Pandora reminds me quite a bit of a 90s era villainess, one who wouldnt’ be out of place on Xena or Beastmaster (both shows I used to watch waay too much of). She’s in the shadows, watching Ichabod and Abbie’s progress through a pool of water and releasing monsters from her infamous box whenever the mood suits her. Her motivations are flimsy aside from just wreaking havoc and making Abbie and Ichabod miserable. Her flowing gowns and her recurring disguises are only additions to the fun persona she’s building up, but this can only last so long. Now that Ichabod and Abbie are in the second tribulation, you’d think there would be some structure to it. Granted it’s only episode two, and there’s time enough for Pandora’s motives to become clear, but when Moloch’s plans to unleash hell on earth were so clear, Pandora’s uncertain place is more clear.
The bad guy this episode is just as shapeless as Pandora, and not nearly as amusing. It’s a shadow monster who comes and murders people who are being tormented by secrets. These secrets don’t, apparently, have to be at all interesting or even really secrets. The monster’s victims are those looking to expose an embezzlement scheme (could you pick a more boring secret Sleepy Hollow?) and when Ichabod comes under fire he deduces it’s because he’s also carrying a secret around with him. In true Ichabod fashion, it’s a dumb secret based in Ichabod’s own inflamed self-importance: Captured by a British general, he was asked to give up the names of spies and almost did. But then he didn’t. So….okay Ichabod thank you for that pointless contribution to an already rather pointless monster plot. If Abbie and Ichabod can be killed for secrets that are relatively toothless, what about all the more pressing secrets in the world? Like murder and stuff?
To be fair, Abbie’s secret is a bit more compelling than Ichabod’s though it’s still difficult to say why a monster would be so interested in killing her because of it. Her and Jenny’s father is still alive and she knows where he is. She’s even been taking secret pictures of him and has yet to tell Jenny or decide what to do with this knowledge. After two seasons of Abbie’s backstory being mostly a mystery, the dangling of Abbie and Jenny’s dad is an exciting element that I hope the show doesn’t drop the ball on. One of the few highlights of season two was “Mama” which finally gave Jenny and Abbie something that wasn’t related to Ichabod or his woeful family. There’s hardly any room to even speculate over what the deal is with Abbie’s dad, but I’ll take anything after getting so little.
The monster of the week is easily dispatched by Ichabod just saying his name, a tip he remembers from another American Revolution flashback and Betsy Ross. This simple fix is annoying solution to an annoying problem, and while Ichabod’s flashbacks may be more cohesive with Betsy showing up in them consistently, it’s sloppily conducted. Deserter Ichabod arrives at the home of a Briish general and isnt’ reocgnized by anyone. Betsy’s there doing something, I’m not sure what and helps Ichabod stumble upon the dead bodies of their comrades. Betsy is, unfortunately, yet another weak spot in the show’s reboot. There’s little sense of her as a character, other than her flirtation with Ichabod. She comes and she goes, and in this episode does little aside from flirting with someone and yelling at the shadow monster before escaping with Ichabod. Betsy wouldn’t be Sleepy Hollow‘s first shallowly characterized female character, and there’s little reason it shouldn’t find something in her that’s more compelling than her attraction to her partner.
I don’t expect everyone to immediately light up the screen opposite Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison as they do, but it would be nice if the show made some effort to make pairings work. Sometimes I’m not even sure if there’s real effort on their part with Abbie and Ichabod or if the show just lucked out with Beharie and Mison. Now that the Witnesses are living as roommates, it gets the show more opportunities for banter, and between Abbie and Ichabod there can never be too much banter. And their new cohabitation gives way to one of the episode’s strangest and most hilarious scenes, as Ichabod is introduced to Daniel Reynolds, a classmate of Abbie’s from Quantico who’s risen in the ranks and is now acting as regional chief. Ichabod steps closer to Abbie in a weird territorial fashion and announces that he’s there because he came with Abbie after being called away during dinner. Why this happens I’m not sure, but as an Ichabbie shipper I’ll take Ichabod being weirdly on the offense when Abbie’s confronted by someone who was obviously important to her in a non-professional capacity.
Also turning up to cement his series regular status is Joe Corbin. The whole sideplot with him and Jenny isn’t really boring so much as just confusing. One of Jenny’s old friends appears looking for a shard Jenny stole on Corbin Sr’s orders. Joe was interesting when he first appeared last season, and bringing him back was a nice move. Extending the reach of the Witnesses is a better bet than keeping it isolated. But Corbin’s stoyline this episode is based on him being kept in the dark, which is a confusing stance for Jenny and the show to take, even momentarily. Last season had Joe cursed and turning into a monster, but Jenny’s worried about protecting his delicate sensibilities and reassuring him of the affection his dad had for him. But who cares though? The last time Abbie and Joe interacted, it was much the same, and I’m wondering why Joe Corbin, a grown man, is treated like a thirteen year old with daddy issues?
But I digress. Sleepy Hollow is beginning to feel more like it did season one, and like season two, there’s promise that I’m not sure the show realizes is there. Betsy and Joe could be a great additions to bolster the show’s ranks and give it a more ensemble feeling, but the show struggled with this when it tried it before and lost sight of what made it great to begin with. A wobbly start is understandable. If I’m thinking about this as a new season one, with a new team trying to make a new impression, it makes sense for there to be a bit of a learning curve, but it doesn’t have the room it once did for this to happen. It’s probably asking a lot for Sleepy Hollow to come back and have it all figured out, but that’s unfortunately what it has to do now.