Nicole Beharie (left), Tom Mison, tree
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One of my complaints at the start of Sleepy Hollow’s first season was the show’s utter disinterest in any kind of basic realism. Gravity still worked, people still bled when they got cut, and you still needed money to buy things, but that was about it; if the writers decided that a homicide detective needed to get paired up with a Rip Van Winkle type from the 18th century, that’s what happened, consequences and logic be damned. In retrospect, this was a silly criticism. While season one had its flaws, “poor understanding of police procedure” was not one of them. Abbie and Ichabod teaming up was less laziness and more an understanding (conscious or not) of what really mattered in all of this insanity. This isn’t supposed to be “realism,” and the show’s willingness to embrace that—to not get bogged down by gritty angst and tepid minimalism—is one of it’s greatest assets.

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Which is why it’s a bit weird to come into the second episode of the second season and find there’s a new chief of police in town. Well, okay, the fact that she’s new isn’t weird in and of itself: Irving’s still behind bars, and even Sleepy Hollow can’t ignore that. What is weird is that Leena Reyes (Sakina Jaffrey) turns out to be a bit of a stickler for the rules. She shoots down the Ichabod and Abbie partnership, arrests Jenny for carrying around a bag of guns (and oh yeah that whole “escaped from a mental hospital” thing), and immediately sees through Irving’s efforts to ease his suffering by getting a transfer to a psych ward. These are, for the most part, entirely sensible actions. Jenny hanging around police property is not a great tactical move, and there’s no easily explainable reason as to why Ichabod and Abbie should still be working together. (The chief’s weird interest in making sure Irving gets electroshock treatment is a little less understandable. Jaffrey plays it as though the character is just trying to ensure that justice is done for Irving’s crimes, but the premise has a strange undercurrent of sadism that doesn’t make much sense with what we’ve seen so far.)

There’s no way of knowing how Leena’s presence will affect things going forward. Judging by this episode, her strict, by-the-book approach to the law is going to be more of a hindrance than a help, and that’s a tricky balance to pull off. Done well, she could be an occasionally thorn in our heroes’ side, someone to force them to work harder in ways that make for more interesting and exciting stories. Done poorly, she’ll drag everything down as we spend too much time debating the legality of trying to arrest a Horseman of the apocalypse. As Chief, Irving was one of the weakest parts of last season; not because the character, exactly, but because the show kept giving him storylines that didn’t connect directly with Abbie and Ichabod, wasting time on shallow family drama when we really wanted to be chasing monsters. Now that he’s locked away, Irving seems more relevant, especially in a last minute twist that has Henry Parrish introducing himself as Irving’s new lawyer. (I can’t imagine this relationship will last long, but Henry seemed mostly interested in getting Irving to sign a contract in blood, which is probably not going to go well for him.) So far, Jaffrey’s low-key performance and connection to Abbie and Jenny’s past make her interesting; here’s hoping she doesn’t have to go to jail for that to last.

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As for the rest of the episode, it does a fine job of giving us yet another spooky mythological monster, this time with a twist. Our heroes are able to track the Headless Horseman and Katrina down, but realizing they are no match for him (or him and Henry together), they search for a secret weapon. The result: the Kindred, a reanimated “Franklinstein’s monster” sown together from pieces of dead soldiers, and topped off with the Headless Horseman’s lost skull. It’s a cool idea that gives us a chance to spend a bit more time with Benjamin Franklin (or rather, the memory of him), and also raises some questions about just how far Ichabod is willing to go to save his wife, and if his choices are putting the larger mission at risk. These questions seem more like a way to give Abbie and Ichabod something to argue about than a legitimate concern, as it’s not as though there’s an obvious attack from Moloch they’re ignoring while raising the dead, but the arguments never go past the “I’m worried” stage, so it’s not really an issue.

The other major trick “The Kindred” pulls is in finding a way to keep Ichabod and Katrina apart for a while longer. It’s not even that contrived: After spending some time with Abraham, Katrina is able to convince him to agree not to force a certain binding ritual on her. She promises him that she’ll eventually come to him willingly, which of course he believes. As she later explains to Ichabod, she’s in a perfect position to spy on the Horseman and Henry as they make their plans, giving our heroes a much needed edge in the battle to come. Given the horrible consequences if Abraham of the Phantom Head suddenly gets sick of waiting and decides to make her his bride, I’m not entirely convinced that this is a good play. But on the other hand, the end of the world is at stake, so some risk is surely necessary. And on a plot level, it makes sense to keep Ichabod and Katrina apart. The Abbie/Ichabod dynamic works well if there’s just a hint of unconscious romantic chemistry between them, and having Katrina around could force things into a focus in a way that we’re not quite ready for. (Right now, the show is mostly just playing up Katrina’s potential jealousy of Abbie.)

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On the whole, another solid entry. The cliffhangers have finally been resolved, and we’re getting some sense of how this season might look: Irving behind bars and serving as an unwitting pawn for Henry’s machinations, Reyes getting in the way (although she seems fundamentally decent so maybe she’ll eventually come round?), Katrina trying to stay one step ahead of her jilted, headless ex, and Henry running around twisting things to make way for Moloch’s ascendence. Oh, and Ichabod and Abbie just raised a dead guy, although all things considered, it actually worked out well for them. (And gave us an awesome fight scene between a walking corpse, a headless horseman, and a suit of armor with a flaming sword.) This is a good start. What’s next?

Stray observations:

  • The scene in the Savings and Loan when Ichabod rants about chained pens and easily gotten credit is, in its modest (but wonderful) way, the key to what makes this show work so well. Viewed on a plot level, this is a checklist scene: They need the head, Irving told him he stored it in a Savings and Loan, they go to the S&L and get the head. Nothing else happens. There’s no fight with a monster, or twist, or complication. So writing wise, the whole thing is kind of bland, and a lesser show would’ve skipped Ichabod’s struggle in the lobby entirely. But the writers on Sleepy Hollow realize that, as fun as the story is when it’s working, a large part of the series’ appeal is its humor. Ichabod’s rant about pens served no plot purpose, but it was hilarious and entirely character appropriate; it served the texture of the show, and reinforced that we’re here for the people first, the plots second.
  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Does Not Approve This Week: Chained pens, easy credit, the wedding industry. “These people entrust you with their fortune, yet you cannot entrust them with a simple inkwell?”
  • “This is insane!” “Too much of my life can be characterized under those auspices.”
  • “Do we need to light candles or something?” “Only if you wish to set a mood.”
  • The Kindred is still loose, by the way.

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