Sleepy Hollow was doing all right for itself. The second episode didn't give us much more than the info-dump pilot did in terms of narrative advancement but it was just as fast-paced and action oriented, developing the world of onscreen Sleepy Hollow in thoughtful, specific detail. The third episode, however, is incoherent at best and borderline racist at worst, forty two minutes of filler that barely accomplishes its single goal.
That goal is to convince us that Abbie Mills, after a lifetime of denying that she and her sister saw a demon in the woods when they were teenagers, has not just changed her mind but is willing to admit it in public. Her encounter with the Headless Horseman in the pilot made her credulous, more inclined to believe Ichabod's story than any of her collagues, and while she accepts the existence of the supernatural in general she's still unwilling to admit to its role in her own life. As she explains to Ichabod, she and her sister were foster children; when they were found in the woods after having disappeared for four days, Abbie encouraged her sister to lie about what they'd seen so as not to cause trouble. Jenny wouldn't do it; Abbie wouldn't corroborate her sister's story; Jenny's spent the rest of her life in and out of mental institutions. Abbie feels guilty but not guilty enough to recant.
This changes when a demon called Rokaronti, apparently a Mohawk sleep demon invented for the purposes of the show, starts killing the other people who lied about believing Jenny: her old therapist and the farmer who found the girls in the woods all those years ago. Abbie's next, he tells her. The next time she goes to sleep Rokaranti will come for her.
Then, of course, nothing will do but that Abbie and Ichabod find a Mohawk tribesman who, of course, takes them to a sweat lodge and performs a mystical Indian ceremony so that they can defeat Rokaranti. It's a scene borrowed from the most hackneyed of Westerns. The fact that the tribesman works as a used car salesman and initially laughs off their request does nothing to mitigate the fact that the first and only Native person that Abbie and Ichabod encounter has a sweat lodge and knowledge of these rituals easily accessible. The ceremony itself is equally incoherent-- I somehow doubt that the pre-Columbian Native tribes of upstate New York used scorpion venom for much of anything. Abbie goes under, Ichabod insists on going under with her, and together they fight Rokaronti. All Abbie has to do it admit that she saw a demon when she was a teenager. This defeats him. It's a spectacularly unsatisfying moment, especially since she's all but done this to Ichabod already. It's nice to see how devoted Ichabod is to Abbie-- he's charming, and Tom Mison is a tall, tall drink of water-- but there's no real dramatic tension at work here. The whole episode feels slack and puffy and useless.
It ends with Abbie going to visit Jenny and discovering that she's escaped. Next week there are human villains and a box full of condemned souls, so that should be interesting-- hopefully Sleep Hollow is done idling, and ready to kick itself into a higher gear.