With "John Doe," Sleepy Hollow confirmed two things we already knew. One, this show will give you everything it promises, delivering Horsemen at a steady clip even before midseason. Two, Colonial Williamsburg is out to get you.
Okay, so technically Ichabod and Abbie were actually running up against the supernaturally-displaced colonists of Roanoke and the Horseman of Pestilence, and not the hourly-wage butter-churners of the Virginia tourist attraction. (That will be rectified in Season 3 when they go undercover as tourists, because this episode is so X-Files you can practically hear the writers brainstorming "Arcadia" in the background.) But really, in this intro episode for Rider #2, the Ye Olde Colonistes could have come from anywhere; the only important things are that they're sick, and that their kid guest star nails some Middle English, even though he maybe shouldn't have, because of history.
See, the Roanoke colony vanished and reappeared cloaked in secrecy just outside Sleepy Hollow (because otherwise they'll have to build in a very long road trip or explain airplanes to Ichabod, and we just don't have that kind of time). And Sleepy Hollow is about to figure that out, thanks to the young boy who follows the girlish apparition humming and taunting him to catch her, which is how you know this is a kid of the past, because any kid who's seen a horror movie ever is not about to fall for that one. (Though there were plenty of folk tales in the 16th century about spirits in the woods that wanted you to come play, and literally none of them ever ended well, so this young lad is just in charge of himself on this one.)
Oh, kiddo. Surprise.
And when he appears in town, everybody starts getting the plague, courtesy of Pestilence, and it's up to Abbie and Ichabod to save everyone; unless, of course, the colonists are...ALREADY DEAD. (It's the M. Night special this week. It takes one-fifth the time and makes eight times the sense.)
The plague isn't particularly scary. It's not even particularly present; we spend the bare minimum of time worried about those colonists. This is an episode about Abbie and Ichabod playing in their dynamic.
How much is it about just the two of them? For one thing, Jenny's not even mentioned. For another thing, this episode's entire B-plot is about Luke Morales, Chief Detective at the Sleepy Hollow Terrible Ex Department, and his one-man quest to debunk Ichabod Crane as being no good, because he's just a lump of jealousy with a polo shirt on.
But really, you'd be able to tell what this episode is up to just from the scene of Ichabod moving into Corbin's old cabin, where he pulls out a series of hilarious modern contraptions that she's clearly purchased for him since he recognizes nothing (why them actually shopping was not shown is a mystery to me). It's the comfortable banter of two people who are going to reveal the depths of their swiftly-developing co-dependence in about 25 minutes, including commercials.
"Do you think I look out of place in this century?" "You look good for 200."
Aside from the obvious handy weapon-storage-discovery opportunities this will doubtless provide, I have a lot of father-in-law feelings about Ichabod moving into Sheriff Clancy Brown's place. Despite her leaps forward in interpersonal connections, Abbie was clearly closer to Sheriff Clancy Brown than anyone else, and she's found out so much about him that just seems to open new stings for her. She's brought a boy home to the place he'd never told her about, he was secretly mentoring her sister, too – I'd just like him to come back and let her hash some of this out with him, is all.
(Buddy, that photo frame, though.)
Also, this whole cabin. Despite a nod to the bullet holes, I have some questions about how the windows repaired themselves after being cult-shot to within an inch of their lives. And I also have some transit feelings, because that cabin is all the way up at Trout Lake and it's not like he can meet her at crime scenes unless every crime happens to be a Trout Lake drowning. We'll see how this goes.
Their domestic bliss is interrupted by the call to check out the kid who staggered out of the National Park. No one can understand him! Also his clothes are old! Also he's getting the plague! (A step too far, Colonial Williamsburg.) They're on the case, Abbie because it's her actual job and Ichabod because he's fairly certain this crime, like every other crime, is now connected to them.
Luckily, Trout Lake is apparently located behind the elementary school or something, because they're on the scene pronto!
I see what you did there, establishing shot.
