Well, here’s a funky switchabout: This week, Sleepy Hollow gives us the Malcolm Dreyfus backstory we didn’t really need and weren’t really asking for, but in the process, delivers the human-driven drama we’ve been missing all season.
This curious-yet-satisfying episode opens in the most unlikely of places: a Southern revival. Seriously, I thought my TV’s wires had gotten all crossed up and I was somehow watching Carnivale or something. But no, Sleepy Hollow has plopped us somewhere in the deep, dusty South, where the “Church of the Everliving Rock” magically heals the infirm who touch a stone relic. It’s all a scam, we find out, but soon the player gets played: Malcolm’s goon Job shows up, takes that stone relic, and demon-squeezes the lead charlatan to death until blood’s coming out of his wherever. (That’s an intentional turn of phrase on my part, by the by.)
“Malcolm, I’ve secured the third talisman,” Goon tells him over the phone. “I’ll see you in the morning.” But then this player gets played: A mysterious, shrouded figure shows up, mugging the talisman while taking a few whacks at him with a Lucille-style bat (except it, like, glows red). Oh, the triple-crossing. It’s like Ocean’s Eleven up in here!
We all know Malcolm wants the talisman to complete his jigsaw puzzle o’ apocalyptic doom. But what we don’t know until much later is that the shrouded man of mystery who just stole a key piece is his former, presumed-dead tech partner, Ansel. We head down that road after Jake and Alex learn that Malcom’s the link between every monster of the week so far this season — including that coven of sisterly witches in that lakefront Dyer house, where Malcolm had plans to “drain the swampland.” (I knew it, Malcolm is a Trumpian allegory!)
Crane and Diana pay a visit to Dreyfus HQ just as Malcolm gives the world’s shortest pep talk to a bunch of young entrepreneurs. While Dreyfus’s self-serving spiel sets the bar even lower than that time Michael Scott spoke to Ryan’s business-school class, at least it affords us the opportunity to delight in some choice eyerolls and bug-eyed expressions from the incredulous Crane, who can’t believe anybody buys the crap Dreyfus shovels.
Here’s where the episode gets good, when Malcolm takes Crane and Diana into his office and a battle royale emerges. No, not Dreyfus against the resurrected Ansel, but a Tom Mison–Jeremy Davies act-off! How did I never realize that this would be the silver lining of an Abbie-less season? Look at these two thespians staring each other down! More of this, please!
Speaking of more of this, please, Jake’s goofy-cute pursuit of Jenny continues apace. I love this guy! I love how he can be so self-aware of his own geekiness, yet still summon up all the confidence in the world when asking Alex to wingwoman for him. (“If someone would let her know how chill I am …” I die!) On the flip side, I also love Jenny’s low-key disinterest in both Jake and Alex; it’s so on-point that she would look at them like the JV squad she barely needs to give the time of day.
Anyway, back to Dreyfus HQ, where Ansel is now waging a full-frontal assault on anyone and everyone in the building. While the monstrous machinations of his rampage didn’t really interest me — it’s your basic villain of the week stuff: demonic symbols, ancient “Greek fire,” yada yada — what I did like was seeing Davies exuding an emotion besides cockiness. When he starts legit freaking out about his building’s security being disabled (which, speaking of, what a snowflake) it’s like seeing flashbacks to Davies’s Corporal Upham in Saving Private Ryan.
Eventually, Ansel confronts Malcolm in his office and tells him, “Your security algorithms are for crap.” (Ha!) His diss serves as the opening lob in an insecurity-fueled back and forth between the former partners. (Ansel: “You still had to find a way to get rid of me.” Malcolm: “Because it’s always about you, Ansel.”) Ultimately, we get to the crux of both dudes’ origin stories: Malcolm created demonic Ansel when he banished him to a circle of Hell where demons burned their names into his flesh; now Ansel has studied how to harness the power of his scars, which he intends to use to get his life back.
Meanwhile, Malcolm’s origin story is revealed through flashback. I wish this could’ve been told with some sort of CGI’ing of Spanking the Monkey–era Davies, but instead he just puts on a goofy Gen X complaint-rock wig to reveal he basically sold his soul to the devil after he drunk-drove his car into a tree and it went up in flames with all his computer-y stuff inside. (It actually made more sense watching it than how it looks typed out.) Or maybe it was more like a rent-to-own situation: Malcolm only has to surrender his soul upon death, and his quest to reassemble the philosopher’s stone is an attempt to back out on that contract by never dying.
I honestly don’t know if the intent of that whole subplot was to curry sympathy for Malcolm, like he’s just some angsty, misdirected post-adolescent worth pitying, but that’s definitely not how I felt. It made me tolerate the guy even less, even if the hour did afford Davies a chance to play another shade of egotistical for a change. On the bright side, this whole thread opens up exciting narrative possibilities moving forward. After Jenny thwarts Ansel’s plans to annihilate Malcolm, both dudes disappear, as does the stone. “What would Dreyfus want with a map of ley lines?” Jenny wonders later, after Alex susses out that Job stole a map of said ley lines from the Smithsonian in last week’s episode. Well, whaddaya know: The map indicates that the last piece of the stone is probably chillin’ out somewhere in … Sleepy Hollow. Road trip!
• Crane: “The third-century Celtics were the most monstrous and bloodthirsty warriors in all of Britain. Savage to their barbarian hearts, they laid waste to all who challenged them — even one Danish prince foolish enough to cross Hadrian’s Wall. He was defeated, of course, and decapitated. The Celtic chieftains allowed their men to kick lustily kick his head around for enjoyment. And from these gruesome origins grew the sporting endeavor you modern-day warriors refer to as … soccer.”
• Crane: “To a swift victory, Team Bumblebee!”