Yes, it’s true! In “Blood and Fear,” Ichabod Crane heroically begins the nightmarish quest that is the US citizenship application. They also hunt Jack the Ripper, but obviously that’s the B-plot.
Lest you think I’m snarking, though, let me assure you: This episode was fun, and those priorities are in the right order. We’ve had plenty of monsters. What we’ve been missing is the characters. The second season of this show beat me down so much about one-off minor characters and dropped plots and hairpin plot logic just so Katrina and Hawley could have stuff to do that I was straight-up surprised when not one, but two characters from last week recurred as part of larger arcs based on long-term goals that reflected on the characters. I hadn’t even bothered to cap them last week! It’s like they’re actually trying to build a feasible world for the show! I know, right?
For instance, this is Miss Corinth. She met Ichabod last week while they were discussing how to save the Archive and she mentioned he’d have to be a citizen. This week she’s back defending another historical building, and she meets up with him again. They chat! Later she offers to help him with his citizenship! She could just offer to take over the petition, but a petition only requires 60 pages of paperwork, and she’s playing a long game.
Ichabod doesn’t know how to approach a relationship with a normal human woman (which is fair, since his last potential lady friend got killed by the vengeful ghost of his ex-fiancée, as per usual), but he tries out a little Romantic Lead Face just to see if it sticks.
Oh, does it ever.
It’s not that I’m thrilled about the character-so far there’s not much here-but I’m actually kind of pleased that this is so low-key. (I mean, I’d be pleased about anybody who wasn’t Betsy Ross at this point, but I do like how everyday this is.) They’ll get to know each other over pizza and stacks of triplicate paperwork and it will just be really relaxing until her inevitable murder!
Probably via Pandora, since there’s nobody else.
I have to hand it to Shannyn Sossamon. For someone who has spent a majority of her screen time talking to a pool of water or an extremely Gothic vine full of the black roses of darkest plotness, she really goes for it. It’s an uphill battle; I don’t care who the replacement is, you will never get me to understand how the Horseman is somehow vanquished forever in a show featuring Ichabod Crane, and she has to know that’s an impossible weight to carry through no fault of her own. It also doesn’t help that the slow burn of this season is so undefined that she’s basically just trolling the town at this point to gather fear drops for her creeptree. But if what she needs to do is ooze around her cave set Gothically and sing to her vines, then by gum, she’ll do it.
Did you need her to dress up as someone else’s Platonic ideal woman and head to a nightclub to seduce a Nice Guy who’s stalking a coworker and turn him into the next Jack the Ripper?
On it. (Also, if she really is appearing as others want to see her as opposed to how she wants to appear, that means Abbie’s Platonic ideal woman is a slightly edgy librarian and Ichabod’s is a 1950s Evil Lois Lane cosplay, a type that would explain how Ichabod keeps ending up with the kind of woman who turns to dark magic at the first sign of relationship problems.)
Let’s all just enjoy that after a season full of monsters of the week that were increasingly random and convoluted (remember the whole episode about the bone flute? I sure do, though not for any of the reasons they intended), this week’s monster is refreshing. It’s a metaphor for toxic male entitlement, to the point that the ensorceled bad guy’s heartlessness can be traced by the length of his leather coat:
It’s a duster. Dear god, he’s beyond saving.
This demon’s backstory also uses the Jack the Ripper myth because no reason, and Ichabod STILL manages to namecheck it. If you thought the Sumerian tablet was reaching preeetty far into the past to give Ichabod some ties, the show is now so far up its own chronological ass that Ichabod can actually namecheck things that happened after he died.
I am also probably-unduly excited that they fell back on the old “Yeah, but we have invented a TON of things since then” solution that, because the Ripper knife gets sick after stabbing a sick person, Ichabod can just inject himself with malaria right before he gets stabbed because modern medicine has learned to treat it. Sure, he’s still stabbed, but baby steps!
He’ll be fine, he’s the lead. It’s an excuse for feelings. We’ll come back.
...Because there are so many feelings and baby steps that for the first time in a long time it’s all interesting! Jenny has already confided in Joe Corbin and is planning to teach him the ropes with no further angst about it. She tells Abbie over coffee, right before meeting Abbie’s ex-lovah boss, which gets one of their most sisterly beats ever.
