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Sleepy Hollow Recap: Skull and Void

Somewhere around all the Sally Hemmings jibber-jabber, “The Midnight Ride” started to lose me a bit. Normally there’s so much exposition flying out of people’s mouths on Sleepy Hollow that I find myself practically staring at their lips while they speak, hoping to catch and decipher everything they say. But as the episode’s climax approached, with Abbie, Crane, and Irving making a bunch of arts-and-crafts skulls in a Home Alone–y attempt to lure and trap the bad guy, the three of them went completely nonsequitur, debating just how decent a man the slave-owning Thomas Jefferson might have been. Did the writers run out of stuff for them to talk about? Was it that necessary for us to watch them papier-mâché some skeleton heads?

Don’t get me wrong: “The Midnight Ride” was hella fun while it lasted. I may have actually emitted more audible gasps (at least three) and guffaws (probably twice that) than during any other episode from the first season. But by the last shot, I felt slightly cheated, and looking back, it seemed like a case of not much there there. We watched 47-ish minutes of action, basically for the sole purpose of getting the Headless Horseman to stand in a certain spot in the underground tunnels. Of course the episode ended on a cliffhanger; nothing happened theretofore in need of resolution. (A good, old-fashioned “To Be Continued” title card may have even been apropos.)

So how ’bout we just get to the juicy bits? The cabin-in-the-woods scene between Abbie and Crane near the top of this week’s episode was cute and quippy and kinda reminded me of Carrie and Brody’s rustic weekend getaway on the first season of Homeland. When Abbie promised to one day take Crane to the modern-day armory that is your typical, American big-box store, I was all, “Sleepy Hollow writers, webisode this idea immediately!” And Crane cracking a joke about the absurdity of paying for bottled water? That’s an A.F. (Automatic Funny) in my book. Abbie even sets a reminder on her smartphone (or, as Crane calls it, “Smart. Phone.”) about the impending sundown, lest she forget when the Headless Horseman is fixin’ to ride. Stop it, too much, I can’t!

À la the Sally Hemmings stuff, though, this scene didn’t count for anything in the end. Crane’s ostensibly being made to hole up in the cabin because he’s “vulnerable” now that his blood’s been separated from HH’s. Erm, vulnerable when? How? Dude doesn’t look too vulnerable galloping across a cemetery 45 minutes later. And even if he is mortally vulnerable, he’s certainly not emotionally so; he admirably demonstrated in the previous episode that he’s unafraid to die in order to ensure the Headless Horseman does, too. (Or, as he phrased it in a much more goose-bump-inducing way in this ep, “I will not go alone. I will not leave this Earth with him still on it.”)

As much as Crane (or really, Tom Mison) can inflate and elevate a scene that’s got not much going on … then there’s Morales. Why are you here, Morales? It’s nice to see him take a stab at forging a post-breakup rapport with Abbie for practically the first time. Even if I can’t imagine Abbie ever “meeting up for coffee” like normals do. Even if Abbie can’t help accepting said coffee invite without instructing Morales, “Temper your expectations, please.” But we’re seven episodes in and I still don’t know why we need this guy. I’ve yet to invest in or even enjoy a Morales scene. Is this guy a douche, or one of those cocky-cop-with-a-heart-of-gold types? Who knows? Here he’s just serving as conduit between Abbie and Andy. (Speaking of, I’m stoked to see John Cho back! Love his wryly melancholic depiction of the dead cop known as “#NeckSkin” on Orlando Jones’s Twitter feed.) If what’s needed is a character to vocalize plot points that propel Abbie from set location A to set location B, bring back Corbin!

Perhaps this episode felt a little unbalanced because it really belonged to Irving, but, per usual, he was contained to a handful of scenes. Irving’s the one who has a tangible change of heart, who must accept things he’d rather not admit; for a scene or two, he does whatever emotional heavy-lifting there is to be found in “The Midnight Ride.” In fact, it’s Abbie who’s the sidekick for once, mugging about with her doubtful face, making grizzled-cop putdowns like remarking to Crane that the local history museum “might be your happy place.” While I loved the superficial goings-on this week, I really only cared about two interactions. One happened when Abbie and Crane finally persuaded Irving to cross over to the non-skeptical side. You can see how Irving’s rent by what he sees and hears at the site of the Mason decapitations, telling his supernatural sleuths with much verbal hand-wringing, “I’m trying to give you what you need.” The line matches the look on his face when Crane warns him of all the consolation calls to dead people’s loved ones he’ll be making unless he gets onboard with tampering with evidence in the name of averting the apocalypse. Imagine a whole episode with Irving as protagonist; wouldn’t that be the poo?

(Of course, character arc aside, Irving still gets the best deadpan laugh lines of the night. First, when he looks around the House of Wacks and asks plaintively, “Where are all the heads?” Second, when he goes to the lab to retrieve HH’s skull and asks the nerdy tech on duty, “Do you have a box?” How awesome would it have been if he’d said “to-go” box?)

Second-best interaction of the night: The unexpected, somewhat-out-of-nowhere moment of romantic tension between Abbie and Crane when they admit to their respective feelings of loneliness. My God, can these two actors stare right through one another. (Abbie-Crane soul-gazing supercut; somebody make it happen!) I found it very touching and completely believable that these two would suddenly spout guard-dropping confessions like Abbie’s “I feel pretty lonesome sometimes, too.” Or, as Crane phrased it much more eloquently, “This is the sacrifice that witnesses must carry. All we really get is one another.” What bon mots were you planning to drop on Abbie during your coffee date, Morales? Something bro-tastic like, “You look hot in that V-neck?”

Though my gut feeling is to give “The Midnight Ride” four stars, because I truly was highly entertained, I’m going to go with three. Considering the all-around terrificness of last week’s episode, there’s room for improvement here, no?

Photo: FOX