“This Red Lady from Caribee” technically wraps the first arc this season, but really it’s simpler: three dates, three disasters. A deadly wasp monster stings Abbie’s boss-ex and that’s still not the worst date this week.
Okay look, let’s be honest: This season of the show has been trying earnestly to mop up the blood from last season, and I give it full marks for that (except when it comes to the Horseman). I realize that means I sometimes give a pass to odd or sluggish plot points just because they’re not as narratively harmful as last season’s wife-hostage yo-yo. A Trinidadian wasp demon that went from first-year fashion student project to Might Morphin’ Power Rangers villain somewhere in the summoning process?
Why not? It’s less shoehorned than other culture-specific monsters they’ve lifted (this season opener, ugh), and gets enough grounding in the story to seem part of the world, if not particularly scary.
Pandora swanning around, crooning to her giant vine about flavors of fear like a Gothic-themed restaurant consultant, as she collects the last fear from the Sumerian Fear Tree we’ve all heard so much about and/or had inscribed on tablets?
Sure; makes as much sense as the evil diorama of the town from last season.
Jewelry literally growing on the tree for absolutely no reason other than to give Shannyn Sossamon a little stage business while she waits around for the Soucouyant to report back? Yeah, go ahead.
Etsy listings of the damned.
And though we can admit that waiting a third of a season for her to vanish into the vine without a word was not helpful for anyone who hopes to get a sense of the larger arc—episode recappers, for example—it’s not like the explanation was likely to help. She murmured to a pond for six episodes and then peaced. What is that, if not a metaphor for life itself? (No, really, what is that, did this season just pinch-hit its first arc in the writers’ room to give them something to hang plots on while they cleaned house? Because they didn’t NOT do that.)
But loose end or not, Pandora walked away the winner this week, because she did not have to go on any of this episode’s dates. We’ll tackle them in order of descending disaster.
JENNY AND JOE
Jenny and Joe are technically out of commission on their subplot; Abbie stops by the bar to tell Jenny to lay off Atticus before the Feds bust her for something. Bad news: there goes all my hopes of immediate simmering conflict between these two arcs. Good news: given how things go this episode, I guess it’s just as well, since the Mills sisters do not need any additional conflict as they head into Jenny’s upcoming disaster.
As it is, Jenny’s more or less fine with it (though she gets in a needle about Augustus Corbin because she can); it’s Joe she’s sad for. Abbie offers to tell him, with this face, which I loved.
This is the dynamic I mentioned wanting more of last week between Abbie and Joe; friendlier but not quite mended. She’s not happy about squashing his dad quest for the second time in two years.
Jenny says she’ll handle it, and for a little while it looks like a typical B-plot. Grace Dixon, naturally, dealt with this back in the day, when Betsy Ross summoned her to save a stung George Washington:
Look at that mob cap flying majestically in the wind.
Note: This flashback has nothing to do with Ichabod. He wasn’t there, Betsy never told him about it, nothing. Grace just handled it. This is rare, and while I get that it’s the show’s shtick, I also appreciate an occasional thing that happened in the 1770s and didn’t involve the world’s biggest name-dropper.
Turns out Grace wrote a doublespeak rhyming recipe for anti-Soucouyant potion Trini-style, and so Jenny and Joe get sent to a hastily-retrofitted bait shop set that everyone pretends is some kind of generic plant items location store as they stand close-but-not-TOO-close-but-maybe-too-close.
(Look at this. The eighth-grade dance of stopping the underworld.)
The proprietor is happy to see Jenny! (He’s also happy about the implication that this guy with her who keeps giving her puppy-dog eyes is also sexually satisfying her! There’s no hard feelings or slut-shaming in the Plant Items Location Store business!)
I will give this to Jenny: She may have spent years scouring the black market for artifacts at the end of a gun, but we rarely run into someone who isn’t thrilled to see her. She has that freelance-networking shit covered.
Less covered: her ass after this, since our seller is suddenly overcome with a portentous otherworldly warning: “A shadow older than time falls over your soul. You shall be claimed.” When he’s back to himself, he warns Joe to take care of her, which would be a really good plan if Joe was remotely prepared for Mills-sisters levels of Things Going Wrong. He is not.
Joe can’t even really handle his sitdown with Atticus Nevins, which is hilariously macho and uninformative (“In this game, son, the debts collect you”):
And it’s capped by a one-shot rescue (screencaps can’t quite convey the fun of Jenny melting out of nowhere and casually tossing Joe a gun), during which he doesn’t even mention to Jenny that Nevins handled the shard with gloves, so Jenny just takes the shard, which melts into her hand and lights her up from the inside so painfully she can’t sleep.
