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Sleepy Hollow season 3: Six reasons we're optimistic

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Tina Rowden/Fox

After an unexpected smash hit of a first season, Sleepy Hollow stumbled in its second, focusing too much on Katrina (Katia Winter) and Henry (John Noble) while the rest of its diverse ensemble waited in purgatory — sometimes literally. But it’s not too late for TV’s only apocalyptic time travel procedural to find its way out of the woods and back onto the highway — to the tune of “Sympathy for the Devil” — and after Thursday’s solid return, it looks like the show is on the right path. Here’s why the season 3 premiere has us fist-bumping again:

1. Those pilot callbacks

Series star Tom Mison (Ichabod Crane) says that he wouldn’t necessarily call this a reboot to season 1, and it isn’t. Sleepy doesn’t need to start over entirely. But the echoes of the pilot in Thursday’s episode did send a message that the show is getting back to basics — with a few new twists to honor the characters’ growth. The season 3 premiere found Abbie (Nicole Beharie) bailing Crane out of custody again and taking him to a crime scene uninvited. It also found her doubting every word out of his mouth, but not because she still has questions about the whole apocalypse thing. She just thinks they took care of it already. There’s also the small matter of the fact that Abbie’s mentors keep losing their heads — though this boss worked for the Bureau. Moving on up.

2. Abbie has an objective

Abbie’s plan to join the FBI was sidelined in the pilot when she realized that the real fight was in Sleepy Hollow. She got back on track when the demons took a vacation, but now they’re back, too — and that gives her a story. After taking a backseat for much of last season, Abbie now faces a conflict that revolves not around her relationship with Crane, but around her own ambitions. How will she balance her role as a Witness with her job for the FBI? It’s “Can she have it all?” with a twist: Her “baby” is saving the world. Abbie Mills deserves nothing less.

3. The Witnesses are front and center

Say goodbye to the Katrina-and-Henry-shaped wedge between Abbie and Crane: Our Witnesses are back on solid ground. “What’s good is that it’s not even a case of finding their feet again,” Mison told EW before the premiere. “You just see that they can’t not find their feet together. Even after something as terrible as what happened in the finale, plus a year without any kind of contact, and lots of questions left unanswered, they get together and they belong together.” Season 3’s first hour was an ode to the Witnesses’ dynamic that saw them watching each other’s backs and hugging it out like no time had passed. Now if we could only arrange for some more karaoke …

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4. Jenny is a full-fledged member of the team

Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) might be the only person who can hang with Abbie and Crane without feeling like a third wheel. As Abbie’s sister and Crane’s fellow outsider, she’s equally equipped to deal with them both, and they need her to keep them in line. Jenny has the connections, the weapons, and most of the big ideas — and the more the show uses her, the stronger every relationship seems.

5. The danger is back

When Henry dispatched of Moloch midway through season 2, he did away with the Witnesses’ sense of direction, too. Ushering in their second tribulation (of seven!) raises the stakes, giving Abbie and Crane a new mission and the series a much clearer path. And since the Witnesses’ dynamic, the show’s strongest asset, is sharpest when they’re backed into a corner, bring on that apocalypse.

6. Our new Big Bad is intriguing

At this point, Pandora (Shannyn Sossamon) is still as mysterious as her box, but she’s also just as endless. She can change clothes in an instant, she has multiple accents at her disposal, and she fills the koi ponds of her cavernous lair with man’s distilled fear. Yes, please. And because Pandora opened the hour by taking Headless’ power, she still bears an indirect association to the baddie who started it all. Off with her hooded head? Not quite yet.

Watch star Tom Mison (try to) explain Sleepy Hollow in just 30 seconds!