The name of tonight’s Sleepy Hollow is “Paradise Lost.” A mirthful little John Milton joke about angels and the heights from which they fall aside, the title is apt. Because it feels like the show is agonizingly trying to recapture the best moments of season one, yet I’m not sure this is the way back into the garden.
Watching tonight’s episode reminds me of another new beginning for Sleepy Hollow: the season two premiere, “This is War.” That episode followed a similarly breathless finale of sorts when the first season ended with Abbie trapped in purgatory, Ichabod trapped in a buried coffin, and Katrina trapped in what has invariably become a narrative dead end. Yet, instead following up on all this stunning drama—Sleepy Hollow ultimately chose to spend a whole episode haphazardly resetting the board back to the status quo (plus one evil Henry!) from here to Tarrytown. The season two premiere did not feel like a culmination of that cliffhanger; it was a capsized ship righting itself up and the crew then pretending there was nothing to see here.
I was favorable on that hour, because it had been eight long months since we had seen these characters, and they were a welcome sight for sore eyes. But so close on the heels of the fall finale—which on paper could read like a series finale—“Paradise Lost” needed to do more than pretend most of the developments from the previous episode were inconsequential. Yet, this is exactly what we received.
Leaning on the most convenient of drama deflators, Sleepy Hollow nigh instantly comes back from the hour that “killed” Frank Irving (did anyone really believe that?) and had Henry slaughter Moloch with…a six-week time jump to a point when Ichabod and Abbie are already settled into a new status quo that we missed being formed. The fallout of Ichabod and Katrina deciding that they might dissolve their marriage? Mostly blown over until the third act “talk,” which merely extends the limp melodrama to another time closer to the finale. The fact that Henry killed, for all intents and purposes, Lucifer, and has no more master is likewise scuttled beyond some banal lip-service. If they really believe that he’s dead because he used that magical blade—and I hope that you don’t—they’d still be considering the ramifications of their son’s death more than the onscreen shrugs.
Sorry, this time seeing Ichabod charmingly misunderstand more 21st century colloquialisms is not going to cut it, nor is Abbie so passively acting to avenge Frank Irving’s death. By relying on the messiah of all cop-outs, Sleepy Hollow has cheated us of the juicy aftermath from a supposedly game-changing finale. Twice.
The only thing that makes this specific shift more tolerable is that it is at least has the cool idea of an angel flying around Sleepy Hollow. Granted, Orion was certainly not to be trusted since his wings were black, but he nonetheless adds a new dynamic for the show (and possibly a new potential integer for the shipping audience).
It seems that Orion has been freed from centuries in purgatory after Moloch met his “end” (notice that Orion does not use the word “death”). However, he has a taste for zealous vengeance that can only be quenched with the blood of the Headless Horseman (which coincidentally makes him even more superpowerful than he already is). Normally, this would be a pleasant idea, but almost jaw-droppingly, this is the first iteration of Ichabod Crane who is hesitant about dispatching the Headless Horseman back to the fiery pit from whence he came.
Indeed, Katrina has convinced Ichabod and (eventually) Abbie that Orion is too fanatical, and the guy that beheaded Abbie’s mentor and slaughtered Ichabod on the field of battle during the American Revolution after selling his soul to Hell, just needs a hug and a good cry.
Generally speaking, I am all for Henry’s rehabilitation (or at least an attempted one). But this is because Henry is Katrina and Ichabod’s flesh and blood, and he is also played by the show’s best scene-chewing artist, the invaluable John Noble. Conversely, the Headless Horseman has no head on his best days, and is a schoolboy whimpering about rejection on his worst. It also makes Katrina’s role doubly redundant since she wants to redeem Henry and now Abraham, and she had just gotten over failing to do the same for Wee Baby Moloch when she cooed over him a few episodes back.
And just in case you were still out on the fence about Katrina, she then lets the Headless Horseman run free all over Upstate New York, doing Orion knows what. Ichabod and Abbie spoon-feeding the audience at the end that she made the right decision will not wash. If he kills one person, it will be on their hands. Luckily, the Headless Horseman promised not to kill another living soul as long as he shall live…or at the very least until season finale sweeps.
Once again in favor of reestablishing a status quo (the Headless Horseman is “out there”), the show has sacrificed characterization, narrative momentum, and bloody common sense.
At this point, Ichabod is barely hanging onto a marriage with the woman who failed to stop Wee Baby Moloch and let the Headless Horseman go. It’s hard to even consider this a love triangle nowadays, unless Ichabod develops sudden amnesia.
In the meantime, Frank Irving is alive. Yay, for keeping Orlando Jones around at least. If tonight’s episode is anything to go by, he’ll be back at the police station by this time next month, like nothing happened, and just in time to approve the auburn-haired good witch giving the resurrected Moloch a smooch.