After stepping out for last week’s creepy, crawly Linda Blair-inspired Sleepy Hollow (which Marc Buxton obligingly covered), I’ve said my Hail Mary’s and am ready to return for spiritual warfare in this 2-hour soul-searing finale of Sleepy Hollow, comprised of the episodes “Indispensable Man” and “Bad Blood.” Revelations are beheld, friendships are torn asunder, and all around great camp television has been bestowed upon the fans.
The two-part finale is connected by two tenants that seem very close to the hearts of the show’s creators, particularly Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. The first of these is one that has dripped through the entire first season like the blood at the tree of patriots: the show’s obsession with choice. In “Indispensable Man,” the more comforting and self-assured values of Manifest Destiny make themselves apparent when Ichabod and Abbie (seemingly) choose the strength of their rugged individualism over the systematic patriarchy set down by the literal Father of U.S. government. However, the second episode vindictively turns the tables on that dogma minutes later, forcing our heroes to look at the consequences and negative ramifications of those choices found in free will—leading them to a season cliffhanger full of a nihilistic doom and gloom that would deceivingly appear as final as the grave grave.
The first hour is defined by a matter of faith. Not a faith in the Lord to save us like in last week, but the faith found between Ichabod and Abbie Mills after a season of hellacious detective work. Early in tonight’s episode, Andy Brooks returns again as the most unwanted “nice guy” stalker who ever sold his soul to the Satan-like Moloch. I enjoy John Cho as much as the next Harold & Kumar fan, but seeing him plead with Abbie about how deeply he cares for her, when the only episode he was technically alive in featured him kidnapping her and shoving this lady love in his trunk, continues to ring as false as a Son of Liberty’s Native American disguise. It is hard enough for some shippers to care about Katrina, and they’ve had many, many flashbacks. Sorry Andy, but you’re just not boyfriend material.
Unfortunately, he’s not really demon material either. After Abbie refused to give Andy George Washington’s Bible, Andy switches allegiances again by promising to destroy all of Moloch’s enemies…which he does a terrible job at as well, but we’ll get to that in a second.
The real gist of this first hour is Ichabod and Abbie Mills’ conviction can overcome anything. Andy reminds Abbie that Ichabod will betray her soul to Moloch (trust me, we’ll get there!), and thus the whole question of what to do with the mysterious map from Washington’s Bible that Moloch desires comes to the fore. Apparently, this hidden map charts the path between Sleepy Hollow and Purgatory where Ichabod’s one and…of several onlys (seriously Ichabod, Abbie’s like right next to you) waits for him to save her.
However, finding this path has its risks as even when they call back in the Sin Eater, Henry Parish—embodied by the impeccable John Noble’s hypnotic voice, which should mandatorily provide the exposition for every procedural henceforth—he warns the sins of the recently dead warlock who presided over Washington’s funeral are the most dangerous he’s ever encountered. Something wicked this way comes, and Ichabod and Abbie may unleash the apocalypse if they follow Washington’s clues.
Yes, that’s right, George Washington appears to be at the center of the Season 1 mystery, and we may as well look back to call this “The Washington Code.” This also creates yet another time paradox in the story. George Washington—who prior to the American Revolutionary War was a typical Anglican of the Church of England, but after the war took on more Deist language in public life and eventually quit attending Communion on Sundays when his wife observed the Episcopal rite—has become another solider of Christ in Sleepy Hollow’s Apocalyptic War. And while this angle of freemasonry is amusing, it unfortunately will likely play even more into evangelical revisionist’s whacky ideas. However, the good general further seemed to realize that Ichabod Crane was a Providence-selected Witness for the End of Days, despite seeming to know this while Ichabod Crane was alive. In a flashback, we see Washington sow the seeds of the first clue for Ichabod about rising again in the future like Lazarus, which plays into his secret, Ichabod-only code that Washington wrote AFTER Ichabod “died” (and/or became an immortal Witness intertwined with the Horseman of Death’s fate). This truth was only realized after Katrina chose to save Ichabod’s life by magically tying together the bloodlines, which was even met with violence and death from her own coven, making the Freemason’s support of it all the more odd. Oy, this timeline is getting very confusing…
This is only compounded by the fact that Washington is revealed to have been a supernatural being. Through mysterious black magic, Washington had his body resurrected four days after his death on December 14, 1799 to write down these clues in his Bible to the map for Ichabod Crane. Why on Earth did the writers insist that Washington had to die and be resurrected to leave this map, thereby indisputably creating the continuity gaff above? I don’t know, save for that I suspect we shall see Zombie Washington (Abbie’s words) in a future season. Yes, we see his body in this episode, but that doesn’t mean it’s him. They established that Washington cheated death in 1799, so I cannot wait to see him in a future season.
