Dear Sleepy Hollow writers, do you somehow possess an all-seeing reflecting pool like the one Pandora has? I mean, I’m sure (I assume? I would hope?) that you drop in on Twitter to take a gander at what your fans and critics are saying, but do you take it a step further and go full NSA on our brains, acting as “witnesses” (ha!) to our deepest desires for the direction of the show? Because after last week’s lazy mid-season premiere — with its superfluous, mirror-demon antagonist and apparent lack of interest in addressing Abbie’s disappearance — this week, y’all got down to bidness and the result was intense, if imperfect. I could feel Sleepy Hollow reaching through space and time to find me and bring me back into its good graces. Mission accomplished.
I was on board with “Incident at Stone Manor” from the first frame, when we see Abbie’s outstretched hand and I realized we were picking up right where we left off last week, with our heroine in some sort of as-yet-unidentified netherworld/alternate universe. Despite Abbie’s groan-worthy and completely obvs joke about her predicament (“We’re not in Kansas anymore, are we?”), this sequence buzzed with peculiar energy. Watching Abbie explore the bleached-out tundra, observing how she set up camp with her homemade map and chess board, that au naturel hair — it was like Cast Away meets The Road. (Proof that TV is better than the movies: Those are huge-budget blockbusters starring globally recognized, middle-aged white dudes, and here we have Abbie proving she can carry the same story just as effortlessly.) “Incident at Stone Manor” may have some of the most riveting acting Nicole Beharie’s done on Sleepy Hollow so far. In fact, I think she only got better as the episode went along. One moment she’d appear downright feral, the next, she was all wits. When Crane appeared as an astral projection and she whispered, “Please let this be real,” I nearly died.
“Found my way out of purgatory. And from the 1700s. There has got to be a way out of here,” Abbie decides. This was only the first of several times last night when I got the creepy feeling that someone at SH was reading my mind grapes, because yes, of course there’s got to be a way out of here. This is what Abbie does; she saves herself. We all know that. And if history’s any guide, her return to the real world is already overdue.
Back at home, the Scooby Gang is throwing more spells against the wall to see what sticks. This time, Crane and Jenny are trying to find Abbie with the help of a “spirit cabinet” that enables astral projection. Crane’s taking the journey and needs some Mills family totems to guide him, so hey, let’s just throw in our first-ever introduction to Papa Mills all sidewayslike. Joe is enlisted by Jenny to distract her dad at his front door while she sneaks into his house and steals a lighter. The most important thing to say about this scene is, Helloooooo, James McDaniel! Sleepy Hollow often exhibits an odd superpower when casting supporting roles, and McDaniel joins an esteemed lineage that includes Clancy Brown (August Corbin), Orlando Jones (Frank Irving) Timothy Busfield (Benjamin Franklin), Amandla Stenberg (Macey Irving), John Noble (Henry Parrish), and Andy Brooks (John Cho) ... I wrote all that, by the way, so you can enjoy a little astral projection down SH Memory Lane. And also to point out the show’s odd Kryptonite, which is dropping so many fun characters so unceremoniously.
I’m getting offtrack; somebody tether me to a candle! Unlike most Sleepy Hollow episodes (which, at their worst, seem to have trouble fleshing out one story line), “Incident at Stone Manor” actually gave us three separate and pretty good plots: Abbie’s return, Team Joenny’s gargoyle fight, and Pandora and her husband’s weird bickering. That middle one, of course, provides SH’s typical monster-of-the-week content. It also got full-on meta, and, as a consequence, pretty hilarious. The usual spook-slayers on Team Ichabbie weren’t around, so Team Joenny just does an impression of them. That bit (which had me on the floor) then helps Joenny figure out how to defeat the gargoyle. I’m sorry, it was just so good that I have to replay it here. (I’m imitating an imitation!)
Jenny: Crane would head back to the archives. He’d pull a whole stack of books and learn everything he could about gargoyles.
Joe: Abbie would drink a ton of coffee and find some detail and Crane would do that thing with his hands [does Crane finger] and say, “I’ve seen this before, Leftenant.”
Jenny: He’d think of a historic detail.
Joe: Not any history you think you know, it’d be like, “George Washington was a zombie.”
Jenny: Ben Franklin had a demon key to purgatory.
Sophie: And what? Jefferson was a hologram?
Jenny: He told you about that?
Man, Crane-isms are so delicious. All the more so, perhaps, when someone besides Crane delivers them.
Besides Team Joenny’s Wild ’n Out bit, though, the gargoyle story line was just all right. I am liking Agent Sophie Foster less and less. She’s getting too jumpy and freaked out by everything for my taste; I liked cool and collected Foster much better. While I did appreciate the “static” (as Sophie aptly put it) between Jenny and Sophie — Jenny’s never been more goody-two-shoes than when she barked, “We already have a plan!” at Sophie — at its core, this was just another monster plot. The gargoyle shootout made me miss those kickass, fire-heavy scenes Jenny and Irving used to carry out together. Also, less stilted dialogue for Jenny, please. Nobody says stuff like, “It’s almost conspicuous in its absence,” or, “There’s another narrative here, hidden right inside the correspondence.”
I liked Pandora’s story line more than I thought I would. Once again, I cannot say enough good things about Shannyn Sossamon, who does so much with every line she’s given. I don’t think I ever paid much attention to how effed up Pandora’s marriage is. She trolls Ichabbie to their faces, then goes home and grovels to her hubs about how much she adores him and how ashamed she is of herself, and that he should just take all of her power from her. And he does! He just kisses her and then he does it! (I thought he was going to kill her, to be honest.) Last night really made me wish for more opportunity to explore their twisted power dynamic. This subplot could be its own House of Cards! (Also ... did anyone else think about Kim and Kanye here? And Kanye’s misogynistic T-Swift lyric and how he seems to routinely, casually, and coarsely attempt to draw power/focus/attention from famous women? (#FACTS) No? Just me? Cool.)
Now let’s talk about what we really need to talk about: Ichabbie. Sleepy Hollow is at its best when it’s got me all agita’d in the stomach, reveling in how Ichabbie’s rapport is so strong that it traverses whole dimensions with ease, and wondering how on Earth things will be made right. If it weren’t obvious from their BFF bantering and bickering (“I’ve been here ten months, Crane”), this episode stated more plainly than ever before that Abbie and Crane are literally soulmates. Crane’s spirit arrives to help Abbie after she hears him tell her to “hold [our bond] in your mind.” Abbie later pulls Crane back from the astral plane with nothing but the tendons of their soul-to-soul connection. It’s a small moment (really nothing more than Crane opening his eyes) that feels like a huge feat, which they celebrate by … clutching hands?? This didn’t even make sense. They’ve hugged plenty of times before. Geez, Abbie even cheek-kissed Joe upon her return! WTF?! Please sound off in the comments.
Was there a significance to Ezra Mills’s lighter that I’m not remembering? What I mean is, have we seen or heard a reference to the lighter before, or is there a reason why his lighter was chosen to signify whose house Jenny was breaking into? I went back through my notes from this season’s second episode (which is when we found out Papa Mills was still alive), but couldn’t find anything. It was just such a specific choice that I feel like there must be a reason behind it.
Joe: We just bought that lumber this morning.
Crane: Compared to barn raising, this is child’s play.
Joe: If it’s not English, it’s a failed sneeze.
Crane: Triple-word score! Haters gonna hate.
Sophie: I now live in a world where gargoyles might come alive.
Joe: So this is like a Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe thing?