This week, Sleepy Hollow got a Viewer Discretion Advised: big talk for a show with exploding sand eyeballs. But besides some modern-dance goop full of demons, "The Lesser Key of Solomon" barely had time for monsters, because it was too busy with sisterly love, a cult, and a car-assistance request for the ages.
Ichabod's biggest solo moment this week comes from "NorthStar" and occurs early, but not until after the symbolically-important Weekly Previously and the Setup Previously we're still getting. (Listen, show, people will either give the premise to you or they won't; at some point you have to let go.) Not content with that, we also get half a Ye Olde Previouslie Onne about some reenactors and a Hessian who's translated into Copperplate Gothic.
The reminiscence is derailed by Ichabod talking sap about Katrina...to himself.We're far enough in this season to know it's viable he'd be left in the car like a spaniel, murmuring about "The bravest love is born again with each new day." But he's not alone; Northstar has unlocked the door (Abbie has wisely not included that Post-It in his daily routine), and when she sympathizes with his loss, he reassures her that she shouldn't accept anything less than "certainty in matters of the heart", and shrugs off her thanks: "It is I who should thank you, kind woman, for unlocking this vehicle from afar, and showing me how the entertainment system operates. Farewell, Yolanda."
It's quick and it's light, but it's good; Ichabod's confusion with the modern world continues largely on his own time, Tom Mison nails the delivery, and his gallantry here stands out against the instacomfortable sniping he has with Abbie whenever he can stop staring at her. But one of the reasons this moment stands out is because we find out his NorthStar chat picks up instantly where last week left off, pointing the rest of this episode firmly and swiftly at the Mills sisters.
Here's the thing, though, and I want to talk about it early because it doesn't get much breathing room after this. Sure, Jenny's a graduate of the Sarah Connor Academy with the courage of her convictions, and that's fine. But Abbie was nearly killed by a guilt-monster last week, and she's called out for her 'failing' this week, and while Nicole Beharie knocks it out of the park, it's predicated on the idea she has something to be guilty for, and I flat don't think she does. They were kids in a ruthless system, they'd seen something that defied explanation, and she told Jenny to keep quiet. Jenny has the courage of her convictions that has gotten her absolutely nowhere; Abbie was using survival techniques back in that interrogation room before it ever occurred to Jenny, and kept surviving, and I don't see that as something she has to apologize this much for. The fallout from this could feasibly underpin their dynamic for the rest of the season, except that now this show's speed is working against it, and everything is settled by the end of this episode in Jenny's favor, and I'm just going to call shenanigans about that now.
Much like with the Previouslies, which are half fanservice shots of Abbie and Ichabod being different heights and half "No, Washington's Bible said so, it's cool, hey where are you going," it's becoming clearer that while this show has a lot of confidence, there are clearly things it still doesn't think you'll take on faith. This concern leaches the payoff from a lot of Abbie and Jenny's struggles this episode, which is too bad, since they're on form with the hilariously cheeseball cult activity and the blithe introduction of yet another cadre of otherworldly monsters that could theoretically carry everybody to the end of Season 6.
But this week's demon barely appears; our real conduits of evil are human.
...Starting with this guy, who gets a phone call from Cult, Inc, in the middle of conducting the world's most sinister piano lesson:
Etude for a Creeped-Out Boy, in D Minor.
Lesson's over, anyway: Agent 37 has been located, which means it's time for a bunch of vaguely-German cultists to kill a bartender and track down Jenny.
Abbie, of course, is doing the same thing, having gotten her weekly dispensation from Captain Irving of the We're Not Sure Exactly What Branches of Law Enforcement We Represent Department to get a shot at a quiet investigation before calling in the federal marshals. (Reminder: Jenny's biggest offense was breaking into a store and stealing some things.) Irving, who will spend this episode entering rooms filled with creepy stuff and making priceless faces, doesn't have time to even worry about it.
Abbie's first law-enforcement tactic is handling phone calls the way I dreamed of handling phone calls when I worked a desk.
"This is the Sleepy Hollow Sheriff's Department, please rot in hell, have a great afternoon!"
