Sleepy Hollow (S04E01) “Columbia”

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After the shocking conclusion to last season, involving the death of Abbie Mills, one-half of the demon-fighting duo, this season began with a reassuringly strong episode.  “Columbia” accomplishes the introduction of the ongoing villain, as well as the operating parts of Ichabod Crane’s new team.  It deftly shifted the action from Sleepy Hollow to Washington, DC. (a most wretched hive of scum and villainy).

The episode begins by very quickly, but efficiently, recapping the loss of Agent Mills (Nicole Beharie) in completing the final task of last season.  Shifting to the present, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is being interrogated by people working for Director Walters, who forced Crane into the car at the conclusion of Season 3.  The interrogators apparently are worried about electronic surveillance, as they use a slide projector, rather than a computer, to show Crane images.  Using the oldest trick in the books (“and that’s coming from me!”) Crane incapacitates the interrogator, and while exiting, takes note of drawings of monsters AND a rendering of the Lincoln Memorial.  Crane escapes into the forest, and in a wonderful callback to the series premiere episode, comes upon a road, which is really a runway at Reagan National Airport.

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The next scene introduces us to Agent Diana Thomas (Janina Gavankar) and her partner, Eric (Ace Marrero), who are discussing her unique, but strongly held, opinions on music and meat.  Eric asks about Agent Thomas’ daughter, Molly, but then Agent Thomas and Eric are called to an unusual crime scene at the Lincoln Memorial – turns out Lincoln has been decapitated!  Violating Special Agent rule no. 1, the agents split up. This proves fatal for Eric, who has an encounter with a pointy-fingered, hat-wearing entity, whose touch turns Eric’s eyes black and kills him.  A crack of green light (vaguely reminiscent of the crack from Doctor Who) closes up on the side of the monument.  Crane and Agent Thomas meet and battle “Pointy Finger” who runs away. We see through a green portal.  Crane and Agent Thomas have a tense meeting (she’s armed and he’s not!)  Crane notes that his behavior shows he’s an ally of law enforcement.  Crane pursues Pointy Finger.

Pleasingly, the show uses the same music and a modified version of the series’ titles.  At least five new regulars are shown.  Who could Jeremy Davies be playing?

Agent Thomas thoughtfully notes some material on the ground.  She tracks Crane to the location where he was being interrogated.  She finds Crane there, which earns his grudging respect for her investigative skills.  Thomas asks Crane for an explanation, and when she resists the term demon, Crane rattles off several synonyms (“Fell Specter” etc.).  Crane charms Agent Thomas with his Revolutionary War language style (“eeeeevil”) and suggests that they team up at least long enough to determine who killed her partner.  She agrees.

Next, a darkened room appears, with a man reciting an incantation.  An amusing cell phone tune interrupts the man, much to his annoyance.  His temper is not improved, as while strolling out of the darkened laboratory into a modern office, he is informed that his strongly-desired business deal is being thwarted by a Japanese business person.  In the light, we see the man rocks Dickie Bennett’s wild hairstyle.  In a sinister move, he licks up some blood off the back of his hand.  This is Mr. Dreyfuss (Jeremy Davies).

Crane appears in a car, leaving a mournful message for Jenny Mills (Lyndie Greenwood). It’s clear he deeply misses her and Sleepy Hollow.  He seems a little scared of Washington, DC.  Agent Thomas appears and it turns out that her trust level was low, as Crane turns out to be handcuffed to the steering wheel.  She points out his flee ratio is 1:2.  This is an amusing parallel to Crane’s introduction to Abbie Mills in the series premiere.  Agent Thomas recalls a place which might actually help.  She shows Crane a sheet with a logo and Crane realizes “the Vault” is actually George Washington’s Archives.  When they arrive, Crane’s expectations are dashed.  They enter a very ordinary looking office with a somewhat nondescript individual who hesitantly confirms that they are indeed in the Archives.  Crane doubts this.  Jake (the ordinary file clerk) (Jerry MacKinnon) finally recognizes Crane as “Captain Brownbeard” and notes that Crane’s been involved in a lot of supernatural activity in Sleepy Hollow.  It turns out that Jake’s job is to take note of these kinds of supernatural type occurrences.

