At a certain point for genre shows, being pleasant isn’t enough. Usually that point is right before we hit the season finale, because season finales (and the episodes leading into those season finales) are when the shit, like well-loved velveteen rabbits and little wooden boys with soul, becomes real. The last half dozen or so episodes of Sleepy Hollow have been gratifyingly fun to watch. The heroes are charming, their banter delightful, and the relationships work well. There’s been some decent character development, and the actual plotting, while rarely thrilling, has been able to stay out of the way of what’s actually working: namely, Ichabod and Abbie (and to a lesser extent, Jenny and Joe) doing their thing.
But that can only carry you so far. Sooner or later, the Hidden One and Pandora had to take focus again, as they do in “Delaware,” and everyone has to get all worked up about something that it’s still hard to find all that scary. As we’ve been told over and over again, once the Hidden One reaches full power, the world is doomed, but while that’s certainly useful information, it’s never held any actual weight. Up until this week, the Hidden One’s major contribution to the series has been glowering in a cave. (Oh and that one time when he killed a monster and the monster’s girlfriend.) Neither he nor Pandora have ever really unsettled, and at least Pandora has the benefit of having a personality.
This was easier to ignore when the two kept to the sidelines, but now their storyline actually has to matter again, and the result is kind of a drag. “Delaware” takes some chances—namely in the apparent death of Joe Corbin, and the resurrection of Betsy Ross—but too much of its running time is characters going off to do things that suddenly matter because we’re told they matter, and not much more besides that.
Jenny, Joe, Danny, Foster, and Pandora head to Bear Mountain to use ley lines to slow down the Hidden One’s recharging, and it’s essentially busy work designed to give them something to do and put them in the Hidden One’s orbit. This sort of convenient mythology is always a problem on shows with magic or magical technology; when in doubt, writers can just throw out any damn made up idea so long as it has some tenuous connection to logic. But while “ley lines” isn’t a new concept, and there’s something enjoyably practical about watching people pound poles into the ground to create magic, but, if you’ll pardon the pun, there are no stakes here. The Hidden One’s grand designs seem to encompass maybe five or six people at this point, and while these people are concerned, none of them seem actually terrified.
This changes somewhat when the Hidden One catches Jenny (who acts like an idiot purely to allow him to catch her) and decides to enact his revenge on Joe by permanently transforming him into a Wendigo. This is the only time in the episode where the threat has any real bite to it, because it’s no longer a theoretical concept. Joe is someone we like, and he goes full monster just when Ezra shows up to say hi. For a few brief minutes, it seems like something unexpected and awful might happen, and then Jenny shows up (great follow through, Hidden One), and we find out Ezra is actually a bad ass monster hunter in his own right! Which is a bit much. They fight the Wendigo, and Joe gets shot and killed, which I definitely was not expecting. We haven’t lost a major character I actually liked on this show in ages.
Meanwhile, Ichabod and Abbie make their goofy trip to the Catacombs, because of Pandora’s box and whatever. Again, it sometimes feels like someone tossed some words in the air and wrote them out however they landed, but the sight of Abbie singing the National Anthem while holding Betsy Ross’s flag while she and Ichabod cross the Delaware has a nutty charm to it. There‘s more historical repurposing, a zombie, and a lot of—arguably too much—bonding between our two heroes. I never thought I’d say this, but after a while, Abbie and Ichabod’s heartfelt conversations about how much they mean to one another begin to run the idea into the ground, especially in an hour that’s nominally about ramping up tension before next week’s big showdown. The conversations mostly serve to foreshadow Joe’s impending doom, but even there, the mournful, plodding approach does the episode no favors. These supposedly spontaneous moments of connection happen so regularly you can set your watch by them.
Then there’s Betsy Ross, alive and somehow not completely insane, in a development that’s not all that surprising. Sure, the details are unexpected, but ever since the season started pushing Ross as a Katrina replacement, it was inevitable that the writers would find some way to bring her back to the present day. There’s no thrill to seeing her up and about, and there’s no sense that she’s a romantic obstacle between Ichabod and Abbie, since Abbie’s already expressed her feelings for Danny. Betsy is an extraneous anachronism, and the only real hope now is that she sacrifices herself next week to save the world. But then, we’ve already lost Joe. Maybe two heroes in one season is asking too much.
- Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Approve Of This Week: He makes cappuccinos, foam art, and uses the phrase “truth bomb.”
- I wonder if Joe’s death will stick? It just seems so out of keeping with how this show works, but maybe the writers are trying something new.
- Right, the Hidden One is all powerful again, which is signified by him being red and glowy.
- Betsy thinks it’s still 1777. Apparently this is a shocking turn, because that—not Joe’s death, not the Hidden One’s ascension—is what the episode ends on. That’s the real cliffhanger here. Will Betsy find a calendar.