When Season 3 of “Sleepy Hollow” came to an end, we were left scratching our heads. The death of Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) gave us heavy doubts about the direction the show would — or should — take, as fourth season felt like a horrible idea. Without one-half of “Sleepy Hollow’s” emotional foundation, it’s hard not to wonder: What’s the point?
Still, the staying power of Tom Mison’s performance as Ichabod Crane has proven worthy enough for FOX to give the show another go-round. Friday’s (Jan. 6) Season 4 premiere is evidence of this. But without Abbie, is Ichabod still a worthy character to follow in his ongoing pursuit of finding a Witness to stave off the supernatural beasts that threaten this Earth? Possibly.
Friday’s episode, titled “Columbia,” finds Ichabod in the nation’s capital facing a new threat. Season 3 may have ended with government agents taking him to Washington D.C., but they’re not mentioned here: Instead, it seems that Crane was kidnapped by some unknown assailants and, before he could really investigate the matter, thrown head-first into an American flag-hating demon hunt.
It’s worth at least taking a second to point out that the silly reveal behind the monster featured in the premiere — however sloppy the storyline ended up being — was a pleasant surprise. The concept of John Wilkes Booth becoming a demon before murdering Abraham Lincoln, only to return in present day to kill anyone near our country’s representation of its stars and stripes, deserves some sort of applause.
One of the details firmly lacking from Season 3 of “Sleepy Hollow” was the show’s embrace of its fun and fizzy side. Sure, it may have gone a bit too far here at times — but that Booth demon caused a few chuckles along the way.
In Abbie’s absence, Crane builds a new team of associates pretty quickly, struggling to find his bearings in this new situation and locale. Janina Gavankar does an okay job at filling Lieutenant Mills’ shoes, but the lack of chemistry between Crane and Homeland Security Agent Diana Thomas feels reminiscent of “The X-Files” — circa Seasons 8 and 9 — when Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) decided it was the right time to, ahem, “go into hiding.”
Still, amid “Sleepy Hollow’s” anticlimactic premiere, three highlights in particular gave us hope Season 4 could right Season 3’s wrongs.
Say hello to some quirky new sidekicks
It doesn’t take long for Crane and Diana to happen upon this odd duo. Alex Norwood (Rachel Melvin) and Jake Wells (Jerry MacKinnon) have held up shop in this library full of cryptic goodies, and Ichabod’s arrival helps confirm Jake’s dark web tinkering hasn’t all been for nothing. If anything, the banter between Ichabod and Alex should hopefully add a new sense of quirky levity the series desperately needs.
A subdued, yet creepy new villain
Jeremy Davies won us over with his amusingly creepy take on Dickie Bennett in “Justified.” Here, he plays corporate boss Malcolm Dreyfuss, and continues his signature subdued approach by delivering the bad guy vibes with a whisper instead of a shout. He’s got violent intentions, demonic connections and — while we’re not exactly sure what his end game is, it’s obvious his team was behind Ichabod’s kidnapping.
We’ve got one question, though: If he’s such a powerful villain, couldn’t he find the time to take a moment and get a proper haircut?
Ichabod’s still Ichabod
Sure, we may have lost Abby (not to mention Ichabod’s glorious long locks) — but at its core, “Sleepy Hollow” has always been about Crane’s mission. It’s his suave charm and delightful modern day cluelessness that gives the program that extra something that has carried it as far as it has gotten.
The loss of Lieutenant Mills made us wonder if new episodes would put Crane in a sad state of affairs — nothing would be worse than watching the man traverse the obstacles of the present day without a worthy sounding board to keep him in check. But with the new characters in the mix, Ichabod should have that sounding board, or something like it.
Self-awareness can only get “Sleepy Hollow” so far — hey look, they finally threw in a Hamilton reference! — and we’re hopeful Ichabod’s new digs won’t outshine (and overpower) the show’s initial intentions. Without the fun imposing threat of a Headless Horseman, is it possible Season 4 will prove to be the show’s last? Only time will tell.
“Sleepy Hollow” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.