TV Recap: Sleepy Hollow, ‘I Witness’

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I Witness Plot Summary:

Nine months after the events of the finale, Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) has left Sleepy Hollow PD to become a fledgling FBI agent. However, she’s pulled back into the battle against evil when fellow witness Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) gets arrested for smuggling an ancient Sumerian tablet into the country. From what he can decipher, it tells “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and Ichabod believes it’s a clue to the next tribulation they must experience. Abbie is skeptical, but when a red devil starts terrorizing Sleepy Hollow, Crane’s theories seem increasingly plausible.

Photo Credit: Michael Lavine/FOX
Photo Credit: Michael Lavine/FOX

The second season of Sleepy Hollow was rough. The show lost its way story-wise and bogged down by supporting characters that distracted from the Abbie-Ichabod dynamic that made the show work in the first place. While Orlando Jones is an unfortunate loss, killing Katrina (Katia Winter) and Henry (John Noble) has removed the Crane family personal drama that dominated so much of last season and this rebooted version of the show already feels more focused.

The episode gets back to basics right away, reuniting Abbie and Ichabod so they can exchange their usual banter. However, there’s a hint of hurt to it now because Ichabod broke all contact for nine months while he mourned the death of his wife and child—not that Abbie was just waiting around. She went off and joined the FBI like she was supposed to back in the pilot. So, the episode is as much about letting the characters reestablish their relationship as it is about defeating the monster of the week. Speaking of that monster, the fairly simple story–a demon starts killing people–feels vintage Sleepy Hollow. What’s always made the show such a fun and unique crime procedural is listening to the characters spew the American Revolution fan fiction the writers use to explain where the supernatural threats come from. However, this time, there’s a third person thrown into that conversation: Abbie’s sister Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood).

Of all the characters the show threw in the audience’s way, Jenny is the only one who deserved to stick around. She’s not only a great foil for her sister (she’s just as badass but works outside of the law), but newly for Ichabod as well. Sometimes character work gets lost amongst the supernatural milieu on this show, but there’s a scene in this episode where Jenny and Ichabod bond over their inability to fit into society in acceptable ways. It’s an unexpected but fitting parallel and a nice moment—up until something resembling desire passes between them. Maybe I’m just reading too much into things (though I don’t think so based on a lingering look Ichabod gives Jenny later), but even if it’s just intended as a moment of camaraderie, it touches on the one major problem this rebooted Sleepy Hollow still hasn’t solved.

Photo Credit: Michael Lavine/FOX
Photo Credit: Michael Lavine/FOX

The original show runner–who was replaced long ago–said Abbie and Ichabod would never be together romantically. And that’s fine. Their playful-but-caring dynamic works really well and not every male-female crime fighting duo needs to hook up. However, the problem is that every other relationship gets compared to the central partnership. In this episode alone, Ichabod gets ogled by a wide-eyed FBI medical examiner and full on kisses Betsy Ross (Nikki Reed) in flashbacks. Neither banter as well with him as Abbie. There aren’t any hints of new loves in Abbie’s life except her devotion to the FBI, but the promos for next week tease that a handsome fellow agent from her past will almost certainly try to woo her.

Listen, it would be unrealistic for these characters not to try to have meaningful relationships outside of each other, but a major reason the show became so overloaded with supporting characters in the first place is that the writers kept throwing love interests at Abbie and Ichabod and none of them stuck. The show seems posed to make that same mistake again. Even worse, despite how packed the episode is with new characters and storylines, it still feels sort of slight compared to past seasons. There’s no sense of urgency and nothing to latch onto except a very intriguing turn from Shannyn Sossamon as a character from ancient myth whose identity I won’t spoil because it was the most enjoyable thing in the episode.

Even in this retooled, rebooted form, Sleepy Hollow is still one of the strangest and most singular shows on television. Maybe the clunkiness and lack of focus will settle in the coming weeks and maybe there’s a way to foreground the Abbie-Ichabod dynamic without turning it romantic. But based on this episode, the show might not be on the air long enough to find out.

Rating: 6/10

Sleepy Hollow airs Thursday nights on FOX

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