Thomas Jefferson was a pointed historical punchline in the first season of Sleepy Hollow, where Abbie and Irving enlightened Ichabod Crane about the dangers of lionizing his contemporary who had children with one of his slaves. In last night's "What Lies Beneath," he's the hero. How heroic? Ichabod bows to him three separate times.
Once again, it's that time on Sleepy Hollow, when history rises from the grave to assist our heroes! But since actually rising from the grave is out of fashion lately, how about a Jefferson hologram instead?
Sure, you'd like to get to that. You'd like to lead this whole thing with a shot of Steven Weber pretending he looks anything like Thomas Jefferson and pointing at the blue nightclub light that's his magical hologram generator as he explains why he used the undead to guard these halls, even though Abbie and Ichabod were meant to find them someday and it seems really rude to have zombies chasing them right through his fancy rotunda, and we pan to his eighteenth-century generator garlanded with blue Christmas lights. Everyone wants that. It's the sort of all-or-nothing nonsense from Sleepy Hollow season one, that everyone enjoyed.
But the show makes us wait! First we have to watch the citizens of the week become imperiled, even though one of them is smart enough to vote Strongly Against opening the undead rune hatch into the dark tunnels of nothingness behind the bricked-up dead end. (That dude should have won this argument.)
We also check in with Abbie and Ichabod, on a daytime date they pretend isn't a date by visiting a warship and foreshadowing how war requires you to make tough decisions. Meanwhile, Ichabod, reveling in Katrina's absence, breaks out that dusty Romantic Lead Face in the bright afternoon sun.
Oh, sir. This is going to be such a poignant expression if you don't get another season in which to set right everything from this season. Not quite as poignant as one of TV's best height differences:
It's only when Sheriff Reyes texts Abbie about those missing persons (Reyes: A Modern Sheriff) that they realize one of the Founding Fathers has yet again screwed some people 200 years in the future.
This is Calvin. His brother's down there! He's On the Case! He literally won't stop telling Abbie how journalism worked when he was with the armed forces, because war decisions are the theme of this episode and everybody's on message this week! I want to like him, but he was so busy telling Abbie what her face looked like that I never got the chance to.
Maybe just stop telling women what their faces are like, Calvin! He's lucky he had witnesses or Abbie's look would have just severed a tendon in his arm; good luck taking photos then. (Later he sends her a picture of herself taken unawares – weird – and a flirty message, and my greatest satisfaction of this entire episode is her not even answering him, which is exactly what he deserves.)
The adventure Calvin is asking to be part of: oh gosh.
Here's one of the three separate times Ichabod bows to Thomas Jefferson:
He makes them look natural, I'll give him that. (Abbie's not impressed.)
In another monster-of-the-week special, the undead Reavers guarding Jefferson's Underground Playhouse and Hologram Emporium have awoken to crawl from the depths and eat the flesh of the modern working man! Abbie and Ichabod must face down a dozen, nay, fifteen of these monstrous ghouls in order to rescue the two men who are still alive and perfectly safe in their hiding place. (This is only the beginning of the strategic failures of this episode.)
Abbie's sticking point – that the lives of these dudes are more important than all this knowledge, even though they did the horror movie no-no that should have doomed them forever – is fair. One of the best moments in the episode is Abbie and Ichabod silently agreeing that their priority means sacrificing all this comforting knowledge, despite it being a wrenching decision of war. Good thing they went on that date earlier and sorted that out! Also, though it's nice to think well of your friends, Ichabod shouldn't be surprised Jefferson's just casually willing to let two black dudes die in order to show off his collection.
See, in the past, when they hung out in the Sleepy Hollow Bar & Grill and worked on the Declaration of Independence and hoped nobody would notice that place wouldn't get a style overhaul for over two hundred years, Jefferson had acted first like a mentor and then like a jerkweed.
Ichabod now learns that was all just a ploy to protect the secret of his being a Witness, which is a thing that feels like it went from a pair of happenstances to long-foretold prophecies that made everyone around Ichabod awful for keeping him in the dark. Abbie gets a pass given her mom was busy fighting demons in a world that institutionalized her for it. Jefferson definitely does not get a pass.
This is a veritable parade of hilariousness; Jefferson admiring his own work, Ichabod with the Mansplainy Finger locked and loaded, and Abbie unable to even look at any of it.
Still, in the moment, Ichabod takes it in stride that Jefferson seems unfazed that Ichabod had lasted two centuries past his usual expiration date. And when they exchange the jibe about Adams, Mison's little smile is great – Ichabod hasn't had a long-term in-joke in a while.
