Who: “Sleepy Hollow” airs on network TV, specifically on FOX, Fall Thursdays at 9:00 PM – though it has recently been moved to Fridays for the winter half of the season (oh no!).
What: “Sleepy Hollow,” part supernatural thriller, part historical fiction, part revisionist fiction, part cop drama. It’s got a little something for everyone.
Nicole Beharie plays Sleepy Hollow sheriff’s deputy Abbie Mills, who witnesses the murder of her partner and sheriff by the Headless Horseman, an unidentified figure that Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) decapitated (in this show’s backdrop) during his service in the Revolutionary War. Crane is also pulled into the present, being apparently tied by blood to the Horseman thanks to his wife Katrina, who he comes to learn was a witch.
Abbie and Crane work together to search for clues and history behind the Horseman’s rise and related supernatural events occurring in Sleepy Hollow. What they piece together, with the help of some magical artifacts, Abbie’s own personal history of seeing a possible demon as a child, and Crane’s memory, is that the Headless Horseman is, in fact, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Death, to be specific – and that his coming heralds the arrival of the other three. The Horseman seeks reunion with his head to bring about conditions suitable for the arrival of his compatriots, and Crane and Abbie realize that their destinies are intertwined with each other, with this faceless horror, and with the town called Sleepy Hollow.
When: Season Two aired from September 22, 2014, to February 23, 2015, to the overall tune of eighteen episodes.
Where: The show is set in what is now known to be Sleepy Hollow, New York (formerly North Tarrytown).
Why: Sleepy Hollow – Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, in their colonial times regalia and context, thrust into the present? That premise alone doesn’t fascinate you?
How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)
Do you have Sympathy for the Devil yet? This viewer, your Chief Couch Potato, is not sure I do.
After a tantalizingly well-woven first season, reviewed here, I was only too eager to get back to the world of Sleepy Hollow, particularly after what could only be called a whopper of a season one finale. Plus, John Noble joined the regular cast, and I am a big fan of his work on Fringe as Walter Bishop (and, I guess, the Lord of the Rings trilogy as Denethor). His appearance as Henry, aka Jeremy, the resurrected son of Ichabod and Katrina and, apparently, the Horseman of War breathed a tsunami of high octane energy into an already kinetic first season. This viewer could not wait to find out what season two offered.
Unfortunately, our Sleepy Hollow heroes and the backdrop of their story fell victim to somewhat of a sophomore slump, which is actually unsurprising if not predictably disappointing, given the level of intensity buoying the first season. The second season, which was five episodes longer than the first for a grand total of eighteen thanks to a late additional order by Fox, suffered from a chaotic presentation, in which it was clear that while the writers and producers may have known where to drive the show in the first half of the season, the second half lost its way, almost as if fumbling for a new direction as it was filmed – and may have cost the show ratings in the process. Fortunately, Fox stuck with the show for now, renewing it for a third season, which is currently in progress, but TV pundits are prognosticating that renewal for a fourth season is a “long shot.” This viewer, always behind, is caught up through season two only – and today’s reflections and mini-recap will be focusing on just the second season. Notably, though this viewer attempted to draft panelists for an ongoing podcast, no interest was shown but for one person. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad sign, for the show or for the podcast. More popular shows tend to draw in more panelists, kind of like CPU!’s own mini-ratings system, so the prognosis can’t be great, no matter how one rattles the head from a headless body at the situation. Not to mention the fact that Fox has moved the show to Fridays for the winter half of the season – a move that typically spells trouble, unless the show finds success by premiering on one of two nights during which TV is least watched by the masses.
In this entry, this viewer will review some of the major plot points, with more or less detail as I see fit. To be perfectly frank, Sleepy Hollow is as much about the odd coupling between Ichabod and Abbie, which is also rooted in a seed of blossoming friendship and comradeship, as it is about the witnesses’ search for whatever will help them stave off the end of days, the Apocalypse, the doom and gloom prophesied by the biblical Book of Revelations. Therefore, several episodes can be summarized by the following formula: 1) Ichabod grumbles about some modern contrivance that does not make sense to him; 2) Abbie laughs or offers sidelong glances at her own personal Rip Van Winkle; 3) Abbie gets serious as a heart attack about their next quest or step in their mission; 4) Jenny tries to have fun but is caught up in the ride and worries for the safety of her sister; 5) the characters quest for items that will help them or fight off demons that haunt them. The largest story events appear to happen during sweeps and at finale points. So, the following is less recap and more summary, but there are still spoilers of the major-ish level to follow.
