I have a confession to make: I have not watched the previous two Sleepy Hollow episodes. Thankfully, I wasn’t completely blind going into “Dark Mirror”, as I looked at both Luce’s and Saika’s posts on “Kindred Spirits” and “Sins of the Father”. I did know that without watching them that “Dark Mirror” would be harder to understand in terms of character development. If there’s one thing Sleepy Hollow has almost always excelled at, it’s the relationships between its main characters. The show is first and foremost character driven.
That said, though, being character driven is no excuse for lack of plot, which is something Season 3 has been struggling with since it first aired. I understand that the plot did progress somewhat in the past two episodes, but not by much. Pandora and the Hidden One have been unimpressive from the start. Their motivations haven’t been explained all that well, and other than summoning random and typically culturally appropriative monsters every week, they haven’t been doing all that much either.
As such, I decided to test a theory: I could skip two full episodes and the plot would still make perfect sense to me.
I was right.
“Dark Mirror” begins with the Jersey Devil murdering a couple of hikers. Afterward, he is confronted by the Hidden One and we learn that the Devil serves our antagonists as his one true god. The Hidden One sends him off to Sleepy Hollow in order to obtain two ancient golden relics. In the process of obtaining these, the Devil kills a few more people and Ichabod and Abbie rush to the scene of the crime to figure out what’s happening.
It doesn’t take long for Ichabod to deduce that the Jersey Devil was behind the killings, before regaling Abbie with his historical knowledge. Way back in the day when everything of future historical importance revolved around Ichabod, he met a man named Daniel Leeds, a rival inventor to Benjamin Franklin. Leeds looked down on both Franklin and Ichabod and assumed his way of doing things was superior. Leeds discovered the Hidden One and began his service to him. He experimented with alchemy and dark magic and eventually turned himself into the Jersey Devil.
Together, Abbie and Ichabod figure out where Leeds’s secret laboratory is and go there to figure out what he’s up to. Looking through his things, they find that Leeds invented a film projector nearly two hundred years before the rest of the world. With the projector, we get an exposition bomb about the Hidden One and Pandora—how they met, fell in love, and attempted to take over the world. While I question how the hell Leeds’s three century old projector managed to capture events that took place thousands of years beforehand, the back story was kind of nice, even if it didn’t tell us anything all that much.
Why did Pandora fall in love with the Hidden One? What about each other do they like? Why does the Hidden One hate humanity? Was it because he didn’t like being sealed away, charged with guarding all evil? Why was he even chosen for this position in the first place? There are so many questions left unanswered, and something tells me that the episodes I missed didn’t expand a whole lot on them either.
As the episode nears its end, Abbie and Ichabod work together to kill Leeds, but not before he succeeds in his goal: he turns the golden relics to sand with lightning for Pandora and the Hidden One to use in an hourglass. The hourglass is apparently really super powerful. It used to belong to the Hidden One’s brother god, and with it, he and Pandora will finally be able to take over.
I don’t know if it’s because I missed the previous two episodes, or the fact that I had a giant headache while watching it, but I can’t say that I like “Dark Mirror” all that much. The monster of the week this time around just bored me, and that combined with the show’s dedication to not do any kind of substantial character development with its villains did not make the episode any better. Pandora and the Hidden One are making me long for the days of the Headless Horseman. Because even though Abraham’s motivation was based around his entitled ego and being friendzoned, I at least understood what he wanted.
On the plus side, by using the Jersey Devil, a creature based in American folklore, as its monster, “Dark Mirror” thankfully managed to avoid becoming another episode that relied on appropriating other cultures. That’s a really low bar to hold the episode to, and I can’t even say its take on the Jersey Devil was all that accurate. What I will say about “Dark Mirror” is that I immensely enjoyed watching Abbie’s continued struggles with fitting back in among everyone else and the trauma she’s experiencing. We learn this episode that the reason Abbie is so attached to that upside-down Shadowhunter symbol is because it gave her a sense of comfort while she was trapped in the other world, and even now, having it around her makes her feel better. After seeing the symbol in Leeds’s laboratory, Abbie becomes distracted by it and Crane is almost killed as a result. It might be a comfort to Abbie, but it’s also a crutch that gets in the way of her relationships and doing what needs to be done. Abbie opens up to Ichabod about what it means to her, and Ichabod promises to help her get through it.
Before that, Abbie and Ichabod struggle this episode over a lack of proper communication, and the same is true for Jenny and Joe. Jenny’s trailer isn’t doing too well. One of the water pipes broke, flooded the trailer, and now it needs a whole new sink. After talking over that her trailer needs some heavy renovations, Joe oversteps his bounds by buying Jenny a whole new trailer. Thankfully, Jenny does not find the gesture romantic, and in a world saturated with stories like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey that romanticize such controlling and invasive behavior, I applaud Sleepy Hollow for calling Joe out on his bullshit. Even after Joe returns Jenny’s old trailer to her, he still doesn’t realize how wrong what he did was until Jenny tells him that it’s stealing. The two of them leave the episode off on a fairly good note, all things considered, but I get the impression that Jenny’s still mad at him, and if their relationship is going to work out, Joe also needs to learn how to communicate with her and not assume things about her wants or needs.
The next episode is called “Into the Wild” and it looks like Pandora will feature a good deal in it. Maybe she’ll get some character development. “Dark Mirror” was pretty plot heavy compared to a good number of previous episodes. Hopefully, “Into the Wild” will keep it up.