Wait, what? With the Headless Horseman in their clutches this week, Ichabod and Abbie interrogate him as the show takes a major hard right into way more backstory than even their mythology supports, gathering subplots until mapping this episode looks like the time somebody gave LSD to a spider.
Amid the wild pace and vast tonal shifts that this show has previously handled with the hair-trigger precision that can only come with utilizing every possible mythology all at the same time as balance points because why not, this episode (apparently either titled "Necromancer" or "Into Darkness," depending on your geography and/or how you feel about how things fall out in this episode) is proof positive of how well Sleepy Hollow can handle a lot of disparate things, and also how quickly everything can fall apart.
And it's a shame, because most of this episode is solid! We get to mix up the crime-fighting dynamics so well it essentially reintroduces two characters, John Cho gets to chew some scenery, and some great tension gets built between Ichabod and Abbie. (And I don't even mean the part where Ichabod gets a vibe after that fist bump with Abbie and looks like he's been smacked in the face by a weirdly sexy fish.)
Of course, the captivity setup they have going is only temporary, despite the "hex candles from the Masons' supply" (check) lining the cell that Jefferson and his witch-wife apparently designed (sure) with hexes to keep evil out (insert shade-throwing about the French here), and lighting courtesy of the "strongest UV lights on the open market." Somewhere in those tunnels, a black-market UV light dealer is waiting for a phone call that will never come.
But Captain Irving, still reeling from last week's news that he's not actually a double agent, doesn't like the sound of their chances: "A dead guy, a mental patient, and a time traveler from the Revolution?" "That's our team," Abbie assures anyone in the audience who was worried about John Cho's role in the back six.
(Outtake from the photo shoot for the Sleepy Hollow lunchbox.)
With time running short, Irving will need to go warn Jenny of impending shenanigans, and Abbie and Ichabod (mostly Ichabod, this is important later) intend to interrogate the Horseman. Obviously, due to logistical difficulties, they'll have to get someone who can translate into English from Supernatural Neck Stump, so the hunt is on for Andy!
Speaking of hunting, over in the B-plot two hunters in the woods run across the Horseman's horse, in one of the best uses of continuity I can remember from this show. One of them seems to know exactly what font this horse came from:
Oh, you Hessian scamps, welcome back! This demon horse is happy to see you.
To set up the rest of the b-plot, Irving brings Jenny into the Sleepy Hollow Everyprecinct and tries to ease her into the idea of impending Doomsday, which Jenny takes about as well as you'd expect from someone who didn't just learn about Doomsday at the wrong end of a taxidermy duck last week, and finally drops the act to explain that the system failed Jenny (admittedly, the Federal Stop Talking About Demons Juvenile Services Division does have its faults), and they could probably use her help given that there are five of them and one bajillion demons.
He is not super great at recruiting people, and Jenny seems unimpressed by everything except the Horseman, and maybe Irving's office art.
But they're interrupted by a report of a robbery at Adams Antiques, and Jenny knows something is up! For the good of the people, Irving begs for her help: is she in or out? She looks surprised he'd even have to ask: "In." "Then let's take a ride." Pardon you, sir, you just met her! (I think I'm kidding. Who knows with this show.)
Back in the Tunnels of Sorry You Guys Didn't Get to Go Outside This Week, Abbie and Ichabod rudely go through Andy's stuff, which frankly makes me feel sorrier for Andy than almost anything else so far; just because he's an undead minion living in a sad sewer oubliette doesn't mean he doesn't have feelings, you guys.
He also has this tablet. "Egyptian hieroglyphs!" Ichabod exclaims. (Nah.)
And then Andy shows back up, and things get really interesting.
The tension between Abbie and Ichabod this episode is pretty great; they're at odds over the wisdom of interrogating the Horseman, and at odds about the ethics of using Andy to get there, and it creates some wary pauses of the kind we haven't had between them before. Bickering, sure, arguing, sure, but this is the first time Abbie looks at Ichabod like she's disappointed in him; it's new and loaded and I dig it.
I also dig Andy a lot in this episode; again, without dismissing how creepy his fixation is, he's given a chance to rise above it (and John Cho absolutely nails every sad, creepy, terrifying shade of him in this episode). Abbie takes control of the dynamic, leaning on his guilt without lying to him outright. What follows is an absolutely fantastic beat of Andy honestly confessing to Abbie what disaster they're in for if they confront Death, just at the moment she's having doubts.
John Cho and Nicole Beharie even manage to give the conversation the weight of long acquaintance; you can practically see the friendship they might have had way back, before he turned into a creeper, and it reads as an actual decision and not just plotcakes when he agrees to help her. (Ichabod's blithe prisoner-march comedy beat just after this seems like a big laugh, and might have been elsewhere, but coming after this scene it registered as a red flag of the impending meltdown he was going to have opposite the Horseman.)
Irving and Jenny, burdened with the location shoots this week, investigate the antiques robbery in the back room of the store where Jenny assures us Adams kept his "most valuable merch":
Of course, the real concern is the box with an inscription in "16th century Druidic Scripture" made of Norse runes for no particular reason; it used to hold a relic hidden after "Cromwell's conquest of Britain," just the sort of relic you'd need to steal if you were a Hessian cult out to break a hex on a supernatural prison, for example. Jenny, alarmed but tactical, sees their game and realizes they're going to cut the power and free the horseman. TO THE FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE! (Or the power grid, whatever.)
Since this is the action plot, things unfold quickly. The Hessians do succeed in blowing up the power station just at the worst possible moment, killing a full third of the Sleepy Hollow Township Gigantic Tactical Squad! But it's not the fault of either Jenny, who's smart enough to use the empty bags in the Hessians' van to gauge what weapons might still be missing, or Irving, who is the first law enforcement operative in TV history to call for reinforcements BEFORE storming the target location. (When the Hessian started his monologue about odds and Irving interrupted with, "Check your math, Adolf" as the SWAT team moved in, it was a more satisfying twist than anything that happens later.)
Also, having decided to finally buy into all this business, Irving throws himself into it and starts snapping necks:
JESUS CRAPS IRVING, no wonder there's no other crime in Sleepy Hollow!
It's all suitably badass, and Orlando Jones and Lyndie Greenwood play nicely off each other (look out, it's a Wry-Off!); I look forward to them cutting a swath of carnage across Westchester County as the demons pile up.
But the meat of this episode is happening in that Masonic cell, with Abbie and Andy bizarrely united, for once, in their distrust of Ichabod. Abbie's ambivalence and Andy's resignation are beautifully played (not to mention John Cho Horsemaning it like a pro while duct-taped to a chair), and frankly, all these great beats make the results of the interrogation that much worse.
Because as Ichabod flourishes his way through the interrogation, the Horseman drops a necklace that used to belong to Katrina, and things veer sharply off the rails.
Of course! Katrina's necklace! Remember when the revolutionary Ichabod was the best friend of a super rich gentleman in an arranged marriage to a suddenly-fancy Katrina?
Ah, yes, my favorite part of Colonial history was when the families of nobility got their sons affianced to Quaker nurses.
There are lots of portents that follow this, of course, but given how it plays out it's not even worth mentioning all the buildup of dread that comes before it. Just know the Horseman has Ichabod's number, and Ichabod has an instant meltdown over it just before the lights go out, as the Horseman growls, "Does the other Witness know you betrayed and killed your former partner?" THE SUBPLOTS ARE BREEDING.
But there's no point leaving you in suspense, so the show doesn't. Abbie asks, and Ichabod instantly explains: during a trip to deliver the Declaration to the First Continental Congress, his "former partner" threw a shit fit about Katrina breaking off the engagement, stepping in puddles just ALL OVER enemy territory, until he figured out Ichabod was her backup dude and demanded a duel. Ichabod tried to yield, but manly honor rules demand you fight until such time as one of you draws blood or a horde of Hessians shoots the other guy, which turns out to be a handy loophole for Ichabod, who runs for it under orders from Abraham as the enemy descends.
Man, there are shades of Abbie and Jenny just everywhere here. So first of all, that is not a betrayal, because Katrina is a human with thoughts. Ichabod had therefore done nothing but have ears open when she told him a human-person decision she made and promptly leveled with his friend about all of it. Second of all, when someone shoots your friend and your friend screams for you to leave him there and get the important revolutionary documents to safety, and you go, that is also not a betrayal. It is also-also not killing that friend. This show's guilt issues are over the MOON.
Abbie points out that this is probably too close to home for Ichabod right now. Ichabod smoothly denies it by screaming "I'M IN CONTROL."
Luckily, people who are actually in control right now show up to back Abbie up, so we get a scene of them discussing the situation (upshot: no one can know about the tunnels, so instead we'll just put SWAT team people at the entrances to the tunnels instead, actual upshot) as Andy pulls out the Thracian Phiale (sure) from where he'd been storing it: his stomach.
AW, COME ON.
As they split up to gather resources and tell people about the fun secret tunnels they can't go into, Abbie and Jenny wordlessly fall into partnership, and Irving and Ichabod finally take a quiet moment to acknowledge that each of them was championing the idea they thought was right, and they're on even ground now. Irving even gives Ichabod a little, "Captain," on his way out.
At ease, soldier.
But maybe someone should have been watching the cell during that, because Andy is incanting (the carved heads come alive and scream silently, it's a pretty cool effect), and demons begin to appear in the tunnels. Welp, I guess according to exposition the war has begun! As Abbie, Jenny, and Irving shoot stunt minions in the tunnel being lit by a single candle, Ichabod realizes the source of the betrayal, figuratively and literally; if Ichabod knew the word "Grody" he'd be screaming it at Brooks.
But there's no time: at last, the Horseman breaks his plastic bonds and reveals himself as Abraham! AW, COME ON. (We'll get to this, things are moving too fast now.)
We get the obligatory Moloch flashback as he claims Abraham, and the Hessians dress him and shave his powdered wig (but it's a wig, just lift it off, it comes right off, what black magic is this, Moloch you dick) and turn him into the Horseman.
You know, all other issues aside, I'm not sure what Moloch wanted with Abraham in particular. It wasn't like there was a shortage of people/demons who hated Ichabod's guts (Tarleton would have done it for freesies, is all I'm saying). This dude couldn't even hang on to a pre-arranged gentry Quaker nurse. Maybe you'd have claimed the Earth by now if you'd assembled a better team to start with, Moloch.
"My prize is Katrina," he Horsemans (AW, COME ON), and the fight is on.
But in another twist more interesting than the actual twist, Andy uses his vow of obedience to Moloch to save Abbie and Ichabod by calling on all those minions of his to get the Horseman to safety. (Hurry up, Brooks, use those Egyptian glyphs you carry with your Thracian Phiale to speak to Moloch in Hessian German before the cult can use Cromwell's Tudor Norse Runes against you! Wait, what? Never mind, keep going, no point stopping now.)
And as the minions descend in their terrifying underpants, Andy forbids the Horseman to kill Ichabod, and manages to choke out "Tell Abbie I'm sorry" just before the demons take them both, in a puff of smoke that spirits them all away and makes Andy the most complicated character in the episode.
Back in the Batcave, Abbie and Ichabod hash out what happened (Ichabod is an unstable snot with a guilt complex, is what happened) without ever actually addressing how much Ichabod lost his shit around the Horseman, which I would think was important to talk about, in favor of noting that the lights are out.
"I prefer candlelight," says Ichabod, with his Romantic Lead Face on; if he knew how internal combustion worked he'd be telling her the Armory ran out of gas and they'll have to spend the night.
Abbie, smiling: "It sets a certain mood." This show is straight-up fucking with us.
Not at all awkwardly, talk turns immediately to Katrina, as they decide Ichabod is not the Horseman's to kill (well then why on earth did we just go through any of this), and that Katrina is somehow the focus of the entire apocalypse. Ichabod's conclusion: "Now, more than ever, we need Katrina."
Oh, show, don't.
We're all aware of the Katrina problem this show has. Having sidelined her as expositionary, underdressed bastion of bygone eras for so long in the midst of serious real-time chemistry and madcap adventures, she's already an object: a go-to for ruminations on Ichabod's past life and occasional witchy helpmeet as the plot requires. The flashback of Ichabod and Katrina meeting cute when she was a Quaker nurse and he was a royal officer didn't do much to make her more interesting.
This week's backstory is so disconnected that it's honestly literally like they started over (now she's gentry! I guess they've known each other a while! Remember his best friend Abraham YES YOU DO SHUT UP). The fallout from this new backstory involves nearly identical fallout from his previous backstory, in which standing by and watching Bernard get killed was supposedly his greatest sin, and Abraham was merely a glint in a location scout's eye, except that Abraham is given a bigger buildup as unholy nemesis and then immediately hamstrung in the purpose Moloch blatantly intended him for. (Remember when that spider took LSD? That was no joke.)
Play me another one, show.
And so on top of a sudden nonsense introduction and hilariously no-thanks origin story, we now have the added expositionary burden that the Horseman of Death, Rider of the Pale Horse, Scourge of the Living, Harbinger of the Apocalypse, Long-Awaited One, is just Katrina's butthurt dudebro ex. He became the vessel of the immortal, disembodied, unspeakable horror of the End of Days because his fiance ditched him for his friend. Katrina is now, explicitly, the prize they'll be fighting over.
It may sound like a repositioning, but honestly, further damseling her does Katrina no favors. It also does the Horseman no favors, because an undead guy with a grudge and a short temper and an empty, unstoppable eldritch horror from the fires of Hell just don't register the same way as threats. Sometimes if you have an unspeakable horror from the End of Days, just keep it that way.
Still, just because I don't like where this road trip is going doesn't mean I'm not in the car. The war's opening salvos have been fired, and everyone's got their part to play. Abbie has her shit together at the moment, which is good because Ichabod is kind of falling to pieces, and hopefully (hopefully) she will not become sidelined by all this unexpected Katrina business. Ichabod now knows the face of his enemy, back when his enemy had a face. Irving is accepting the mantle of Administrator to the Apocalyse; Jenny's just happy that she might get to shoot something soon.
And Andy seems to be officially getting the redemption-arc middle seat on that road trip, which is potentially exciting but maybe only if they dial down his body horror because nobody wants someone pulling snacks out of their chest cavity ten miles outside Tulsa.