Season Two – A Very Summarized Recap
Season Two began with Ichabod buried alive and Abbie trapped in Purgatory. What’s more, the fate of Jenny, Abbie’s sister, who also saw the demon Moloch as a child, was uncertain. Henry had free reign to terrorize Sleepy Hollow, while his mom, Katrina, was held captive by the Headless Horseman, Death, who is revealed to be Abraham, the man she was to wed before meeting Ichabod during their colonial lives together. Ichabod’s first mission is to free Abbie from Purgatory, after she agreed to stay there, soul for a soul, to replace Katrina . Katrina was resurrected at the end of the first season to stop Henry, though she failed. While the challenge is formidable, Ichabod is able to save Abbie, just as she realizes she is being wooed by Moloch with a myriad of temptations, which would serve his plans and stop the witnesses from interfering with them, as trapping Abbie in Purgatory for eternity would have been the demon’s easy answer.
With Abbie’s return, she realizes that the witnesses, sister Jenny included, are at war with literally War, Death, and the demon controlling them. Several early episodes in season two deal with our character’s quests to track down knowledge, talismans, and other artifacts to aid their mission. In the meantime, Henry, who is also part witch, casts dark spells on the town with the aim of wreaking havoc, as is his horseman duty, in service to Moloch, while Katrina schemes to free herself from Abraham, who continues to dote on the woman who would have been his wife with a mixture of jealousy and obsession.
A new character is introduced this season in the form of Nick Hawley (Matt Barr), a bounty hunter who seeks out many of the same artifacts hunted by Ichabod and Abbie. Jenny knows Nick from her own less than savory history, and it is a history that she and Nick share (along with some other interests and, occasionally, a bed), but Nick seems to have instant chemistry and an easy spark with her sister, which creates an interesting if ultimately unexplored tension. When Nick appeared, this viewer was initially lukewarm to the introduction of a new character, but he manages to provide some competent comic relief, particularly when his character’s cynicism is pitted against Ichabod’s ongoing fish-out-of-water foibles, what with being over 200 years old and thrust into a future to which he must adjust.
Several of the early season two episodes also experiment with a “monster of the week” format, pioneered by shows like The X-Files but perfected by programs with crossover appeal like Supernatural. Several of these monsters are servants of Moloch in some form or another or are summoned by Henry or Abraham, as they continue their onslaught against the witnesses and try to invoke the End Days, though the Weeping Lady is apparently the ghost of a woman who would have married Ichabod, had he not met Katrina. She appears in the fifth episode, sprinkling more back story on the apparently controversial love affair between Ichabod and Katrina.
Irving (Orlando Jones) also returns, though he spends a large portion of the first half of the season in an asylum in the aftermath of the possession of his daughter by Moloch, having traded his soul for her safety. In this way, Henry, Moloch’s servant as the Horseman of War and in addition to being a witch, is able to pervert Irving’s good soul more and to magically induce him into servitude, which puts Irving at odds with his friends. At one point, Henry convinces Irving to take the lives of either or both witnesses, which Irving agrees to do, though it is initially unclear whether he is under the duress of a spell or whether he chooses to further harm his friends. In any event, his actions, in a convoluted episode or two, result in what appears to be his death rather than the death of either Abbie or Ichabod, but death is a bit more temporary in this universe. As season two trundles toward the mid-season finale, many elements of the story grow fuzzy and unclear; in fact, this is when our hitherto gripping tale starts to meander on its path toward Apocalypse or the prevention of it.
