Find a jukebox in a small-town bar and cue up “Sympathy for the Devil,” because Sleepy Hollow is back — not just from its summer hiatus, but from whatever walk into the woods it took last year. The season 3 premiere might not be as explosive as the trip through purgatory that kicked off season 2, but it makes the kind of promise that’s easier to keep: the promise to return to the basics. Welcome back, Witnesses.
It’s been nine months since Abbie and Crane have seen each other, and it’s been even longer since Past Crane met the cell phone as Present Crane finally killed Katrina. Every version of Crane — and Abbie — has earned a vacation. Abbie, of course, hasn’t taken one. Instead, she followed through on her plan to join the FBI, and she’s advancing quickly through the ranks at the conveniently located Westchester branch. She’s already part of a task force, under the leadership of new mentor Mitch Granger, working to take down a multi-state drug trafficking ring known as Anaconda. Abbie has fought multiple horsemen of the apocalypse, and now she’s stuck with people who think “Anaconda” is an original name for a drug ring. Someone challenge her, please.
Enter Crane. Losing both his wife and his son made our displaced colonial soldier even more contemplative than usual, so he chopped off his hair and booked a flight to his ancestral home in Scotland. Maybe the rest of the Crane family would share his distaste for chained-up bank pens. But where he hoped to find living relatives, Crane found only a tomb with his own name, which is absolutely a metaphor for his life. Inside the tomb was a 4,000-year-old tablet marked with Sumerian engravings. Roughly translated, the tablet read, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
Or so Crane says. He believes that he’s stumbled upon the key to their mission, but Abbie thinks that’s just because he wants to believe it. She’s Scully-ing his Mulder all over again, but not because she doubts what they’ve done — she just thinks their mission is over. They’ve already defeated Moloch, and translation is far from an exact science. “For all you know,” she reasons, “this is Sumerian Sudoku.”
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If it is, it’s caused a lot of trouble. Customs was understandably not cool with letting Crane funnel an ancient tablet across the border, so they locked him up. He’s been in the custody of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for five days before he even calls Abbie, possibly because he feels guilty for falling out of touch — a “deeply regrettable” habit, to be sure, but how can she stay mad at him with such an eloquent apology? And he’s got news: Katrina’s old necklace has lost its power. Since the charm was linked to Abraham’s soul, Crane is convinced that something’s happened to the Horseman of Death. He doesn’t know how right he is.
A hooded woman has caught Headless in some kind of box, giving it — or her? — the power of death. Now, she needs fear (and then a heart and then some courage), so she calls upon the yaoguai, a battlefield demon that paralyzes people in a moment of terror and feeds on their fright. It’s a demon, so this process also kills them. Abbie’s just gotten Crane out of lockup when she gets the call about the first attack — she might as well bring him along. It’s not like she’s never taken the liberty of inviting him to a crime scene before. The FBI won’t mind. (And, actually, the Bureau minds less than Irving ever did. Our country is in good hands!)
Two brothers are dead in a national park, and authorities suspect an animal attack — but as skeptical as she is, Abbie knows the area, and it doesn’t have the right kind of predators. Crane finds an unfamiliar footprint in the mud by a well. He sprinkles it with dragon’s breath, which heats up in the presence of demons, and just as he and Abbie are about to walk away, the footprint catches fire. Does that count as heat? In the words of Ichabod Crane, “Evil has returned to Sleepy Hollow.”
Crane declares this the start of their second tribulation as Witnesses (one down, six to go, demons), but Abbie still isn’t ready to go full apocalypse again. “Maybe a stray monster didn’t get the ‘War’s over’ memo,” she suggests. It really is impressive how hard she’s trying. But no amount of rationalization will stand against Crane’s request to return to the archives, which have been shuttered for months. And — here’s a horror worse than any fear demon — the building is slated for demolition. Crane wonders aloud if there’s any regard for history anymore. Where’s he been these past three years?
NEXT: Some of Ichabod’s best friends are puns