The connections to the past continue as Sleepy Hollow maintains its mild but still gratifying upswing. “Sins Of The Father” features not only the return of Atticus Nevins, last seen presumed dead at the hands of a pissed off Pandora, but some flashbacks to Atticus’s time with the man himself, August Corbin, who he served with the first Gulf War. The actors playing young Atticus and August look absolutely nothing like their very recognizable older counterparts, but it was nice piece of sideways mythology building. If I’m reading Atticus’s story right, we just basically heard the reason August got interested in following the occult. It’s not the most necessary piece of history, but it’s nice to know.

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Really, though, the draw here isn’t Atticus; he’s a good, creepy bad guy, and seeing as how this is his last appearance on the show (I’m guessing; I mean, I thought he was dead before, too), he goes out in fine bad guy style. The monster is decent, if slightly disappointing. What starts off as a nigh unstoppable killing machine apparently loses all of its coordination when faced with recurring characters, which robs the beast of the only real personality it had. There’s no clever magic twist, no special powers to make it stand out. It’s just a think that hisses and kills real good, and when it suddenly stops being able to kill so good for no apparent reason (beyond the obvious “Ichabod and Abbie aren’t going to die” explanation), it becomes even less memorable.

No, what makes “Sins Of The Father” a pleasure to watch is once again the careful attention to character work. The Hidden One and Pandora get a single scene, but it’s one that re-establishes the growing rift between them, and also demonstrates how the Hidden One is almost certainly going to overestimate his bride’s devotion to him. It’s short, it’s to the point, and we don’t check in on them again, which is nice. The Hidden is still more petulant than scary, and the more we know about these two, the less imposing they are, but this could’ve been worse.

Jenny and Abbie having separate meetings with their father is an unequivocal good. The two scenes more or less bookend the hour; in the first, Jenny is initially hostile but seemingly (though not completely) convinced by her father’s reassurances. His insistence that that main reason he wanted to meet was to tell her that him leaving was his fault and his fault alone is an especially nice touch, one that gives us a good impression of the man without needing to spend too much time with him.

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Abbie’s meeting is even more interesting, because while on the surface she seems less angry than her sister, her directness suggests that a willingness to go only so far, and no further. She meets with the man to find out more about her mother’s madness, and there’s something heartbreaking in that; she’s trying to place her own experience on some recognizable continuum, and while her current struggles are more easily connected to the tangible, the fear of reliving the same horrors as your parents is an understandable, even relatable, one.

Maybe that’s what’s made these past couple of episodes work so well. The mythology is still fairly out there, if not as engagingly gonzo as it once was, but the people stuck in that mythology make consistent, interesting decisions. Abbie’s unwillingness to tell Ichabod or Jenny about her visions is a little out of character, but it also speaks to the difficulties of expressing trauma to people who haven’t experienced it for themselves; the fear of being viewed as different or crazy in some way you can’t ever undo. This isn’t a grim, heavy show—it’s one that continues to use a very recognizable music cue whenever it wants to indicate we’re getting to some sort of emotional resolution (see: Jenny and Joe’s conversation on the couch) (man, they’re pretty cute together aren’t they?)—but the small act of allow our various leads to handle events as real people might is very encouraging.

There are downsides. Atticus’s big plan to get caught so he can ransack August’s files isn’t bad (if something of a cliche), but his decision to leave the scarab with the monster is a mixed blessing, isn’t it? I supposed if he hadn’t, Ichabod and Abbie would’ve chased after him, but leaving it on the creature just gave Abbie something to shoot. It’s embarrassing that Joe, Foster, and Jenny all manage to get caught off guard by the bad guys at various points. It’s also embarrassing that Atticus falls for the oldest trick in the villain playbook.

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But these are all nitpicks. My only real reservations here are the relative blandness of the monster, and my concern about Abbie’s final line. Her being overcome by her experiences on the other side is one thing, but pledging apparent fealty to some kind of symbol is something else entirely. I’m not sure Evil Abbie is a road anyone wants to go down, and while it’s hard to say where this plotline heads next, odds are, it won’t be a happy one. Here’s hoping that the show’s newfound commitment to relative psychologic authenticity stays firm.

Stray observations

  • Ichabod seems to have more or less fully assimilated to modern times. We don’t even get a flashback this week (thank goodness). He did make some possibly disparaging comments about Peanuts, but that was probably just a contextual thing.
  • I looked it up: you can live without a spleen, but you’ll get sick a lot, which is consistent with what we see of Atticus.
  • I didn’t mention Ichabod much this week, as he stayed in sidekick mode for the duration. His efforts to ease Abbie’s transition back into her normal life were charming, though, and I love the (uncommented on) swap of gender norms: usually it’s the guy who’s brooding and tormented, while the lady keeps trying to buck him up with fun times and food. There are no jokes about Ichabod’s masculinity, and he shows no insecurity whatsoever about his efforts to help. It’s lovely.
  • “Can I ask you guys, are they all this ugly?” “Actually, usually they’re worse. This one’s not too bad.”

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