In one episode, Moloch attempts to reenter this realm by somehow becoming Katrina’s unborn child, indoctrinated by a spell of Henry’s with the help of Abraham – though whether or not Ichabod is the father of this unholy seed is unclear. The pregnancy gestates quickly, but Abbie and Ichabod are able to stop the culmination of the spell. This event seems to predispose Katrina to favoring the safety and love of her live son, the one she thought she lost to binding magic spells and evil before Moloch resurrected him. It’s difficult to reconcile her sudden favoring of Henry, given all he’s done, but perhaps, Moloch’s antics inspire guilt via temptation. In the meantime, Abbie and Jenny also discover the truth of their mother’s disappearance when they encounter her ghost in the asylum housing Irving while investigating its apparent haunting. Unfortunately, the girls seem predisposed to be at the mercy of their dangerous fate, as they are directly descended from the maid who serviced Katrina in colonial times, Grace Dixon, who was also a witch. The episode is touching, but their mother warns them of impending danger, doomed to follow the sisters throughout their lives, a truth their mother saw through disturbing visions of Moloch, which caused her committal to the asylum.
The end of midseason depicts a confusing turn of events, in which a special sword, the Sword of Methuselah, is identified as the only weapon that can defeat Moloch. Yet, the sword can only be used if the wielder is accepting of the ultimate sacrifice: self-sacrifice, or the wielder’s death. For the latter quarter of the season’s first half, the viewer watches Henry doubting his filial allegiance to Moloch, his surrogate father, in favor of Katrina, the doting mother. Though Henry spares no hatred for his dad, Ichabod, he retains loyalty to his mom, from which he inherited his magical powers. In the meantime, Ichabod and Katrina’s relationship deteriorates given their differences involving Henry, with Ichabod accepting that Henry/Jeremy may have to be killed to prevent the coming onslaught and Katrina fighting for a magical solution to save their son. This tension culminates in an epic confrontation, during which Katrina reveals to Abraham that she has no feelings of love for him and during which Henry, when he’s lost key powers bestowed to him by Moloch, is nothing more than a pawn to be used to Moloch’s will, much to Henry’s bewilderment and disappointment. At this point, Henry/Jeremy/War becomes more of a self-preservationist, yet once Ichabod retrieves the sword of Methuselah, he offers to thwart Moloch, to end his son’s servitude to him. Henry seems moved by the fact that his father still fights for him, so much so that he ultimately wrests the sword magically from his father and kills Moloch himself. While Henry survives this gesture, having received immortality from Moloch when he became the Horseman of War, his powers seem greatly weakened.
Henry’s foray into selflessness sparks a definitive change in Katrina, who no longer seems moved by love for Ichabod. She offers to restore Abraham’s humanity, while efforts of Moloch and Henry weaken the gate to Purgatory and unleash the demons within. A suspicious angel named Orion turns up as well, and this viewer is suddenly reminded of Supernatural. This angel is apparently a wayward son like many of the angels who encounter Sam and Dean Winchester; he seeks the power of the horsemen in order to pass judgment on humanity, starting with Katrina, who endeavors to perform a ritual to free Abraham from his servitude as the Horseman of Death. Abbie and Ichabod fend off this ambitious angel and his designs, while Katrina’s efforts spur disagreement between Ichabod and her further, and they take some sort of equivalent of “a break,” in the grand tradition of Ross Geller, which sets them up for a meet-cute of sorts in the episode “Pittura Infamante,” one of the lowest points of the season. The episode might have been interesting if Sleepy Hollow’s writers and producers had not worked so hard to create a serial story and overarching goal for our heroes – this episode deviated it from markedly, unless the serial arc itself died with Moloch at the point of Methuselah’s sword. As did “Kali Yuga,” which provided some character history for Nick, although, at this point, this viewer did not feel that the character had been around enough or omnipresent enough to warrant a backstory, especially a backstory that does not seem to dovetail our heroes’ own trajectories. Perhaps, some reveal about Nick has occurred in season three, if he still appears, that shows he’s more interconnected to our witnesses, other than as an occasional booty call for Jenny, but by the time of “Kali Yuga,” you learn that he’s an orphan and Lost Boy of sorts who found his way to a group of supernatural treasure hunters via a godmother with demonic undercurrents.
