Last week on Sleepy Hollow, a grumpy pair of crimefighters with an enormous height difference were brought together by magic and exposition to defeat the Headless Horseman, and two characters were killed! This week, the show does takebacks on at least one of those things.
What the show is not going to do takebacks about is its expositional efficiency; we open with Ichabod being chased by all four Horsemen, in case you were worried their appearances would be heavily teased and doled out throughout the season.
Katrina rescues him, and immediately becomes unhelpful. "Where is this place?" "There isn't time to explain!" Are you sure? There was time for all that recapping of last week's prophecy you just did and your lengthy warning about the army of evil we can expect every week as monsters prepare the way for the Horsemen, I'm pretty sure "the tunnels under the city" wouldn't have absorbed a disproportionate amount of that supernatural oxygen, but I'm not coven-trained, so.
Ichabod Crane awakes in his motel room, having had some more handily off-camera questions about the twenty-first century while we've been away! Abbie has plastered that room with a truly impressive amount of notes ("For coffee, press red button," "turn for hot water"), though my favorite is probably the one stuck to the TV:
It's like theatre. Abbie Mills, you're the best.
Unfortunately, the Captain doesn't think she's the best – he's concerned she's sticking with her story. He doesn't want to believe this Headless Horseman nonsense. But what about those two officers who already saw him and corroborated? Irving: "Those officers recanted." You jerk officers, I thought we had handled this plausibility hurdle!
And Andy's mishap won't be any use, either: on CCTV, they watch Andy stand up and run headfirst for the mirror, cracking and somehow snapping his head completely backwards in the process, despite physics not really working that way. Still, it's pretty creepy, and Abbie's skin visibly crawls as she looks at the doctored footage. Captain Irving tries hard to look supportive of her story, and admits she'll have some leeway while he's in Albany gathering "resources."
But he's thisclose to shutting the whole thing down.
"Do not embarrass me," he warns.
That's the face of someone who's pretty sure she will be embarrassing the Captain about once a week, twice during midseason.
Abbie's brings the updates back to Ichabod's room, where she has bad news (she's having doubts about all this business) and good news (donut holes). Ichabod is super pissed about that first thing and thrilled by that second thing, but mostly he's pissed about that first thing! She Scullys a little bit about her reasons for reticence, but he's not having it. "Belief is sanity," he says like that's a thing people say, and shoulders past her.
Note: On this show, that doesn't even mean he's being rude; it's a function of the mechanics of their relative heights, so if they want a close-up of Nicole Beharie's face in a two-shot, unless she's hoisted onto an apple box or everyone's crouching or they're carefully positioned on a set of stairs or sitting on chairs of conveniently differing heights, the shot will be of her amazing face, and Tom Mison's shoulder.
There will be a lot of midshots and/or apple boxes this season.
In the morgue, Sheriff John Cho awakens, pleasantly shooting a hole in that expectation! Not that he's happy about it – his neck is messed up even after the demon blob turns it the right way – and he's even less happy to barf up a medallion and receive some cryptic instructions. "Release who?" he creeps.
There are no screencaps of the credits, because I fell asleep during them because they are so dreadfully dull. Either commit to the paper cutout feeling or don't, and have an obvious musical hook or don't, but these are like the demo credits that come with video editing software. (Also, they somehow assume that a major concern is the relationship between Ichabod and Katrina, which optimistically suggests their plans to make her into someone interesting, because right now that relationship has not even occurred to me as a thing to care about.)
It has, however, occurred to Abbie to care, because she wants the dirt on that courtship and subsequent literal bewitchment. Ichabod, who would rather talk about anything else after the auspicious beginning of "She disliked me intensely" (...congrats?), decides the more important topic is tax these days. "A ten percent levy on baked goods?" he snaps, which will ring through the halls of Comic Con next year.
They come to an understanding where he doesn't mention witches and she doesn't drop him off at the asylum, which is an odd understanding, but before we can dwell on how harsh that is, we have to go to a funeral.
This episode introduces another well-handled duality of tone, where Nicole Beharie gets to have genuinely affecting emotional beats in a show that embraces Ichabod standing on the sidelines, technically supporting her but really looking straight-up Celeborn.
