It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy HollowS

As if a new episode of Sleepy Hollow weren't gift enough, this week's outing is the Christmas episode: our gifts are hilarious vocabulary words and too-modern holiday traditions. And Ichabod's gift is some daddy issues, a huge golem out to kill a pile of witches, and some truly terrible news.

Spoilers ahead...

We'll get to the terrible news later — because first, we have to sift through one of the most thematically dense episodes of this show yet.

Often, Sleepy Hollow is a show that loves its characters, their banter, and making them run around amid supernatural shenanigans. But this time around, we get an hour of TV about fathers in crisis just everywhere, trying to protect their children (Irving), trying to avenge their children (Ichabod), giving advice to their children (Ichabod and Henry), and the bumper of having not one, but two priests get their asses dismissed.

It still had the primary motive of any Sleepy Hollow episode — move the ever-closer endgame forward, no matter what — but there was some impressively cohesive man-pain action happening on the way there.

To facilitate the overwhelming daddy issues, we welcome back Henry Parrish, resident sin-eater (reintroduced in a flashback of the time he summoned the guy from that other flashback, because this show is amazing). Ichabod's asked Parrish to stop by and help him reach Katrina in purgatory; given the circumstances, Parrish suggests they just call him Henry, to which Ichabod and Abbie react like conspiratorial parents whose kid has just done something disgustingly precocious.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

This is only the beginning of the B-plot for this episode, which is Henry having a really bad day, courtesy of these two. Frankly, I don't blame Henry for helping Ichabod cross dimensions by just choking him with bare hands.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

It's always so nice when Henry comes to visit.

In purgatory, Ichabod rediscovers the world's creepiest doll and tries to have a heart-to-heart with Katrina about their son Jeremy. Turns out her coven was out to get her after she spelled Ichabod, so she fled to have the baby in sanctuary, and was later trapped in purgatory by her own coven. (You know, there was an evil coven pitted against Katrina's in the pilot; has anything happened with that? With friends like this, do we really need an evil coven, as well?) But before she handed him into the safekeeping of Grace Dixon, she made the doll, apparently on purpose, to comfort their young son.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

This baby's face is everybody's face.

Ichabod is making a different face, staggered by this news that with both Brom and the coven involved, essentially everyone in town wanted to get Katrina into purgatory, which is admittedly kind of rude of them.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

(You can tilt the camera all you want, show; I'm never going to get a sense of urgency from these two.)

But naturally, a monster breaks into their space, and Ichabod leaps to the real world and passes along the new Grace Dixon connection. "It seems your fates merged before you even met," Henry says, giving Ichabod a break from saying it this week, since his windpipe is still crushed.

Having fulfilled his daily quota for nearly killing guys with his bare hands, I guess, Henry wants to go home, but the usually-forthright Abbie has never had a moment's pause about guilting the crap out of this guy, and she leans hard on his loneliness to get his help.

Can she promise he'll be on the late-night train? Of course!

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

...ooooof course.

John Noble manages to elevate Henry's solitude and grief from a plot point to the core of a character who longs for connection, so you buy his willingness to join the Essentially Orphans Crime-Fighting Squad. However, it's still part of Henry having a really terrible day, during which no one is sympathetic or helpful and he never catches a train again.

Their first stop is the Historical Society, where Ichabod Romantic Lead Faces the librarian, assuring her that "without books, we have neither a past nor a future."

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

If you listen to that .jpg hard enough, you can hear the "ting!" sound his smile made. (He keeps it on as he and Abbie stand under mistletoe and flirt around the subject for a bit before starting research, because of course they do.)

Turns out Ichabod's kid was a firestarter and burned Grace Dixon to the ground, which doesn't put the kind of damper on their night I'd expect it to. But because this is Sleepy Hollow, the librarian is of course a witch. And of course, while trying to sneak away, she gets smashed by the golem, and that puts a damper on everybody's night, particularly Henry, who stood under mistletoe for like ten minutes but nobody said a word about it.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

Saddest surrogate-dad outing ever.

Well, almost. Irving gets a quiet but thematically-relevant plot all to himself this week, as he visits an establishing shot of New York to talk to a priest; when he finds out that the two Witnesses and their apostles are fated to die for their testimony, he's frustrated and storms out, decrying it all (with Orlando Jones giving this some greater weight for Irving than just exposition). Then he makes some family amends, apologizing to his wife and taking Macey to the park for some wintry family time.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

It goes by quickly, but Irving's wrestling with a lot this episode: we learn his daughter had an accident and he buried himself in work, we see his relationship with his wife probably could have been salvaged if he'd tried, and his attempts to adapt to Macey's needs are well-meaning but, as she says, make her feel "helpless." His attack on the cloudy-eyed demon that asks if Macey's strong enough to fight for her soul is really just icing on the cake. (I have to ask: how is no one on this show carrying an amulet yet? A vial of holy water? Mano cornuta? Evil eye? A sliver of mirror? A Ziploc baggie of salt? Have we really gotten ten episodes in without anybody arming themselves? I know this show is paced at 150% normal speed, but still.)

We don't get to see the fallout of this, which is a shame in an episode that sets up the fatherhood theme so directly. Is Irving just shaken by the encounter or spurred on to fight by the idea of clear and present danger? Did his attempt to protect Macey backfire by being more than just momentarily embarrassing, so he's alienating her just when she needs his protection? Don't bring it up and wander off, show! We'll need several Amandla-centric webisodes to work through all this.

Speaking of working through something, Henry's worst day continues as he burns time with a crossword (restless: "gumplefick") while Ichabod and Abbie chat about the development of language since Ichabod's day. "Intercourse simply meant social conversation, and awful meant awe inspiring," he grandpas. Abbie, for some reason needing to sort this concept out with this particular example: "So if I went on a date with a guy and we had awful intercourse, we'd be going on a second date?"

