Sleepy Hollow has been on a two-week speed date with the Headless Horseman, Sheriff Abbie Mills, resurrectee Ichabod Crane, his remarkably sturdy coat, witches, and George Washington's New International Expository Bible. This week, it delivered a brisk dream-horror episode that managed to get everybody's shirts off.
(Don't worry, the Horseman showed up in the apparently still necessary Pre-previouslies to assure us this show hasn't forgotten the Uzi-toting headless guy, and as we find out this week, he lives on forever in Captain Irving's heart.)
The A-plot of "For the Triumph of Evil" involves the old nightmare-monster gambit, and doing what the show in general seems intent on doing so far: playing full-blown homage to horror tropes while being a little smart about them, and using the monster of the week to propel either one of the six mythologies to which this show concurrently and wholeheartedly subscribes, or to push forward character arcs.
And the primary arc this week involves Abbie facing up to the consequences of the denial she gave after the Four White Trees. We already know her sister's been in institutions because of sticking to her story, and Abbie's a little ashamed of how things have turned out. In fact, we knew that in the pilot, which means we get the show's first really awkward character beat as she and Ichabod screech to a halt mid-scene so she can "confess" something she already told him pretty much the moment they met.
(Being Ichabod, he stops her mid-scene about four times to remind her that this dream monster is connected to their tribulations. Not any specific one foretold in Washington's Bible, just, like, tribulations, okay? People can have tribulations all over! GOD, WHAT IS YOUR DEAL.)
They can skip the tribulation of her having to walk under things, though, thanks to Ichabod Crane and his condor arms.
Still, we get additional exposition, video interviews, and flashbacks to help flesh out the fallout from the supremely awkward moment mid-interrogation when Abbie gets the lay of the land and locks down tight about the experience, leaving young Jenny to get carted off to the psych ward by the Instant Incarceration of PTSD Teens Task Force reps who were standing by. Jenny refuses to change her story (right down to the demon telling her, "Come and see"), and the guilt and bad blood that have built up since that day means that Abbie and Jenny haven't spoken since a few arrests back, when Jenny broke into a store to get supplies for the End Times. But as Ichabod coldly points out, "What time doesn't change, death will."
Interestingly, this puts Ichabod much closer to Jenny on the mythology-advocate wheel than to Abbie; it's also the driving force behind the monster of this week, which is a pale creepy jerk who traps you in your dreams and then drives you so terribly into your guilt that you grow insta-cataracts and kill yourself. (Also then your eyeballs explode into dust. Thanks, show.)
The first victim of this demon is Dr. Vega, one of Jenny's psychologists, who withheld her opinion that she thought Jenny was telling the truth, and who tells Abbie just before jumping from the fourth floor, "I've had this coming a long time. We all have."
Trying to cut this dream monster off at the pass means trying to reconcile with Jenny. No dice; Jenny won't even agree to see Abbie (and Nichole Beharie, who has a great performance overall, gives a particularly good falsely-cheery reaction to the nurse's disbelief Jenny even has a sister: "She does."). I think it's notable how much of this episode is setting up the strained relationship between the sisters; sure, some of it is plotcakes, but these little stings ring true in other ways, and I enjoy how much weight the episode gives this rift.
Ichabod steps up to see if he can smooth things over, because he's uninvolved with the family drama and has his Romantic Lead Face ready to deploy.
This frame accurately predicts things aren't going to go well. (It's also a nice callback to Ichabod's own very recent incarceration, and his lingering nerves over it.)
Also, despite having to call to get permission to visit someone, he still has to introduce himself in Jenny's room; what the heck did the front desk tell her? "No photo ID, but his jacket is STUNNING, just give it a shot."
It goes marginally well, in that she doesn't punch him in the face, but it's at this point they realize the pattern and have to race for Mr. Gillespie, so this plot takes a backseat for a moment. (History note: Ichabod refers to Jenny as "Miss Jenny," because the oldest daughter of a family got the Miss [FamilyName], and the younger was Miss [FirstName FamilyName] when both of them were in the same place, or just Miss FirstName when you were speaking of the younger one to the older one. If the older sibling was not present when the younger sister was being addressed, the younger sister became Miss FamilyName. This is a very long history note. I'm sorry.)
Back at the precinct:
Somebody put this sign in Captain Irving's office, and he is NOT happy about it, which is weird, because I'm extremely, extremely happy about it. (Spoilers: it was Abbie's ex, probably with an assist from a merchandising department that's already cranking these out for Halloween.)
They're called up when Mr. Gillespie, the man who found them in the forest after the Four White Trees and also pretended not to have seen the demon he saw, takes his wife hostage. He calls Abbie into the house to warn her she's next before dispatching himself. Ichabod, who spends the episode whispering sweet nothings about how they're destined to fight evil together and using his condor arms to keep anything from harming her at all ever, outruns the armed tactical team and arrives just in time to realize something's super wrong.
This is all very creepy! Interestingly, it's still not as creepy as our initial introduction to this monster, which happens in the cold open as Abbie finds herself being interrogated by a hostile white-eyed Ichabod, trapped in the precinct and alone yet surrounded by people who condemn her, which we already know is her ultimate nightmare.
Second most ultimate nightmare: this dude just in general.
For Abbie and Ichabod, it's research time – she needs to outsmart this demon before she falls asleep, or else.
They are already getting some great use out of that Batcave – it's an Anthropologie display, only the books are real! One wonders how any mysteries ever got solved in Sleepy Hollow before this.
