The monster of the week: A seductive succubus, who's got more to do with the master plot than you might assume.
Sleepy Hollow Recap
Credit: Fred Norris/Fox

Maybe Sleepy Hollow‘s second season has a secret subtitle: Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back.

Time has passed over the past eight episodes; our heroes have battled all kinds of things that go bump in the night, from an evil Pied Piper to a Wendigo to, er, some haunted coins. (Perhaps not everything has been equally spooky.) This episode adds another item to the monster laundry list: a sexy Succubus, who finds those burning with secret desires, transforms into a facsimile of the one that they want, and slurps their life force away like a kid with a tall glass of chocolate milk. There’s no doubt that she, like the other residents of Sleepy‘s beastly repertory company, is a cool-looking monster; it’s also nice to see gender equity in the demon community for a change.

Yet the Succubus comes and goes, and the show’s master plot remains basically stalled where it’s been since, oh, episode 2: Henry is scheming and brooding and growing stronger. Moloch’s ascension is getting closer by the hour (but, you know, still hasn’t happened yet). After a brief sojourn into the outside world, Katrina has gone back to Abraham—ostensibly to work against him, but maybe also because she wants to be with her son (and because she just might have a soft spot for ol’ Headless). The show keeps rustling feathers, then returning to square one—and while the hamster-wheel effect may not be a totally unexpected development, it sure is less exciting than the balls-to-the-wall plot propulsion of season 1. Alas, we all knew it’d be too beautiful to last.

That said, “Heartless” does take some baby steps toward actual new story developments—and also draws to the surface a few things that’ve been buried just underneath it. Mainly: Hotley’s hot for Abbie, even though he used to boink her sister. Awkward!

But we’ll get to that. First, the Succubus: She, like everyone else we’ve met this year, is working with/for Henry, who’s storing the life forces she obtains (from a poor bespectacled nerd bro and a lady who’s secretly pining for a female friend) inside the most evil lava lamp he could find in Spencer’s Gifts.

Abbie and Crane don’t know this yet; they do, however, start to figure out what they’re up against after new Scooby Gang member Katrina notes the markings on the victims, which indicate that something’s been sucking their life force dry. It’s exceedingly nice to see the witch finally make herself useful, though Abbie hasn’t quite gotten used to Mrs. Crane’s presence. And to be fair, neither has Ichabod, really—especially when Katrina has an unsettling vision (evil crib, cries of a demon baby), then requests some quince tea to calm her nerves. Why? Because it’s something Abraham gave her once under similar circumstances. Oof; guess they don’t teach tact at the Salem Witch Academy.

The Witnesses plus one put together the pieces of this week’s puzzle when Abbie realizes that Victim #1 was found in the backseat of his own car. Why would he be there? Two options: Either he’s a Lincoln Lawyer, or, he was getting busy when he died. Abbie uses the idiom before realizing that Ichabod probably has no idea what she’s talking about. Ichabod, however, knows exactly what she’s getting at: “Ahhhh, macking. He was macking on a lady.” Hey, turns out watching crappy reality TV can be educational after all!

NEXT: Ichabod and Hawley ask “what is love?”

They discover the truth about the succubus and where to find her just in time—because she’s currently trying to mack on none other than Hawley, who was seduced by Succy in the guise of (you guessed it) Abbie Mills. Twist! Ish. Talk about adding insult to injury. First Jenny doesn’t appear on the show for two straight weeks, then her sometime-beau decides he’d rather be dating her only sibling. Please, please, please don’t let this come between the Sisters Mills. Please.

With the help of the Witnesses—and the handy Maelstrom Crystal Hawley apparently carries around at all times, as one does—the devil in a black dress is temporarily vanquished. And afterward, the gang figures out her endgame, thanks to Katrina’s mysterious visions. Turns out she’s not dreaming—she’s actually seeing inside Fredericks Manor, a.k.a. Henry’s evil headquarters. Because she shares a mystical bond with something that lives there. Because—wait for it—the fake aurora borealis? Yeah, it didn’t exactly kill bouncing baby Moloch last week. Instead, the father of all demons is currently hanging tight in Henry’s Crib of Doom, growing big and strong off of the life forces the Succubus is feeding him. It’d all be kinda cute and domestic, if this didn’t mean the end of the world.

This revelation, of course, leads to another tedious “clearly Henry must be stopped”/”no there is still good in Henry” argument between Abbie and Katrina, which Ichabod thankfully puts a stop to before long. They’ll have to set aside their differences for now to concentrate on priority one: stopping the Succubus.

You know how Katrina’s flashes of Fredericks Manor are kinda like the visions Harry Potter gets when his secret horcrux power forces him to look through Voldemort’s eyes? Well, it turns out there’s another horcrux-esque twist tonight: The Succubus, or Incordata, can’t be killed until her heart, which she keeps outside of her body, is destroyed. Earlier in the hour, Abbie revealed that she put a trace on Henry’s computer (wait, how? Eh, doesn’t really matter); his activity indicates that the heart’s being stowed in a nearby cemetery.