The witnesses later encounter a warlock named Solomon Kent, who, like Ichabod, is a man out of time. He orchestrated the Salem Witch Trials by framing a member of his coven, a woman he loved, according to the show’s mythology, apparently to distract others from his own powerful magic, including a Grimoire that everyone sets their sights on in episode fifteen. Ichabod and Katrina, still frosty, have been discussing the limits of Katrina’s magic; by this episode, she’s tapped out, finding the most basic spells difficult. Abbie believes the Grimoire will help revive her. In the meantime, Henry, who resides in a hotel, defeated and processing his actions toward Moloch, seems to have lost his way. What’s more, Abbie, Jenny, and Ichabod try to suss out the cause or motivation behind Irving’s resurrection, as he reappears somewhat by surprise and, apparently, out of Henry’s once devious clutches. By the end of this episode, however, Irving helps the team to defeat the warlock Kent but then stows the Grimoire, bringing it, in the end, to Henry in the wood near the opening of Purgatory, not out of Henry’s influence after all. Henry, after encountering some drug dealers and meting out his own justice toward them, decides to forage ahead with new plans of his own, and the viewer learns that Irving’s resurrection and duplicitous actions are magically directed by Henry.
Abbie and Ichabod, by the end of the season, discover a secret chamber replete with a holographic projection of Thomas Jefferson in a previously undiscovered layer of tunnels under Sleepy Hollow. This chamber allegedly holds vast secrets and knowledge that can help the witnesses; however, the old tunnels also house “Reavers,” reminding this viewer suddenly of Firefly, which consume unlucky explorers who discover their previously hidden depths. In this same episode, Jenny discovers Irving’s double agenda when he secretly steals artifacts. Irving explains to Jenny that a magical rune facilitating his resurrection allows his evil side to spring forth, and he begs that Jenny help him to usher his wife and daughter out of Sleepy Hollow for good and their safety. Henry appears to his mother in a dream and convinces her that their purposes align, though a spell manifested in the dream has real life consequences. While Henry attempts to summon a cult of witches, with his mother as a chief member under his spell (so the viewer is meant to think), Irving attempts to kill Jenny, and Ichabod and Abbie attempt to subvert Henry, as they are newly aware of his odious intents. In the end, Henry’s attempts to ring a magical bell to summon strong magical powers and the spirits of Katrina’s former coven is thwarted by the witnesses; he is rendered mortal in this battle. What’s more, after a crafty distraction by Ichabod, Abbie manages to shoot mortal Henry in the chest. Though his mother attempts to heal him magically, Henry says it is too late. He asks Katrina to call him Jeremy and forgives his father – even calls him “father” – before disintegrating into ash.
Katrina, stricken by grief over the death of her son and darker than ever, casts a spell with the aim of being transported to the past, so that she can effect a change to the future. Her efforts result in Abbie also being magically transported to the past, at the time when Ichabod was a soldier in George Washington’s army, while Katrina works to assure the victory of the Horseman of Death in the season finale. Abbie spends much of this episode attempting to convince Ichabod that she is from the future, and that they are friends ordained to do everything they can to prevent the Apocalypse. At one point, she is mistaken for a slave woman (colonial times!) and is put in jail, but Ichabod is convinced to let her out when a soldier describes the earliest activities of the Headless Horseman.
Future Katrina finds Headless Abraham and essentially joins forces with him, fearing the tales about Abbie and seemingly jealous of Abbie’s influence over Ichabod. In order to convince Ichabod of who she is, Abbie appeals to Ichabod to visit Benjamin Franklin, who confirms her stories and tales. Abbie also reveals that there is a witch teamed with the Headless Horseman who is opposing them but shies away from identifying who, until savvy Franklin consults his books and deduces the witch to be Katrina. Franklin warns that nothing will save Katrina, driven as she is by guilt over Henry, and advises that Abbie get herself back to the future in the best Marty McFly tradition. Franklin reminds Abbie of Grace Dixon, her ancestor who is also a witch.
Though Franklin offers his almanac to Ichabod and Abbie’s service, the Horseman appears and manages to decapitate Franklin (this viewer is unsure if this event is taking place in the year that Franklin was said to have died, though it may be worth further research). This event shocks Ichabod into believing that Abbie was lying all along, so he throws her in jail anew. Abbie admits that Katrina is the witch plotting against them and advises Ichabod that she will reveal a pregnancy, as Katrina worked the spell to appear in time before Henry was born.