Out of Time moment of the week: Ichabod marches back from a beverage mission with energy drinks in hand, explaining, "I requested coffee from the charwoman in the entrance hall, but she said you were partial to this." Abbie, not able to even: "She's called a receptionist. Or Wendy." That's Miss LastName to him, Abbie. However, this is one of many exchanges in the episode that mark a comfort level that has rocketed from "I'm authorized to use this gun on you" to instabesties. (He's trusted her since moment one, but she's been slower to warm up.) This episode suggests that part of their friendship beyond being Witnesses is because they're both lonely and displaced, but some of it's just good chemistry. And they don't even have their shirts off yet!
Research has revealed the monster is of Mohawk origin, the sleep demon Ro'kenhrontyes(?). (...Sure.) Then things get a little muddy. Because while this episode falls into some of the many potholes media often falls into when discussing or portraying Native American culture (assuming that anyone of Mohawk blood will be well-versed in national traditions – and being right, with bonus possession of mystical abilities by said Mohawk descendant), it also makes the most pointed use so far of Ichabod's time dilation. When Abbie claims it will be hard to find a "Mohawk shaman," he can't imagine why; "They were invaluable to the cause," he explains of their role in the Revolutionary War. Abbie understates, "The new government and Native Americans fought over land. There aren't very many left."
He is furious – probably more angry than we've seen him. "How is that possible? Their nations stretched the continent! Their rules for governance formed the very basis for how we planned to unify thirteen diverse states in a single federation!" What an excellent question, Ichabod Crane! I'd hand you an American history textbook so you can catch up, but shockingly you won't get much about that from those.
But everything will be okay, judging by the "Sandman" musical bridge that follows. Wow, I thought the "Barracuda" sound cue of my heart was just a pipe dream, but I underestimated this show's willingness to take things literally. Fingers crossed for Season 3, everybody.
And there, in the lot of the cringemazingly named Geronimotors, we meet Seamus, who has a perfectly legit response to being asked to dispense some Native mystical wisdom:
But because this is Sleepy Hollow, of course he can dispense some mystical wisdom, because otherwise why is anyone even here. Ichabod moves out on all cylinders, insisting the demon will come for him if he doesn't help Abbie (really? Are we sure?), and then quoting, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," and gives a speech about not standing idly by when action is required, which is well meant, but is also pretty rich ever being directed at the victim of attempted genocide, dude.
(Side note: Seamus mentions they're going on "a trip," at which point we cut from the forests of the Northeast to this:
And move in here with a war bonnet on display, suggesting Plains nations:
That's...quite a trip, everybody.
Abbie drinks some tea that will provide lucidity in the dream state so she can stand off against the demon. Ichabod, hearing Abbie might be in any kind of danger whatsoever, reaches around with his condor arms and grabs some of that tea for himself.
I assume it's because of this that Seamus gets instantly fed up with these nerds and decides to add the scorpion-venom clause.
He assures them the scorpion venom will help them control their actions inside the dream, which is great news, except for the missing explanation about how scorpions wandered into the medicinal inventory of the Mohawk people of the Northeast. Honestly, this setup for the dream plane might just be Seamus trying to get their shirts off.
No blame, Seamus.
He and his assistant (how did that phone call go? "Someone bought the scorpion thing, get down here!") get to work agitating scorpions until everybody enters the dream plane, because of course.
The dream plane itself makes full use of both the demon and the general on-the-nose surreality of dream logic:
Oh, good, there's that door you needed. (I don't know why this cracked me up, it just did.)
But Abbie's still frozen with guilt and fear, so much that she still can't burst into the dream interrogation to address this pivotal moment in her past.
(Typography is the thing that brings all these villains together.)
It's only Ichabod's entrance that distracts the monster from claiming her. Shockingly, she CAN burst into the interview room and come clean once the demon starts hurting Ichabod! He's not the only one with condor arms!
They wake up, sweaty and shirtless and very happy to see each other, as Seamus stands around like the friend who set you up on a hot date. (I feel the show could smooth over a lot of the Magical Native American bumps in this road by having him back for non-Mohawk-related appearances in future; the guy's clearly awesome at procuring stuff, and if The Great Escape taught me one thing, it's that every team needs a scrounger.)
Back at home in the Batcave, the two of them sit exhaustedly side by side and needle one another and laugh throatily, flipping the switch from Banter Investigators & Coat, Inc, to Honestly Probably Messing With Us.
"I am certain it will become easier, once we get accustomed to… No, sorry, I'm too tired to lie."
This is some straight-up Mulder/Scully business, show. I see you. And I am into it.
They're disturbed by an intruder and panic, but it's just Irving, who's in there for no reason and when he finds them in there seems totally fine with them having broken into it clandestinely, so long as they keep solving cases quietly and out of the way. "I'll get you a key," he offers.
I bet you will.
Once they're alone again, in a tender denouement that veers comfortably between bros and postcoital, Ichabod refuses her thanks, supports her in her decision to go see Jenny, and thanks to some Acting, neatly lays out that while she had a mentor in Sheriff Clancy Brown, she's been short on friends until just now.
(No, seriously, you two have to dial it back, we're not even at sweeps yet! The kissing spell isn't until sweeps!)
But the visit to the institution is a short one: Jenny has ditched that popsicle stand straight through the Die Hard Brand XTra-Room Air Vent System, so, that reconciliation will have to wait!
Next week, probably monsters! And I am just going to go ahead and guess that Jenny rescues them from peril at the last second; bonus points if she greets them with, "Come with me if you want to live."