Not even a venomous monster from New Jersey (that isn’t Chris Christie) can give Sleepy Hollow the sting it once had. The latest episode of the quasi-procedural, “Dark Mirror,” is another plodding foray with every predictable beat Sleepy Hollow is associated with. Ancient legend with a modern spin? Crane knows the answer because he encountered it 250 years ago? Pepper in modern nuances to frustrate the colonial Ichabod and what you’ve got is an amazing formula … that rocked three years ago. The show is long past the glory of Season 1, but the droning mediocrity that is “Dark Mirror” ominously tells us Sleepy Hollow is long past being any good.
To its credit, Sleepy Hollow tried something daring this season: moderate serialization. It was a bold experiment. Every monster revealed something new about Pandora, and “Dark Mirror” gives a better glimpse at her origins and the so-called “Hidden One.” But it doesn’t stack up to the scope and badassery of the Headless Horseman and Henry Parrish. Season 2 turned the horseman of the apocalypse into a bizarre family drama. Now, it feels like a Hot Topic Power Rangers. This season’s show runner Clifton Campbell doesn’t seem to understand that tone isn’t sufficient and reveals don’t cut it. Dumb shows succeed when the characters on them seem smart. That’s no longer the case for Ichabod.
Sleepy Hollow, more than previous seasons, has had growling, snarling monsters with someone or something controlling it. “Dark Mirror” subverts convention, barely, with the Jersey Devil being a self-aware dick. I’m from Jersey and know the legend well, and I get a kick out of seeing stretchy interpretations. I knew Sleepy Hollow wouldn’t spin from the actual legend (the Jersey Devil was born to a witch, Mother Leeds, who cursed her 13th child), but of all the monsters to give consciousness and sarcasm, why that one? Sleepy Hollow had Jack the Ripper reinvented as some sort of trans-spiritual garbage it made him out to be.
Sleepy Hollow just isn’t the promising supernatural adventure the show once was. Sleepy Hollow of Season 1 would have had real fun with the Jersey Devil, not turn him into some shitty scorpion. There are a lot of ideas on the table, but the stakes have never felt lower. There’s a long game at play, and they’ve expedited the secrecy of Abbie’s devotion to the mysterious symbol and it will all compel me to the end. I just don’t know if I want that to be the end for good.