The drop from 8.59mil to 7.97mil is significantly narrower than the drop from the pilot episode's 10.10mil, so here's hoping the show is about to stabilize in the mid-high 7mil range. It's still in a good timeslot on a good night, so as long as they don't suddenly shift it, it should be fine. Granted, wouldn't be the first time they've shifted slots based on numbers like this.
Abbie arrives at the station where Irving tells her the suspect has been caught and is being interrogated by Ichabod. Which strikes Abbie as odd. As they walk to the interrogation room, Abbie is introduced to a woman, a forensic psychologist, who says the suspect is going for an insanity defense. Reaching the room, Ichabod is looming over a young woman, demanding to know what she saw. The woman is a teenage Abbie Mills. Abbie storms into the room, only to find Ichabod sitting in the suspect's chair, glaring at her with eyes glazed over white. "The truth will set you free." He's gone and Abbie finds herself alone and locked in the room with lights flickering. She spins, finds herself facing a tall, pale figure, nude to the waist, with no features on his face expect a pair of dark eye sockets which leak drifts of sand. Enter, the Sandman.
Abbie wakes up to a ringing phone. She's being called in to join a flock of police cars around a building, where Ichabod is waiting and curious to hear she had a strange dream. Irving briefs her that a Dr. Mara Vega is standing out on a ledge, saying she'll only talk to Abbie. Abbie goes up to the window, where Vega says it was her fault, that she lied and someone suffered for it. That someone, she reveals, is Abbie sister Jenny. Vega turns to look at Abbie through eyes glazed over white, and Abbie recognizes her as the forensic psychologist from her dream. Vega says they all have it coming, then jumps.
Police process the scene as Abbie fills in Ichabod and Irving. Wondering if the woman was on drugs, Irving insists on seeing the eyes, which are not only glazed over white, but suddenly burst into sand.
Title sequence, which still isn't available to watch on Youtube for no sound reason.
Looking up on Dr. Vega, they find she was a resident psychiatrist as a facility Jenny has visited from time to time. Abbie reveals to Ichabod the contents of her dream, with him then failing to convince her that it was a prophetic vision, due to her being a Witness (they make a nice joke of the capital "W"), and that the creature she saw may be the culprit. Brushing him off, they return to the archives where they watch videos of Vega interviewing young Jenny, and notes where the Dr. says she believes the girl, but won't own up to it as that could cost her her career.
As Abbie reluctantly takes Ichabod out to the facility holding Jenny, she reveals they haven't spoken since Jenny was arrested stealing survival gear in preparation for "the End of Days". Sure enough, Jenny refuses to see Abbie, though Abbie does flashback to the vision of Sheriff Corbin when she hears Jenny is in room 49. Jenny agrees to see Ichabod, toying with him until he reveals everything, about seeing the Demon, the deaths of Corbin and Vega, the first Horseman setting the stage for the others. Jenny still blames Abbie for putting her here, and is uncertain at Ichabod's request to help her fight the coming battle, as she's done everything she could to run from it.
As they leave the facility, Ichabod pressures Abbie to reveal what she's not telling him about her encounter with Baddie Blur. Abbie finally opens up, telling him Jenny and she woke up four days after the encounter, and were first found by a rancher named Gillespie. They again saw Baddie Blur, as did Gillespie, but he wouldn't say anything about it as he became a local hero leading the rest of the search party to the girls' location. Taken in for questioning, Jenny told the authorities everything she saw, but Abbie clammed up, claiming she didn't see anything. Jenny's anger at this betrayal led to the orphans being broken up as Jenny was relocated to alternative foster care. Ichabod and Abbie decide to pay Mr. Gillespie a visit.
At his ranch, Gillespie settles in for an afternoon nap, springing awake when he hears rustling in his garage. Investigating and retrieving a gun, he whirls and fires into the face of the Sandman, who vanishes.
At the station, Irving demands to know who hung a sign in his office showing a horse rider with the head missing. Luke admits to it and Irving drops the issue. They get a report of shots fired and race out to the Gillespie ranch where the man is armed and holed up in his kitchen with his wife. He insists on speaking to Abbie Mills, who just happens to pull up with Ichabod at that moment. Abbie goes in, finding Gillespie staring at her with eyes glazed over white. He says the Sandman is coming for her next, then puts a bullet in his head.
Ichabod comforts Abbie while she tells him about the Sandman and the ticking clock of her falling asleep. Returning to the archives, she introduces him to energy drinks and fills him in on stuff she's uncovered about ancient "dream demons", specifically a figure from Mohawk myth called Ro'kenhrontyes. Ichabod is familiar with it from his dealings with the Natives, and says Ro'kenhrontyes was a story to teach children to always do right by their neighbors, or the creature would come to prey on their guilty conscience. Ichabod says they need to find a Mohawk shaman, Abbie says that's easier said than done and blows his mind revealing what happened to the Natives following the revolution. Still, she knows a guy.
