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Abbie and Ichabod capture the flag on Sleepy Hollow

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The bad news is, Betsy Ross is back, but the good news is, her return is surprisingly unpainful; in fact, I’d say her one (one and a half, if you count voice over) scene in this episode is actually not bad at all. There’s a certain poignancy to her presence that helps to gloss over the more unfortunate aspects of the character—her generic bad-assedness, her not exactly period appropriate casting. When she speaks with Crane, it’s with the knowledge that their friendship is nearly at an end, and her sadness gives their conversation a gratifying weight. This is not a show that’s ever been afraid of tugging on the heartstrings, and that’s a good thing; the more nonsensical the plot gets, the more you need those clear, affecting character beats to hold everything together.

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And the plot does get fairly goofy in “Dawn’s Early Light,” albeit in the “let’s find a bizarre supernatural conspiracy behind every major event of the American revolution” way that’s a series’ hallmark. The conflict between Pandora and the Hidden One which has been building for weeks now finally comes to a head, as the Hidden One tortures her for her betrayal and she decides she might be better off switching sides. So she goes to Ichabod and makes an offer: the Hidden One will be back to full power in 48 hours, and the only way to stop him is to restore her box.

Which, okay, sure, why not. It reeks of a MacGuffin designed to team these characters up, and it’s frustrating how little effort our heroes have been able to put towards actually taking the Hidden One out before he got his powers back, but hey, it’s something. The main storyline finally has a clear, specific goal, and a sense of danger pushing us towards that goal. The Hidden One still isn’t actually scary, but if you say it’s the end of humanity when he’s back at full power, sure, I can go along with that.

Especially when it gives us a return to the delightful historical antics the show has always been great at. It would take a more patient man than I to plot out the various steps that lead our heroes to ransacking Paul Revere’s house, fighting an Eternal Soldier, figuring out the secret behind the “Star-Spangled Banner,” tracking down one of Betsy Ross’s flags, and using the gold stitching around the stars on that flag to find a magical holographic map to the Catacombs, but I know I enjoyed the ride. There’s a gratifying forward momentum to all of this that never entirely lets up.

It’s impressive, too, that even with this modest urgency, the episode still finds time to check in on some character subplots. Ezra Mills shows up again, offering baby photos and taffy, and its as awkward and affecting as one might hope. He has nothing to do with Pandora and the Hidden One as of yet, but it’s a mark in his favor that his scenes don’t feel like wasted time. Danny Reynolds finally gets clued in on everything that’s going on, and that’s something of a relief—I’m not sure how long he and Abbie will last as a couple, but “We have to keep this big secret hidden from a major character” plots are the worst.

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“Dawn’s Early Light” wasn’t absolutely brilliant, but it was a considerable amount of fun, and it’s a good sign that I’m looking forward to next week’s finale, and not just dreading the inevitable let down. The show is comfortable and entertaining on a regular basis now, a solidly consistent B/B+ kind of thing, and given how messy things have been in the past, that’s pretty inspiring. And hey, if there’s another season in the works, you throw in a convincing villain and you might have something special again.

Stray observations

  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: No outright dislike here, although he has apparently turned his back on Burger King.
  • The Hidden One torturing Pandora was the first time that character’s been effectively creepy in, what, ever?
  • I appreciate a good Hamilton reference as much as the next guy, but using Paul Revere, who (so far as I know) doesn’t actually appear in the show, is a weird choice. Worth it for Ichabod’s diss on Hamilton: “The man had a voice like a stuck goat.”
  • The Eternal Soldier—not so eternal after all.
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