I have to give Sleepy Hollow credit for keeping me on my toes this season like never before. While I admit that this compliment is a slightly trolly thing to say — part of keeping me on my toes has meant inconsistent quality from one episode to the next — I still maintain that “Sins of the Father,” which aired two weeks ago, has been the best installment of the entire series. The compliment I’m really trying to pay here, though, is that Sleepy’s becoming quite skilled at subverting its own tropes and clichés, offering an unexpected left turn or delightful surprise just when you think the plot’s about to go all fill-in-the-dots.
If you follow Sleepy Hollow’s various Twitter accounts, you probably know that the writers and producers like to refer to the show’s supernaturally revisionist folklore (“George Washington was a zombie!” “Benjamin Franklin had a demon key to purgatory!”) as “twistory.” Because I’m seemingly obsessed with the meta-ness of Sleepy Hollow, I’d like to think that SH is starting to apply the rules of twistory to its own universe and its own storylines. (A note about all my meta talk: To me, there’s always been a whiff of camp permeating SH, and a prime intention of camp is to establish a bond of winky-winky knowingness — in other words, meta-ness — between performer and audience. So yeah, I always end up searching for how the show’s kind of subtly playing to or even toying with its viewers. End of C-minus lit crit paper!) “Into the Wild” is basically an episode of Sleepy Hollow that took a bunch of the show’s usual episodic crutches and niftily whittled them into the metaphoric equivalent of Verslinder-slaying spears.
After working out some residual netherworld anxiety on a local rock-climbing wall (episodic crutch I’ll never tire of: Super-close-up opening shot of a witness seemingly in peril, then cutting to a wide shot to reveal they’re just playing chess or doing something leisurely or whatever), Abbie’s off to spend the weekend doing survival training in the woods with her FBI homies. Episodic crutch I normally can’t stand: Ichabbie separated! Especially for silly reasons like (ugh) work. We all know the best part of Sleepy Hollow, really its raison d’etre, is to see Abbie and Crane together. Boo survival training!
Except I really liked what unfolded next. Coupling up Abbie and Sophie to slay the Verslinder (yet another disgusting and triumphant creation from the visual-effects department) was refreshing because both ladies ditched the chips that often rest on their shoulders and got down to the business at hand. They had each other’s backs and there wasn’t any bickering about how best to go about kicking ass. I wouldn’t normally expect straightforward, almost goody-two-shoes teamwork from this twosome. But considering that good vs. evil is the ur-text of SH and its moral code, I am all for this bit of old-fashioned do-goodism.
This week, the shoulder chips were down on Danny, who is really getting tired of Abbie’s shiftiness. I can’t say I blame him; to go from Abbie’s ex to the third wheel on this camping expedition — all while still being her boss who’s apparently been forced to rehire her against his own wishes — is more WTF-ness than even an upstanding guy like Danny can be expected to tolerate. “There’s no room for supporting players on The Abbie Mills Show,” Danny spits at her, which I think can be counted as the single most passive-aggressive barb any character on this show has ever thrown, including all of Henry Parrish’s dad-guilt tantrums.
And yet! With Danny and Abbie’s relationship brought to the fore last night, I didn’t expect to see Abbie being all vulnerable by telling Sophie about Danny, “Every time I let somebody into this world, their lives are ruined,” or to see her then tell Danny to his face, “I don’t think of us as something in the past tense. And I never will.” This, of course, brings up yet another ongoing issue this season: the will-they-or-won’t-they-but-really-they-won’t-probably-ever between Abbie and Crane. I actually didn’t believe Abbie when she said this — I think she’s had hardly any issue accepting that she and Danny are over; emotional compartmentalizing is Abbie’s specialty — and I think the writers threw it in just to start juicing up a dormant storyline. (And maybe because it’s pretty clear at this point that they’re terrified of a romantic Ichabbie relationship ...?)
I didn’t expect Abbie to suddenly lean into her latent feelings for Danny, and I really didn’t expect Pandora to start going rogue on the Hidden One. The Abbie-Pandora parallels last night were obvious, with THO following in Danny’s footsteps to levy the second-most passive-aggressive dig of the night when he tells Pandora, “Do not mar this moment with your selfish needs.” Pandora reacts by going off on her own to retrieve the box shard that Joe and Jenny win at auction. I almost feel like she’s pulling a Katrina, except switching over to the light side instead of moving toward darkness. By the end of her story line last night, there were definitely strong indications that Pandora was about to break up with THO, right? And it seems they even suggested that she was starting to sympathize with the Scooby Gang’s mission?
Crane was used so sparingly last night that I jotted down “Where’s Crane?” in my notes not once but twice. I was all ready to dismiss his Rochester storyline when — ba-dam! — his professor contact up there tells him that Abbie’s symbol token thingie can actually split in two the same way his tablet from the season premiere is able to. Wow, what a callback! SH is littered with dangling story lines these days — Crane’s citizenship issues, hello? — and it never occurred to me that we’d see that particular artifact again. The fact that Abbie’s symbol might actually be a force of good was a twist I didn’t at all see coming, and it gave me comfort — just as Joe’s Wendigo resurfacing put me quite on edge.
Joe’s breaking bad! Pandora’s going good! Evil symbol is not evil! As another famous ghostbuster would say, dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!
Abbie: Crane has been helping me through some behavior modification techniques, or as he insists on calling it, “a diet of the mind.”
Abbie: No, Beautiful Mind. I never should’ve gotten him a Netflix subscription.
Abbie: That’s some Willy Wonka setup you got here.
Crane: Thank you, Leftenant. Although it is not chocolatey treats we endeavor to find here, but answers.
Crane: Careful with this one. This caused the Great Fire of Chicago. And Krakatoa.
Crane: I knew Colonel Rochester. Peevish sort. I’m surprised they named a city after him. He hardly deserves that honor.
Abbie: You haven’t seen Rochester.