As "Mr. Sandman" hits the soundtrack, we cut to Geronimotors ("Tomahawking Prices Since 2008"), a used car lot owned by Seamus Duncan, a Mohawk descendant. His bright smile goes all frowny face as Abbie and Ichabod reveal why they're there, and he brushes them off as racists.
Ichabod persists, arguing that by denying assistant to them, Seamus opens himself up as a target of Ro'kenhrontyes. Begrudgingly, he drives them out to a hut. Seamus says they need to confront Ro'kenhrontyes on his own territory of the dreamscape, so he gives them both a special light blue tea (which has already been made and is just sitting there), ties them both down to beds with their shirts off, then lets scorpions sting them in their bellies.
Ichabod is in foggy woods, where he finds a red door and enters. Abbie is in her own section of woods, where she encounters the Sandman, who flings sand from his eyes in her face, causing her eyes to glaze over white in the real world. Abbie's gun does nothing in the dream, and he becomes a cloud of sand, enveloping her. Abbie finds herself witnessing the interrogation of herself and Jenny as teenagers, Jenny pleading with young Abbie to tell the truth. The Sandman now glares at Abbie, demanding to know what she saw.
Ichabod's door leads him to a hallway in the police station, where Vega and Gillespie hang from the ceiling, an empty noose next in line. In the interrogation room, Ro'kenhrontyes closes in on Abbie, who still refuses to admit what she saw. Ichabod bursts in, but is quickly put down by the Sandman, who starts collapsing Crane's limbs into sand and moves in for the final strike. Abbie finally tells the truth. As she tells it, Ro'kenhrontyes starts solidifying into glass, and Abbie ends her confession by smashing him to pieces with a chair.
Abbie and Ichabod wake up and return to the archive, where they lounge, taking in their victory and the seven years of tribulations they still need to go through. Captain Irving enters, wondering what the hell they're doing there. After Ichabod fumbles out an explanation of the tunnels, Abbie says it seemed like a good place to work their investigations as it keeps them out of the way of embarrassing truths and prying eyes. Irving agrees to this and say's he'll give them a key, and when Ichabod tries explaining the case, Irving says he only wants to know if it's over.
Abbie arrives at the psychiatric facility. When Jenny refuses to see her, Abbie pulls official strings and gets in anyways. All she finds is an empty room with a loose ceiling panel.
In the comments section of my Episode 1 recap, Strannik posited the idea that this series might open itself up to explore all the various figures of early American folklore, like Paul Bunyon or John Henry, or other figures of a similar mythic nature. In this episode, we get The Sandman.
Here's the problem... the Sadman isn't an American myth. It's a European myth which came into prominence in E.T.A. Hoffman's story Der Sandman and Hans Christen Anderson's tale Ole Lukøje, which were written, respectively, in 1816 and 1841, LONG AFTER the point in time Ichabod Crane comes from. (To be fair, the actual short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was actually written in 1820, but still.) Look, I like the idea of exploring American history through its mythical figures. Even the actual heroes of the revolution like Washington have become towering legends which hide the truths of who they were in their deep shadows. So go for it, bring me these figures of legend. But no, the stories of Hans Christen Anderson don't count. Yes, we were colonists from Europe, but do we not have enough creations of our own that we don't have to mine from stories which, even in Europe, weren't written until long after our country's foundation? No? Then if you're going to go that route, why not explore how those legends were reshaped by the trip to America? Go all Neil Gaiman and show how the figure from Hoffman and Anderson's stories evolved into the pop love tune of the 50s (which we do hear randomly slapped into the episode). Actually do something. Don't just make up a Native American legend (which I looked, and Ro'kenhrontyes DOES NOT exist) as your cultural anchor. If we're doing that, then let's show how the two cultural myths merged instead of just namedropping some stuff so you can have a creepy (he is well designed, I'll grant) guy with no face pop up in dreams.
Show, I am Captain Pike and I dare you to do better.
And speaking of the Native Americans... two issues. 1) I don't mind that Ichabod was a friend with the Natives, and passionately acknowledges the role they played in the Revolutionary War. But when he learns about the massacres as settlers moved West and how few Natives are around these days, he's all shocked and aghast. A more realistic reaction would be a disappointed sigh, because even in his day, relations between settlers and Natives were not as universally copacetic as the pipe dream (Ichabod is literally smoking a peace pipe at one point) they're shown to be here. And he goes even further in his rant by saying the way Natives operated as a unified body while still recognizing individual tribes was the direct inspiration for the formation of the United States government, I guess overlooking how often many of the tribes themselves warred against one another. And 2) I like that when they go to the Native American car salesman, he's more than a little pissed off that they're just looking to explore the stereotypes of his people (despite his business being dolled up with every cartoonish stereotype imaginable). Which he then follows up by playing those stereotypes out as he takes our heroes to a Indian rug-drapped shack where they drink a potion and enact a ritual to combat the beast. If he gave them the card of a tribal shaman and pointed them that way, I could understand, but they're instead saying that even those who have moved into the city and taken up a modern business and lifestyle are still secretly FULLY versed in the old ways. On the one hand, it's good to show someone still in touch with their roots. On the other, it narrows the lifestyle diversity of this already narrowly portrayed culture.
