‘Sleepy Hollow’ recap: ‘The Golem’ – Not so merry Christmas

“Sleepy Hollow” has built up enough good will at this point that it would be easy to dismiss a more uneven episode like “The Golem” with a shrug and a “Can’t wait till next month!” Because, really, even if this wasn’t the show’s finest hour (and possibly its weakest yet), I still can’t wait for the final three episodes next month.

And yet, as the show’s first (annual?) Christmas episode raced through the tragic backstory of Ichabod’s recently discovered son (we pretty much followed him from cradle to grave via just a handful of flashbacks), it was hard to escape the feeling that perhaps the writers are cramming just a bit too much into these 13 episodes. It’s difficult to tell exactly what we’re supposed to make of Ichabod’s son — his name is Jeremy, by the way — just yet. Is he simply a vehicle to give Ichabod some emotional depth or does he serve a larger purpose in the story? The odds certainly favor the latter, but if that’s the case “The Golem” was a spectacular failure at giving us any kind of rooting interest in Jeremy himself.

Instead we had exposition on top of exposition (and boring exposition delivered by four crazy creepy witches is still boring exposition), and an almost perverse aversion to giving the poor kids saddled with playing Jeremy anything to do or say in the flashbacks. The focus was squarely on the guilt Ichabod felt about not being there for his son — because, you know, Katrina buried him for a couple hundred years to save his life — and the monster-of-the-week that apparently resulted from Ichabod’s absence.

The golem that Jeremy conjured up as a protector was a rather rote creation and the only interest it provided came during Ichabod’s final confrontation. For a second there it seemed like Ichabod had opted for a diplomatic tactic in stopping the scary beast, but… no, monsters are monsters and need to be stabbed. All due credit to Tom Mison for emoting like a pro throughout. He gave those final moments with the golem unexpected (or simply unearned?) pathos, but this episode wanted to take us on an emotional journey it simply didn’t have the time or scope to deliver.

As great as Mison always is and was again tonight, it’s starting to grow a bit troubling that Nicole Beharie’s Abbie has been operating on the sidelines for awhile now. The last few episodes have given the big emotional moments and climactic showdowns to Ichabod, and that’s throwing off the balance that has otherwise been a legitimate strength of this first season. Part of the problem in “The Golem” was the need to bring John Noble back into the fold as sin eater Henry Parrish. The writers spent more time establishing his bond with Ichabod (which mostly worked and qualified as a high point in an episode without many), and less time working Abbie into the action.

That brings us to the three scenes with Captain Irving, which probably could’ve been saved for a later episode if the show wasn’t racing toward a finish in just three more episodes. Unlike Abbie, who already had exposure to the forces of evil as a child, Irving is still struggling with everything he’s seen. So we follow him on a hostile chat with his priest, an awkward apology to his ex-wife and a stroll in the park with his daughter that turns into a chance meeting with a demon (it conveniently transfers from person to person by touch). It all feels shoehorned in and plays as a completely unnecessary tangent between Ichabod scenes, made all the worse by so little for Abbie to do and no meaningful attempt at establishing Jeremy.

But, like I said, there’s plenty of good will to help overcome this and the cliffhanger ending certainly points in a promising direction. Ichabod was pulled into Moloch’s world and the Big Bad barked the threat that he’s coming for Abbie’s soul … and Ichabod will be the one to deliver it. It’s enough to hope that the writers have a better structured and thought out final three episodes waiting for us in the new year.

Odds and ends:

– This was the first episode where it felt like the writers were overdoing the whole Ichabod-baffled-by-21st-Century-life thing, but maybe it was just because they had so many Christmas references to jam in. (Eggnog and mistletoe and stockings, oh my!) That said, Ichabod and Parrish bonding over arcane vocabulary was a nice touch.

– Abbie’s “awful intercourse” joke was the highlight of her night. Poor Abbie.

– We’ve only got three episodes left and the writers still haven’t made much of an attempt at making Katrina an interesting character. I have no idea if Katia Winter is a compelling actress or not (I didn’t keep up with “Dexter” and missed her arc on that), but considering she’s one of only four regular cast members here it’s a mystery why she hasn’t been serviced better.

– Derek Mears, who played the Golem, may be better known to some as Jason from the “Friday the 13th” remake or Kickpuncher on “Community.” He’s also doing double duty as a holiday season guest star on supernatural shows, popping up as an evil Santa on this week’s “Grimm.”

– Ichabod isn’t the only one confounded by our modern ways: Captain Irving’s daughter had to explain what a Vine is to him. (“YouTube videos are like three minutes long! No one has time for that!”)

– OK, fine, let’s end the year on an Ichabod quote: “When did irony become a national pastime?”