After far too many episodes where Abbie was pushed to the sidelines, “Mama” brings her back to the forefront. This week’s episode, after last week’s which was utterly forgettable, is thrilling, a fantastic showcase for both Nicole Beharie and Lyndie Greenwood, and one that addresses Abbie’s mother in a way we haven’t seen the show do before.
One notable detraction from the episode’s overall quality is the decision to bench Ichabod while upping Hawley’s screen time. I’d have been totally fine with this episode being a sister story, letting the Mills sisters some time to spend together without being drawn in separate plot directions. However, giving Ichabod a cold and keeping him on standby and bringing in Hawley just seems like a weird narrative move. I get that they want us to like him and, more importantly, accept the potential romance between him and Abbie, but “Mama” really should have been Abbie and Jenny’s episode and theirs alone.
At the beginning of the episode, Riaz assigns Abbie the case of the multiple suicides happening at the Mental Institution, which is the one her mother went to and committed suicide in, the one Jenny went to, and now the one where Irving resides. She has a lot of memories and motives tainted by it, and as she tells Jenny, maybe this will allow her to gain some perspective on what their mother went through, and maybe she’ll find some answers as to why she was chosen to be one of the witnesses. After watching a video of one of the patient’s suicides, they see what appears to be their mother. Their first belief is that she has somehow been trapped into killing these poor victims, becoming one of the demons that had terrorized her to her death all those years ago.
With Hawley on board, they go to the institution to take a peek around and see if anything jumps out at them. It just so happens that while they’re searching, their mom reveals herself to them and it’s her making contact that allows for them to find out what is really going on.
I’ll be honest, the reveal that it was some random demon ghost that killed their mother was mildly lackluster, and if the scenes between she and her daughters hadn’t been so powerful, I would have ended the episode on a bit of a grumpy note. Luckily though, any scene with the Mills sisters intereacting with their mother is wonderfully done. There’s so much pain that Jenny and Abbie share about how they were abandoned, and it’s made worse because they can’t blame their mom for it. She was being tormented day in and day out by demons that no one else was able to see, and despite this, she still was trying to fight on and protect her daughters.
If anything, this episode proved just how poorly they’ve been treating Beharie this season, an actress obviously ready for more challenging plots. This season we’ve gotten a lot of strong-willed Abbie, and that’s great, but she can’t be tough all of the time, and she can’t always be the levelheaded one between her and Ichabod. Whether she’s fighting against the demon nurse, consoling her sister, or thanking her mom for protecting her, Beharie is selling it. It helps that Greenwood is there beside her, easily the show’s best supporting character and other than Tom Mison, the best actor to pair Beharie up with.
The episode ends with their mother being allowed to escape from purgatory and find peace, with Irving escaping and making the gang drive him to safety, and the season’s first real “what the hell?” moment when Katrina finds the child she’s been caring for has gone from an infant to a child who can walk and talk.
What the hell?
Well, if that isn’t enough to intrigue you, I don’t know what is.