It seems simple enough, in retrospect. How To Make A Good Episode Of Sleepy Hollow: Ensure Ichabod and Abbie spend a lot of time together; give us a monster that at least suggests a credible threat; keep the subplots with other characters to a minimum, but still leave room for some non-monster hunting story development with our two heroes. “Blood And Fear” isn’t a classic, but it’s the first entry of the new season to be consistently enjoyable throughout. No shocking twists, but there was also a definite lack of Aaron Spelling’s Betsy Ross, and none of the scenes with Jenny and Joseph Corbin made me cringe. This didn’t feel like a revelation. It just felt like a show I would be happy to keep watching on a regular basis, and for that, I am grateful.
Okay, so this week’s monster wasn’t the greatest. Pulling out yet another variation on the “Jack the Ripper was actually a supernatural force!” trope isn’t going to win anyone points for originality, and like the other monsters so far this season, the backstory here is borderline perfunctory. Pandora is up to her usual tricks, pulling a magic (evil) knife out of her box and giving it to an office nebbish who starts murdering people because he has a crush on some woman at his office, so what else are you gonna do, right? The knife drains its victims of blood, which reminds Ichabod of a time in his youth when he saw a friend killed in a similar fashion. He ascribes the death to Jack the Ripper, and he and Abbie trace the killings back several centuries.
It’s a bit thin, to put it kindly, and Nelson the Nebbish doesn’t really take up the slack in terms of setting a mood. But I’m willing to give it a pass because the conclusion is so much more satisfying than last week’s “Oh right, that name I always knew!” Realizing that the killings during Ichabod’s youth were stopped at the start of an outbreak of yellow fever, Ichabod and Abbie theorize that, since the knife drains blood, it’s vulnerable to contaminated blood. But when they try and shoot Nelson with a dart full of malaria-laced red stuff, his skin repels; so Ichabod injects himself with the sample and allows Nelson to stab him.
There’s some cleverness here, and a sense of the heroes being pushed, and responding to the challenge with aplomb. That helps make a not-all-that-memorable monster plot go down easier. Mostly, it helps that the monster stuff hits the right notes (idiot human, creepy corpses, maybe some defenestration) and gets out of the way. Same thing with Jenny and Joseph’s hunt for the Shard of Anubis. I still don’t care about the Shard, and we still are no closer to finding out who wants it and why (although Jenny does get it back), but the scenes with the two of them are short enough that they never entirely wear out their welcome. So August Corbin has some secrets? Eh, I’m not all that interested, but I’m willing to see where it goes next.
And why do I have such nearly inexhaustible reserves of patience for this show? Because Ichabod and Abbie are still so damn likable, and their scenes together are so good. The couple of scenes this week dedicated to Ichabod’s efforts to preserve the archives, plus his newfound interest in becoming an American citizen, were delightful, and while Abbie’s confusion about her father, and her potential romance with Agent Danny Reynolds, felt a bit more boilerplate, it’s still great to see her getting storylines this season that don’t completely suck.
The show isn’t broken, thank goodness, and if it keeps heading in the direction established this week, it has every chance of settling into a satisfying, if maybe not revolutionary, groove. The fever dream intensity that made the first season so thrilling to watch may be gone, but that probably wasn’t sustainable anyway. I’ll happily take this instead: competent pleasures, delivered with occasional chills.
- Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: Apart from still being frustrated in his efforts to preserve the archives, he seemed pretty chipper this time out.
- This week marks the second appearance of Ms. Corinth, the nice lady who’s helping Ichabod with his legal concerns. Hard to tell if she’s being set up as a potential romantic interest, but here’s hoping she doesn’t get brutally murdered like the last lady our hero was friendly with.
- Perfunctory historical flashbacks this week, even if it was Ichabod’s “very first encounter with pure evil.” Kind of feels like the show’s heart isn’t really in this stuff anymore, doesn’t it?
- That said, I would totally watch a show about Ichabod the time traveler adjusting to modern life. I love monsters, but I wonder if there even necessary here. (It’s moot, though, as I can’t imagine Sleepy Hollow suddenly turning into Gilmore Girls.)
- Definite X-Files vibe from this week’s monster. That show perfected the “social outcast gets unnatural powers and is immediately corrupted by them” arc.
- Ichabod gets stabbed and injects himself with malaria, so why does he wake up at Abbie’s house and not in a hospital?