This week, I realized I ought to keep an episode-by-episode tally of how many times Crane raises his index finger, all “aha!”-like. It is one of my favorite Crane-isms, as far as physical mannerisms go. It handily beats out that cocked-eyebrow thing he does when he’s feeling particularly arch.
Then “The Art of War” happened. During this delightful hour of Scooby Gang badassery, I was the one who seemed to be doing all the “aha!” gestures.
I’d give this episode five stars for the ending alone, which deliciously subverted all of Sleepy Hollow’s usual, predictable plotting and structure — but thankfully, there are plenty of other reasons that “The Art of War” deserves a top-notch rating. Romance! Rock climbing! At least three unexpected twists! Let’s dive into it.
Reynolds asks Abbie to hold down the fort — that is, holding onto his “duty phone,” hummina hummina — while he goes to D.C. for some kind of debriefing. Overambitious Abbie, to my surprise, is reluctant to tackle the extra-credit project. It’s clear that Abbie’s got a touch of George Costanza complex: She’s freaking out about the way her worlds are colliding. This was the type of narrative wrinkle that irked me earlier in the season — her new FBI gig isn’t suited for supernatural sleuthing the way her small-town cop post was — but as much as it pains me to see Abbie freak out, I’m glad the show is finally addressing her obvious conflict.
Unfortunately for Abbie, though, Atticus Nevins is just as worried about his own career. He tells Sophie that “the person who contracted me for this job is a demanding sort.” So, he’s still hell-bent on delivering that damn shard — or its magical red gem, at least — to his still-unknown employer. Spells are recited, which summon demonish creatures known as Berserkers to hunt down Jenny, who still has the red-gem dust coursing through her seemingly radioactive veins.
Speaking of radioactive, helloooo, #Joenny! As soon as I saw Jenny and Joe sparring all sweaty like a couple of Roman gladiators, I knew that this would be the episode where they finally get to the good, zzzexual stuff. When Joe wraps Jenny in a bear hug and tells her that his dad isn’t “the one I feel closer to,” I nearly started pounding my couch cushions. Sure, it’s weird to invoke your dead dad in any sort of flirtatious situation, but that may have been Sleepy Hollow’s most seductive come-on. Kudos to the writers for their slow build-up between Joe and Jenny. It’s made the relationship so convincing and worth rooting for — especially with the payoff of their kiss scene, which was so OMG that I literally typed out “OH EM GEEEE” in my notes. Zach Appelman, who plays Joe, may be the Most Improved Player of this season. Since his debut last year, he has totally transformed from dweebazoid to hottie-boombalottie.
Onto our witnesses! I nag nearly every week about two things: how Crane always finds the exact information he needs in a book instantaneously, and how Jenny somehow accesses secrets from the dark web in a nanosecond. Well, did you notice in the scene outside Jenny’s trailer, Abbie ditches all of that nonsense, turns to Crane, and says, “What you got?” And Crane’s all, “Binding stones!” (An aha-finger moment if ever there were one, although I don’t think he technically did it that time.) That was hilarious, and I’d like to think I was being personally trolled. Anyway, that moment was just the episode’s first instance of thwarting Sleepy Hollow convention. The end of the hour delivered a quick-fire succession of genuine surprises.
First, Sophie ambushes Crane at Nevins’s place and a whole lot of cat-and-mouse bluff-calling ensues. Then, Crane comes up with a truly novel way to slay the baddies of the week: He gets them to slay each another, which was like watching a violent reenactment of that classic “duck season” bit from Looney Tunes. And then, here come Nevins and Sophie! And, whoa, Sophie’s undercover with FBI! She tells Abbie that Reynolds is in on the whole thing! That means he knew about the shard and all the supernatural goings-on in town, which also means that Abbie’s been hiding all of this from him for no reason. When I tried to process all the story lines that could be spun out of this one scene, my brain had a mini-explosion. I should just start typing “@#%*!!#%!”
Although last night’s episode bucked so many of the show’s own tendencies, it did stay true to an important one: Sleepy Hollow gets really, really good when the end is nigh. The buildup to mid-season or end-of-season finales tends to tighten up the pacing, ratchet up the tension, and open up surprising possibilities for what may come. I have no idea what to expect for next week’s mid-season cliffhanger. But I suspect that the “aha!” finger count, mine and Crane’s alike, will be off the charts.
- Just one, but it’s a biggie: What should we make of the Jenny-Pandora scene at the very end? (Okay, two questions.) Who was the guy/creature with Pandora? (Three, then I swear I’m done.) Was he/it Nevins’s employer?
Crane: United States immigration may as well be Dante’s tenth circle of hell.
Crane, to Reynolds: Yes, I know it’s uh … It’s easy, everyone knows how to … Oh, I think my kettle’s boiled. Tea?
Reynolds: I have to say, I still don’t get that dude.
Jenny: I think I would remember developing mutant powers.
Abbie: There’s got to be some kind of spell or shard-ectomy that we can perform.
Abbie: Berserkers? That would explain their anger-management issues.
Joe: Mistletoe. Wait, seriously? As in, gosh-who-put-that-there-oh-well-I-guess-we-should-kiss mistletoe?
Crane: Do I look like a common thief, stealing worms?
Sophie: No, you look like the bass player from some British rock band.
Crane: You talk as if I’ve never climbed a mountain before … Right. I’ve never climbed a mountain before.
Crane: Props to you, Leftenant.