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

Madam, please. (No, really, madam: please.)

Turns out the librarian's one of Katrina's coven ("Sisterhood of the Radiant Heart," rejected band name), and has some effects which Henry can feel were loaded with misery. Abbie IDs the drawing of the creepy doll, and they realize Jeremy was abused in the orphanage and accidentally summoned a being from the doll to protect him by snapping everybody's neck if they gave him any shit.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

My Stepdad is a Golem, Hallmark Channel, Thursday at 8pm.

In the tunnels, Ichabod and Henry bond over fatherly absences (wow, there is just no room for moms this week, is there?). Ichabod talks about the importance of fathering by example; Henry's nice enough not to directly draw the connection that as someone with supernatural powers, it was crucial that his father supported him in his youth during his moral and power development, but Tom Mison's face does it for him.

Luckily, after several episodes without, Ichabod remembers Washington's Bible! (There WILL be a Christmas this year!) Yup, it's a golem. "From Sunday school," says Abbie, who attended a much more hardcore Sunday school that most people, before connecting the dots that the remaining witches of Katrina's coven travel with the carnival (genre bingo card carriers, check off a square). So it's off to warn them about the golem by demanding information and then possibly helping them but only maybe, which sounds deliciously morally gray but which the episode doesn't really get into, because on Sleepy Hollow, the good are good and the bad are all demons.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

Look, if the carnival has a clown-mouth entrance, don't go in. How are we still debating this in 2013?

Henry, maybe still hoping to salvage his evening, is happy to be one of the "gongoozlers" (bystanders), because look at this place. Despite Abbie's protests, Ichabod asks her to stay put. That's the second episode in a row he's suggested she stay put while he goes and emotes manfully about his past, but Abbie's understandably reluctant to split up, because she knows every single time they're apart something dreadful happens. Still, she tries to get into the spirit of the season, promising "Henry and I will sit here and gongoozler our asses off," to which Ichabod lobs what he hopes is a noun: "Now who's the Scrooge."

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

In the tent, he confronts the four coven members who examine his lifeline and creepy-gleefully recognize him, hamstringing his scare tactics by assuring him they're definitely going to die tonight.

That'll take the wind out of your sails, won't it, Crane?

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

(Quick hat-tip to whoever sourced all the doll parts for that credenza in back.)

Amid their anger at Katrina and Ichabod messing with preordained events, he gets a good line in—"I don't believe Fate befalls us however we act, only unless we act"—but they're not having it. No room for loose ends in that coven; Jeremy and his sharp jawline had to be dealt with.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

They offered Jeremy a place with them, and when he refused, they stopped his heart and buried him. (YIKES.) I'm actually really interested in these coven internal politics, because they would be our first big discussion about perceived moral imperatives acting in opposition, but the golem shows up and just eats them instead, so, fine.

Everybody flees! In the melee, Ichabod manages to snark on modern irony AND get stabbed by a shard of mirror the size of a bread knife, which is enough of Jeremy's blood to control the golem.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

(Henry's day: not improving.)

Interrupting the golem's attack on Abbie, Ichabod promises the golem his task is over. "Jeremy is gone," Ichabod whispers. "We both have to let him go." That'll do, Stepdad Golem; that'll do.

That said: I dunno, sir. We all watch TV. We didn't see a dead body, and your son is chiseled and angsty. We'll all just be here waiting for him to show up in the season finale, thanks.

The golem wails in grief and lashes out at Ichabod, who stabs him and then tenderly takes his hand. "My son," he farewells the golem, tears standing in his eyes. Tom Mison absolutely sells the loss, and it's a poignant moment, even as the camera pans down to a golem that's once again merely the creepiest doll in the entire fucking world.

Back at the station, Henry feels very circumspect about his terrible day, and his part in all of it: "If I had not separated your blood from the Horseman, you would not have been able to put the golem to rest." Excellent point, Henry; I'd shake your hand at dinner but nobody invited you.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

Still, he's glad to have been given this calling, and tells Ichabod, "We never bury the dead, son," in case you still needed some father-son thematic reminders, and also the reminder that we will probably definitely be seeing Jeremy again.

He leaves, not having been asked for coffee or to come by for Christmas or anything, so Abbie can give Ichabod his early present.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

"You've embroidered my name on some oversized hosiery. How odd."

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

But without really explaining the tradition in a way I'm sure Ichabod would find helpful, Abbie leaves to get food.

The instant she's gone, he's sucked into purgatory (what did I say about splitting up, you two, we literally just talked about this). Moloch, having abandoned the subtitle font that was my favorite thing about him, is a lot less creepy in English, as he stalks Ichabod's periphery and crows, "Your death is assured. You and the Second Witness."

When Abbie finds him, he drags himself nearly into her lap and gaspingly, incredulously admits that Moloch is after Abbie's soul...and claims Ichabod himself will deliver it.

It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World on Sleepy Hollow

Merry Christmas, you two!

We're in the home stretch, here, and this episode has locked and loaded yet another potential enemy/ally (depending on how Jeremy feels when they dig him up), introduced a cloudy-eyed evil spirit, suggested a finale on the battlefield of purgatory in which Katrina's soul will probably be further imperiled, and confirmed that Christmas will probably be at Ichabod's because he has the best fireplace. Even better, after spending the last few episodes treading water as Ichabod got his angsty ducks in a row, Abbie's back in the line of fire, front and center in the eyes of the Devil, and this time she's ready to fight back. In fact, so is Ichabod, and Jenny, and Irving, and Henry, and the Masons. That's going to be a very crowded fight.