Last week, Sleepy Hollow reintroduced its new determination to be fun, but it’s made empty promises before. The good news is that this week is just fun enough that we might actually start to believe them!
Don’t get me wrong; “Whispers in the Dark” is not an episode firing on all first-season cylinders. A lot of it didn’t matter (whatever federal-secrets plot they tossed into this week’s episode soup to get Abbie and Ichabod fighting the shadow demon is so flimsy we’re just skipping it), and some of it was hard to see (this is one of those episodes largely film from behind things as if stalking its own characters). Some of it was awkward (my attempts at Betsy Ross neutrality are already hitting snags), and some of it was hilarious (for a couple of folks who have an archive of supernatural literature at their fingertips, these people’s first response to literally every problem is just to try to beat the crap out of it). But this is also an episode in which the two of them actually detect a solution to their mysterious villain all by themselves without a diorama or anything, and after last season, I’ll happily take that.
Fun Things in This Episode, Ranked in Reverse:
Percentage of this episode that takes place in Colonial Times: zero percent. Unacceptable. Don’t let your extremely nebulous villain plan derail you from this artifact location. Bring back the Midnight Sides or why are we even here.
I was unthrilled that Icabod’s new recurring connection to the past was going to be yet another Strong Female Character who had the hots for him. This would be less wearisome if they hadn’t imploded their last version, or if she was one of a few women who had dug him, rather than one of three women so far this season—reminder, this is the second episode. If you count Abbie, we’re already at four ladies pointedly giving him the glad eye. Has Ichabod ever met a woman under 40 who was not at least mildly warm for his form? By now it would count as a plot twist; surprise us.
Her role in this episode: to have the hots for Ichabod, also to be Strong and to do Sexy Spy Things. Nikki Reed, on whom I had no strong opinion previously (being bad in the Twilight movies doesn’t count, those were cinematic flypaper, only Billy Burke got out of there alive), is not impressing me here. Did this really have to be the way the past-track went? I feel like the Grace Dixon flashback only makes it more painful that Betsy Ross is the one in the credits.
Bonus: At least we see her doing something espionesque, which is more than we ever got from Katrina.
Demerit: Ichabod Crane leaves her in the middle of a dance to split up and do spy stuff. I call No Way. First of all, many 18th-century dances were of the sort that requires a set of dancers to complete a larger figure on the dance floor, which makes it fairly hard to just quitsies and slip out. Secondly, that’s rude as hell. Leaving in the middle of a dance is a move so insulting Lizzie Bennet didn’t even do it to Mr. Collins, who was essentially barfing over the other guests at the Netherfield Ball. Even in the plot service of being a terrible spy who gets caught, Ichabod would never.
Ichabod gets caught.
He got caught! He had to consider whether he would turn in his fellow spies to Badguy Britmunch, who later became this shadow demon for Revolutionary War-related occult reasons yet to be determined!
Zero suspense. Ichabod would never.
It’s not a great sign that it’s only the second episode and seeing Pandora already makes you feel a little tired, is it?
Evil Lois Lane conjures a ghostly coffee shop and asks people about their secrets to see if they look at her strangely; if they do she sics her shadow monster on them! Even if you assume she could smell the guilt before she tried anything, this reasoning is pretty flimsy. (I do feel for Shannyn Sossamon here; in between talking to the wall and singing to her Satanic topiary, you get the sense she’s excited just to have scenes that involve other people. Sure, she’ll ask that guy about secrets and use that as an excuse to drain his life force! She’ll also tip her hand to Ichabod Crane! Is that weirdly foolish? She doesn’t care! Interaction!
Abbie and her ex.
This is Daniel. He’s nice! He’s smart enough to know something’s wrong in Sleepy Hollow and smart enough to give Abbie enough leeway to fix it without asking her to file a ballistics report on that shadow she shot or an expense report for all those fluorescent rods! They used to date, and it’s a little awkward. (He exposits that they got along “even when our dynamic changed.” Abbie, not having it: “Points for the euphemism. I haven’t heard that one before.”) But of all the love interests this show has ever fumblingly offered her, he seems the most feasibly like someone Abbie might actually have dated in terms of personality: smart, driven, and more tactful than she is. This can go however it goes.
