I'm gonna level with you guys for a second: I tuned into last night's Sleepy Hollow probably 10 minutes late, and have no idea what was going on with Orlando Jones' character (we'll call him "Captain") and Abbie's formerly nuthoused sister. Some plot by a mysterious cabal to free the Horseman from his bondage and... rue darkness on the world? All I got, really, was a construction site blowing up and a lot of hushed whispers about the coming apocalypse.
Inevitably, I'll figure it out if I just pay attention during next week's episode, but I think it's sort of telling that so much of this show's enjoyment hinges on understanding the minute exposition that, let's be honest, makes up practically the duration of every episode. Don't get me wrong — I really, really like this show! It's aiming for the "crazy like a FOX!" demo on network that American Horror Story is truly able to achieve on cable, and doing remarkably well. How many other shows this fall have given you a Headless Horseman firing a shotgun at a police car? NOT MANY OTHERS.
But the fact remains that, looking closely at a typical scene from any of these first eight episodes... there's not a lot of drama. Characters are in ostensible danger, sure, but in almost every case, the drama feeds the exposition, and not the other way around. We're engaged to simply learn more things.
Case in point: Ichabod's basically episode-length interrogation of the Horseman, who we learn via flashback and then PRESENT-DAY SHOCK is in fact Abraham Van Brunt — Ichabod's rival for his wife Katrina's affections. Now the colonial courtship scenes gave us bodices and bustiers, always a welcome sight on television. And the revelation that this Terminator death machine hounding our heroes for a third of a season has stronger ties to Ichabod than he ever thought was rightfully surprising, and well done. (All bad guys, as far as I'm concerned, should have their bald heads prominently tattooed.)
But none of that changes what actually happened in this episode, which was Ichabod instigating flashbacks with a chained headless Hessian while Abbie kept pointing out that Ickie was so not in control of the situation. I suppose in the end they all learned a little something. The Horseman isn't merely out for blood, he's out to reclaim his lost love, Katrina. Other forces may be working with The Horseman to accomplish some of his goals. John Cho just cannot be trusted. Stuff like that.
All you need to do is couch it within a more engaging episode plot and we're gooooooooooood.