He wanders to Katrina's grave, which is in an entirely different county than the last time we saw it, and asks the headstone what she could possibly have meant by "one of us" until the wind blows moss off the relevant words, because this dinkus needs major handholding. Gasp! She was referring to a witch! (And you were a professor, you said? Interesting.)
Meanwhile, John Cho has woken the spectre of said witch, let her know that "the ashes of the pious will ordain your resurrection," and is now out to help her collect said pious.
Our doomed driver's first question: "What happened to your neck?" Sure, that's a normal thing to ask a law enforcement officer. Luckily, it's salvaged by Cho's amazing delivery of, "It's hard to explain."
The thing is, despite his involvement in the cheesiest plot thread this week, he's both drily funny and immensely creepy as the reluctant servant of evil, and even given the circumstances, he's making Andy a character you feel for despite whatever deals he made; this episode is strong work.
He washes his hands of it with a farewell, "Jeremy, wherever this road takes you, and it won't be far, I want you to know it wasn't personal." Jeremy, one hopes, is peeing his pants and preparing to back out of this entire county at approximately one billion miles per hour, but we'll never know what his plans were, because his car doesn't start, and that witch apparition torches the crap out of him, set to the dulcet tones of Frank Sinatra's "Witchcraft." (Please, PLEASE have an episode in Season 3 where evil fish happen and they play "Barracuda" under it.)
Currently unaware of any of this: our heroes. Mid-squabble at the precinct (Sheriff's office? City Hall? The mysteries of law enforcement in Sleepy Hollow), Ichabod points out with Romantic Lead Face that part of her problem is that she has yet to properly mourn Sheriff Clancy Brown. You're telling us, Crane.
Luckily, my wish for flashbacks has also been swiftly answered, as Abbie collects herself and confides in Ichabod about how, after the Four White Trees, she got into drugs as a coping mechanism, and Sheriff Clancy Brown offered her the chance to shape up instead of going to jail. It sounds understandably sketchy, but they sell it, and let's not pretend that TV couldn't use a few more narratives about women of color making mistakes but not being demonized for them, and having people give them a break and help them make awesome futures for themselves.
"I got more fathering in those five minutes than I got my whole life," says Abbie, and it's very well-done and touching, right up until they get the phone call that somebody's been roasted to death with their heart clawed out, which ruins the mood.
After examining the ashes, Ichabod recognizes that M.O., thanks to the Revolutionary War: Serilda of Abbadon, dude-roaster. He and Abbie trade exposition for a bit, moving their trust levels closer by a notch, until it's clear they'll have to go back to Sheriff Clancy Brown's office and piggyback off his research because they are just not very well-versed in witch hunting yet.
Cleared. At last, bureaucracy provides a plot point.
Ichabod gets a lovely moment with a fluorescent light – I really love that most of his modern-tech puzzlement happens on his own time rather than everyone pulling a Stop and Explain every five minutes. Sadly, the beautiful communication between a man and his bulb is cut short by the arrival of Dude Sheriff Cop Officer Kyle, who is not happy about seeing Ichabod being so tall all over his digs. You can't just go talling around a law enforcement office like this, buddy.
After some very hostile small talk, Ichabod's put on the spot about his cover. He's a visiting professor! What does he teach? "Treatises of civil government, with a focus on the American Revolutionary War."
When Abbie rescues him, the mood is thick, and it's clear she and "Luke" had a thing. Ichabod is positively gleeful. He opens with, "Were you betroooooooothed?" and goes immediately into interrogation mode, his eyes getting bigger with every passing moment: What prompted their 'disbandment'? (She was headed to Quantico.) But now she's staying, so they could get back together! Why haven't they?
This dude is going to be over the moon when he discovers sleepovers. (Abbie handles it all with her usual aplomb: "I will literally pay you to stop talking.")
Then they break through a structurally questionable basement wall into the convenient, spacious, and well-bricked tunnels built under the town that lead to a bunch of locations for later in the season, probably, but right now they definitely lead to the enormous and unguarded Armory, and because this show does not waste your time, Abbie immediately confirms the Armory contains "police reports, newspaper articles, historical records – pretty much everything we'd ever want to know about the history of Sleepy Hollow."
Welp, Batcave achieved.
Sheriff John Cho, meanwhile, has picked out the next victim, and it's a little kid ("What's your name? You can tell me. I'm a police officer")! Kyle Hemington is in for a long twenty minutes of peril. John Cho is in for another few minutes of truly amazing faces.
