It appears that the producers and writers of Fox's supernatural sci-fi buddy cop drama, "Sleepy Hollow," have something to say to fans who've grumbled about the show's sophomore slump: Message received.
Plus, it's February sweeps.
Whatever the impetus for this week's nonstop thrill ride episode, we're grateful for an hour in which Henry Parrish (John Noble) gets his evil groove back – he's alive! -- and Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) defeat some gnarly parkour-trained blood monsters. Also, Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) shows his duplicitous dead-alive side and Katrina Crane (Katia Winter) gets wickedly interesting for once.
Action-packed! But wait, there's more. Sleepy Hollow gets a visit from a warlock who escapes from purgatory and kills a few locals while stealing an ancient spell book. As a monster of the week, he cuts a grim, Puritanical figure, punctuated by his frequent self-mutilation. Good grand grimoire, that's a lot of blood.
A little rain must fall, obviously, because Jenny Mills (Lyndie Greenwood) makes no appearances in this episode, called "Spellcaster." She's off in search of some supernatural orb, so says Abbie, but her absence is sorely felt. She better come back with the mother lode of dark objects and a great tale to tell.
Only three more episodes this season, and if "Spellcaster" is any indication, it seems like there will be a flat-out sprint to the finish. Catch up with this week here:
There's more than pricing and cataloging taking place at Sleepy Hollow's auction house, where workers are examining a book of powerful witchcraft just received from London. The tome, dubbed the grand grimoire, comes from the collection of John Dee, a 17th century student of the occult, and it's a hot item, so to speak.
A black-caped warlock (guest star Johnathon Schaech) wants it so badly that he's willing to boil the blood of its keepers. He swipes the grimoire after spilling his own sizzling blood all over Claridge's shiny floor. This guy can't go anywhere without leaving a mess.
While the theft-double murder is happening, Ichabod is house hunting, continuing his quest for normalcy in a near-apocalyptic world and finding out, as he does at least once every episode, which 21st century practices he detests. Added to his ever-growing list: real estate-speak like "rustic" and "cozy," and "hucksterism" like fake fruit in staged rooms.
But he still wants his three-bedroom, two-bath homestead, preferably with granite countertops. If only he had an income, bank account, work history, etc., etc., Abbie reminds him. Poor nomadic Crane.
Katrina is polishing her magic skills, meantime, which have been in short supply the entire season, by playing with flowers and rocks. "That's handy," Abbie says, not really meaning it.
The lieutenant gets news of the crime du jour and powwows with the Cranes, who know about the spell book's contents and origins and deduce that Some Evil Dude must have been drawn to Sleepy Hollow to fetch it. No doubt this is continued fallout from Moloch's almost-Armageddon.
The "magic" of pixels – a word Ichabod can't stop pronouncing – and a favor Abbie calls in from Quantico show the trio the warlock's face caught on the auction house surveillance camera. It's Solomon Kent, a preacher and onetime pillar of the Salem, Mass., community who set off the infamous witch trials.
Wherever he goes, "terror and death are sure to follow," Katrina says ominously.
Katrina's grandmother, Helena Van Tassel (Winter in a blond wig), was hanged because she threatened to expose Kent for an accidental killing in their village. Katrina's family fled the area, and Kent managed to keep up his ruse, stoking mass paranoia and persecution as a cover for the murder of his unrequited love, Sarah Osborne. Eventually, a coven trapped him in purgatory for his crime.
Ichabbie reason that he's trying to use a resurrection spell in the grimoire to bring Sarah back to life, which sounds sweet and all, except that if he opens the door between living and dead, his non-girlfriend won't be the only soul loosed on current day Sleepy Hollow.
But Kent doesn't have the entire spell book that the scholarly John Dee, wily guy that he was, parceled out to dilute its danger. The missing section is likely arriving in town on the next boat, Abbie learns, so they have to intercept it and fight off Kent so he won't be able to complete his misguided plan. (See previous description about lightning-fast episode crammed with quick-cut developments).
Ichabbie and Katrina confront Kent at one of "Sleepy Hollow's" ubiquitous creepy warehouses, and he births two blood monsters from what looks like severed femoral artery spray. Abbie ends up gunning down both of the slimy creatures, but not before Crane practices a little trash talk and Katrina learns that she's not sugar and spice. Kent tells her she'll find her true self "in darkness," just before she goes all devil-eyes.
The warlock manages to slip away with the now-complete grimoire, and Katrina says she's not strong enough to beat him. She gets that low-blood-sugar lightheaded look and has to go take a nap. Never mind, Abbie says to Crane, we've fought supes without magic before. Unspoken truism: We don't need that witch.
Crane did pick up a clue during the battle with Kent, and Ichabbie now knows that the warlock wants to time travel and right his homicidal wrong. They can't let that happen because changing that event will change everything that comes after. What if the Witnesses never meet? So, there's a sense of urgency here.
By the way, Henry's alive. This character is far too delicious a villain to have disappeared for long, and no one really believed that he was dead, even though he was missing from the past few episodes, right?
He's shacked up in a seedy motel, where he finally snaps himself out of his post-patricidal funk and dispenses with three common street thugs, you know, for practice. He's a wolf, after all, not a sheep, he speechifies to one of the goons, and it's high time he act like one again.
And Frank? Still alive. And still trying to convince Abbie that he's no longer under the sway of the Horseman of War, aka Henry, who stole his soul. Abbie wants to believe him -- though his bill of health comes from Katrina -- and even pulls him in for the next round with Kent. She'll regret that.
The showdown in the woods between Kent, Abbie and Ichabod involves a generator, the drug atropine, flash grenades and a partial electrocution. It's explosive, especially when Crane gives Kent a fairly brutal beat down. He leaves him alive, but Frank comes along and fixes that. Kent disintegrates and blows away, and Frank scoops up the grimoire.
"What book?" he says to Ichabbie, and we know he's about to deliver that mystical volume into the wrong hands.
Enter Henry, who meets Frank in a different forest battle zone still reeking of death (Moloch's) and destruction. He promises that he'll no longer be defined by Dad or anyone else and that "destiny bends to my will from now on." He's just getting started, and he has his paws on the grimoire and, through Frank's double-crossing help, an embedded snitch on the A-Team.