An explosion sounds, and as the three go to investigate, we meet Alex (Rachel Melvin), who has blown something up in the way-more-appropriate actual Archive.  Crane’s eyes light up at this more suitable location.  Alex’s job is “hardware.”

Crane looks at a book and notes that it is actually a cipher that he learned “when he was apprenticed as Benjamin Franklin’s typesetter”, oh wait, no.  It turns out that Booth (Adrian Bond/Alexander Ward) was a Confederate Occultist.  With his efforts to kill Lincoln thwarted by Mary Todd Lincoln, Booth summoned (“don’t say it”) a demon directly into his body.  After Booth successfully assassinated Lincoln, Mary Lincoln sealed the demon into a chamber over which the Lincoln Memorial was built.

Alex notes that based on what the Memorial is made of, it would be difficult to remove Lincoln’s head.  Crane says that the demon used magic.  Agent Thomas notes that Crane seems to be very familiar with decapitations.  Crane wryly observes that he’s had experience.  Jake notes that they use secret passageways installed around the Revolutionary War to secretly enter and exit the Archives (leading to an amusing Downton Abbey reference).

As they wander through the passages, Agent Thomas tells Crane that she left the military after having her daughter, Molly, who is presently suffering from aphasia.  They run into a chamber with a scored wall.  They identify that the images on the wall are flags and it’s evident that the demon is focusing on the flag during all the time he spent trapped.  Jake, Alex and Agent Thomas remember that there is a Freedom Concert in which people are encouraged to show up dressed in flags.

Back at Home Base, the team figures out that copper is the demon’s Kryptonite (“Oh, yes.  The Superman”).  Alex creates copper bullets to be used in a sort of Gatling gun and they head out to the Concert.  An attendee razzes Crane for his (authentic) outfit, saying everything’s Hamilton now.  Crane is annoyed and says, “there were other people involved, too, you know!”  And, he says he’s not a fan of musicals.

Crane attracts the demon’s attention by waving a flag and singing.  The group ends up in an open building, waiting for the demon.  The demon arrives and tosses Alex and Jake around.  Just in time, Jenny arrives and takes the demon out with the copper bullet Gatling gun.  Like magnets, Jenny and Crane hug each other and Crane introduces Jenny to the group.  Jenny reassures Crane that he’ll never be alone, even in DC and Crane explains that the District of Columbia is named after Columbia, who was the colonists’ personification of liberty.

We revisit Dreyfuss and learn that that pesky Japanese business person blocking his deal has been handled – killed by a “wild animal” (Dreyfuss’ creepy assistant).  Dreyfuss then explains that he’s completed the hex and the head is ready.  The assistant destroys Lincoln’s head, leaving a round tablet in the rubble.  Dreyfuss explains that he can’t wait until he collects more of these tablets.

Agent Thomas and Crane meet again.  Crane tells Thomas that his demon hunting mission is not necessarily her mission, but she has decided she wants to partner up with him.  Besides, she says “Alex is building a guillotine and is going to test it on Jake.”  So, she wants to keep an eye on them.

Agent Thomas returns home and Molly (Oona Yaffe) is there on the bed.  Although Agent Thomas asks Molly questions, Molly doesn’t answer and it’s clear this hurts Thomas.  The episode concludes as Thomas leaves, and Molly opens up a sketchbook with several drawings. It’s not evident who is in the first drawing, but the next several are ALL of Ichabod Crane, and the episode ends as Molly continues drawing on the latest version.

It was a relief that this episode was strong.  It’s possible that Sleepy Hollow will not regain a certain segment of the audience who were very unhappy with the demise of Abbie Mills, when the chemistry between the leads was so strong.  In the new configuration, there is room for growth for Crane, and exploration of several new characters.  It was nice to see Jenny and Crane reunite and Jenny appears to be a continuing strong presence.  The direction was smooth and the cinematography was excellent.  Although some interior shots were too dark, this wasn’t a consistent problem and hopefully, it’s temporary.  The demon was suitably scary and the effects were enjoyable.  Considering the complexity of structuring a “monster of the week” with the introduction of a new team, home base AND villain, this was nicely and compactly done.  The snark level was appropriate and cultural references (Hamilton, veganism and music) were entertaining.  There were thoughtful remembrances of the late, and very lamented, Abbie Mills.

Grade: A

“In Plain Sight” airs on Fox on Friday, January 13, 2017 at 9:00 p.m.