This week, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” as Sleepy Hollow crossed over with Bones! It’s as odd as it sounds, and ran into some forensic snoozology, but it had Halloween charm and the most satisfying wrap of the season so far.
For a show on ice as thin as Sleepy Hollow’s (we can still see both of Katrina’s corseted demon pregnancies through it, that’s how thin it is), it’s a shame its characters had to be thrown into a plot pretzel for a Halloween episode. Halloween is what Sleepy Hollow lives for! It shouldn’t have to share! I mean, ideally it should have been an episode of them all hanging out and bowling, but if there had to be a plot, David Boreanaz didn’t need to be anywhere near it.
But it happened. Let’s do this.
I will give Fox and the respective writers’ rooms this much: whatever mandatory-group-project feelings there were during production, from a structural perspective this all worked fairly well. Find two tangentially-related bodies, constructed two tangentially-related stories, throw in a little fanservice for the other team in each episode, and get the hell out.
Don’t get your hopes up, that’s General Howe. Actual Headless Horseman is still playing checkers against himself in Hell.
The good news about that is each show got to stay in character. The bad news is it made the crossover largely superfluous. The really bad news is that whatever procedural charmer the show might once have been, after eleven years on the air, everyone from the Bones side of things seemed like they were reading their lines live off a teleprompter. (Not actual footage of the Bones episode, but JUST BARELY not actual footage)
Actual footage of the Bones episode when Brennan suggests Ichabod and Abbie consider becoming sexual partners; also actual footage of my face when they decided Abbie’s character beat would be Booth telling her he and Corbin talked about her and Booth has some opinion about her life she’s expected to listen to.
Spoiler: She’s just like him, apparently.
Procedural Note: Eighty percent of the Bones episode was finding every guy who had ever talked to the dead woman, asking him if he’d slept with her, then asking him if he’d killed her. Several of them had some creepy business, and turns out her boyfriend beat her to death. This isn’t even a complaint about the plot, which is SVU standard; it’s just a reminder of why sometimes it’s nice to have a break from it with a procedural show where people are menaced by undead Redcoats on the edict of an evil witch instead.
(Bones mentioned sex again; this face is applicable generally to the preceding.)
The best beat of Bones was the end, when all four of them agree how nice it is that they’re friends now, and Booth and Brennan make a run for it so fast the sound waves they made about being buds haven’t even reached Abbie yet. Nothing left for it but to hang out and joke about Benjamin Franklin maybe inventing the Sex on the Beach / “Fondle in the Forest.” (By the end of this hour I had lost all perspective on what humans look like when they’re acting, but either the director decided Ichabod Crane just looooved this joke or Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie were trying not to crack up, because they can barely get through this beat. I do not blame them.)
The Bones portion of “Dead Men Tell No Tales” mostly involves them popping by to get some forensic plot-itis ID’ed, and getting split up in Washington’s empty Capitol tomb long enough to discover that zombie Redcoats are susceptible to Greek Fire (which they suggest is napalm, only serious, about which I have absolutely nothing to say because you’re shitting me).
Portrait of Two Work Marriages, One More Literal Than the Other, oil on canvas, 2015.
The other thing this crossover did was have Booth shoot an alchemical puzzle before Abbie could, which feels blasphemous, somehow - we all know who the shooter is in this family - but she gets her chance later.
Abbie’s shooting at the undead because it works just often enough to be worth trying; Ichabod and his dueling stance have been learning from the best.
In general, the Sleepy Hollow portion accepted it would be thin on plot and went right for charm. Some lists!
One: Abbie, damn.
Two: Joe Corbin’s perfect “I had five minutes and five bucks” costume. You know he’s worn this for the last three years and will wear it for the next thirty.
Three: Jenny really DID get sent to the Canadian border.
Four: I would literally have watched an entire episode of them bowling and giving Crane a hard time; I miss Irving, but the show has wised up about how to deploy everybody, and this crew has settled in way more comfortably than last year. (Plus, now we know what happens to shows that pass the ten-year horizon. I want them all to have fun now before the ennui starts to calcify.)
Five: So I understand why it’s easier to have this happen offscreen, but that’s a serious shortcut to everything being okay with Abbie and Joe again; there’s a difference between making your peace and cuddling while bowling, and we are missing some connecting points here.