Everyone’s fine with it but Ichabod, for whom the foot height difference isn’t enough; he’s considering spreading his condor arms protectively around her and hissing at the newcomer. He settles for telling Danny. “Lieutenant Agent Mills and I were just at home having dinner.”
He’s going to cohabit the living hell out of this for however long it lasts.
Jenny and the Corbins
Not a wedding band! I mean, not just a wedding band, they’re welcome to earn side cash.
This plot was so perfunctory that it’s pointless to even explain it. The actual point is: Joe Corbin has gotten damseled for the last time (technically this is only the second time but I guess he has a very low tolerance for all this), and his dad’s secret favorite child is going to explain it to him or else, just as soon as she’s done rescuing him shard something something!
“You’re the one with a limp,” Jenny says just before she kicks this dude, and while that is perfect comic-book dialogue, it is also demonstrative of a larger concern of this season. Sleepy Hollow was never, ever subtle, but the confidence of the tone kept you going through quite a bit of BS. But the show knows it lost you and you’re not really back yet—not in your heart—and it is not going to give you a chance to lose your place. Not because of a commercial break, not because you looked at your phone and missed the sound of Jenny kicking someone she kind of knows who kidnapped Joe to get a fancy lumpshard, nothing.
However, bringing back Joe Corbin is something I asked for so specifically last season that I am fine with a first-season Xena intro plot. In the wider sense, Jenny and Joe are being positioned as the B-team that will either get the assist on the monster-of-the-week or the slightly expository backup on the Pandora arc. That’s probably bad news; this show has a lot of plot, but it’s not really deep enough to split it up and pass it around with time left over for characterization. Even here, his introduction leaves only enough time to get Jenny to agree to share a beer and let him in on the ongoing disaster that is this town in general and the Mills sisters in specific.
But there’s enough between them in terms of rapport that I’m actually fairly hopeful these two will find a nice rhythm together and slowly open up. The show is relearning how to care about the Mills sisters; this is a decent start.
It’s so rare on this show let’s celebrate it. Ichabod notices a storefront is weirdly empty given that there was a coffee shop there yesterday; he points out the creepy lady he saw there; Abbie knows that creepy lady! Well well well!
I’m as surprised as they are!
This show is not missing a trick in getting you back. You want energy that’s equal parts funtime goofball and coded romantic groundwork? They are three episodes away from pretending to be married at a fancy party out of town with a hotel room that only has one bed. He’s awkward about folding her delicates! He can’t cook in newfangled ovens!
*sitcom theme song plays faintly from someone standing outside holding up a boombox*
It is, of course, fairly adorable. We’ve actually never seen Abbie relaxed at home until this moment, and they have fallen into cohabitation as naturally as they have anything else. Laundry? Sure. Ruined dinner? Who cares? Vaguely piney silences?
This show, knowing it is on probation, is probably going to continue to deploy Mison’s Romantic Lead Face toward Abbie Mills with frequency. And who can blame him?
Abbie “But Could We Just Shoot it?” Mills.
Honestly, I can see how this might be grating for people who are actually in this for the supernatural mythology pieces, but this is also the “I’m a medical doctor” of this show; it’s ridiculous and comforting in equal measure. Headless Horseman? Shoot him. Witch apparition? Shoot it. This week’s bad guy is literally made of smoke. What does she do?
In fairness, shooting the evil thing has worked enough times that I guess it’s as worthy a first attempt as anything else. But I am seriously going to start routinely calling bullshit on these two if they do not slap on an amulet or carry salt or keep a pocket witch-ward or something that offers a baseline hocus-pocus level of defense. They’ve been doing this for more than two years, they have Grace Dixon’s notebook and a pile of research material, they know better by now. I will give Abbie some very slight wiggle room this week, largely because she actually explains that she’s trying to cling to the normalcy of an FBI career.
She also gets the entire denouement to herself (it’s almost like she’s a leading character!) in which she admits to Ichabod that she’s found her father and doesn’t know what to do except treat him like a potential danger, because of course she would; she has to. Oh, Abbie.
Ichabod Crane, Supportive Lead Face.
The fallout of this revelation can go so many ways I hesitate to praise it. But this scene was the same lived-in energy of all their quiet moments together; we get her hesitation in opening up to him about her mundane career dreams and her own uncertainty about her father. (Usually the only uncertainty she expresses to Ichabod is uncertainty about him, which is harsh but fair.) It’s almost—gasp!—character development. This really is a new season!