In an effort to make their marriage work and relearn what they are to one another, Ichabod and Katrina have a date night at the local historical society. Unfortunately, their evening of attempted rekindled romance is interrupted by an unfinished painting in the midst of restoration that also happens to house the trapped spirit of its murderous artist James Colby, who is murdering people to drain them of blood to complete the painting-within-the-painting to facilitate his own permanent resurrection.
Pittura infamante was a Renaissance style of artwork designed to defame those who the legal system had failed to administer justice to, akin to a satirical cartoon with the goal of character assassination. The image of The Hanged Man in a deck of Tarot cards is the best known and most enduring of the style, and it was also the way in which the bodies of those killed by Colby are strung up after he periodically escapes the painting to hunt his prey in the shadowy rooms and corridors of the society’s old building.
The obligatory link to the Colonia era this time comes from Katrina, who was apparently friends with the second First Lady Abigail Adams (Michelle Trachtenberg; Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and both of whom attempted to catch Colby the first time around. Certain branches of the fandom may decry the sidelining of Abbie, but in this case it was warranted. Ichabod and Katrina’s relationship hasn’t really been afforded the time it needs to adequately develop in the eyes of the viewers and give us some idea of the kind of people they were together before the two-century time skip. This gap in the character development still requires further redressing, but if nothing else, between them the pair have enough memories of the players in 18th century supernatural shenanigans to be able to solve any historical crime echoing in the modern day.
Aside from a wonderful Universal Horror stylistic touch in Colby’s domain where the scene flickers to black and white for the duration of each flash of lightning, all in all it’s fairly standard ’80s slasher movie stuff. Far more interesting is secondary Abbie/Jenny story dealing with the unexpected return of Irving, who was last seen dying valiantly after destroying Henry’s War Armour. He remembers nothing after taking up the Sword of Methuselah, meaning he doesn’t even have the memory of his supreme badassery to give him some semblance of accomplishment to counter almost everyone else’s perception of him as a cop-killing fugitive.
The issue now is what he has become. As his soul was promised to Henry upon his death he is still effectively damned, but without Henry around to lay claim to it, there’s no way of telling what’s in store for him. We can be pretty sure Henry’s isn’t permanently gone since he hasn’t been removed from the title sequence (note to TV editors: if you want a character’s return to come as a surprise, keep the relevant actor’s name out of any opening credits), but there’s no way of knowing what he’ll be like when he does reappear and if he’ll have any desire to carry on the will of a master he betrayed.
As a result Irving could quite literally be anything, such as some kind of undead entity like the doomed Andy Brooks reappeared as, the black-eyed slaughterer of innocents an earlier vision predicted he would become, or a force of destruction grated power by death like the Pied Piper. Perhaps, it could even be that his immediate hunger is an indication that he has risen as the Horseman Famine, the only one of the quartet so far absent from the show (Pestilence got a brief mention in first season episode John Doe as the source of a plague that ravaged the lost colony of Roanoke), or that could just be a reviewer’s stretching attempt to make himself appear more observant than he actually is. All we can currently be sure of is that Irving was most definitely dead, and now he has returned. Anything beyond that we’ll have to wait to find out.
This season will be five episodes longer than the first, but in the wake of the sudden upheaval of the overarching plotline it’s already starting to feel as though the show is coasting on its pervious merit, rather than developing further now that it has the opportunity to do so.
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