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Putting aside, for the moment, that the whole “shoving Abbie off into another dimension” thing has been done before, and feels a bit old hat and frustrating, “One Lie” makes the most of her absence. Ichabod is obsessed with tracking her down, perhaps beyond the point of reason, and Jenny is just as determined to rescue her sister. Agent Foster suspects Ichabod had something to do with Abbie’s disappearance, and Reynolds, her boss and Abbie’s former lover, needs answers as much as anybody. No one pretends that everything is fine, and the episode makes as thorough a case as possible that this latest plot twist means something.

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A little too thorough, actually. “One Life” pauses far too often for emotional monologues, and every time one of our heroes starts to wax philosophical about how much Abbie meant to them, the strings kick in. There’s a certain lack of trust between the show and its audience at this point, and that lack of trust leads to a need to over-emphasize key points, as though anyone watching at home might forget that, say, Ichabod values Abbie in his life or Jenny misses her sister. it’s like watching an afterschool special about the value of teamwork, and every time these speeches pop up, and the score starts tugging at our heart strings, it gets harder and harder not to roll your eyes.

Thankfully the rest of “One Life” works fairly well, with a fun, modestly creepy main story and a real sense of stakes. While the show may be overplaying its hand when it comes to the missing Miss Mills, her departure does at least represent something that’s a lot easier to care about than the end of the world. We know the apocalypse isn’t ever going to arrive on Sleepy Hollow; we also know that Nicole Beharie isn’t gone for good. But her absence in the meantime has a recognizable, immediate impact, in a way that, say, a spell that will bring about the end of the world in a month does not.

In his efforts to track his partner’s whereabouts, Ichabod ends up making a new friend, the initially suspicious Foster; and while she’s not that much more than “tough cop drawn into the supernatural almost against her will,” she’s at least not horrible. (Although the discovery that her parents were killed by demons was rock stupid. Not everything has to connect, show.) The fact that Ichabod falls for a spiritual con job and inadvertently summons a monster into the world in his search for Abbie is a smart twist that shows the dangers of obsession and clouded judgment in a real, immediate way.

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There are flashbacks, of course. This week, we meet and then say goodbye to Nathan Hale, a real life colonial spy who pops in to teach us all a valuable lesson in not being an idiot. We first seeing him spying on the redcoats with telescope not ten yards away from the enemy’s front yard; his capture and subsequent execution aren’t much of a surprise even if you don’t already know the history. Betsy Ross remains present as ever, and as much delight as they’ve provided in the past, I’m not sure the trips to Ichabod’s old life are as useful as they once were. At the very least, they should have monsters in them.

Meanwhile, Jenny and Joe go hunting for a magic map that will help them track Pandora and her boy-toy. (Said boy-toy is currently sulking over the loss of much of his magical prowess, although I’d say the writers deserve more of the blame for that than poor Pandora.) It’s the same plot these two always seem to get caught up in, squabbling with the criminal class who just happen to have a yen for mystical antiquities, with the kicker here being that Abbie rants at Joe for a while about feelings and he kisses her. It’s fine if you’re into that sort of thing, and both actors are giving it their best, but the show has yet to find a relationship anywhere near as compelling as its central one.

Which is both this episode’s biggest strength and its biggest weakness. Without Abbie, we can feel some small part of the loss Ichabod and the others are feeling, and it’s easier to care about their efforts to bring her back. But without Abbie, much of the magic is gone. The last scene at least reassures that she’s not gone forever, but until she returns, it’s going to be hard to shake the feeling of marking time.

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Stray observations

  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: He doesn’t seem too fond of frozen lasagna.
  • The mirror demon was a nice reminder that the show can do freaky creatures quite well, when it wants to.
  • Speaking of, the scene of Ichabod going into the mirror to try and rescue Abbie felt like a nice Poltergeist nod, one that used our expectations of the earlier scene against us.
  • Demons are heading to Sleepy Hollow, presumably as part of Pandora’s plan to power-up her lover.

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