Brief time-out to remind everyone that Jenny never knew her dad, took shit from her mom, tried to confide in adults after the Four White Trees and lost both her sister and her liberty, spent years under the radar with only Augustus Corbin to rely on, has been repeatedly institutionalized, has been fighting demons for several years, has just recently reconciled with her sister, and has come back to the fold just in time to become the target of some supernatural evil. The Short End of the Stick: The Jenny Mills story.
Demonic claiming aside, that trip to Plant Items Location Store was still the best date of the week. It’s all downhill from here.
ABBIE AND DANNY
I will admit to being unsure where they are heading with this arc. I get that it gives Abbie the same pull outward from the main relationship as Zoe is for Ichabod—killing time with someone pleasant—but Danny is her boss, and Abbie has always been so concerned about her career (sometimes pointedly so, at odds with Jenny or Ichabod about how much it should mean to her) that her actually hooking up with Danny again would be a problem. And not just for her—we’ve only ever seen Danny as a charming but conscientious and perceptive guy, so he’d have to be aware of the power differential in dating a direct employee. It’s a mess. And it seems like the show kind of knows; he is so out of the picture, literally and figuratively, that the two of them can barely share the frame:
He gets stung, naturally (it had to sting somebody and this season is not ready to have Ichabod or Abbie lose control until sweeps), which means he turns paranoid and aggressive and Abbie has to take him down and hold him in the Masonic cell while they research how to keep him alive. The actual takedown is too fast to sufficiently screencap, but it’s a thing of beauty—Abbie looks almost bored by it as she wrangles an armed man to the ground. She looks a lot more comfortable with that than she looks when he starts rambling about how much their relationship tore him up: “You left that place, but I’m still there.”
This is a much more tender reaction than I had (mine was cringing and hoping desperately he wouldn’t remember a thing when he woke up), but it’s also not a particular revelation on his part. We know he’s hung up on her; we also know she’s fond of him but is aware of all those things I just listed and is way too pragmatic to make such a risky move right now. It was fine—personal stakes and all that—but it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know already, and it didn’t get us anywhere except Awkwardville.
Oh Abbie. You don’t even know how far you are from the Awkwardville City Center. You know who’s there?
ICHABOD AND ZOE
Oh, how I have tried to keep Zoe a neutral presence on the edge of the main story! How I have tried to let the show ease Ichabod into the normal dating life; how I have tried to be patient, to let Zoe either ingratiate herself as a character with depth and human foibles or suddenly pull off her face to reveal her true lizard visage.
Honestly, if she had pulled her face off to reveal a lizard visage, it would have markedly improved this date.
I sympathize with it to some extent—somebody who is not either of them suggested this hibachi nonsense. (I would blame Joe except Joe is probably a drive-in theater/stargazing guy; Jenny’s idea of a date is to rob someone at gunpoint and then come back six months later to make out; Abbie’s idea of a date is hiding in her house with the light off until the guy leaves and she can go back to watching TV alone. Did Hawley mention this from beyond the grave? Who did this to them?)
As bad as it is, though, it is not as bad as their second date, where he brings her flowers but she also brings HIM flowers (ROMANCE, amiright?), but his flowers come from Standard Apology Florist and hers is a nightmare escapee bouquet from a “seasonal” hipster wedding.
Giant Brown Daisies: When you’re secretly evil but you don’t want to have to say it with words. (She might not be secretly evil! Whoever sold her those flowers definitely is.)
There was, however, a standing date that did not suck.
ICHABOD AND ABBIE
No surprise there. Our central duo is back in form and definitely in the same frame, despite a height difference that I swear is increasing:
The plot is racing past so much that they don’t have a ton of quality time, but even their small beats feel like they’re settling back in after all the friction of last season. (His slightly abashed “Acronym, lieutenant” when she told him about the PTA was perfect.)
Abbie also knows just how to curb Ichabod’s romantic Nailed-Its:
And despite losing Pandora when they storm her lair (using GPS from the Sumerian tablet, don’t ask) and take out the wasp hive, it turns out the promise of those episodes where Pandora menaces Abbie actually have some character payoff, because things are getting a little personal. Abbie’s not just planning to investigate—she’s going hunting.
And Ichabod has Romantic Lead Face about it.
Can you blame him? He’s been on this show long enough to realize that getting menaced by Sumerian demons still beats dating.
Next week? All I know is that this shot felt really good and hopefully this will happen more: