When we left Sleepy Hollow, it was torching its premise, shaking the show to its foundations and setting up for a wild comeback. How can it recover from so dramatic a midseason finale?
...Oh, you know. Stuff.
As we discussed in the midseason finale recap, blowing up the show's entire premise halfway through the second season is a really, really bold move. To come back swinging after such a game-changer would require an incredibly confident grasp on tone and direction; unfortunately, the show has not really demonstrated either very much this season. So this episode, in attempting to reassure us to stick with the back nine, feels less like a bold new direction than like a halfhearted tarot-card reader sliding cards toward you. "...Maybe this? Or this? We could - wait, no, how about - two minutes, hang on. You'll...go on a journey! Unless you want to stay home? Henry's gone! Wow, that seems sudden, but that's what the cards say. God, I don't know! Uhhhh, you'll meet someone!"
And, in fairness, we do!
This is Orion! He's an angel of the heavenly host you never heard of because he was playing it cool for a while and then he was stuck in Purgatory, but since Moloch's dead, apparently the riffraff are out, and Orion cannot WAIT to get back in the swing of things.
Those things are, in order: 1) Hit on Abbie something serious and see if she bites.
His face is rapt attention. Hers is demanding answers about God, Heaven, and whether he's ever seen a dinosaur. Of course Sunday-School Abbie would want to lock that shit down, and because Abbie Mills can shut down your flirting without ever actually having to say a word, it's actually kind of funny. "Did Heaven exist? Why are we here?" What's the rate of attrition among the heavenly host?
He ends up giving her a token that will summon him any time she thinks about him. (It mostly just asks "what would u do if i was there? ;)")
2) In order to set things to rights, try to kill the Headless Horseman to absorb his power and dole out heavenly judgment on the undeserving. (Taking bets now on whether he's Pestilence!)
Half of this expression is Abbie being angry she got conned into summoning this guy who couldn't shut up about the beauty of starshine and who then suddenly becomes a megalomaniac the second she needs someone to be on her side. This is not how we wanted to see her: separated from everyone and handling some random white guy's delusions of relevance while trapped all alone on Common Sense Island trying to remind people the Horseman killed her surrogate dad and her close friend.
The rest of that expression is part of the general frustration that feels charged enough to launch her right off the screen once or twice. And that's because, once again, Abbie finds herself on the receiving end of a lot of Ichabod Crane lip service about partnership while actually just playing Witness to the last thrashing dregs of Ichabod's marriage to Katrina.
Yikes. (Please note that Katrina has chosen this outfit for herself. Get Katrina a Flannel Shirt 2014 is officially shut down; can't help people who don't want to be helped.)
And that's a shame, because despite an awkward six-week time jump at the beginning of the episode, when we come back to the plot proper, Ichabod and Katrina's marriage is right where it should be: the toilet.
Mmmm, awkward. And that's before she suggests they should try to save Abraham from the Horseman inside him.
(It's impossible to screencap this - so much of this episode feels like it was shot in stealth from nearby bushes or something - but it's a Mison-y eyeroll so hard he staggers back a step. Ichabod, listen, you live in the Archives; look up divorce papers and just start this process.)
See, Katrina's worried she's actually responsible for all of this mess, and when discussing it with Abaraham, in true Katrina fashion, she skips merrily past all the stuff she's actually responsible for and latches onto the most passive, blamey, misogynistic reading possible for why she should help the Horseman: "Your jealousy was the spark that lit the flame of your anger. It makes me responsible for your taking on the mantle of the Horseman."
Even the actual Horseman of Death thinks that's pretty sketchy.
Also pretty sure it's sketchy: Abbie, forever.
And she's done with pretending Katrina's not a problem. "I can't believe you let her talk you into this."
Don't worry; nothing's ever stopped Katrina from screwing up before, and this week is no different! Absent any time to try the separation spell, I guess, she settles for letting Abraham go and making him pinky swear not to kill anyone.
EVEN THIS DUDE cannot believe she is pulling this shtick. I dare them to get together now and just be this bitter all the time, it would honestly be the most entertaining either of them has been.
The show also teases us with this:
But if you wanted to make her interesting by making her evil, you're literally a full season late.
More interesting: whatever these two have decided to play around with on the Two White Guys With Homoerotic Backstory slider.
Oh, sirs! Oh, sirs.
And I guess there's no better time for a man to check in with old, uh, friends: while the Crane marriage gasps on the shore like a red snapper, Ichabod's been living in the Archives in a setup based on my makeshift middle-school infirmary in the gym on Olympics Day:
(Abbie has given into it all adorably; when he storms past the blackboard divider to his room and she wants to talk to him, she offers a polite: "Knock knock.")
