It’s difficult to pin down an episode like “Awakening,” because it’s an episode that keeps thwarting expectations. It keeps setting itself up for twists and then abandoning those twists in favor of new ones, offers up some fun alt-history that it offsets with bad characterization, and provides even more evidence of Sleepy Hollow fumbling in the dark yet snagging brilliance in said fumbling. “Awakening” almost needs two reviews, one for what happens in the first three-quarters of the episode and one for what happens in the last ten minutes, because while the first part is bog standard season two Sleepy Hollow the second could potentially be the show’s most inspired move all season.
The energy level greeting the return of Sleepy Hollow after its midseason finale is far different than the energy level that greeted its second season premiere. At that time, there were only vague concerns that the show couldn’t maintain this level of absurd energy; and now those concerns have been proven right. Sleepy Hollow’s second season to date has proved that there’s a limit to its madness, as lead actor chemistry and impressive visuals have been offset by some shaky plotting and the sense that the writers have no idea what to do with anyone other than Tom Mison or Nicole Beharie.
One of the most interesting choices the Sleepy Hollow creative team made early in the show’s life was to make Ichabod Crane a faithfully married man. While lesser shows would keep him single for the purposes of unresolved sexual tension, Ichabod is entirely devoted to his wife Katrina and wouldn’t even consider looking at another woman. It was a decision that paid dividends early on, both in convincing the audience how principled of a man he was and allowing the partnership between him and Abbie to take on deeper meaning. (True, the Ichabbie hordes continue to grow, but their partnership remains interesting enough to transcend basic shipping.)