“Sleepy Hollow” 9/23/2013 (spoilers): Donut Hole Tax Reform NOW!

Tom Mison, Ichabod Crane, Sleepy Hollow

The gentleman doth protest his receipt. From tonight’s cute scene in which Crane learns about the pitfalls of taxation with representation.

The second episode of Fox’s new Monday night spooky-action series, Sleepy Hollow, understandably has to work with a fraction of the pilot’s budget, but scores best when it keeps the focus on our heroes, the time-displaced Ichabod Crane and present-day police Lieutenant Abbie Mills, whose chemistry compensates for this week’s villain, a dead witch who has no lines and hides in the shadows between jump-cuts. We also saw a couple of unexpected returns and a clever use of Post-It Notes as an educational tool that Memento‘s Leonard Shelby wishes he’d thought of first.

For those who missed out, my attempt to streamline the basic events follows after this courtesy spoiler alert for the sake of time-shifted viewers.

Tonight’s Sleepy Hollow was brought to you by Overtaxed Donut Holes. 8.25% government-levied, 100% delicious!

Our villains’ shenanigans untangled, then:

The as-yet-unnamed demon thing remains the front-line Big Bad while the Horseman takes a week off to clear his head. Last week he learned he once appeared to young Abbie and her little sister Jenny when they were kids, drove Jenny insane, and scared Abbie into juvenile delinquency as a coping mechanism. We also saw the same entity speak Greek, kill the evil toady deputy Andy (Star Trek‘s John Cho, free from his Go On gig), and escape from his locked cell via mirror magic. This week it brings Andy back from the dead (ickiest scene tonight) and assigns him the task of abetting the resurrection of one of its important evil dead pawns, a witch named Serilda of Abaddon, whose death by witch-trial bonfire was partly the fault of Crane’s wife Katrina, now trapped in a “world between worlds”, exact nature still vague.

Andy’s side quest consists of regurgitating a pendant (no idea how it even got there), placing it on a grave, watching Serilda arise as the shambling undead, then going underground and digging up her actual bones. I’m unclear why the place that wasn’t her actual resting place held any magical usefulness to her at all. This kind of ignorance on my part is just another reason I’ll never be hired to manage an evil demon army.

Phase two of Serilda’s ritual requires her to fetch parts from the last two descendants of the judge who sentenced her to bonfire without parole. One of those two is alive until she flash-fries him in his car and takes enough of him to suit her needs; the other is already dead, cremated, urn’d, and sufficiently pre-fried. Her evil recipe doesn’t call for fresh ingredients. In one of many underground tunnels that have lain beneath Sleepy Hollow since Crane’s time, she tosses two sets of charred remains with a heaping helping of random witches-brew gewgaws, lies down, merges with her dusty bones, and watches the clock turn back on centuries of horrid decomposition, without needing so much as an ounce of skin lotion.

Meanwhile, Our Heroes are set upon the trail when Crane receives a vision from Katrina, which of course Abbie mocks. From there they’re grimacing at the first victim’s torched car; discovering that King Evil Demon manipulated Andy’s closed-circuit cell footage to remove himself and reboot Andy’s death as a laughably improbable suicide; and tracking down Corbin’s files, which have been moved from the office he no longer needs, into the armory (read: police storage) across the street. The armory is secured, but Crane uses his knowledge of Sleepy Hollow’s underground network to find a back way inside. Fortunately for them and us, Corbin’s files contain nearly as much plot-pertinent intel as Rupert Giles’ library.

All this culminates in a showdown in the tunnels, whose contents luckily include crates of leftover Revolutionary War gunpowder stored in just the right cubbyhole (with a quick joke about gunpowder expiration dates, before we can think it), allowing Abbie and Crane to light a fuse, duck-‘n’-cover, and let the ensuing explosion take her out without singeing their hair or clothes. I’m curious to know how an explosion harms a witch who made herself explode earlier in the episode.

Other items of note:

* Between cases, Crane stays at a motel in Room 222. This is either numerologically meaningful or a cutesy classic-TV homage. The appliances in his room are covered with Post-It Notes, telling him each object’s purpose. It was brave of the writers to eliminate half a dozen future sight gags in a single stroke, but I like that Abbie and/or Crane are putting thought into his adjustment to life in a new century.

* We’re told the names of the Four Horseman are Death, War, Famine, and Conquest — opting for an older-school interpretation instead of Hollywood’s preference for Pestilence. As with last week’s little touches, it’s nice to see someone putting a little more thought and research into their Armageddon.

* Captain Irving (Orlando Jones, obviously and archly named) is in Albany for most of the episode, “securing some resources.” Was this because they had nothing for him to do this week…or because he’s evil? DUN-DUN-DUUUNNNN!

* Katrina’s good-witch coven is officially named the Sisterhood of the Radiant Heart, which would be a great title for a young-adult Sleepy Hollow Gothic-romance-novel spinoff series. Wait, no, I meant the opposite of great. I couldn’t even type that name without laughing at it.

* We also meet Abbie’s ex-boyfriend Luke (Nicholas Gonzalez), a fellow cop who’s so far irritable and meaningless. I presume we’ll see more in him soon.

* Crane reveals he has an eidetic memory, like every TV cop whose plots require instant recall of all the details. I’d consider that a tidy cop-out if Tom Mihon weren’t carrying it so well.

* Best emotional beat between Our Heroes: when Abbie protests the unreality of it all, Crane reminds her that, up until last week, he didn’t believe in any of this nonsense, either. That’s a rare viewpoint in these fantastical buddy stories, where usually one partner knows all about magic and the other thinks everything’s a scam. Here, Crane is only a step or two ahead of Abbie on the Road to Believing.

The best emotional beat in general: Abbie receives her own “vision” from Sheriff Corbin (Clancy Brown), who tries to reassure her from beyond, letting us feel the deep mentor/student connection between them, while also giving her one cryptic instruction: “Don’t be afraid of #49.”

Final scene: the town sanitarium. The inmate in room 49 is an adult Jennifer Mills (Lyndie Greenwood from Nikita) — intense, skipping her meds, keeping muscular, and unaware of the demon’s watchful eye.

To be continued!

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