These faces are on point.
Jenny and Joe are off to find Randall and get the shard of Anubis back, a level of continuity that’s a pleasant surprise. She gets conned by a woman who’s using the same techniques Corbin Sr. taught Jenny, which is honestly amazing, since it means she’s off her game and jealous of a stranger even while yelling at handcuffed-in-a-tub Randall.
“Did you stop creeping on her long enough to get a name?”
Nope. Randall did not.
(Joe Corbin mostly stands in the back and looks manfully concerned without interfering, which is perfect. Thanks, Joe.)
I’m putting a pin in this mutual lean, because Jenny might call him “little Joey Corbin” to her sister, but with his muscular forearms and frowny sincerity, that’s all going to change in a hurry.
I also dig how this lady has put them on the same page and how differently they take it. Joe is coming to grips with the idea that his father quietly neglected him in favor of the Mills sisters, who, if we’re being honest, trained each of them for what was ahead by manipulating them. Abbie spent a lot of Season One coming to grips with that, with Jenny the one in the know. It’s kind of great to circle back to this with Jenny as the one on the back foot.
Sophie knows all Jenny’s moves (Corbin’s moves), and won’t tell her how. They’ll have to track her back to her boss to learn more.
Jenny is not thrilled. Joe Corbin is not thrilled. I’m pretty thrilled. This is a genuine emotional tangle that can lean on characterization, and the fact they they’re spinning their wheels a little doesn’t bother me at all yet. It’s only three episodes in, and this arc of the two of them commiserating about being Corbin also-rans is already paying off.
Plus, there’s no need for them to feed into the A-plot yet. Ichabod and Abbie have emotional work to do. They even get to do it, which—what show is this? Their best partner moment comes early, when he’s soapboxing about liberty and small government and she’s just muttering “Here comes Jefferson” because she’s over it. (I will never forgive this show for letting Jefferson off the hook they put him on long ago.)
The most supernaturally implausible thing that has ever happened on this show is that people clap for the guy who’s holding up the line like a darkest-timeline Ron Swanson.
But this episode also gives us the kind of tender reunion that an ancient prophecy tablet just can’t. After Ichabod’s stabbed, Abbie quietly loses her shit a little bit in a completely held-together Abbie way:
It’s still enough to summon the specter of Pandora to gloat about how it feels to have him dying in her arms knowing she’ll be all alone. First of all, this is such a complicated setup to get to the gloating if the gloating was the point, Pandora. Secondly:
You probably don’t want to make Abbie Mills angry.
Partially that’s because she did time in purgatory and has nailed powerful magic on the first try any time she’s tried it, which means she can stop shooting ghosts at any moment and actually tap into that (it would be such a nice beat to bring back). Partially, just look at her. Don’t make Abbie angry! You will lose!
When Ichabod wakes up from the painkillers, they have a back-and-forth that makes you realize how often their interactions are pitched to either exposition or disaster. This isn’t a scene really meant to go anywhere; everybody’s tired; it really works. Ichabod’s going to be fine; he’s concerned Pandora might have hurt Abbie; he sleepily fistbumps her because they’re reunited after their months apart and since he’s on meds, he’s finally able to just say it without digging up Sumerian tablets to try and make an ironclad case.
It’s very sweet.
But Abbie is rattled. She’s surrounded by a lot of what-ifs—her father, her ex, Jenny and Corbin in some missed opportunity, given that Joe still hasn’t really sought Abbie out for confidence or anything—and she’s clearly afraid of losing her sure thing. We don’t need the blooming Gothroses to know that. (I mean, we get them, we just didn’t need them.)
And that’s pretty much it! It’s so nice to be able to enjoy a majority of an episode again. Scriptwriter Damien Kindler even handled the inevitable Ichabod connection fairly well (he got removed from Eton after the Ripper...but turns out that was just because of an outbreak of fever and his dad didn’t actually know about the supernatural stabber), and the entire episode had the sense of everybody settling in. Maybe that, more than the specifics, was the first-season vibe I was getting; this episode feels both over-the-top and lived-in, and that’s always when the show’s at its best. In fact, only one thing was really wrong.
Amount of show minutes spent in Colonial Times: zero.
Same, you two.