They're just in time for Luke to be immediately up Abbie's nose about why she keeps hanging out with this tall dude, which neither she nor her visiting professor are at all thrilled about:
They still don't know who Billy Peril is, since the kidnapping database doesn't bring up anything except Ichabod's incredibly unlikely chagrin that kidnapping exists (he's from 1781, not Narnia), and his smarmy acknowledgment that he knows what a John Doe is, thanks anyway, Abbie. She's gonna make you unwrap a CD for that one, dude.
But Ichabod quickly recognizes the language being used, and diagnoses exactly what this kid really needs:
A new font for his dialect. Hats off to the crew's font selector; can't wait to see which demon gets stuck with Comic Sans.
(History Note: This episode has Ichabod and Little Billy Peril chatting away in Middle English. Given that Roanoke was founded in 1585, closer to Shakespeare than Chaucer, Billy would more likely have been speaking some version of Early Modern English, which emerged during Elizabeth I's reign and was probably industry standard by the time everybody piled on the boats to go bother the Croatoans. However, the pronunciation of Early Modern English is pretty easy for a speaker of contemporary English to parse, so that wasn't going to be of any use, was it?)
And Ichabod thinks it's terrible how this new disease vector is being treated! He's only a child! (Technically. Adjusting for life expectancies in colonial Roanoke, that kid's in his mid-twenties.) He's so upset about it that even though he spends this episode testing the waters of sarcasm, all he can come up with when Abbie warns him about medical quarantine is: "Plastic. How did we survive without it?"
You didn't! You died super young of pretty much everything! Enjoy your vaccines and penicillin, Smuggy.
Turns out little Billy Peril is from Roanoke, which Abbie pretends not to have heard of so that we can get exposition about the Lost Colony and how clearly they've been relocated. So it's off to the woods (on Witch's Spring trail, actual thing), where they talk Jefferson vs. Adams and Ichabod and Abbie gets to be creeped out by a forest she probably hasn't been in since the Four White Trees, and they make a lot of sarcastic comments and shoot a lot of looks at each other, and like every week, I just want to remind you how much of a commitment that is:
"I CAN’T SEE YOU, ARE YOU ALL RIGHT." - Either one of them to the other one if, heaven forbid, there’s ever fog in this town
Back in the city, the wary Irving who had dismissed Ichabod's theories is gobsmacked to learn that the kid's blood work suggests he has no vaccines – not even modern antibodies. It's as if he's a child...out of time! That'll take the wind out of your sails.
But Ichabod knows his lost colonies after all; he also knows his vaguely-Maltese crosses and their relationship to Roanoke lore, so one hidden lake traverse later:
They're in the most dedicated historical reenactment ever! Or just Roanoke, trapped in time.
"Okay, nobody in that town wears yellow, okay? NOBODY." - Legal, this week
Everybody has Black Vein Syndrome but is doing fine, and they investigate what's going on. Technically, we're here to introduce the Horseman of Pestilence/Conquest, who for some reason dresses like a samurai. But what we're actually here to do is introduce something nostalgic for Ichabod, who seems visibly relieved to be in a place where he understands how everything works, and happily honey-voices his way through some more Middle English getting the details on the various subclauses of the town curse.
Abbie, who is not very happy about any of this, gets to wander aimlessly through town and get offered a flower from a silent, helpful young girl:
Aaaand it's a world of no from Abbie Mills, who has seen horror movies and/or heard folklore before, and knows you never leave a mystical village with anything you didn't come in with.
(I laughed when this happened. It took another ten minutes before it became clear the show wasn't going to use the plant as the antidote, they just wanted to show you the well that girl was sitting on, and so it really was a kid offering Abbie a flower and Abbie shutting that shit down. It might be the longest-delayed laugh so far, but it was worth it.)
Back at home, the B-plot this week is clearly positioning Ichabod to owe somebody a favor, since both Irving and a mysterious British phone voice covered for him this week – Irving has IDed Morales as completely up his own ass for plot reasons, and the phone explained that Ichabod Crane is absolutely on the staff roster, thank you so much for calling Oxford University of England Not a Cover for an Occult Organization Hoping to Use Ichabod For Our Own Purposes, good night.