He's also worried about his place in a post-Moloch economy, and is determined to solve any supernatural crimes he can get his hands on just to prove he belongs in the twenty-first century, though his primary objective isn't so much earning money or establishing an identity as it is coming up with excuses to partner up with Abbie. (I'll allow it.) In pursuit of evildoing, he terrorizes local farmers by informing them their wormy produce is tainted with the brimstone of Hell's own fires:
Her face is great. His face is great.
And it's always been great! Their partnership is a cornerstone of the show, and their scenes together fall right back into that rapport, though sadly we're at a point where they benefit of being stripped of context.
What marvelous synchronicity! What wordless simpatico! Don't ask what they're fighting! It's better that way.
(And yes, just in case anyone's forgotten over break, Ichabod squeezes in some of the ol' Biblical connection at the end: "No matter what obstacles we face, no matter what disagreements we have, our bond cannot be broken." Buddy, you live in the Archives. Look up marriage licenses and just start this process.)
Of course, as much as I like seeing Abbie and Ichabod together, I like seeing Abbie full stop, and Abbie and Jenny even more. One of the nicest beats of the episode is the suggestion that Jenny and Abbie maintain a hangout schedule with predetermined times when Abbie plays wingwoman and Jenny tries to score with the hot bartender. And Jenny's face when Abbie tells her is a poorly-framed but stinging reminder that Jenny has never been allowed to have a normal life because of the way this apocalypse has followed her around, and it's not yet over:
It would be even nicer to get to actually see one of those wingwoman scenes one day instead of just constantly interrupting setups with white-guy plot problems, but I guess that's the sort of thing only Season 1 would be thinking about.
It would be even nicer than that not to have Jenny's Get Some 2015 Campaign interrupted by ol' Fetchhappen.
(The cameraperson must have been especially afraid of Lyndie Greenwood in a skirt, because all her shots in this scene are filmed from behind major geological outcroppings at the bar.)
He nudges her firmly away from the bartender: "He can't handle a woman like you." Gross? I mean, it's not inaccurate, she's a cut above pretty much any dude this show has presented except maybe the mercenary who made Sailor Moon eyes at her, but that's not really a thing Hawley gets to decide!
Luckily, he brought this episode's obligatory artifact, and the two of them get to C-plot their way into solving the puzzle and retrieving the demon-hunting map that has suddenly become crucial to this show having nine more hours of stuff to do.
(They found the snitch! Episode's over, everybody go back to their House common room.)
Naturally, Hawley does all the Seeing while Jenny just frowns. Show, just, listen – I will never believe Hawley is necessary. The entire cast could get blood poisoning that can only be cured by H-positive Ranger Blood and I would still not believe it.
However, if we must, this course-correcting away from a totally disinterested Abbie to a slightly less disinterested Jenny should be good for a few laughs, which is more than he's been good for so far. Watch him cast his amnesia spell on Jenny and hope she forgets the part where he ditched her for Abbie and it blew up in his face! In the hands of Lyndie Greenwood and Nicole Beharie, that could actually be comedy gold. Imagine them silently judging him together! What a promising development.
But in terms of promising developments, they saved the best for last.
THE RETURN OF THE MAN FROM BULLSHIT CORNER.
I admit I didn't expect him to stay dead for long (Andy was dead in the pilot and he had a whole arc last season!), but I also didn't expect him to reappear quite so soon. Certainly not in an episode where there are still so many questions about how he'd been handled. Did he have a funeral? I had expected at least a mention of a funeral or his wife or something that indicated how that had all gone down. I honestly can't decide if it's worse if he was buried out in the woods and no one even knows he's gone yet because that group stalled for six weeks somehow, or he had a funeral and we didn't get to see it because somehow the show no longer thinks his family dynamic is even worth showing. I'm tentatively happy he's back, because of course, but it's hardly reassuring to have a character reappearing in the same vacuum he vanished from, and downing a gallon of milk and demanding to know if this is Hell is not a particularly charming scenario for old Irving to be in.
But it gives some aspiring actor another step in the journey toward his SAG card:
"Nah, man. It's Sleepy Hollow." Nailed it, Cashier. Welcome to the big time.
All in all, this episode felt less disastrous than the finale, but less confident in its own storytelling than a return episode should feel. It feels, at times, like a draft drawn from separate parts and assembled in a way that mostly makes sense, without really having a sense of momentum, or even a sense of what happened just before break: Henry's mentioned but no one thinks to look for him, Frank's buried (maybe) and no one thinks to mention it. (The Sleepy Hollow Narrative Speed Vortex strikes again!)
However, given the critical consensus on how the first half of the season went, I'm curious as to what things look like once we get past these episodes, which I suspect were filmed too far in advance to do much about. Bringing Frank back is a relief - and maybe a throwback to this show's soapy genre grandeur of yore. We'll have to see their plans for the Crane martial discord (there had better only be one plan), and see what happens with the angel we know hasn't vanished for good. In the meantime, I just want to see Abbie and Jenny doing pretty much anything at all.