Ichabod puts on Romantic Lead Face and asks about her childhood circumstances. Their father split, their mother had a breakdown and went into an institution (welp, we can guess why that is, see you in the season finale probably, Mom), and Abbie stayed in an apparently-decent foster home while Jenny got shunted into worse and worse places before dropping off the map. Things have really never been great for the Mills sisters; no wonder Abbie feels most comfortable with Ichabod the outsider. Guess who else thought of that.
Speaking of goody two-shoes, Jenny, having picked up her supplies from the doomed day player who was holding them for her, pulls out this clipping, which either she cut out in a fit of pain or someone excessively rude put in her effects:
"Area residents report never before being so proud of their well-adjusted young sheriff; Mills said she's excited to serve the community, and plans to celebrate by going outside all the time and staying up as late as she wants to at night."
Abbie, meanwhile, is at the end-of-the-line foster home where Jenny landed up. (You know, given the tight geography of the show, scrub country field trips excepted, and the way we're settling into overarching themes of ghosts, guilt, repentance, and consequences, there's potential for a rogues' gallery; if they give in to the full gonzo implications of the premise, they could end up with a creepy recurring population of Super Dysfunctional Town.)
Abbie watches the woman's current charge squirm, guilt and anger gnawing her even before the woman's self-righteous caginess gets on Abbie's last nerve. "I will reign legal brimstone down on you so hard it will make God jealous," she threatens, with absolute conviction that makes me wonder how much paperwork Yahweh processes weekly. Ichabod, Supporting Brit, calls her by her title, not so much a check as a suggestion that murder is messy ("Fifty Ways to Say Lieutenant" - Ichabod Crane's first single off his LP, Out of Time.).
But the lady who chains her dog outside and keeps underfed kids on mattresses on the floor makes a surprise play for moral high ground: Jenny told her how Abbie just walked away! "Who are you really mad at: me, or you?" Wow, zinger, abusive foster mom! Food for thought. She'll mull that one over all the way to Trout Lake, with your corpse in the trunk. Ichabod eases in front of her with a look like it's only the time constraint getting in the way of her wish to beat this woman to death with a mallet, and Abbie turns for Trout Lake.
Up at Trout Lake (never tired of typing a name as simple and logical as Trout Lake), reformed criminal Abbie picks the pocket of the remote cabin where Jenny used to hole up. Ichabod cannot even keep his face together about this development.
"Imagine the delinquency we could perpetrate if we really put our minds to it," he murmurs, like a man who's planning to invent sex and then immediately ask Abbie to have some.
Inside, Ichabod realizes it's Sheriff Clancy Brown's place just before Abbie does, and she gets one beat of looking completely betrayed before Jenny appears with her gun drawn and we end up in a blood-feud standoff.
And then, in a well-meant but weirdly misguided beat that sets the tone for the lightly patronizing mist that settles over this dynamic, Ichabod lectures them both about needing to put this behind them (Ichabod needs a Post-It about shutting up sometimes), but because this show isn't going to waste a second ever and we haven't even seen our demon yet, it works immediately.
Take note, because I enjoy taking notes: Jenny lowers hers first.
Once the guns are down, the three of them do a better job of balancing the individual dynamics: Lyndie Greenwood seems to settle into Jenny with her offhanded, "Nice to see you again, British guy," Abbie's caught up in palpable feelings about Corbin's secrets and his death, and Ichabod mostly gets a plot sextant, which moves things forward pretty quickly. By now, we're used to Ichabod's name-dropping, but Jenny's gleefully confused by the Boston Tea Party. Meanwhile, Abbie questions him and he huffs, "At the time it was referred to as the Destruction of the Tea, you've coined a far more festive name." Well, somebody had to, yours was terrible.
(It's the first time they've exchanged any looks that weren't barbed. Ichabod Crane: somehow bringing Over It women together since 2013.)
Then Ichabod has a brainstorm. They have a great yet blurry married-for-twenty-years beat (one of several awesome physical shortcuts this pair has this week) as he guides her from a chair she could already tell he wanted her out of:
With the coast clear, he sets up the sextant with a light source, projecting a map onto the wall, and intones, "It's a projector." OH, IS IT? COOL, ICHABOD, THANKS. I'm sorry, I just can't with TV sometimes.