Six: Ichabod’s in costume as John Adams (obviously, just look at that waistcoat), flirting with Zoe, who he must really like because he was able to bite his tongue about her Sexy Betsy Ross costume, which – nope. Not even for the joke, show. I am still neutral on Zoe, generally; she is not interesting, but the show doesn’t pretend she’s interesting, just that Ichabod likes her. If it lasts much longer I’m going to have problems, but for now, fine. (Anything but Trying to Make Betsy Happen: The Motion Picture.) But this costume is not just tacky as all hell, it’s insultingly lazy for someone who belongs to the historical society. I have seen your parties; you have garb. Get your ass a Simplicity pattern and do this right, Jesus Christ.
I understand why everyone dislikes Pandora; she is a very random villain in a show where that is really saying something. However, I don’t mind her by now, because the show knows she’s ridiculous, okay? The show knows.
One: She looks like someone woke up an Enya video and it turned on them.
Two: In this cap she is telling the corpse delivery guy, “Run,” as if he is the biggest dummy in the world for not fleeing. She is right. (Also, she lets him flee! Fun surprise.)
Three: She wakes up General Howe to add another rose to her black-rose tree. Her plan is easily foiled; she doesn’t care. She’s really invested in not being invested, you know? Can’t get upset about every little thing. Chill witches only.
Four: Later, she literally takes a child’s Halloween candy from her. Honestly, for that alone she’s in the running for best villain this show has ever had.
One: Ichabod was the busiest man of the eighteenth century; in between gigs as Washington’s handwriting secretary, he nearly assassinated General Howe!
Two: He was not great at it! (He swears he would’ve pulled the trigger if he hadn’t been interrupted. One of the best subtext beats in the episode is that General Howe and Abbie, separated by two centuries, silently call bullshit.)
Three: This is all tied in to Greek Fire and undead Norse soldier Redcoat demons something, but honestly, this entire subplot was worth it for me solely because as he flees the scene of his not-crime, Ichabod runs into Betsy Ross, who is smuggling people out of town. She explains, “I’m to get out of the city before countermeasures are deployed.” Ichabod: “What countermeasures?” Betsy, already pushing past him: “Ichabod, please. There’s no time.”
Really, Betsy? There wasn’t time to say “Greek Fire?” Not a hint? Nothing? And these flashbacks are Ichabod’s romanticized versions of the past, and she still never even suggested he get out of town before the unquenchable flames consumed him. That’s kind of amazing. This is the most I’ve ever liked Betsy.
Here, Betsy Ross is launching Greek Fire at undead Redcoats with a crossbow and fleeing the Great Fire of New York. This is a show I watch every week.
JENNY AND JOE
One: I am still a sucker for this subplot; Joe slowly unraveling his dad’s legacy with someone who know more, but not all, of the story is the sort of nice crunchy character continuity that first got me into the show. Them discovering that August might have been in league with the smuggler Atticus Nevins is unsettling to them both.
Two: I call No Way (clearly Corbin was running a double blind they’ll plotsplain at some point), but I like that this is what’s bringing them together, and that it’s a source of both closeness and conflict. You believe the carryover friendship from their youth, but you also realize the stakes are awkward: Jenny’s concern that Corbin might have been using her is sharper than Joe’s sadness that his dad might have been a crook. It’s a quasi-sibling parallel that gets a little awkward when you realize that their shippy arc might pan out at some point.
* Jenny tests his shoulder muscle to see if it’s as steadfast as his forearms *
Three: Before that happens, though, he’d probably better stop offering to trade illegal artifacts with bad guys in exchange for something as nebulous as “answers,” because that is a sucker deal, pal. Sophie can’t believe this is how she’s going to get the shard back; neither can Jenny.
At this point, if Sophie tries to murder him, Jenny is probably going to help.
Four: I genuinely can’t decide if they need to reveal the purpose of the shard very soon and have it tie in to Pandora and/or a plot for the second half of the season, or if they should just lean into this Macguffin and never, ever mention what it does.
But my favorite thing about this subplot:
Five: It’s about to cause problems for Abbie! Organic problems! Character-related problems. Opposing motivations not easily reconciled, each with their reasons and convictions!
Abbie is not excited, but I kind of am! A non-Pandora conflict out of the ashes of Joe’s damsel subplot? It’s almost too much to hope for! (It’s probably too much to hope for.)
Still, if Bones brought up Corbin because we’re about to dig into some more Mills sisters mythology and Corbin mentor feelings as things get sticky among his son and surrogate daughters, then I forgive the teleprompter. I forgive it all.
Number of minutes spent in Colonial Times: zero. On Halloween! Sacrilege!