Last night, our favorite show about prophecies fulfilled a big one of its own. You probably remember last week’s action-packed episode of Sleepy Hollow, in which our beloved protagonists made many references to things going back to the way they used to be. “We’re doing this the old-fashioned way, before Katrina arrived,” they said. “Before Katrina was here, we took down all kinds of supernatural threats,” they reminded themselves (and us).
That sounded like a promise, and it was. “What Lies Beneath” may have been the most season-one-y episode of season two, with the focus firmly back on Abbie and Ichabod as co-world-savers, plus oodles of freaky creatures, historical flashbacks, and creepy evil forces, to boot. We also got more dialogue-embedded clues about where we may be headed — or rather, how we have no idea where we’re headed, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned — between now and the season finale (which is so soon!). “I can’t help feeling that we’re fighting evil without an endgame,” Ichabod muses when he and Abbie visit that historical warship that definitely wasn’t the Intrepid near the top of the episode. “It was almost easier when we knew who the enemy was.” True, Ich, especially when it turns out this week’s enemy is none other than … Thomas Jefferson?!
So, let me see if I have this straight: A sentient hologram of ol' TJ is living in an underground bunker that’s protected by a squadron of slimy alabaster undead-y dudes. He’s down there, coincidentally, beneath the town of Sleepy Hollow, waiting for the witnesses, Abbie and Ichabod, to find him so he can show them the wealth of apocalypse-preventing knowledge he’s archived for them since the republic’s earliest days. In that case, we really were lucky that those three utility workers got curious about that gold-plated manhole cover, huh?
While I found Abbie and Ichabod’s to-do list to be pretty cut-and-dry this week — go down manhole, locate missing guys, shoot up baddies, the end — the derring-do was definitely jazzed up by what seemed to me like some very cinematic directing choices during the action sequences. Like, at times, IchAbbie looked very Mr. & Mrs. Smith, right? All the business bits surrounding their task at hand were likewise, perhaps intentionally, of more interest to me than the task itself. First off, I loved, loved, loved hard-nosed war journalist Calvin Riggs. (Does anybody else remember Sharif Atkins as med student Michael Gallant on ER? If so, did you first have a hard time placing him last night, because damn, he’s lost some weight?) Riggs makes Hawley look like Dennis the Menace, and I’d be happy to spend some more time exploring the latent attraction between Riggs and Abbie in future episodes, please. (His “I never reveal my sources” email to her was a particularly zexxy bit of subversive flirting, I thought, even if it wasn’t intended as such.) Steven Weber as Jefferson was also great. One of the things I love most about seeing Weber in anything is that I’m always so surprised when he turns in a solid performance because, you know, Wings. Sleepy Hollow’s been ratcheting up the D-list stunt-casting of late, and this episode was easily the best guest cast of the bunch.
The big Jefferson reveal halfway or so through the episode was a big GASP! moment for me (followed by a less forceful “Ha!” when his arrival immediately prompts Crane to genuflect in his presence). But what I liked most about TJ was the moral quandary he presented: Does the apocalypse-fighting knowledge that Jefferson has in store for them outweigh the lives of the missing? To be honest, at first I wanted to say, “Um, no, sorry. Those guys aren’t more important.” But I was won over by Crane’s ever-upstanding principles, not to mention the way Tom Mison can so passionately deliver a line as, “You once told me a single life is worth more than a thousand books. Those truths still hold.”
As has happened in several other episodes this season, the B story line proved more compelling than the A in many ways. Every time we got a “meanwhile, Frank and Jenny” cut, I was happier for it. (Literally from the very first cut, because they met up at Ye Olde Sleepy Hollow Tavern, and I just love that place.) Orlando Jones once again delivered a compelling performance. When he gets in his sad-regretful-poignant zone, I just can’t get enough of lines like, “My soul is tarnished. It has been since the moment I was reborn. I lost my job, my soul, my family ... My family needs protection and I’m not gonna get this chance again.” Excuse me while I go sob my eyes out.
I think positioning Frank as a character who’s got both good and evil inside of him, and whose two sides are literally fighting one another for dominance has just been a stroke of genius from the SH writers this season. My feelings for Frank are so ambivalent, yet he’s such a sympathetic character that I’m immediately and deeply invested in him wherever he winds up.
Heck, I dare say I may even be starting to feel that way with Katrina. I liked the throwaway-ish bit at the end with her and Henry, and when he said, “I killed Moloch for you, Mother. For our kind. It’s time for us to begin our work,” it started to set in motion those same feelings. Maybe I just have a soft spot for people under Henry’s spell.
Let me touch on this very lightly: Did anyone else feel like there was a missed opportunity in not tackling or at least acknowledging Jefferson’s history with African-American women vis-à-vis his interactions with Abbie? If nothing else, he seemed noticeably un-shocked by her being a police leftenant, let alone a free woman (even Crane was surprised, initially). Although, to be fair, he told Abbie, “You were chosen for this centuries ago, to win a war we could not,” which maybe implied that he knew her backstory before technically meeting her. Maybe.
When they meet up at the bar, Frank tells Jenny, “I was convicted of a double homicide.” Was he? I thought he never got tried for the exorcist murders, because before he could go to trial he was put in the psych ward and then he broke out of the psych ward, and then the state decided not to press charges? I may just be overtired right now.
Has Ye Olde Sleepy Hollow Tavern ever been given an actual name? Asking for a friend.
Crane: “Instant gram.” What happened to experiencing life rather than posting it?
Abbie: I gotta say, I’m kind of sick of heading down small, dark spaces.
Crane: I was the one who was buried alive.
Crane: As you have so aptly put it before, I got this.
Abbie: By the way, you guys are the ones who put freedom of the press in the Constitution.
Crane: Yes, but we did not predict the 24-hour news cycle.
Crane: To use common vernacular, Jefferson unfriended me.
Abbie We just blew up the author of the Declaration of Independence.
Crane: Truth be told, he insisted.
Jefferson: What year is this?
Jefferson: Ah. Better late than never.
Crane: All that knowledge lost … but I suppose we have the internet.