In a double-feature finale, Sleepy Hollow pulled out all the stops: big reunions, big plotcakes, big trouble, big reveals, big cliffhangers, zombie George Washington, and Victor Garber literally eating the scenery. What more can you ask for? (Nothing, there's literally nothing left.)
Oh, Sleepy Hollow. The thirteen-hour B-movie that could has spent the season hurling every horror reference, fantasy stopgap, Masonic handwave, time-travel joke, and monster-flick trope it found. The finale goes for broke (which is saying something), screeching to a cliffhanger you just know everyone in the writers' room cackled about, and leaves all the principal actors worried about their renewal clauses.
And wow, was this finale a trip. Its first half was the most National Treasure the show's ever skewed, complete with an enormous tomb for George Washington (who's dead in there despite taking a brief holiday from being dead so he could return as a zombie and draft a map to Purgatory, because of course), and a faceoff with Andy "Friendzone" Brooks during an escape from the alternate entrance from a thematic hidden tomb with its own rolling track whose vestibule contains a secret exit protocol, which is just about how I always imagined Masons spend their free time and extra money!
The second episode scoops everything the show's been heading for into a blender and adds some new things, leading to a final confrontation that feels slightly like a food fight, except instead of a shoulderful of macaroni everybody's miserable for eight months. ("Tune in next fall or else!" - Sleepy Hollow.)
Is it two hours of plotcakes? You bet. But it has its moments, and some great character beats. This show has always prioritized character continuity over plot continuity, and so that's how we're going to break this thing down.
The first returning face: Andy, the kind of guy who in life will offer to watch your house while you're on vacation and copy your keys, and who in death will repeatedly show up and offer to save you by making you his plus-one in hell.
Abbie's actual line: "We need to talk about boundaries."
The rest of the conversation is conducted with Andy chained to a radiator, because Abbie did not get to the season finale just to take chances with her personal creeper. Andy begs for Washington's Bible, because it leads to a map (of course) that leads to the gateway between our world and Purgatory.
Shockingly, she's not into it, and back in the tunnels he's so angry that he begs (with a darkly comic shriek of "Take me seriously!") to be turned into an instrument of Moloch's glory.
It's probably a tactical error.
So, in a show where there's not a lot of moral gray area (even this episode glosses over some things it shouldn't, but we'll get there), Andy's been the most conflicted character. His obsession with Abbie is refreshingly framed as Not Okay, but for a foregone conclusion of a guy he's often helped Abbie at cost to himself. And though he's a go-between, there's a sense of him struggling against his bonds that's even, slowly, made him sympathetic.
It helps that Nicole Beharie and John Cho have given them the sense of long acquaintance, a shared history that goes deeper than Andy's creeping. Abbie's never been truly afraid of Andy; she was wary of him and took him seriously when he said he couldn't be trusted, but the most afraid of him she's ever been is when he desperately claims Ichabod's going to abandon her like her parents did – a shadow of the confidences she'd shared with him. It's first time she reacts as if he's really betrayed her.
When he confronts them in Washington's Tomb in his newly gooey form, it's the first time he's attacked Abbie since the pilot, when he knocked her out to keep her out of the fray. And as soon as he's momentarily himself, he begs Abbie to kill him already.
He shows up later in her vision in Purgatory, and it's striking: Corbin would have been more than enough draw for her, but Andy's surrogate-brother mode is clearly something else she's missed. They were friends, once; his descent has been one of the show's most quietly tragic arcs.
I don't know how demon death works on Sleepy Hollow, but I suspect nothing but low ratings is going to kill John Cho. And that's just as well; the show could use more gray areas. Maybe we can just cut down a little on his hilariously escalating suffering.
Speaking of suffering, the Irvings had a pretty shitty day!
The good news is, in the wake of Macey's demonic possession, the Irvings are once again a cohesive unit. The bad news is, Sleepy Hollow is the one fictional township ever to demand real-life answers for supernatural shenanigans; they're out to discover who killed Father Doomed and Agent Blandy, and Irving doesn't have any explanations to give. (Morales is no help, given that his fate is aggressively kept in the dark, perhaps awaiting analysis of his Tumblr popularity.)
Irving confounded my early suspicions and became a moustachioed do-gooder when the chips were down; instead, his burden has been handling the mundane consequences of supernatural warfare. If he'd never confronted the Horseman, this arc could have been him out to imprison Ichabod and Abbie for some of the carnage that's happened on their watch, but now he's a believer, and it's given him nothing but trouble.
Before they can test the DNA swab they took from Macey (without a warrant, apparently – thanks, Sleepy Hollow Commissioner of Jackassery), Irving confesses.
That's a season wrap on Orlando Jones.
Even though this sidelined Irving at a crucial time, at least he wasn't caught in this crossfire, which will be handy for next season. And in fairness, it really would be hard to explain why you went to a cabin with guards and a priest to avoid a threat on your life and came back with two corpses and no alibi, and I respect that we're going to be wrestling with that for a little while next season. (Knowing this show's pace, "A little while" will be "Ten minutes until he extricates himself or Jenny busts him out.")
I mean, if Jenny's still alive. (Of course she's still alive, don't even think otherwise, if you read that sentence and thought otherwise you're a monster.)
Jenny's arc has been revealing the sweetheart beneath the badass. She's still happy to show up at the scene of even minor conflict toting eight guns, but she's actually slowly become the softer of the Mills sisters: cooking Thanksgiving dinner, terrified at any urge she might have had to ever want to hurt her sister. Knowing she's not a Witness could have slotted her into the resentment of second-best, but instead she's become a necessary voice: "You're talking to the girl who spent a decade in Tarrytown Psychiatric for telling the truth" about Irving's chance at justice was a truth bomb perfectly delivered, topped only by her aside to Abbie's concern about having burned the only map to Purgatory: "Wait for it."
And in these last few episodes, she's become Abbie's personal-Hell-No advocate when Abbie's too focused on the bottom line to advocate Hell No for herself. This episode that comes up double, as Jenny pulls Abbie aside to check that she's not marching into Purgatory just because Ichabod's asking; Jenny puts more weight in the prophecy than either of them (smart!), and thinks it's a lot easier not to get your soul stuck in Purgatory if you're not there to start with.
Another thing Jenny loves now: going in for a hug without fear of rejection.
To prove her point, she brings up that dollhouse they had when they were little (you remember that dollhouse, it's that one they never mentioned before), the place Abbie promised her they'd always be safe, which is an adorable yet oddly specific thing to bring up just before a seemingly unrelated adventure.
Wow, someone's childhood memories are on POINT this episode.
Wading through archival tapes, she's the first one to discover the importance of the abandoned church, where she also finds the clue Henry Parrish is a big old liar, which is great, except for this dude:
Fun fact: I was so busy with everything else that was happening that this guy hadn't occurred to me for an hour, and when he showed up I said out loud, "Oh, right, hi!" like I'd forgotten a brunch date and not the headless guy.
It doesn't look great. But luckily for Jenny, Sleepy Hollow is also the one fictional township to sell cars that don't instantly explode on impact, so as soon as she wakes up from what had better be a flesh wound, she'll be right back on track and the Horseman is probably going to regret fucking with her. (The last time he messed with a Mills she trapped him in a Masonic cell, you think he'd have learned by now to steer clear.)
On the other hand, maybe he just had other things on his mind, since he was on his way to pick up his Cracker Jack prize.
After a season of narrative water-treading and sub-par flashbacks surrounding declarations of love that made Katrina sound like an object even to Ichabod, and hoping Katrina would at any point manifest an active role in the series and sidestep being the damsel, here's what happens:
- Abbie and Ichabod storm into Purgatory to get her to prevent the rising of the second Horseman, who I thought we'd already seen in Ye Old Roanoke, but apparently we're all collectively pretending that episode didn't exist.
- After two tries, she divines the way to the Four White Trees:
"Northeast." Or southwest! It's a stick with no defining end! You're honestly terrible at this! Why does this show hate you!
- She gets captured by Henry, knocked out, and given over to the Horseman, who bros up on his horse just in time to grab her and go.
Good luck next season, Katrina. You'll need it.
The person who hands Katrina over to the Horseman? Her son, Henry! OR SHOULD I SAY JEREMY. *crack of thunder *
Yup. Sin-eating Henry Parrish is actually the Horseman of War, appointed by Moloch thirteen years ago. God apparently sent Abbie to stop it, but since she was like fourteen years old and God had not bothered to explain anything, it was not a triumph, shall we say. In fact, nothing about the roles or powers of Witnesses has been explained, if you think about it, which this show is hoping you don't. Did it mention Henry's actually Jeremy?
Looking back, there are clues, many of them stirred into trope soup (his talk about crossword deflections), and many hilariously overwrought in retrospect: remember when he talked about his dad supporting him when his powers manifested? HIS REAL DAD, ICHABOD, OKAY?
These episodes wanted you to figure it out, though, when he couldn't touch the rosary without hurting himself and declared, "There's a hex on these beads." Of course Ichabod and Abbie bought it, because half the stuff in Sleepy Hollow is covered in hexes by now, but when that wound healed up by itself and demons just Fosse-d in his general vicinity rather than attacking, that jig was up.
It's a loss, because Henry was a great addition to the series, poignant but wry, and his sin-eater power, which worked less like traditional sin-eating than it did the Rogue of Sleepy Hollow, was another grasp at moral complication and the best exposition delivery system this show could hope for. Now that's gone, courtesy of an extremely convoluted and conditional Bondian plan for revenge that Henry's very lucky panned out anything like he wanted (and for which he had to push their immortal connection – "Remember your bond" – which was probably secretly hilarious for him). Now we're slated to come back next season planted in one of the less interesting subplots of the season. At least maybe now that he's a clear and present danger, things will move.
John Noble sold it, of course. Imagine him in front of the mirror, oozing evil into lines like, "We had to know that finding a map to Purgatory wouldn't be easy." And they really wouldn't know! They've found everything else they were ever looking for in under forty minutes. Evil indeed.
("I trusted you," Ichabod bites out, booted toes wriggling with outrage.)
Still, John Noble gives great bad guy. Hopefully Season Two answers some lingering questions: How long did Henry really know "old friend" the Horseman, who was asleep in his tomb when Henry rose and has only been on earth a few months? Do they visit often? How has Henry been out of the grave only thirteen years after being put in stasis in his early twenties, yet is now in his sixties rather than his late thirties? Didn't we already see the next Horseman in that other episode, or is the Horseman of Daddy Issues traditionally second?
The man, the myth, the Mason.
Amid wrestling with autocorrect, dating Betsy Ross, missing Yolanda, and briefly forgetting he had photographic memory, Ichabod had some problems to grapple with: stumbling into a weekend reenactors' camp and getting some new duds while correcting their details with some Romantic Lead Face.
(One of my favorite things about this show is when it historically nitpicks and then uses the magical teapot of Thomas Jefferson to pour holy water to seal the Fissure of Destruction that will inevitably be located just outside town.)
His other real problem was that Abbie finally called out his myopia about Katrina at the risk of all of humanity. He explains, "I have waited a very long time for this." (Dude, it's been like six months. You know who's been waiting a long time for this? Katrina. Get your head right.)
And there was a flicker of organic, morally-gray conflict in this finale that did not get its due: Ichabod, who destroyed the map explicitly as a show of trust in (and to) Abbie, goes home, remembers he has photographic memory, and drops Katrina's necklace the Horseman barfed out of his neck stump one time so he can draw a recreation.
When Abbie finds out she is, quite rightly, stricken: "You lied." But as soon as the plot's demanded they get to Purgatory, he's demanded she tell him she appreciates what he's done.
Your Jesus halo is full of shit, Crane.
That he would ask that of Abbie after explicitly breaking her trust is one of the most jarring moments in the episode; that she capitulates on this is the other one. From the very start, trust has been the thing in their relationship that needed constant proving. The pilot was about establishing it, and any time they've come into conflict with one another—rare, but it's happened—it's been because Abbie couldn't trust Ichabod to keep his word on something, as in "Necromancer" when he was losing his cool. Even at the beginning of the finale, Abbie was struggling with the instinct to believe Andy when he said Ichabod would abandon her.
It would, I think, have been another matter if he'd just remembered the way, but to write it down in another easily-stolen form is actually Ichabod playing more directly into the forces of evil than the show seems to think, and for me this is the sourest note of the finale. (It would have been fine to have tension over this right up until they hit Purgatory; it could have actually worked better! Double guilt for Ichabod!)
But into Purgatory they go. His vision falls a little flat, since his dad's just a distant dickweed on the winds of history. But if you're going to get someone for a single scene, make it Victor Garber in a powdered wig and muffin hat, and if you're going to have him do something supernatural, make it literally eating the scenery as he screams Ichabod right out of town.
Purgatory itself was kind of great. The creepy plunk piano-soundtrack being played in situ is perfect, and there's always room for a Purgatory that looks like a Cirque du Soleil number.
And the fist-bump ID verification was one of the best callbacks of the season, re-establishing their rapport just in time to decide who's going to stay behind for Katrina in Purgatory. Abbie volunteers to stay to face Moloch, and though both of them are aware they're fulfilling the prophecy by doing it, Ichabod agrees.
And then, in a tonally interesting move, they intensely hug as they promise each other their trust and aid in these darkest times, as Ichabod swears he'll come back for Abbie right away, probably much sooner than he came for Katrina, just, he'll be back instantly, remember the bond, he's already on his way back, just think of him and count to one hundred and he'll be right back to get you, as poor Katrina stands vaguely at the edge of the frame.
After the pent-up emotion of this doomed parting, it's somehow an afterthought that he gets trapped against a tree and forced to listen to his son's bad-guy monologue.
Losing Katrina and losing Abbie within a few minutes of such a huge betrayal has him reeling, and when Henry throws him to the ground Ichabod doesn't have it in him to fight. And so after all this, he ends the season where he started it: in the grave.
So, let's talk about Abbie Mills, because despite being on a show that routinely asks its characters to talk very seriously about lanterns made of human heads, Abbie is one of the most important characters on the TV landscape this season.
She's definitely working in partnership with Ichabod, and some of her appeal is their fantastic rapport. But over the season, Ichabod is delightful but often serves largely as someone who was around when groundwork was laid; he provides topical information, moral support, and good company. Abbie's been the person to struggle with her place, to actively recruit help, to manage iffy circumstances, and to get the results she wants. She is this season's hero, and when she goes down, she goes down fighting, in a tiny dollhouse. (Forget that last part.)
Her concerns about the map in the face of Ichabod's single-mindedness reflect her supreme internal question since accepting she's a Witness: "What are we willing to do to keep everyone – everything – safe?" It's one of the reasons Jenny has to make a side plea to make sure she's not throwing herself on a bullet for Crane. (Jenny and Ichabod are going to have such an awkward reunion after this.) It's the reason she's concerned about Irving, Henry, Andy. She even gets to monologue about Cincinattus, the Emperor who didn't want power and gave it up when his war was over.
It makes her time in Purgatory even more telling. Corbin's cabin is a heartbreaking battlefield for her; Corbin's every inch the caring dad, and it's an even bigger sting that the other figure in it is Andy. When she embraces Corbin and whispers, "I miss you so much," you forgive her for forgetting. And her carefree mien at the table – reciting Corbin's pie axiom, stealing from Andy's plate – is great work by Nicole Beharie.
Damn you, show, you know how much I wanted their reunion. BUT NOT LIKE THIS, SHOW. Not like this.
As I'd hoped, when confronted by Moloch, she punches the apocalypse in the face and runs for it, ending up in the safety of her childhood dollhouse (good thing we planted that seed early), meeting up with the memories Moloch robbed them of that day in the woods. From them, she learns about Henry's treachery, and that the plot doorway to Purgatory has closed, leaving her with no way out.
Hey, here's a fun thing: Moloch locking Abbie and Jenny's memories in means that even in such a desolate place, they've been able to support and lean on each other in a way the aboveworld Abbie and Jenny missed out on for thirteen years. You're welcome.
And though I expect this captivity to be swiftly dealt with when the show returns, Abbie, too, ends up where she started: forever trapped in the moment with the Four White Trees.
Thanks for the season, Sleepy Hollow. It's been beautifully-cast, hilarious, plotcakey, and occasionally sublime. See you in the fall.