In the Armory, Ichabod has discovered Serilda, of Abbadon ("a form of Romani Greek"), the witch in question. Good job on the use of Romani, show! Much more questionable job having the show's first Romani be a child-menacing, people-burning evil witch.
(This face feels about right.)
Meanwhile, little Kyle is wandering his dark house all alone with a strange cat watching him and no answer from anyone.
There's not much encompassing dread on the show yet, since that usually comes from long-telegraphed inevitable tragic arcs – while it would be great if this happened, no one is actually concerned at this point that Abbie will be compromising her moral fiber amid the ethical grey areas of supernatural practice, becoming relentless in her increasingly bloodthirsty quest for revenge, bringing down everyone around her. But this show definitely knows, loves, and smartly deploys its horror tropes (even down to the Children of the Corn bowl cut on the kid, depending on who you want to blame for that bowl cut). Every floorboard in this house is set to Maximum Creak, every cat looks at you too long, and Mom has vanished.
Good luck, kiddo.
But Abbie and Ichabod arrive just in time!...to see that the kid is unharmed and the witch has vanished with the urn of Dad, the last actual Hemington by blood.
Three things. One, I hope all their subsequent detective work is just Ichabod stinkeyeing everyone's home upkeep. Two, nice switcheroo to avoid putting that kid in actual peril. Three, I think one of the darkest things this show has given us so far is a kid who's now in the same situation Abbie was, probably one of many to come. Will the show ignore that or address it? Honestly, who knows; this show has a tendency to give me exactly what I want, so we'll see.
There's certainly no time to worry about it now, because they're heading for the tunnels to catch a witch! They will not catch John Cho snarkily digging her bones out of the tunnels, which is too bad.
As they plan, Abbie makes fun of Ichabod's accent, badly. (He's more offended that it's bad than that she's making fun of him.) The offense is returned inside, when she gives him a two-second gun lesson and he snipes, "Yes, I do recall how to use a firearm, thank you."
Time for the horror-action five minutes this show promises every week and that reminds me I have a remarkably low tolerance for horror!
Actually, sure. The prep for this very important magical ritual was pretty slapdash (shake ashes vaguely over bones, lie down), but I'm into the overall effect.
Ichabod is not into it; he shoots once, drops the gun, and bolts. When Abbie catches him up, he gets to deliver the pitch-perfect, "...There are more?"
"This font is even more menacing than Papyrus." "SOLD." - someone on this show
And then Ichabod uses his old store of gunpowder to blow Serilda and half the tunnel to smithereens, complete with fakeout dud-powder moment, Romantic Lead Face, and prolonged eye contact.
Good luck, Katrina.
It's unclear if Andy perishes in the blast. I almost hope he has, if only because this show has a clear love of homage and a pretty high comfort threshold with the absurd, and I can just see Andy being resurrected every episode from last week's gruesome demise, to follow even more otherworldly orders as reluctantly as he possibly can.
But this week's best scene is yet to come, as Ichabod takes a break from reminding Abbie that their road can only be traveled together (and not with Luke, the prophecy demands especially not with Luke, George Washington said so), to go get them some coffee as "morning cheer," because snuff is hard to come by these days. Distracted by light, Abbie opens Sheriff Clancy Brown's office to find his ghost ready to chat. Abbie, being Abbie, starts with, "If you're going to haunt me, be helpful?" and ends up more unguarded than we've yet seen her, near tears as she admits how much she misses him.
I will be honest; right now, despite the minimal screen time, this is the most resonant relationship in the show. Nicole Beharie and Clancy Brown do a fantastic job of implying a lengthy relationship that's shaped them both. Fingers crossed it continues.
Good news is, it probably will. How else will you get hints like, "Don't be afraid of Number 49; that's where you'll find you're not alone"?
Say, what's behind door Number 49?
Jenny Mills IS Sarah Connor! (This show knows you know your tropes; when you have ten seconds to introduce somebody, homage the crap out of them and get to the rest next week.)
The rest includes:
THIS JUMP-SCARE ASSHOLE.
Next week, Jenny gets recruited to the cause, a creepy dude with no mouth hunts Abbie in the woods, and apparently everybody takes their shirts off. This show is the gift that keeps on giving.