Guess who else knows it's a projector: some cult so powerful their gun sights shine through closed curtains! Action cabin! Gunshots everywhere! True to form, Jenny empties her clip and then flanks them, Abbie waits for the shots they'll need most, and Ichabod has the firing stance of a pirate king in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.
But even though they catch the leader, the cult already has what they came for. This is why you never leave a sextant just sitting around, kids.
The sisters come to another standstill during the interrogation (Ichabod swanning between them like Volkspater Knowsbest, somebody get this guy that Post-It about minding his own damn business), but they get the dirt on the chest, which contains a doorway to the seventh circle of hell (sure) with 72 demons in it (fine), thanks to Solomon, who condemned them and then for some reason wrote a book about how to conjure them back. Solomon, what is your problem, for real.
As our hostage blathers about the final hours of a demonless Earth, the Sleepy Hollow disproportionately Huge Tactical Unit rolls up to his house to discover his basement full of generic cult items including organ jars, a stack of skulls, and some rude graffiti. I'm glad Frank Irving has finally laid eyes on something messed up, even if it's still mortal-human creepy. Baby steps.
The hostage, still infodumping as hard as he can, explains he's known of Abbie (real first name: Grace) "since he picked you that day in the forest."
Ah, you, an unclear pronoun in English! Ichabod looks less concerned about the end of days than about what he's going to do if Jenny is the second Witness and he'll have to come up with some other reason to follow Abbie everywhere.
(That is a worried dude.)
And our cultist assures us, "Moloch shall rise," just before killing himself with a cyanide tooth that they all stand around and observe for about 300% longer than any of those three people should have taken to act in a crisis.
Things are looking terrible. Abbie and Jenny try to hash something out, but Ichabod shouts them down about it because important Him Things are happening. He'll be able to recreate the map! However so? "He has a photographic memory." Oh, Sleepy Hollow. Sometimes your belly laughs are on purpose; sometimes I just get a freebie.
(Also this map made me laugh really hard. It's like a West Elm textile.)
They race for the cult's abandoned-church headquarters, not so worried about the end of the world that they can't snipe back and forth about what it means to fight for what you believe in and toss loaded looks across the car seats. Listen, you three, marriage is tricky, you all knew that going in.
Actually, maybe they weren't worried about the end of the world because this is a really Fringe Festival dance show apocalypse.
"Adrift in Death Jello," coming to Edinburgh 2014.
Things turn Action Church as the savior brigade shows up, and when one of them takes Jenny hostage, Abbie hurls the tome right into the Jello, which I respect as a decision about its subsequent availability but question as a tactic. Luckily, it works, so what do I know. Ichabod is thrilled his fight scene this week was mostly background work, and he still has enough air left for a one-liner.
"They left without a farewell," he starts.
Portrait of Abbie Mills, Lt. Sheriff, Just Waiting For It County, New York.
Back home, Jenny and Abbie sit down for a heart to heart that includes Bible quotes and reconciliation. And while Lyndie Greenwood gives it her all, and Nicole Beharie is as fantastic as usual, this is a closure that comes way too soon to have any resonance. Abbie is still, presumably, working through the discovery that her surrogate father was hiding essentially an entire sibling from her, and hasn't had time for much-missed Sheriff Clancy Brown to haunt her again so they can hash it out. We don't know Jenny past the tropes they've used to point to her – a shortcut they've used to good effect before, except that this time they forgot to do the work afterward. They haven't even had time for a real argument that Ichabod Notyourbusiness hasn't shoved himself in the middle of. It's not poorly written, in and of itself; it just doesn't have the weight behind it we can tell it should. This is the sibling-reconciliation version of marrying a stranger in Vegas. We'll see how this goes.
Even the show must secretly know that's too neat an ending; on her way out, Ichabod pulls Abbie into the closet for a little Milton and Blake, pointing out that old Moloch looks eerily similar to that jump-cut jerk who keeps showing up whenever someone's alone in the dark. They'll have to stand really close to each other about all this.
And remembering in its final seconds that maybe some arcs should build, Ichabod – sounding as surprised as I am that all of this didn't come two episodes later to mark the midseason – delivers the big news for next week: "Now we know his name."