‘Sleepy Hollow’ recap: Giving thanks in ‘Sanctuary’

It’s Thanksgiving on “Sleepy Hollow,” and that means an episode rich in family, traditions and … tree monsters?

“Sanctuary” reverts to the monster-of-the-week format but does so in a character-based way that continues to flesh out the show’s growing mythology. The full impact wouldn’t be there without the connections we’ve made to the core ensemble. So even if this was a little bit messier than the highs of the past two weeks, it delivers in a different way. It’s surprisingly moving (as crazy as the action gets, it all builds to a quiet, tender moment between Ichabod and Abbie, emphasizing their bond) — and what more can you ask for from a holiday episode?

What starts as a fairly standard haunted house concept — Abbie and Ichabod investigate the disappearance of billionaire heiress Lena Gilbert (Erin Cahill), and wind up trapped in the house — quickly finds a direct link to Ichabod’s past. He had visited the historic manor with Katrina back when it was a safe haven for freed slaves. As we eventually learn through Abbie’s visions of the past, that’s not the only significance the house has for Crane.

It’s where Katrina sought refuge to deliver their son. A son Ichabod never knew he had. And a son who was immediately targeted by Moloch. Cue the tree monster. Not only that, but one of Abbie’s maternal ancestors — house matron Grace Dixon — assisted with the birth and delivered the baby. The connections between these two grow deeper all the time. And the makeshift family they’ve formed seems to have been forged by more than just chance and trippy time travel.

Once again, Tom Mison is the standout of the episode. He totally explodes in the showcase scene where Ichabod channels his wrath into destroying the demonic spirit that centuries ago had tried to kill Katrina and his son. We’re seeing more and more of this darker side of Ichabod — when he taunted Headless last week and now his rage explosion this week — and it’s a welcome layer to an increasingly complex character.

Another welcome layer was revealed away from the haunted house, as Jenny and Captain Irving continue their tentative flirting and we met Irving’s ex-wife, Cynthia (Jill Marie Jones), and daughter, Macy (Amandla Stenberg of “The Hunger Games”). While their sudden arrival felt a little clunky (even though it was foreshadowed in a previous episode), it mostly worked by tying into the episode’s overall themes of family and fatherhood. And it certainly works much better at this point, now that we’ve actually come to know and care about Irving, than it would’ve if it was shoehorned into an earlier episode. “Sleepy Hollow” continues to prove both its affection for and investment in its characters, and that’s going to go a long way toward encouraging fans to stick with it.

Odds and ends:

– Once again, Ichabod is shocked by contemporary interpretations of history. The traditional Thanksgiving turkey and all those sugary side dishes? Poppycock, he tells Abbie. The pilgrims didn’t have sugar and had to make due with venison, not turkey. “It would’ve been a miracle for a single half-starved pheasant to trot by!”

– Abbie’s invitation to her sister’s Thanksgiving dinner: “There will be rum.” Ichabod wouldn’t have survived Valley Forge without it.

– A graceful nod to mythology passed through the generations: Ichabod’s father was a professor, who told him tales of ancient Greece.

– We’ll be back in two weeks for the only scheduled “Sleepy Hollow” original in December. After that, there’s only three more to go in January. The short season has moved very quickly, but hopefully that keeps all of us — fans and the show’s creative team — energized for next season.