes sense! She’s useful! She’s having a wonderful time. So, he comes out long enough to kill people, and drain their blood by hanging them upside down, and then goes back into the painting, so he can…so he can…HOLY CRAP PAINT VAMPIRE! He’s using his victims’ blood to finish the Hanged Man painting, and once he completes it he’ll be able to escape! Because reasons! Once they figure it out (again, speculating right in front of the painting) they turn and see that the painter is gone! Ichabod has to go warm the Other Art Restorer, since he’s the probable next victim, and Katrina stays behind to protect the painting.

Abbie tells Jenny that Irving is back, she’s upset that they’re not happy, but Abbie’s scared that he’s going to be used, even against his will, as a weapon. Why is she so cautious about this, but was willing to accept the Exterminating Angel two weeks ago? She also calls Cynthia in, and the two share a wrenching scene. Until they’re sure that Irving isn’t a possessed zombie, Cynthia can’t go to him, so now she has to know that her ex is more alone than ever. And also technically dead.

Ichabod finds the Other Art Restorer, and finds that the man is totally willing to accept that supernatural forces are at work. He’s also scared that he’s going to be blamed for the murder of Original Art Restorer, so he bolts. This does not go well. You see, Katrina’s supposed to be guarding the painting, right? So I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that instead of doing that, she wandered away to play with Abigail Adams’ desk, and manages to miss the moment when the supernatural serial killer climbs out of the painting to go murder people. Ugh, Katrina, it was going so…um, not well, exactly? But much better?

Meanwhile, in Jenny Mills’ Funtime Life, Hawley has sold our favorite freedom fighter bullets forged from the platinum of the actual gates of hell. Sweet! Unfortunately, she has to dig them out of a corpse herself. Less sweet. To pass the bullet-digging time, she calls Abbie to reminisce about the time she had to pull giblets out of the Thanksgiving turkey. The two sisters make horrified faces as they talk and it’s all squooshy and icky and awesome. As Jenny hangs up, she pulls the last bullet, and of course the corpse comes back to life and grabs her throat. So Jenny, without batting an eye, shoves one of the bullets back in and screams at the sky: “Thanks for telling me to leave a bullet in the body, Hawley!!!” Which is waaayyyy funnier than it should be.

Also funny, but also horrifying, is the moment when Other Art Restorer is sucked into the evil painting while Katrina watches, with a look on her face saying “Wait, was I supposed to be guarding this thing? Is that what I just agreed to do like ten minutes ago?” But no matter. Katrina has found a cache of Abigail Adams’ most expository letters! Apparently, Abigail and Reverend Knapp teamed up to trap the supernatural serial killer in his painting in 1782. (Why do we keep finding out that Reverend Knapp was the raddest person in Sleepy Hollow’s history? Can he get an Agent Carter-style spin-off?) With the help of some spells that actually work, Katrina can transport Ichabod into the painting to defeat him!

We cut back to Jenny delivering the magical bullets to her sister. She’s hesitant about this, since the bullets are basically there for Irving insurance. If it turns out the Captain has gone full zombie, Abbie will use these to put him down again. But in a nice piece of meta commentary, Jenny suggests that Katrina could give Irving a supernatural exam, and Abbie cracks the hell up. Heh. But luckily she agrees to call Ichabod about it, which leads to her realizing something’s up when Ichabod doesn’t answer.

Katrina zaps them into the painting, which is when the episode veers from pretty good to super scary! They’re inside the house, inside the painting, inside the mind of the killer! Once they’re inside the house, the colors flash from green-tinted to black and white, which is a fantastic effect. Katrina starts reading the house, and, no I am not making this up, begins empathizing with the serial murderer painter. They find Other Art Restorer hanging upside down, who is just barely still alive, and lower him down. Katrina starts spelling over him—I’m not sure if she’s trying to heal him or just get the three of them out of the painting? But then the killer rises from the pool of blood on the floor.

A supernatural serial killer made out of blood! Constructed entirely of blood!! Like, he just cuts right to the chase and creates himself from his victims’ blood and drips everywhere like Super Meat Boy!!!

He looks at them, and growls, “Too late!” And then Katrina falls in love with him.

I kid, I kid.

No Katrina actually gets them out! With magic! Which she’s suddenly super good at! They land on the floor of the art studio, and Ichabod jumps up to throw paint thinner at the painting. Just as he’s taking aim, a hand shoots out of the painting and grabs his throat. (Reader, I jumped! I haven’t jumped since last season!) The painter climbs out of the painting, dripping with the blood of his victims. Things look pretty bad for Ichatrina…but then Abbie Mills shows up and blows the painter away! Victory!

Sleepy Hollow Pittura Infamante

Well, kind of. It turns out Reyes is pissed at Abbie for talking to Irving, and rather than respecting her she scolds her in front of Ichabod. I’m really hoping that we can kill this “Reyes as Angry Mom” thing before the end of the season—it’s just annoying to return to Reyes’ Season 1 Skinner act after we’ve had Irving’s Season 5 Skinner act. In the plus column, she tells Abbie that the judge in Irving’s case has found new evidence that may exonerate him. But wait, is that a plus? Or is that just Henry?

Notes & Errata:

So if it wasn’t clear, “Pittura Infamante” means “defaming portrait” and is a subgenre of art used to mock and shame public officials. I guess we could see this is a commentary on Irving’s reputation since he took the fall for a demonic murder? The most common example of one is the Hanged Man in the Tarot deck. The episode used this image to great effect, turning it into a literal blood-draining ritual.

How great is it that after all the Founding Fathers we’ve met, we get a whole episode of Abigail Adams being a badass? And not a magical badass, just a brave, resourceful human woman?

And how great is it that they create a throughline between Abigail Adams, white, wealthy First Lady, and Abigail Mills, Black, working-class cop? Could this hint that a true friendship will form between Abbitrina?

Can The Worst Witch redeem herself?

Did I mention that serial killer is made out of his victims’ blood?

Please don’t be evil, Irving, we’re counting on you to be awesome!

I want to take another moment to mention Nicole Beharie. Everyone on this show is great (even Sakina Jaffrey as Reyes and Katia Winter as Katrina, as much as I bitch about them) but last night Ms. Beharie gave Bob Newhart-worthy reactions to Jenny’s corpseside phone call.

Whither Henry? Whither Franklinstein?

Ichabod’s Struggles with Modernity:

How can one be both business and casual? It’s an eternal struggle, Ichabod. None of us know.

Ichabod also explains that PDAs are OK now, which leads to a very public kiss a few minutes later.

Since most of this episode is in a historical society, however, there aren’t many opportunities for fish-out-of-water shenanigans.

Katrina’s Struggles with Modernity, Also!

She’s sad that her friends all died 200 years ago, especially her bestie Abigail. Umm…Ichabod’s constant name-dropping gets silly enough, but are we going to have a Golden Girls-style relationship reboot each episode, where all of these characters have family members and best friends they’ve never mentioned before? Could we please start pursuing new people, like the poor doomed art historian, (and Caroline! I’ll never forget you, Caroline!) instead of constantly tying all the historical figures together with happy little bows?

Next week…we visit Hawley’s demonic family! Yay? What about the Irving/Henry connection?

Leah Schnelbach wants the show where Jenny teams up with Undead Reverend Knapp to solve spooooky mysteries! Sleepy Hollow: Nights! You can follow her on Twitter, if you do that sort of thing.


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