When Ichabod returns home to Katrina, she tries to kill Ichabod from behind, though soldiers interrupt her progress, not without Ichabod noticing Katrina’s use of the Grimoire and mixing potions that he knows are to be for a pregnant woman. Ichabod secures Abbie’s confiscated cell phone and somehow manages to turn it on, which strikes this viewer as being quite clever for a Revolutionary War hero (deus ex machina alert) where he discovers photographs and a video proving their friendship. Abbie slays the general who mistrusts her and escapes jail. Ichabod and Abbie make for Grace Dixon’s home, while Katrina uses magic to track them down.
The finale ends with Ichabod’s efforts to fight off his wife and the Headless Horseman while Grace and Abbie work the spell that will restore her to current times. Though Abbie fears that Ichabod will be slain by the Horseman before the spell can be finished, as all great dramas aspire to do, she completes her spell in the nick of time, and she and Katrina are shuttled forward to the point at which Katrina cast the time traveling spell. Frustrated and perverted by either Henry’s magic and/or what is ultimately her dark heart, Katrina attempts to magically dispose of Abbie, but Ichabod intervenes and stabs his wife with a knife that she attempted to magically hurl at Abbie. Katrina dies as her son did. Jenny and Irving also appear, and Irving announces that with Henry’s death, his soul has been released. Ichabod is consumed by momentary grief at the deaths of his known family, but he commits to Abbie that he is ready for the battles ahead.
The deaths of Henry and Katrina are both shocking and sad for the character of Ichabod, and the season finale was interesting, particularly given the role reversal between Abbie and Ichabod, but it lacked the power and surprise of the twists learned in the first season finale. In fact, in some ways, these last two episodes were relatively anticlimactic when compared to all that came before them. At the end of the season, it left this viewer somewhat worried for the future of the show.
Season Two Reactions without Season Three spoilers
When Sleepy Hollow was picked up by CPU! and premiered, I thought the premise was interesting but could not fathom how a long-term story could be eked out of the source legend from whence the series got its name, as it is a fairly simple fable with a definitive beginning, middle, and end. When the Headless Horseman became a horseman of the Apocalypse, my interest was piqued and my imagination excited by the thought of where the series could go, coupled with Ichabod’s fish-out-of-water humor and the easy chemistry between Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, the latter of which has only become more likable as the series progresses. The problem is, the writers and producers have veered speedily away from their initial trajectory. The Horseman of War is dead – will another arise? Is the Headless Horseman still a threat? Moloch was the puppeteer behind both of the horsemen. Did his death prevent the end of days?
Also, the forced drama between Ichabod and Katrina was somewhat yawn-inducing if not outright disappointing this season, and though she died, and her death caused this viewer to feel sorry for Ichabod, I will not miss her. It almost felt like the writers were scrambling for something to fill those extra five episodes that they might not have been expecting to get but then lost track of their own goals for the story in the excitement of receiving a season extension. Perhaps it’s the fate of all TV production teams nowadays, to write for always impending cancellation whether merited or not, but season two felt like an end to the series that took the scenic route to get to its point, while season one was a pleasantly surprising straight drive toward an impressive and engaging destination.
Where can season three go now? As of the publication of this entry, eight of eighteen episodes have aired, and this previously gripping if still moderately entertaining show is struggling for ratings. What this signifies to this viewer is that the show was at its best with a thirteen episode season, which allowed the writers to center and concentrate on meatier, more cohesively connected story and less filler episodes, particularly for characters who are recurring at best. Unfortunately, the damage might have already been done: new viewers might be confused by what’s going on, and viewers who have watched from the beginning might be increasingly disillusioned and finding other TV to watch.
The writers should remember that the initial season felt much like National Treasure or The Da Vinci Code, with the witnesses’ search for aids, both person and thing, to help them in their quest. This search also had a level of urgency that added intensity to the proceedings and came with unexpected twists that engaged and tantalized. This viewer hopes that the third season finds a story arc again and one that connects to the alleged Apocalypse. It’s the witnesses’ reason for being and is, this viewer believed, the premise of the show, which should not be forgotten or overly convoluted. If other shows – Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel – have taught us anything, it’s that some bloody evil genius is always up for ending the world.