That goodwill immediately dies when Abbie speaks up in defense of innocent lives — and Jefferson's first response to a black woman challenging him is "What year is this?"
It's Abbie Will Dismantle Your Generator in Ten Seconds and We Will All Help Her A.D., why do you ask?
The only way to get the necessary insider intel into the Reavers is to trip the Thomas Jefferson hologram, which is awkward for Ichabod since – as he explained to Abbie with the patience of a man who has been getting these almost-right for way too long and refuses to ever be wrong again – "He unfriended me." The nehnehnet has served him well!
Not serving him well? Jefferson.
Pulling one of the most "Your princess is in another castle" moments this show has ever seen, Jefferson offers them a magical hope chest just PACKED with useful information about what their quest is REALLY about. (Did I think some of those scrolls were coin wrappers at first? I did. "How much spare change can they really need?" I thought, picturing some mythical pinball game in the season finale.) He won't tell them anything, though; first they have to read every book in this rotunda in order to understand what their quest REALLY is.
Miraculously, neither of them let loose a string of unfathomable profanity and beat the living dust motes out of this smug-ass holographic President who's been holding out on them for two centuries. Then again, Ichabod never asks about Sally, so this is an episode full of softballs. Despite only having about fifteen Reavers to contend with, they decide to blow up the whole Fenestella and its contents. At first, I thought this a terrible loss – grab that gift box first! Take literally four more arrows and/or bullets and just kill all the monsters in question so there aren't any more, then give those dudes a hand down and walk out of there!
It's also not the only "It's dangerous to go alone, take this" moment of the episode, which seems like a lot of sudden coincidences even for an episode of Sleepy Hollow.
See, Frank needs Jenny's help getting his wedding ring back from evidence lockup. He can't get it himself, see, because they won't return his evidence, because "I was convicted of a double homicide." Was he? I'm genuinely asking. He got checked out of a prison sentence by a judge reading from an index card, there are just some questions left.
Why does he lie to Jenny? Turns out Frank Irving is his own evil twin! He gave himself a magical rune to disguise his soulessness – turns out Henry hid runes in his favorite books and Frank "happened" to ""remember"" one of the """runes""" and used it to """'fool Katrina"""" about """""whether Henry had called in his bartered soul in order to turn him into an undead lackey of evil""""", in case you still had any burning questions about what it feels like when a B-plot starts to sink into a kiddie pool filled with maple syrup.
See, the magical rune is fading, and despite its stated use being to hide the evidence a curse has been cast, somehow this rune has also been keeping him from becoming evil and that's also fading, but that's not going to keep them from taking it seriously. That USB file has a million dollars on it, somehow, and Irving needs that for his family before he vanishes for good.
"I lost my job! I lost my soul! I lost my family! This is security for them...That other Frank is about to take over and replace me." Only Frank Irving, world's unluckiest human, would be dealing with this.
"Thank you for doing this," he finishes, then turns, full of dignity, and wanders off into a corner farthest from the only entrance to the evidence room, presumably to sleep in a file cabinet like an offended cat until evil takes him.
There's no resolution here, of course (there's a two-part season finale to save that for!), and so the unsteady-wagon-wheel quota is bolstered with Katrina, who dreams that her son brings her flowers and calls her to evil witchery and is the sort of Oedipal suitor Jupiter Ascending only wishes it had. Then she wakes to discover it's totally true.
He also dropped off a Smiths mix tape that's just "How Soon is Now?" ten times in a row, and it started playing as soon as we cut to black.
It's fascinating to watch the show violently cram in everything possible that critics have been lamenting. Too much Hawley? Have a love interest of color! Too much Katrina? Have an episode of Ichabod's historical mythology! Plot feeling adrift since Moloch? Have Ichabod and Abbie talk about it and then run into repository of knowledge! (Then have them blow it up, because you can't risk coming into a new quest two episodes from the end of the season.) On the other hand, this episode magically tops any X-Files scale I could provide with the most accurate shot this show has ever given us:
Next week: the beginning of the end! (Of the season, for sure. The rest? Eeeeeeh.) Will Katrina get a last-minute reprieve and stick around forever? Will Ichabod amend calling eighteenth-century America "open fields" and remember all that outrage about Native American nations he had in the first season? Will Abbie, tired of it all, quietly set fire to the entire town and its environs, steal Headless' demon horse – a horse currently seeking occupation, one assumes, as Headless keeps his word to Katrina by staying put and just binge-watching Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries – and ride alone into the sunset? (It would be cool, admit it.)