Anyway, the map is buried with Washington’s hidden Freemason grave in Sleepy Hollow (the other three at Mt. Vernon and the Capitol are just decoys). Our intrepid heroes venture down into his crypt, which turns Sleepy Hollow into full-on Indiana Jones-styled adventure when they find the map next to old George’s “body.” It is at this point that Andy reveals his demonic side. After being swarmed upon by evil insects, Moloch-Andy is honestly not all that different. He has dark eyes and a cool bulbous head that made this reviewer think of H.R. Giger, but at the end of the day, he still “dies” (for now) by saving Abbie, telling her to burn the map lest they hasten the Apocalypse.
However, the catch of this is does he really mean to save Abbie and the world from fire? Just earlier in this episode, he promised her a front row seat to the carnage and later told Moloch that he would do whatever is necessary to complete his vision and destroy his enemies. As Henry Parish suggests, prophecies have a habit of being self-fulfilling. And so they do, despite the first hour ending on a rah-rah idea image of individualists overcoming systematic failures.
George Washington leaves the map for Ichabod to use to supposedly save Creation with. But as Ichabod knowingly says, “We’ll forge our own destiny” when he burns the map, choosing his loyalty to Abbie and her hunch to being greater than that of what Ichabod’s General and America’s “Father” commanded. One can almost hear Orci’s libertarian streak of defiance to government leadership shining through as Ichabod damns all the prophecy that brought them together in the first place.
…Or did he? Honestly, the tone of “The Indispensible Man” is closer to how I would have imagined this season of Sleepy Hollow to thematically end, if not plotting wise given the lack of closure to the Katrina subplot. But that is the beauty of the second episode: Ichabod does draw the map and chooses his own destiny, one that, like his and Katrina’s previous decisions, has dire, dire consequences. After all, prophecies are self-fulfilling.
To approach the second hour allots a brief moment to talk about Frank Irving. Orlando Jones is finally enjoying his time in the spotlight over the last few episodes, making it doubly sad that he does not appear in the actual finale of the season. After his daughter went Exorcist on him last week, and he found himself lacking an Old Priest and a Young Priest, Frank appears now totally out of luck. In fact, hilariously, Sleepy Hollow has chosen to come down hard on that 1973 demonic masterpiece when Frank’s daughter finds herself under investigation for the murder of Frank’s priest. While Linda Blair’s Regan got away with a hug and kiss on the cheek for the last priest standing as the Lee J. Cobb copper lets the incident of three men dying in her bedroom (two of which went out the same window) slide, Frank Irving has no such good movie fortune. The detectives on duty seem convinced that cute, little wheelchair-bound Macey Irving (Amandla Stenberg from The Hunger Games) slaughtered the priest. And thus Frank begins the final hour of this season’s Sleepy Hollow behind bars after taking the rap for a crime his daughter committed while possessed by a demon.
However, he was fortuitously helpful enough to go through Corbin’s files one more time before being carted off to upstate New York to learn that a witch is necessary to stop the coming of another Horseman of the Apocalypse. And as it so happens, a Horseman is just on his way…according to friendly Henry Parish, at least.
In a coincidence that I was almost ready to ding the show with, Henry Parish shows up just as we were enjoying the only moment of levity during the finale—Ichabod was finally able to update his wardrobe by discovering the latest astonishing facet of the 21st century, American Revolution Reenactments—to reveal a dream he had off-screen. Apparently, the next of the Four Horseman, War, is almost upon the town of Sleepy Hollow, unless a witch can be used to bury the seal the portal before Moloch opens it. Unfortunately, all the witches that Ichabod and Abbie know are dead…save for Katrina.
When the plot finally calls for it, Katrina is only a hop and skip away thanks to Ichabod’s sudden photographic memory being able to copy Washington’s map. So, Ichabod and Abbie are off to Purgatory to rescue the damsel, but Henry gives them some curious advice that I wonder the mythology of: don’t eat or drink while in Purgatory or you will be damned for eternity down there. Ergo, the Witnesses are instantly tested in the age-old “Perchance to Dream” scenario. Whether it is The House of Undying Souls in Qarth or the Mad Hatter’s Dream Machine built to ensnare the Dark Knight, it is always the same old temptation when loved ones long thought dead appear in an alternate reality where everything seems perfect…too perfect. Abbie sees that Corbin and Andy are still alive, having never heard of Moloch, and are ready to tend to her needs as she returns from her successful time at the FBI. Meanwhile, Ichabod returns from a victorious British dominance over the American Rebels, a war hero of Yorktown prepared to begin his studies with his father over at Oxford. Both are false and both are easily dispatched by the heroes refusing to drink the wine or break the bread.