This viewer will keep watching, and CPU! will visit the third season sometime after it ends. If you are current with the show, comment on this post and tell us what you think (though label any spoilers you might discuss). Has the show improved – or, is it good and lost, off its track, and beyond the point of saving? To this viewer, there’s always hope but for the fact that the show airs on finicky Fox – and the show runners would also do well to hope but be aware of their show’s hosting network’s history, particularly given the recent move to Fridays on the network’s winter schedule. It’s a tough TV landscape out there, and the first season created high expectations that have not been met so far, at least not by season two.
Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
1) Will John Noble remain part of the cast? He has become one of my favorite actors, particularly given his run as Walter Bishop on Fringe. Now that War is upon us, though, it seems he should be the one to play that horseman – he could bring so much depth and dimension to that role. Make him a series regular!!
Answer: He was made a series regular for season two! But now he’s dead, so that regular status was short lived. It’s too bad, really. He was one of the best parts of the season.
2) How will Ichabod save Katrina? How will he save Abbie?
Answer: Katrina saves herself by escaping from Abraham/the Headless Horseman’s clutches, though she was pregnant with the nearly resurrected demon Moloch at the time, so “escape” is really more “she was let go,” and I think via distraction of Henry’s if memory serves. Ichabod and Abbie sort of mutually save the latter from Purgatory; Abbie resists temptation by Moloch, but Ichabod breaks into Purgatory in and saves Abbie’s soul.
3) Is Jenny really dead?! I hope not!
Answer: She is alive and kicking. She’s hearty, that one.
4) How far behind are Famine or Pestilence at this point?! Have they already risen?
Answer: Still a question!
5) What happens if all Four Horsemen ride?
Answer: Still a question!
6) Why is Ichabod obsessed with new smartphones but can’t be open to more contemporary clothes?
Answer: I think he’s obsessed with workmanship or something. What’s more impressive is that he can work a smart phone when he’s the 1780ish version of Ichabod.
7) Do the witnesses have secret abilities beyond the hidden messages and clues left for them?
Answer: Abbie’s ancestor is a witch – maybe she has latent magical powers? So far, there’s nothing more special about them than status and the ability to get their hands on some nifty collections of the Founding Fathers.
8) Can be there be more spot-on musical montages? “Sympathy for the Devil” was a perfect choice to open and close this show’s season…
Answer: There were NO spot-on musical montages in season two. Perhaps, the show should consider resurrecting those too.
1) Where does the show go now? Are we still talking Apocalypse? If so, who’s running it?
2) Will Ichabod recover from what I imagine will be considerable grief?
3) Will Nick Hawley still appear? I don’t think he should be made a regular.
4) What are these other “impending battles” that Abbie and Ichabod will have to contend with?
5) Does getting Katrina out of the way mean that Ichabod and Abbie will explore a romantic dynamic of their odd coupling? I mean…there are quite a few other tropes being explored, why not add this one?
6) Where’s Headless nowadays? Will another Horseman of War arise?
7) Will the show save itself from its own impending Apocalypse?
While it’s still fun to watch out-of-time Ichabod struggle with current technology and the fast pace of the much more modern world in which he finds himself, season two left this viewer feeling doubtful about whether this show is “must see TV,” unlike the feeling inspired by the first season’s conclusion. The twists and urgency of season one were lost in season two, and many of what were obviously intended to be the most dramatic moments were entertaining but without the intensity and gripping/captivating quality of the series’ beginning. What is clear to this viewer is that the writers lost control of their own story somewhat in this program’s sophomore season, and if they don’t get a hold of the reins again, Sleepy Hollow could gallop erratically toward a precipice without the ability to stop its own demise.
Sleepy Hollow is currently in its third season but is on mid-season hiatus, eight produced episodes having aired. The series will return on February 5, 2016, and will air the rest of its season in a Friday night slot, battling mainstays like Grimm for similar audiences. A full second season of eighteen episodes was ordered, but there is no word yet on renewal. Pundits’ prognoses are not favorable, calling renewal a “long shot,” which is fair given the network’s schedule shuffling to the so-called “death slot.” Let’s hope Sleepy Hollow finds its way back to its impressive initial glory again, if it even has the time, at this point, to correct its course.