He is not happy. He's had it up to HERE with consulting detectives. He wants Crane GONE.
Dude, Morales, he's a Witness to the apocalypse and you're seventh billed. Read a room. (PS, let's all just enjoy this cap of Orlando Jones striding, shall we? Thanks.)
Sadly, things get a lot less funny when Ichabod catches the plague.
So, in this fine serial program, Tim Mison makes a lot of Romantic Lead Face, and Nicole Beharie is making Abbie increasingly warm to Ichabod; I had assumed this was subtext they'd be lightly sprinkling over the season, like last week's old-marrieds vibe. This episode until now was nothing but vibes, but hey, when your actors are having a good time, go with it.But what we get instead of subtext is Abbie freaking out about Ichabod being taken from her, then reluctantly praying for a sign to save Ichabod even if it means he has to stay in Roanoke to be safe, and choking back tears at the idea of him leaving.
It's partially there for plot – she realizes upon seeing the holy water that the well in Roanoke is the key to saving everyone – but these emotional stakes are rising fast, show.
Meanwhile, Ichabod ends up in Purgatory with Katrina. At last, a reunion between the lovers, wrenched apart, longing for one another across time and space!
...Sorry, I fell asleep. What was I saying?
Here's the thing: Katrina Crane is cool on paper. She's a powerful witch who kept her coven affiliation a secret from her husband, saved his life, made sure he'd have a series of quasi-custodians before she was trapped in another dimension, and when that failed, she summoned him into supernatural turf that isn't even hers (using a bird that's apparently a hawk of some kind and not a majestically patriotic bird at all, how could you do this to me, show and Google search), and has been watching over him and giving him what aid she can in a desperate bid to keep him alive long enough to avert the apocalypse. On paper, you'd buy her a drink!
But what we've gotten so far is occasional, deliberately obtuse bursts of exposition from someone who's as much a cipher in episode 5 as she was in the pilot. I'm assuming she's morally compromised to be stuck in Moloch's realm with the souls yet to be judged. (Uh, are we gonna riot against Heaven to break her out? I'm into it, I just want to check.) It would be the most interesting thing about her, except the show can't even give us any real hints about that. They just don't care about her yet, and so neither do we; paralleling this scene with Abbie desperately worried about him in the chapel might be one of the biggest tonal mistakes the show has made so far.
Luckily, this show also never gives you much time to worry about things. Irving arranges for Abbie to hijack the quarantine ambulance (oh REALLY, Irving), and it's back to adventure!
(Ichabod's at death's door and urges Abbie to go on without him. Abbie: "I can't do this without you...all the trees look the same to me.")
With the help of an adrenaline shot, he rallies, and as Pestilence bears down on them, Ichabod jumps into the well with the kid, robbing the Horseman of his due, and he disappears into dust inches away from a protective Abbie! It's all very exciting and blurry.
Then suddenly Ichabod and Abbie are alone as Roanoke disappears into the mist of the other world, somehow gobsmacked by the idea the colonists were dead and preserved only by magic in a way that didn't gobsmack them back when the best available explanation for a perfectly preserved 400+ year old colony was Magical Lake Entrance.
"He was already dead," Ichabod breathes as the inspirational music swells. (Sleepy Hollow: Touched By a Hollow.)
And to wrap things up, despite its being a moot point now that the colony isn't an option, the show wants to make very clear how much these two are relying on each other, and so we get an admission from Abbie that though she understands he must feel out of place, she wants him in the present, right where he is.
She really, really wants him right where he is.
And dude is LISTENING.
He's so Romantic Lead Face about it all that they have to leave things right there so those two can resolve whatever they need to. Instead, Ichabod plays us out with a VO over stock footage from the pilot of the Headless Horseman emerging from the water, warning us of the vague horrors yet to come in three weeks when the show is back from some accursed hiatus, as the forests of Sleepy Hollow ring with the Horseman's call: