At this point there’s no use pretending that the Hidden One and Pandora are supposed to be scary. After Pandora has a modest team-up with Abbie and the others (during which, so far as I can tell, she doesn’t betray them, she helps save Ichabod’s life, she reveals her own mistakes, and she cures Joe of his Wendigo problem), she’s practically a borderline anti-hero, even taking into account all those people her monsters have killed. And after the Hidden One spends a few hours trapped in a room with Ichabod debating the merits of human society, it’s even harder than it was before to view him as a real threat. Whether or not that’s problem is debatable, but it should still be acknowledged. Even Henry was scarier than these two.

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Things start off on the wrong note (heh) almost at once. Conceptually, there’s nothing wrong with the cold open that shows a trio of middle-aged rockers getting their ears blown out by a banshee. It’s mildly funny, inventive, and the banshee looks cool. Structurally, though, it’s frustrating—the last thing we saw in the previous episode (which the “previously on” helpfully reminds us) was the Hidden One transported himself away from his lair, determined to kill the Witnesses once and for all. The idea of a villain circumventing the careful “wait till the end of the season” structure that most shows follow is potentially exciting, and for a brief second or two, it seemed like there might be some actual tension on the show again.

But the cold open was more or less a signal to let us know that this nothing really serious was about to go down. Instead of building off the momentum from last week, the episode immediately goes back to its usual, predictable pattern. That doesn’t make it terrible by any stretch of the imagination, and there’s a lot to like here; it’s fairly clever the way the banshee is essentially a misdirect, although it’s too bad that one of the cooler looking creatures (and one with a fairly familiar mythology) gets short-changed so significantly. It’s just frustrating to see narrative potential sidelined in such an obvious, self-defeating manner.

Once “Incommunicado” gets going, it hits the same groove the season’s been working through for weeks now. The actual story is passable, but nothing spectacular: it turns out the symbol Abbie’s been obsessing over is the Emblem of Thura, a device made to imprison gods and drain their power. When the Hidden One tries to kill Ichabod, the device kicks in, trapping them both. Pandora shows up, explains the situation to Abbie, and offers to help if they can get her a monster to fuel her box—things go badly with the banshee, Joe steps in, everything turns out more or less okay in the end except for those three dudes at the beginning who you’ve probably already forgotten about.

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There should be tension here, but there really isn’t. Closest we get is the moment the Hidden One lets loose on Ichabod; we know he’s not actually going to kill our favorite time traveller, but there’s a second where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, and it’s pretty sweet. Otherwise, apart from the banshee fake out, this is all easy to predict. It fits in with just how not-scary the Hidden One and Pandora have become. I think I’ve already made this comparison, but they’re essentially Saturday morning cartoon villains now, firing lasers that never hit their intended targets.

What works, though, is the reason to keep coming back. Ichabod’s few scenes arguing with the Hidden One are good enough to make me wish more of the hour had been spent with the two of them. His list of reasons as to why humanity is worth defending is a bit corny, but in just the right kind of way, and it’s exciting to see Ichabod actually standing up for something again, instead of running constant goofy interference. His outsider’s perspective has been largely restricted to one off jokes at this point, and it’s good to have him using his experiences in a more meaningful, positive way.

Abbie is a rock, as ever, and her and Pandora’s scenes together offer a surprising amount of chemistry. (Maybe Pandora will end up turning on the Hidden One in the end? Dudes suck, after all.) And Jenny and Joe’s partnership remains the most consistently believable and engaging romantic relationship the show has yet produced. They are a natural fit together, and while nothing that happens here is exactly new—Jenny desperate to protect Joe, and then being the only one who can talk him down once he goes full Wendigo—it’s still affecting.

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That’s the heart of Sleepy Hollow’s appeal for me at this point. After spending so many paragraphs explaining why “Incommunicado” is not a great hour of television, I can’t pretend I didn’t largely enjoy it, even as I was irked by its shortcomings. I’m sure the show still has the capacity to surprise, but I have no real faith it will try to do so. Instead, I’m content to enjoy the familiar, charmingly repackaged.

Stray observations

  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Approve Of This Week: It’s an impressively long list, but the bit that stuck with me was his praise of Charles Schultz. Anyone who praises Charles Schultz is on the side of the angels.
  • “Can we just have one practice where you don’t quit the band, Kyle?”
  • “You should know… I’ve died before.” -Ichabod
  • Considering the aggressiveness of the Irish stereotypes on display here, it’s probably for the best that the banshee got limited screentime.
  • “I take it you’re not a reader.” “Omnipotent.” (But not omnipotent enough to know about that symbol, eh? Eh?)
  • “I’m eating my feelings.” -Ichabod
  • Nice how the symbol conveniently shows the Hidden One Pandora’s “It’s my fault” speech.”
  • No more emblem. Seems kind of abrupt. Maybe they’ll make another one?

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