And so a plan forms: Katrina will magically destroy the organ. In a show of paternalism that’s contextually understandable but still disappointing to see, Crane asks Abbie to go along with his wife to “protect” her. (We may as well forget that Katrina’s supposed to be an extraordinarily powerful witch, since the show seems to have.) Meanwhile, he’ll go back to the nightclub where the Succubus first struck, since these creatures (conveniently) tend to follow circular feeding patterns.

But Ichabod isn’t going alone. That’s right: Crane and Hawley are gonna have a night at the Roxbury.

Alas, the bromantic field trip is all too brief; it does, however, give Crane an opportunity to go into full-on big brother mode, attempting to assess whether Hawley’s intentions with Abbie are “honorable.” (Eh, either way, he still hasn’t really moved from mercenary to ally; he’s only helping out because Ichabod promised to give Hawley a lock of the Succubus’s hair if they succeed.) Before long, though, they’ve got their sights set on the Succubus; Hawley calls Abbie to let her know the news, while Ichabod follows her into an empty room. Across the nation, Ichabbie shippers are holding their breath; will his encounter with the demon reveal that he, too, has a secret romantic yearning for his (platonically) beloved Leftenant?

NEXT: No. Sorry!

Yeah, not so much. When Ichabod encounters the Succubus, she’s transformed herself into a Katrina lookalike, complete with a corset and a crisp accent. “I can sense your desire,” she purrs. “It burns strong, even though you try so hard to hide it.” Wait—wha? Katrina is Ichabod’s lawfully wedded wife! Why would the show imply that the desire he feels for her is secretive? (Or is she talking about Crane trying to suppress the desire he feels for the Succubus herself? Because that’d make sense.)

In any case, she gets closer and closer to him, noting that the love he feels toward Katrina seems to have soured—”I know that taste. It’s the taste of doubt”—as she prepares to perform her patented life suck. (Which is a lot like a Dementor’s Kiss. Lesson learned: It all comes back to Harry Potter.)

But before she can—bam! Ichabod sticks her with the enchanted blade Hawley gave him when they arrived in Da Club. It should be enough to take the Succubus out for good—provided her heart has been destroyed as planned.

Unfortunately, the heart’s still beating. Because Katrina—powerful witch Katrina—didn’t notice the protection spell inscribed around the urn that holds it, and is totally incapacitated by the hex. Katrina. You had one job. The heart-destroying spell ends up being completed by Abbie, who always manages to get the job done. If anyone can cast spells simply by reading them aloud, why do the Witnesses even need a witch on their team? Get it together, Sleepy.

So yeah; after a bit of scuffling obscured by literal darkness (seriously—am I the only one who wished they’d turned the lights on in this episode?), Hawley and Ichabod emerge victorious. They appear to be developing a grudging respect for one another, which is a positive development—especially because what happens next brings us basically back to where we started from. Katrina decides that she can best fight Moloch by going back to Casa Headless; she asks Abbie to let Crane know about her plan, either because she truly can’t bear to leave him again or because the seed of evil within her is growing stronger. Whichever!

In any case, Ichabod actually doesn’t mind when he hears about his wife’s decision. In voice-over, he tells Abbie (and us) that he finally recognizes that relationships evolve with time, and he must learn to go with the flow; he’s going to put his faith in Katrina and hope for the best. It’s a move that might just end up biting him in his 18th-century ass—because thanks to the enchanted necklace she’s wearing, Katrina sees the demonic spawn she’s returning to as an adorable, normal human baby. Thaaat’s gonna cause some problems.

Doughnut Holes

—Tonight’s delightful cold open: Ichabod and Katrina sit transfixed by a Bachelor-esque reality show. I would watch The People’s Couch if these two were the commentators.

—Things Ichabod Is Appalled By This Week: The Not-Bachelor (even though he secretly totally loves it); Da Club’s pounding beats (“Is this music, or attacking the walls of Jericho?”) and incessantly flashing lights.

—The real Sleepy Hollow has a population of about 10,000, which I’m guessing might not be quite robust enough (or filled with enough hotties) to support the club we see in tonight’s episode.

—Apparently the Cranes used to frequent a “private dancing society” of their own. Why does that sound like a dirty Eyes Wide Shut sort of deal?

—The most upsetting thing we see all episode: Abbie, rebuffed by the Cranes, eating a pizza for one by herself. Girl, you deserve so much more than this.

—More encouraging is proof of Abbie’s awesomeness: Although there’s a spell that makes her believe the urn that holds the Succubus’ heart is filled with maggots, she reaches right in and pulls it out anyway. She is a better woman than all of us.

—According to Sleepy, the first Incordata Succubus was destroyed by a Roman priest later canonized… as St. Valentine. So that explains why his holiday is the worst.

Follow me on Twitter: @hillibusterr

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