It’s continually amazing how a show with the wit to cast Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison can fail so disastrously and repeatedly when it comes to to casting secondary roles. Like Nikki Reed as Betsy Ross. What was the decision making process behind this? It’s possible she’s a fine actress outside of period drama, but as Ross, Reed is laughably bad; anachronistic and forced and entirely unconvincing, a generic “strong female character” who, so far at least, exists solely to replace Katrina as a flashback love interest for Ichabod. Her presence is so fundamentally tone deaf that I find myself scrambling to come up with some justification for the character. Maybe it’s satire? Or… gah, I don’t know, demons?

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Betsy has a small but important part to play in “Whispers In the Dark,” although just seeing Reed’s photo in the opening credits was enough to make me give in to despair. Everyone else at least looks like they could plausibly exist in the same fictional world, a world that could tell fun, pulpy stories without falling into self-parody. Reed, though, with that outfit and that overly serious expression, looks like cosplay at its most male-gaze pandering.

The thing is, a sexy-adventurer type isn’t out of place for the show, at least not in theory; and it’s especially not out of place for Ichabod’s past, which has room for all manner of colorful, larger than life characters. The problem with poor Betsy, and what’s looking to be a serious problem for the season ahead, is that she isn’t larger than life. Thus far, she’s been used as painfully obvious plot spackle, a character who’s forced relevance fails to either ingratiate or convince us of her importance. She’s never mattered much before—now, she’s everywhere. And there’s nothing of interest to her below the surface, no specificity or distinction to make her worth caring about.

That’s the issue for nearly every new element this season, from Pandora and her demon threats to Abbie’s new job at the FBI. There’s a frustrating generic quality to too much what’s going on, and while I can roll with that when it comes to the procedural elements (this show has never given much of a damn for plausibility in that regard), seeing monsters this lame week in and week out has already gotten old, and it’s only been two weeks.

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In this episode, Ichabod and Abbie face off against a creature that pulls secrets out of people and kills them. Everyone talks about it being a shadow monster, and Ichabod uses some electric lights to hold it off, but that’s as far as the personality goes. “Having a secret” doesn’t provide much traction because, hell, everybody has secrets. The monster goes after a group that’s trying to work up the courage to turn in a guy for embezzlement, and while I’m sure there are blander secrets, I’m having a hard time imagining them. Oh wait, I’ve got one: Ichabod feeling bad about that one time he almost betrayed his adopted country, but then he didn’t. Wooo. Feel the angst.

Okay, I apologize for the snippiness, but this is so damn frustrating. The monsters used to be so much fun on the show, and now they act like rejects from the first season of Supernatural. It used to be that Sleepy Hollow could be actually scary at the same time it was being ridiculous, but now it seems to have shrugged off both categories. Which is especially painful when Abbie and Ichabod are still so great together. Their scene as new roommates was adorable and fun, and Abbie’s late-episode revelation that her father is alive and she knows where he lives was a reminder that both actors are entirely capable of pulling off the serious stuff when they need to. I still want to watch them hanging out and going on adventures; I just resent having to suffer through the bullshit to do so.

Let’s cling to optimism, though. “Whispers In The Dark” marked the return of Joe Corbin, and while his and Jenny’s storyline was, in retrospect, embarrassingly threadbare, at least Jenny is getting stuff to do, and Corbin could possibly be interesting at some point. Pandora hasn’t completely worn out her welcome yet, although the show doesn’t need to have her be the root cause of every monster. And Ichabod and Abbie are still cool. (Ichabod’s quest to have the archives marked as a historical landmark could be fun?) Here’s hoping they get the show they deserve, and soon.

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Stray observations

  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: He doesn’t seem very fond of our version of apothecaries.
  • So Ichabod defeats the monster by saying its name, a name he’s known the whole time. That’s not a twist. It barely counts as a climax. Marcus Collins is a non-entity, so there isn’t even some personal drama to prop the whole thing up. It’s just laziness.
  • Abbie has a new boss, Danny Reynolds. Apparently, they have a history.
  • Were the scripts always this overly explanatory? I suspect they were, but it felt like half the lines in this episode served to tell us things we already knew.
  • Sleepy Hollow has never put much time into developing its weekly cannon fodder, but the trio trying to bring the embezzler to light seemed thin even by the show’s standards. Also, embezzlement in this context isn’t dramatic enough. The pension plans for people we never see were saved! Huzzah!
  • I wonder who will play Abbie’s father.

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