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'Sleepy Hollow' recap: 'What Lies Beneath'

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Brownie Harris/FOX

Sleepy Hollow

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, John Cho, Katia Winter
Mystery and Thriller, Crime, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Tonight’s Sleepy Hollow had it all: the dizzying highs, the terrifying lows, the creamy middles. Well, except that the highs weren’t all that high, and the lows were pretty darn low. Maybe we should keep the evaluation around “C” level after all.

In the pro corner: “What Lies Beneath” displayed a decent amount of good, old-fashioned, kooky-batshit Sleepy Hollow energy. The hour’s inciting incident revealed the existence of an entirely new corner of Sleepy Hollow’s subterranean village—a Chamber of Secrets housing zombie Colonial infantrymen, enough old books to make Belle weep, and a big ol’ magic lightbox powering (drumroll please) a hologram of Thomas Monkey-Fighting Jefferson, projected via “a combination of science and witchcraft.” Is this a clear attempt at re-harnassing the glory that was Zombie George Washington? Of course. But it’s still a pretty neat trick.

Tonight’s Sleepy also managed to introduce an intriguing new civilian character without immediately subjecting him to a grisly death. The new guy in town is Calvin Riggs, a Sleepy native turned hardass war correspondent who’s been noticing that his hometown tends to see a lot more weird disappearances and painting-related homicides than the average Westchester hamlet. Calvin doesn’t have a ton to do in the episode beyond getting in Abbie and Ichabod’s way, but his crusader mind-set and deep military know-how will probably come in handy in future episodes—not to mention the shadow of a romantic spark he seemed to share with Abbie. (It also helps that he’s played by White Collar‘s Sharif Atkins, who, like basically everyone on this series, happens to be preeetty easy on the eyes.)

And finally, there was the Irving story line, in which Jenny finally realized beyond a shadow of a doubt that Irving has really, truly turned to the Dark Side—which certainly counts as a win, since I’d hate to see the show keep the Sisters Mills and Ichabod in the dark about Frank’s actual nature for no reason other than water-treading. Simply by glancing at the mysterious markings on his forearm (including what appears to be a Vine logo), J can tell that something’s amiss with her sister’s ex-boss. Playing along when he asks her to break into the station to help him retrieve his “personal belongings” gets her close enough to see what he’s really after: a ledger and flash drive branded by the Hellfire Club, an oft-referenced eeeeevil organization that’s loyal to Henry. 

So the cornered Irving finally reveals what’s going on with him: He’s managed to stave off total demonification thanks to an enchanted pog he found in one of Henry’s books. But sooner rather than later, the spellbound slammer will run out, transforming Frank into a full-blown minion of the Horseman of War (or whatever Henry’s going by these days). His last act as a semi free-thinking man is to secure funds for his wife and adorable, wheelchair-bound daughter, so that the two of them can leave Sleepy Hollow for a place with slightly more reasonable property values. You’d think, given his current lucidity, that Irving would also take this opportunity to, I don’t know, tell his old pal Jenny everything he knows about Henry’s current evil plan, and what the Witnesses can possibly do to stop it. You would, however, be wrong.

Which brings me to the major con of this episode: It’s marked by a severe lack of common sense. And not the sort of common sense that declares there’s no such thing as Zombie George Washington, or that a single colonial spy couldn’t possibly have rubbed elbows with every celebrated Revolution-era figure, or that Jenny should probably, like, have to get a job at some point—i.e. wet blanket common sense that can suck the fun out of any story if you let it, especially something as unapologetically bonkers as Sleepy Hollow at its best.

Nope—instead, I’m talking about basic narrative common sense, the type that means a series can be as outlandish as it wants provided it follows the rules of its own internal logic. In Sleepy Hollow‘s case, that internal logic decrees a few foundational things: first, that Ichabod and Abbie are doing whatever they can to save the world from apocalypse, and two, that they’re both seasoned, clever tacticians, Ichabod thanks to his eidetic memory and Abbie thanks to her years of practical police experience.

So why, why, why would these two make the entirely boneheaded decision they make at the end of “What Lies Beneath”?

Let’s back up. The Witnesses discover the Chamber of Secrets—which, technically, is a “fenestella,” Italian for “we have a thesaurus”—after three construction workers mysteriously disappear. The men were surveying the tunnels beneath Sleepy Hollow when they vanished; we know, thanks to the hour’s cold open, that they’ve been dragged even deeper by some sort of demon lurking below an ornately decorated manhole cover. Luckily, they drop part of their radar mapping equipment beneath the surface shortly after going missing—and the image it generates informs Ichabod that the chamber must have been designed by Thomas Jefferson. Because only one guy in American history has ever liked Italian buildings.

Grace Dixon’s journal fills in the last piece of the puzzle—Jefferson did indeed design the fenestella, which is filled with damned souls designed to guard its precious contents. So, naturally, Ichabod and Abbie choose to pry open the manhole and trundle into the demon-filled hole without asking for any backup from Irving, Jenny, Katrina, freakin’ Headless, or a still-missing Hawley.

Surprise: It doesn’t go well.

NEXT: Through the manhole…