TV show crossovers are an odd beast. It’s a weird concept, isn’t it? When a super-hero appears in a different super-hero’s city, that makes sense; heroes live in a shared world. But we don’t make that assumption with TV shows, or at least I never have. It’s especially odd here, given that Bones so clearly follows a skeptic’s philosophy. I’ve only seen a handful of scenes from the series before this week (I did watch both parts of tonight’s two-parter), but that was more than enough to give a clear sense of how Dr. Brennan and Booth’s reality works: crime happens, science picks up the pieces.

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This isn’t a reality that has much room for ghosts, demons, and headless horseman, and yet by bringing Abbie and Ichabod to the Jeffersonian Institution (Dr. Brennan’s headquarters, where she and her team use technology to enhance forensic procedure, often to a ludicrously efficient degree), this two-parter makes it official canon that Bones and Sleepy Hollow now exist in the same world. I don’t know how Bones fans are taking this, although honestly, 11 seasons in, these kind of shenanigans aren’t hugely surprising. (Just be grateful Booth isn’t taking orders from the Great Gazoo.)

I can tell you how it works for Sleepy Hollow, though, which is… basically okay. The Bones episode leading into “Dead Men Tell No Tales” has a standard “non-fantasy show does Halloween” type story, with med students flatlining themselves to experience death, with inevitably disastrous consequences. The only real connection it has to our show is the exhumation of General Howe’s corpse; Howe being the officer Ichabod clashed with (in flashback) earlier in the season. Our heroes show up looking for the body, there’s some amusing banter, but ultimately, no one’s worldview is shaken.

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That’s an unsurprising, but reasonable choice: all four characters (Brennan, Booth, Abbie, and Ichabod) appear in both episodes, but each episode follows the pre-existing rules of its show. So, “The Resurrection In The Remains” keeps things basically realistic (apart from a letter in Ichabod’s handwriting that dates from the 18th century), while “Dead Men Tell No Tales” has zombie redcoats and Greek fire and Pandora up to her usual craziness.

While I’m not sure either show gains much artistically from the crossover, it makes sense that Bones would be trying to drum up some buzz; it also makes sense that Sleepy Hollow would want to tap into that very loyal fanbase. More than anything, though, the two-parter made me realize how much Sleepy Hollow is striving to become one of these workhouse franchise shows, something which may not always get a ton of press but can reliably bring in a devoted group of viewers week in and week out. Whatever ambitions drove the first and second season have become more modest.

“Dead Men Tell No Tales” achieves those ambitions readily. It’s a fun hour, albeit a slightly awkward one thanks to the shoehorning in of Brennan and Booth. Thankfully, Howe makes for a solid bad guy; as a draugr, his presence is a fine mixture of sinister and mildly cartoonish, and his ability to raise other undead soldiers to do his bidding makes him a credible threat. There were moments tonight when the bad guys felt legitimately dangerous in a way they haven’t in quite some time, and the scene where Howe and his lackies walk into a town square crowded with Halloween refugees, line up, and take careful aim, was surprisingly intense. Sure, Ichabod and Abbie come to the rescue at the last minute, but for a few seconds it felt legitimately possible that the villains could mass murder a bunch of innocent trick or treaters. (Not to mention the unfortunately Dracula kid who gets killed near the beginning of the story.)

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The episode also manages to tie in Jenny and Joe’s adventures with Abbie’s own, which is a welcome development; their subplots have been largely inoffensive, as both Jenny and Joe are pleasant enough to spend time with, but their search for whomever was trying to swipe the Shard of Anubis hasn’t had much energy behind it. There’s no real danger to either of them, and no sense that the world is in danger either—and given that Abbie and Ichabod spend their days running around trying to stop the apocalypse, it’s hard to justify spending time with people who aren’t doing that. Thankfully, it turns out the black market antiquities dealer they’ve been hunting is already on Agent Reynolds radar, so things should be getting more interesting soon.

Ichabod’s on-going romantic pursuits also don’t matter much in the grand scheme of destruction and madness (well, until the show inevitably pulls a “damsel in distress” bit), but they remain delightful nonetheless. There’s something endearingly nebbishy about Miss Corinth, and her and Mr. Crane’s slowly developing entanglement could prove a great source of comedy and sweetness in the weeks ahead. Admittedly, this means that the chance of Ichabod and Abbie hooking up will be delayed even further, but as someone who honestly prefers the two as platonic best buds, I don’t have a problem with that. (Although that doesn’t mean Abbie should be stuck living as a monk in the meantime.)

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All in all, an agreeable hour, albeit it one whose gimmicky nature keeps it from feeling entirely consistent. The trip to Washington may make for good press, but the results were less than essential; Howe’s second tomb was boobytrapped, but Booth’s response (shooting the lock) made the danger inconsequential for the sake of a decent gag. Here’s hoping fans of both shows enjoyed the crossover, and that the stunt helped pull in some new audience members. Artistically, it was inoffensive.

Stray observations

  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: He’s actually pretty cheery throughout, although he gets in a decent rant about Halloween early in the hour. Oh, and he’s quite frustrated that no one but Zoe recognizes his John Adams outfit. (This was one of the best jokes in the episode, too.)
  • While I don’t feel comfortable enough in my knowledge of Bones to attempt a serious review of its contribution to the crossover, I can at least say that, while I wasn’t hugely impressed by it, it seemed pleasant enough. This is very obviously a show in its eleventh season, with all the good and bad that can form that; the leads have a lived-in, just hanging out vibe going on, but the story itself, while philosophically intriguing, didn’t really go into much depth. Everything in “The Resurrection In The Remains” felt polished, but it also felt familiar even to someone who’s never really watched the show. Here’s the beat where we discover something, here’s the beat where the obvious suspect turns out to be a red herring, and so on. Granted, that familiarity comes from years of seeing similar procedurals, but there’s something, well, bare-bones about this. It’s a machine that produces comforting resonances.
  • Zoe was dressed up as Betsy Ross, ha ha. (Abbie was dressed up as Beyonace, and Jenny was dressed up as a Canadian Mountie. Not sure about Joe’s costume.)
  • Ichabod on Brennan: “She’d dismiss Moloch as a tall man with a skin condition.”
  • I appreciate a slow-burn as much as anyone, but I hope Pandora’s plans start to come into more focus soon.

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