This Sleepy Hollow: “Blood and Fear” review contains spoilers.
Well after a long hiatus, I am back on the Sleepy Hollow beat for season 3. It’s been a while since I put pen to paper in regard to the travails of Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills, but I can say little has changed for them. In fact, despite Abbie being a member of the FBI now (of at least Clarice Starling proportions) and Ichabod on the outs once more with law enforcement, their banter has remained pretty much the same.
This is a good thing. What seems less sparkling or comforting is the return to certain procedural beats. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all could go the rest of the series, however long that is, without hearing the words “Katrina” or “Henry” ever again. Yet, the apocalyptic bent of both seasons 1 and 2 felt like it was building to something grand. Unfortunately, this turned out to not be the case with season 2’s finale. Nevertheless and after three episodes, Sleepy Hollow season 3 seems to have fallen onto the well-worn and wooded paths that were so well trodden by both seasons in their lighter moments—and so far there has been little new to spruce the formula up.
Yes, there’s a new villain named Pandora who is a lot less flashy than Moloch, but there is also a Monster of the Week formula that already was running thin a year ago. In this particular episode, you could practically see the pixels of the word processor it was conceived on.
Normally, I smirk and even get nerdy thrills out of the incorporation of historical fiction into this series, but Jack the Ripper, really?
Where the episode does work is when Ichabod Crane gives an impassioned speech to unimpressed government workers about the Founders’ ideals. Indeed, in his romantic subplot that looks poised to drift Ichabod away from Abbie as conveniently as Agent Reynolds will try to pull Abbie away from Crane—didn’t we just get rid of Katrina, guys?!—Ichabod is at least given a new mission: go through the legal process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Details like his birth certificate in Britain showing he was born in the 18th century are trivialities, dammit! Let Ichabod become an American… it’s not like the original Washington Irving character already wasn’t one.
This is a fun diversion and will likely be a season long arc for Mr. Crane (or at least until fall sweeps). But in contrast, suggesting that Jack the Ripper is a part of Ichabod’s past seems a bridge too lazy. While having a ghost of Thomas Jefferson waiting on gaslight projection for Ichabod in an undiscovered library is no more far fetched, the conceit that Ichabod has a history with the murders of Whitechapel in 1888 London—where a man with medical knowledge used surgical strikes to murder prostitutes—is not only preposterous, it doesn’t even make sense. If this ancient blade of the 10th century is responsible for the murders, it should discount the Ripper connection of medical knowledge. Also mudding the concept is the idea that the Ripper can be anybody, but neither the killer from Ichabod’s youth, nor the one in Sleepy Hollow bear any similarities to each other or old Jack.
I know this might come off as pointless nitpicking. But it serves a larger point: the reason Jack the Ripper paint was slathered onto this episode is that there was hope it would enliven is a rather generic plot. A young man meets a demon lover/succubus named Pandora, who simply gives him a blade that turns him into a slightly supernatural serial killer. Think the symbiote of Marvel Comics fame meets just about any other weekly bad guy on CSI, Castle, or Bones.
It is a bit of half-hearted seasoning to an otherwise flavorless meal. And while she can speak English and emote as a character, unlike Moloch, there is little about Pandora at this point that makes me feel like the world is about to end.
The series’ humor still works, Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie always work, and some of the nifty creature feature designs are still fun. But perhaps things are just working out too well for Ichabod and Abbie in every department, save for their love life.
In the middle of this evening’s installment, Ichabod muses to Abbie that he just wishes the Second Tribulation can be easier than the first. If the whole of season 3 is anything like this episode, there are no worries to be had, my fair Ichabod.