The next stage is also pretty easily avoided as Purgatory is revealed to be something akin to Ingmar Bergman granted access to Tim Burton’s make-up team on the set of one of the Twilight movies. It is very weird, but ultimately just annoying. Ichabod and Abbie find the church where Katrina is and are prepared to save her until Katrina reveals that she can only be freed in exchange for one of their souls. Katrina, Katrina, Katrina. It would have been really nice if you shared that information with Ichabod or Abbie in one of the previous HALF DOZEN times you’ve told them to save you during dreams!
This plot thread honestly seems convoluted and half-heartedly executed, as it is the quickest way for the prophecy to be self-fulfilled. Abbie volunteers to stay and fight Moloch, because he gave her a crappy childhood, while Ichabod and Katrina return to the Hollow to prevent the Horseman of Death.
Which brings us to why this second hour is still so good in spite of all the last-minute convoluted plotting: John Noble is not playing Dr. Walter Bishop again, and this is not a happy ending. Nay, not only is the Sin-Eater the biggest sinner of all the heroes; he’s also the Horseman named War. As Henry says, War is not coming to Sleepy Hollow; War is already here! Also, he’s Ichabod and Katrina’s long lost son…
Honestly, I expected Ichabod and Katrina’s son to return as a villain after it was revealed that he was a demon child left to rot underneath the earth by superstitious New Yorkers in the early 19th century. But I never expected kindly John Noble to be that monster underneath their nose this whole time. Albeit, he’s aged pretty well for a guy trapped in a wooden box for 200 years. It is a brilliant twist that the Sleepy Hollow writers assure viewers they planned out by flashing back to extremely subtle breadcrumbs they’ve dropped along the way.
Ichabod and Katrina have the free will to make their own choices. But even in a smirking fantasy like this, those choices can have unforeseen consequences, such as leaving a super-powered little boy to be shunned by his community until he is trapped in a living hell for centuries. One that is so unending that he’d rather throw his lot in with the proverbial Devil than even make eye contact with his parents.
Sleepy Hollow appears to go the full Empire Strikes Back in this finale. Abbie is still trapped in Purgatory trying to avoid Moloch; Katrina is sold like property to Bram, the Headless Horseman; and Ichabod is left in a box. His son’s box. It is there he will learn about loss of hope, at least until Season 2, as he’s buried deep to the sweet, sweet sounds of the recurring “Sympathy for the Devil.” Aye, we may very well have it for Henry Parish, so named after a church he desecrated upon his release 13 years ago. The day the Mills girls’ lives were ruined. It would appear that sanctuary is a long way off.
Overall, this came around for a solid finale that hinged almost wholly on this final twist. While the first hour of tonight was another enjoyable addition to the Sleepy Hollow canon, the rest was Hellish wheel-spinning until Henry hissed his revenge. It was a reveal that cast a completely different light on not only his character’s motivations, but upon the whole season up until this point.
As it turns out, Sleepy Hollow is not just a bit of kooky apocalyptic fantasy. It’s an allegory about the sins of our past coming home. Sure, our history may be eulogized or even romanticized, such as the awesome coat and formfitting attire of Ichabod Crane. However, that shining glow can have a dark underbelly of mistakes swept under the rug. One such error in judgment is the misbegotten problem that Ichabod, in his negligence, never knew existed: Henry. And the choices that he and Katrina made to improve Creation’s Manifest Destiny likewise compounded a problem that now threatens their very ideals made flesh.
It would appear that Sleepy Hollow’s historical fiction is a little more insidious than any would have suspected in the previous 12 episodes, including the ones where it was revealed Hessians were agents of Hell. War has long been in Sleepy Hollow, almost as long as America has been at war. A bridge too far? Possibly. But a show with a Rip Van Wrinkle Revolutionary soldier who discovered the Lost Colony of Roanoke in Upstate New York, it feels right at home. These problems that Ichabod’s bringing to light have long been omnipresent, but the answers still elude us in the dark within which we’re buried.
And I remember when this was that show about the Headless Horseman pumping a shotgun.