And did I mention the myth and symbology of Ro'kenhrontyes we hear about is entirely a fictional construct of the writers instead of digging into actual Native mythology? BECAUSE IT'S COMPLETE BULLSHIT, DAMMIT.
These two mini-rants aside, this an okay episode, but not without additional hangups. The Sandman and how he takes out his victims is nothing we can't find in countless supernatural thriller shows from the last 20 years. He's nicely designed, and I like the visual of the sand draining out of his empty eye sockets, but I otherwise found him largely forgettable among the herd of TV monsters. It's also a bit wobbly as to where he came from. Obviously, Baddie Blur sent him, but where has he been all these years. Down in Hell? Do people still dream when they're dead? There's legends of him scouring victims in the past, so why are his deaths - which leave such telltale marks on the victims - not more widespread and flagging on a database? Especially when he kills one per night. And if he's so easy to destroy just by admitting guilt, why hasn't he been destroyed in the past? Has he even been destroyed, or just sent off to daisy chain through more victims? I don't understand any of this.
That said, I get the necessity of a device to force Abbie to confront her past, the way she betrayed Jenny, before the two women can reunite and move forward. It's well played, and I'm glad they're getting it out of the way nice and early in the series instead of dragging this arc out. Abbie has seen the truth, now she admits to the truth, now she needs Jenny to accept her admittance of the truth... but Jenny has other plans and it'll be interesting to see where the cliffhanger leads. But for Abbie, she can finally face her past actions in a way which isn't holding her back, which means we're also hopefully moving on from her just being the Scully skeptic to Ichabod's Mulder. It's more a case of them both seeing the same truth from the angles of their alternate life experiences, instead of just blind acceptance vs a necessity for proof. And I like that even Captain Irving is stepping back, just wanting them to resolve their cases however they need to, as long as he doesn't have to know the specifics of that how.
Ichabod's "man out of time" shenanigans this week include fumbling with a VCR remote and barely downing his first sip of an energy drink. Otherwise, he's settling in pretty well, and I like that the show is reserving these bits for little moments instead of shining huge spotlights on them. He learned about TV's in the last episode, so here he's fine with them. And now he learns about fast-forward and slow-motion. By the end of the season, he'll probably be fully functional, just with gaps in pop culture references, so it's less a show about culture shock than it is culture "walk carefully on this floor because it's wet". It might have some squeaks and the occasional shuffle, but most will make it to the other side without a spill.
The chemistry of the two leads continues to be the driving force of the show. Yeah, it's still ripped from Elementary, but Mison and Beharie are owning the dynamic just as well on their own as Miller and Liu. I like that both of the last two episodes have had throwaway jokes about the two as a couple, which they brush off in their completely platonic partnership, openly defying that shipper fandom right out of the gate. Even with the scene where both are forced to take their shirts off as part of the dream ritual, there's not a single lingering glance at her in a bra or his toned abs. One scene they're dress, the next they have no shirts as they're strapped to tables. It's gratuitous fanservice for us viewers, but as a character moment, it shows a comfort and trust between the two which I find refreshing. So here's hoping this can also keep the Elementary ball rolling in terms of opposite sex partnerships which have zero interest in becoming romantic. Which isn't to say there's anything wrong with romantic, as Castle has crossed that line spectacularly, but it's good to know there's room for and interest in variety.
Overall, there's more I don't like about this episode than I do. Which isn't to say it's a bad episode, so much as it's a bit of a dull one and lazy one. None of the Sandman victim scenes are all that scary or impactful. The opening dream sequence is unnecessary, and I much prefer it when our heroes' visions come in the form of spirits giving them information than as a subconscious prophecy of upcoming events. As necessary as Abbie's need to face the truth of her past choices is, it's overly drawn out and becomes repetitive after a while. Abbie has gone from a professionally uniformed police officer of the first few episodes to being sexed up in the typical TV cop fashion with a stylish coat, revealing shirt, tight jeans, and high-heeled boots. Luke is a complete ass who needs to be kicked out by his nuts and never seen again, and the way Irving brushes off his prank is ridiculous.
This is a mediocre episode. Not bad, but littered with problems. Not good, but still mildly entertaining enough to keep it watchable. This is about what I expected things would be like after we moved out of the pilot stretch of the first episode or two, so here's hoping the series sorts out if it wants to stick to the disposable supernatural thriller status quo, or if it wants to step up and do something more interesting and outside the box. Ratings can be a fickle thing, so hopefully it won't take too long to find its footing.