It is to Sleepy Hollow’s credit that I thought last night’s episode was a pretty dang good one before I thought it was maybe actually a kinda not-so-great-one. What I mean is there was a lot of stuff going on in “The Sisters Mills,” some of which I might even go so far as to classify as subtext — dramatic depths the likes of which this show seldom plumbs. This week’s story line grabbed me and pretty much always kept its focus, even if its aftermath left me with an unpleasant taste in my mouth. (Perhaps too many silver-filled dentures?) So let’s dive in.
Our monster this week was an abyzou, a.k.a. an ancient, Brothers Grimm–esque version of the tooth fairy. This I loved; Sleepy Hollow is usually at its best (by which I mean its sharpest and goofiest) when it plays fast and loose with Americana, and so the notion that this supernatural beast is why parents give their kids money (specifically, silver coins) when they lose a tooth really tickled me. Besides, why not lean into the fact that, possessed Westchester County suburb aside, most people’s actual experiences with monsters concern telling kids that they don’t really exist?
Then there was the monster itself. Maybe it’s just because Halloween is coming up, or maybe there’s some sort of elaborate betting scheme playing out between SH’s costuming and special-effects departments to up the ante on the show’s visually driven spookiness, but the big bads are becoming creepier and creepier by the week. I’ve forgotten all about that dumb, lunking whatever-it-was that preyed on gunpowder and fear in the season premiere; that monster bored the silver nitrate out of me. This one did backbends with its head spun ’round the wrong way and sometimes hung out on the ceiling for no apparent reason! It was like The Exorcist meets the Olympic all-around gymnastics competition, and I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one who curled up extra-tight under their covers last night thanks to the lingering image of this jump-cutty, tongue-thrusting ghoul.
Likewise, Pandora’s had a slow build this season, but it seems that the writers have finally figured out how to relocate her from her lair of doom and black blooming roses and out into the real world in a way that maybe still doesn’t entirely make sense, but is at least compelling. (When she traipsed around the train station a couple episodes ago, it felt kinda pointless.) What a Nurse Ratched vibe she exuded last night, with her pursed lips and preternaturally composed countenance and just laughably awful haircut. I must admit, I didn’t think much of the news that Shannyn Sossamon was joining the cast this season, but at this point, I feel that she’s more than earning her keep. Plus, she threw us the Easter egg of the season with her, “Hey there, sleepyhead.” (!!)
Which brings me to the last aspect of “The Sisters Mills” I loved: How funny it was! Funny ha-ha, to be sure, but also (and more importantly) sly and clever. At this point, we all expect that a Sleepy Hollow episode will open with a bit of levity from Crane, and this week’s setup with the video games and the bags of junk food was a better-than-average one. (The dentist setup at the end, meanwhile, was maybe the show’s funniest scene ever.) But there were also moments of amusement and subversion throughout: Crane assuming he can charm the bejesus out of various children (Saffron; that elementary-school class) and then struggling to save face when it doesn’t come easily to him; Jenny surprising Abbie, and us, by wryly admitting that she’d tracked down their dad years ago; Pandora humming “Ring Around the Rosie” (a nursery rhyme allegedly about city’s battle with the plague) while approaching Abbie’s hospital bed; the Betsy Ross scene turning out to be a laughing-gas-induced fever dream. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give to last night’s episode is that it went by so fast for me. Even the few moments that I knew were more or less filler, like Pandora yammering on about her Freudian backstory, didn’t feel like filler when I was watching them unfold.
Now, having said all that … We need to talk about Betsy Ross. In my mind, I’ve felt that it’s only fair to give that character the same benefit of the doubt as I’ve allowed Pandora during her first few weeks on the show, to give her a chance to settle in and find her niche, if not a narrative purpose. However, I think we can all now say quite comfortably that Betsy isn’t working out. And I know this, first of all, because last night, this Colonial heroine actually uttered the line, “Just go with it.” How is it that Crane can speak in mellifluous prose, yet Betsy’s oration can’t elevate above a throwaway Adam Sandler movie title? (And for the record, even if she had said the phrase with audible air quotes, the way Crane sometimes does with present-day slogans … she’s never been in the present day, so how would she even know?) The casting of Nikki Reed is also waaaay off, but most importantly, like, why is Betsy here? What is she supposed to be adding other than beefcake? It’s not like the show’s plotting requires the presence of a particular character that anchors Crane to his past; Crane is always recalling various scenarios and historical figures willy-nilly. (Seriously, consistency and continuity aren’t Sleepy Hollow’s strong suits, anyway.) In all honesty, my best guess as to why Betsy’s onboard this season is because somebody thinks there needs to be more gratuitous kissing on this show.
That’s troubling and dismaying on many levels. Crane, you’ll recall, actually juggles the affections of two lady-friends in this episode: Betsy in the past and Zoe in the present. While I admit that it’s always fun to watch Crane squirm when such attention is ladled upon him, it’s becoming not-fun to see Abbie relegated to a caretaker role — harping on him to study for his citizenship test; shepherding him to and from the dentist — especially when the best chemistry on this show has always been between Abbie and Crane. (And funny enough, putting Crane with Jenny this week to fight the big bad proved that they’re a twosome worth having more of their own screen time as well. Heck, I even got a big kick out of Crane’s tooth-fairy stakeout with Joe.) Make Sleepy Hollow strictly platonic as it was in the beginning or don’t, but if it’s don’t, then I think we can all agree that it’s time for Abbie to join in on the fun.
Show of hands: Who believes that Saffron and Tessa’s father just flat-out did not know that our Scooby Gang was snooping around his property, despite the fact that he was right outside doing yard work?
Another show of hands if you felt the names Saffron and Tessa were way too Los Feliz Day Care?
Did anyone else notice the white Ikea bedside lamp in the boy’s bedroom, the one that costs like $4? I have one of those.
Has anyone else noticed/looked up yet that Zoe is played by a bona fide member of the Kazan family?
I didn’t go into the whole plot twist at the end about Abbie and Crane actually being “destroyers” rather than witnesses, because to me it felt like a retread of the whole Irving-kills-everyone story line that never got played out. Basically, I’m totally meh about it, but please share if that sounded an alarm for you of if you’ve got some theories on that.
Crane: They give you four options for every query. “Multiple choice.” Practically a parlor game.
Crane: … Perhaps a little beetle-headedly …
Crane: Yes, first thing on the morrow would be divine. I can give you the address if you have a quill.
Crane: When he arrives, fetch my timber plank … [singing] It’s over there by my codicil.
Crane: She’s given me so much joy. The joy of dentistry.
Abbie: You made a bitmoji.
Crane: I’m adooorable.