One of the problems with the second season of Sleepy Hollow was in its forced efforts to bring in new characters. You didn’t just have the core of Ichabod, Abbie, Jenny, and Irving; you had Katrina newly brought back from the past and Hawley, the handsome rogue type whose handsome roguishness never quite took off the way the show clearly wanted him to. Then there was Henry and the Headless Horseman (remember him?) lurking on the sidelines, popping up whenever some foreshadowing or cackling was needed. That’s not a huge main cast, but it is a big one, and the mix never quite blended as evenly as it should have. Hawley was too much a cliche to be fun, and Katrina—well, the writers never quite figured out what the hell Katrina was, presumably because her powers as a witch would’ve made things too easy for our heroes if she was always able to use them.
Thankfully this season has course corrected to some extent. Pandora’s villainry has none of the angst that made Henry Parrish so inconstant (despite John Noble’s, ahem, noblest efforts), and Joe is a far more appealing figure than Hawley, if only because he’s so much more low-key; there’s none of that forced Poochie-esque attitude that made Hawley so tiresome. Most important of all is that everything that’s happened so far feels more or less cohesive. It’s rarely as unexpected or even as thrilling as the show has been in the past, but the narrative driving the season forward is at least consistent, which makes it all much less of a chore to watch.
Case in point: “The Art Of War” wasn’t a classic entry, but it did finally connect Jenny and Joe’s story with the main Pandora threat. That connection is, in the end, fairly obvious: Atticus Nevins was looking for the Shard of Anubis for much the same reason that Pandora was growing her Doom Tree. They weren’t working together exactly, but they do have the same boss, the mummy-ish fellow who shows up at the very end to tell possessed Jenny to behold his “glory.” As pay-offs go, this is serviceable; not inspired, exactly, in that it doesn’t really change much, but at least Jenny and Joe’s dealings with Atticus no longer feel quite so extraneous to the main action.
The other big reveal of the week is that Sophie Foster is an undercover agent working with Agent Reynolds to catch Atticus. It’s borderline disappointing, although not so much as to throw off the rest of the hour. The problem is mainly that Sophie hasn’t made much of an impression one way or the other. Her work as a henchwoman was passable but not all that memorable, and the discovery that she’s yet another “good guy” serves mostly to make Atticus look like a moron. This season’s biggest problem is probably that it lacks any real, palpable sense of danger. This has never been a show inclined to kill off major characters, but at its best, it felt like the threats our heroes were up against were growing more powerful by the minute. That’s technically true here, but the feel is gone, and when even secondary recurring villains turn out to be angels in disguise, victory is such a forgeone conclusion that it’s hard to work up much concern over the conflict.
This week’s monsters—Norse beserkers—were cool in concept, although the actual look of them wasn’t all that exciting: just some demonish shirtless dudes running around doing aggressive wrestling moves. In theory, they were unstoppable forces of destruction, but in practice, they were dangerous only if you were stupid enough to get near them. And even then, they weren’t very good at their job. (Best moment was when one of them picked up an engine block to show how strong he was, before thoughtfully tossing it to one side and chasing after Ichabod and Joe. I dunno, maybe you could’ve thrown it at one of them instead?) Our heroes eventually defeat them by tricking them into attacking one another, which is clever, but also highlights their basic uselessness. Atticus would’ve probably been better off just hiring more mercs, especially if he could find ones that weren’t working for the other side.
Still, while the suspense was lacking, at least it’s possible to have confidence that the story isn’t going to completely fall apart anytime soon. Every scene in this hour, right down to the “Reynolds visits his superior” conversation, was there for a clear reason, and there’s something gratifying about watching an episode that spends time putting all the pieces in order. Ichabod and Abbie and the rest were as charming as ever, and while the Joe/Jenny hook-up wasn’t one for the ages, the two characters are likeable enough that it’s nice to see them happy. Only thing missing was an update on Ichabod’s relationship with Miss Corinth, and the fact that I noticed she was absent, and wished we could’ve spent some less time with monsters and more time with romance, shows how things have been tending lately.
- Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: I didn’t catch any major gripes, although he was embarrassed to lose to Abbie at a game of chess. (The fact that they had the TV going while they played was ridiculous.)
- Is it weird that I was almost hoping Pandora would bring back Moloch?
- Jenny got hit with a binding stone, and is channeling enormous amounts of mystic energy that will kill her if they don’t find some way to expel them. Or she could could die at the hand of Pandora’s boss. It’s an exciting time for her.
- Much as I respect the construction, I’m sort of dreading the “Abbie has to chose between her professional life and her job as a Witness” conflict coming up. I’m not saying it won’t work, but it could go wrong very easily.
- “The anecdotal evidence was overwhelming.” -Ichabod. Not a great hour for one-liners this week, but that made me laugh.
- Ichabod is able to unravel Atticus’s plan with the old “rub a pencil over a notepad” trick. Old school!