It's a small miracle everyone makes it out of this episode of "Sleepy Hollow" alive. As the series races towards next week's finale, the tension is rising and this seemed like as good a week as any for the show to throw a shocking, emotional death our way.

But maybe "Sleepy Hollow" isn't that kind of show (which would be just fine, really) or maybe it's not that kind of show just yet. At any rate, "Vessel" is a pleasingly suspenseful and fast paced hour with almost none of the clunky exposition or ham-fisted flashbacks that sometimes drag the show down. (Not all the flashbacks are bad, of course, but the win/loss ratio hasn't been great overall.)

This week's plot is relatively tight, with a focus split neatly between two groups: Abbie, Ichabod and Jenny in one and Irving, his family and Morales in the other. We find out that Jenny was possessed, good old Sheriff Corbin helped exorcise her (or something ... it's always nice to see Clancy Brown again), and the demon that possessed her is now demanding Captain Irving turn over George Washington's Bible or else Irving's daughter is toast. Oh, "Sleepy Hollow," we missed you these past few weeks.

The execution is straightforward but spooky -- demonic possession is a hoary cliche in horror movies these days but it's genuinely disturbing to see both Irving's daughter (who we barely know, but for whatever it's worth is named Macey) and Jenny (who we know and care for quite a bit by now) during their respective possession sequences. And it's a fun silly touch to have Irving's priest confirm for him the "reality" of demonic possession ("Even the Vatican acknowledges the devil can take hold of a mortal soul").

Does it do much to move the story forward? Not really. We now know that Washington's Bible is even more important than ever (and the episode's final moments find Abbie and Ichabod decoding a message that somehow suggests Washington didn't die when everyone thinks, or he's a zombie, or he' immortal, or he's a witch, or something ... you never know on "Sleepy Hollow"). But otherwise the big moments here were all character based.

Jenny reveals to Ichabod that the reason she kept getting herself locked up and/or institutionalized was because she was trying to protect her sister. When she was possessed, the demon vowed to kill both Jenny and Abbie, and ever since then Jenny has been doing anything she can to make sure Abbie stays safe. Another fun silly touch: Abbie is upset that Jenny never told her she was possessed. "You were possessed by a demon! I could've done something!," she screams, forgetting for half a second that she never believed any of this stuff was possible before meeting Ichabod and witnessing Headless.

This stuff works because Lyndie Greenwood, Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison and the show have all put in the time to flesh these relationships out and give us a reason to care about the bond between Abbie and Jenny as well as the strange sort of surrogate brother/father role Ichabod plays for them both.

Meanwhile, it may have taken Macey getting possessed, but Irving finally faced his own demons. Not that spilling his guts (emotionally) to a demon may was the best way to do it. (Hasn't he ever seen "The Exorcist"?) This wasn't quite as successful, if only because the show's efforts to get us invested in Irving, his ex-wife and his daughter hasn't been as successful as what's been developed with the core characters and their families. Still, Orlando Jones has come a long way from those early episodes were he was relegated to delivering little more than menacing and/or harried looks in the police department.

Anyway, everyone (except Irving's poor priest and the redshirt detective guy) survives and Ichabod used Ben Franklin's lantern to vanquish the demon back to hell. Because that's how they do things in "Sleepy Hollow." With only two hours left to go this season, let's enjoy it while we can.

Odds and ends:

- Another episode without a single appearance from Katia Winter's Katrina. I may be wrong about this but it certainly feels like Jenny has been a bigger part of this season than Katrina. I'm sure Katrina will have something major to do in the finale (right?) but again, it's just odd to use one of your full-time cast members this sparingly when you only have four of them.

- Another character the show has yet to really figure out is Morales, who was basically used as a prop this week. The demon possessed him to get close to Macey and Irving and it worked, but once Macey was possessed he just kind of faded away. I wonder if he joined the show when they were still considering a full 22 episode season, only to see his potential storylines dwindle with the decision to stick with 13.

- Obviously, for the sake of the show, Ichabod can't ever change out of his uniform. But the show did need to raise the question again and did so repeatedly tonight ("skinny jeans"!). It could turn into a nice running gag for both Abbie and Jenny to tease him about.

- Calm down anyone looking to crown Ichabod as an unabashed Conservative icon. He may be outraged by 21st Century taxes but he's also not too keen on 21st Century interpretations of the Second Amendment, telling Abbie: "There was concern among us that it could lead to perverse consequences." (Let's hope he never watches season 6 of "Sons of Anarchy.")

- "Demons have been known to speak backwards, just to up the creep factor."

- "Gentlemen, we don't wish to violate your Constitutional rights but we must commandeer this lantern."