Welcome back to season two of Sleepy Hollow, the show that makes any attempt at describing it to a non-watcher sound like you're the drunk guy who went to a historical-conspiracy website one time and Cannot Stop Thinking About It!
When we left off, the show had spent thirteen breakneck hours hurling every possible trope right at us, and locked Abbie and Ichabod in Purgatory for the break. Will they ever escape?
Yes. From the two-second credits (WELCOMEBACKTOSLEEPYHOLLOWOKAYBYE) to the plot twists that pop up so often this episode really does feel like racing through a maze at full speed the entire time, this episode has one job: to reunite Abbie and Ichabod. This series has a lot going for it in other respects: it's a diverse cast with great overall chemistry, all sorts of relationships are presented as interesting and valuable, and it's a magnificent blend of historical trivia and just not giving a crap. But the X-Files influence is strong with this one, and at the end of the day, there's no show unless those two are hanging out being extremely differing heights and sniping at one another with barely suppressed glee.
As they do in this birthday-party fakeout of this cold open, which according to Twitter really threw some people for a loop. But those people must be new here, because for all this is a show that moves briskly through its plots, it would never rob us of the thrill of in situ adventure with something as huge as a one-year time jump after a bunch of cliffhangers. I'm doubly disappointed people didn't realize this as soon as Abbie offered Ichabod food.
Ask yourself: Are we somewhere, suddenly, where things seem too carefree? If someone's holding an item: Can Victor Garber bite into that and shriek? If the answer to either question is yes, it's Purgatory.
I'm admittedly a little disappointed that we didn't get a little more time in Purgatory with Abbie and her younger selves, especially since Purgatory Standard Time works differently than Ichabod-in-a-coffin hours, so we wouldn't necessarily have to inconvenience him to give her a little more breathing room. However, if this episode is any indication, then we got all our childhood angst out of the way last season, and this season is full steam ahead on the interpersonal adult drama. Which...is fine. But it was such a great note for Abbie to end on - that safe haven in a lonely, awful place - and so in line with her character that I'm a little sad we left it behind so soon.
However, even in Purgatory the Sleepy Hollow Plot Machine keeps rolling, and they're called in to a crime scene (Ichabod, accurately, "And they asked for us? That's...never good"), recognize the Headsman's work, and on their way inside, they pull out a stock of weapons they've been "training on" for the past year, which means that Purgatory has tapped into Abbie and Ichabod's secret dreams of being, respectively, an unimaginably firepowered badass, and whoever got made fun of the most during the Revolutionary War.
("The professor." If you, as a professor, want to be sure to be identified swiftly after death, please remember to put on your sweater vest before being beheaded.)
This week's name-drop is "shrewd and conniving" "gasbag" Benjamin Franklin. I'd tell you to remember it, but uh, it'll come up again. They only get as far as the Magical Key part before the firefight breaks out, anyway. You have to respect how hard Purgatory works to make you think this is a normal day for them.
Not pictured: Tom Mison quietly making "Pew pew pew!" noises.
Luckily they get away with the research, where they discover a rubbing of the Franklin Key (or "Gehenna Key," because this show). Two lessons here. One, every grocery list a Founding Father ever penned will be proven, onscreen, to contain a priceless safeguard against the arcane forces of evil that apparently saw a distinct uptick right around the time of the Revolutionary War. Two, the Franklin Key had nothing to do with his search for electricity; it was a supernatural experiment! Three, the Franklin Key is not a euphemism for his "air baths," so we're good:
"You're one of us," Franklin assures his assistant Ichabod, who looks pretty unhappy about it for a guy who will spend the rest of his life name-dropping them as fast as he possibly can.
They're so lulled into a sense of security that they manage to visit locked-up-Henry in the Horseman's cell, where he's surrounded by open flames because why wouldn't you give your prisoner something he could use to light you on fire. He talks about plants under artificial light and wraps with, "Proof that anything can be tricked into believing a lie," and somehow our pair of crack investigators still only realize once they get into the control booth that they can't actually remember how they got there and oh snap it's their own individual hallucinatory purgatories after all.
Impossible to picture: John Noble absolutely feasting on the line, "With your sistah JENNEHiiee!"
Note: As they're torn asunder, Ichabod promises to return for Abbie. We'll put a pin in that.
Henry, meanwhile, drags out Jenny and monologues that Ichabod and Abbie are never going to help her again, ever, certainly not by the end of the next commercial break, and he's going to sin-eat the details of Benjamin Franklin's key-based journal entry right out of her. Jenny Mills, who is already completely over the secret-Horseman guy trying to raise a quasi-hellish army: "I've done a lot of sinning. I hope you choke on every one of 'em."
Do not dig: Um.
Directors and DPs everywhere: watch your angles.
And though we keep hopping around our major characters this week, we'll just move ahead to the spoiler that Jenny busts out, because Henry forgot about the part where she's a trained commando and maybe strapping on a few zip ties and setting her down right next to a knife was not going to hold her very long. (Not into the random Hessian sexually menacing her, by the. It's entirely possible to treat a woman evilly without being sexual about it. Don't become one of those shows, show.)
In related news, here's Katrina, just kind of hanging out still, only now she's the hostage of a different person.
It's sad that they have to give us the flashback where Henry delivers his mom into the hands of the Horseman for gross stuff. It's double sad when your first thought is, "I'm glad she's a hostage of someone else, maybe she'll have things to do now." Because I don't need to point out how sketchy this entire subplot is. She was damseled enough last season without the added sexual threats, thanks very much.
But you know, all's not lost. Clearly she's not a physical badass, and that is perfectly fine, there is more than one way to be effective. She was a spy during the Revolution, a keen wit prepared to work a mark and then wait patiently for just the right moment to strike. Plus, she's a witch, whose powers tap into the mystic vibrations of the earth itself! Surely she can gather the elements as her saviors!
Or, as we find out, she's someone who ignores food as fuel, uselessly stabs a guy who is unaffected by machine gun fire, and immediately gets re-kidnapped. Poor Katrina. Her Purgatory isn't Moloch's realm; it's the whole show.
However, there's an upside to this whole subplot: I might never have laughed so hard in my entire life as when the Headless Horseman gives Katrina a little preview of the goods. I'm laughing just typing this now. I hope when I'm eighty I will remember this moment and laugh.
Chances are good.
Sadly, through a nifty callback to her necklace that explains why he was carrying it around all last year, he gets his head back. In the tradition of kidnapper TV jerks everywhere, he immediately starts talking about how he's going to win Katrina's heart. Katrina, a dummy: "My heart will never be yours!" (WEREN'T YOU A SPY? GET IT TOGETHER.)
Given the rate at which this show churns through plot, I expect this to get resolved shortly so we do not have to sit through any more of this nonsense; on the other hand, I expected her to get out of Purgatory last season, and look how that went.
Speaking of Purgatory, Andy's back! He's very insistent Abbie heed his words, and though I respect her hesitation, for once I agree with him. He got a redemption arc last season that did not hinge whatsoever on Abbie reciprocating his feelings, which was great, and even makes his parting line seem less like creeping than like an apology. (And really, "You remind me that I am human" is a decent enough sendoff for a guy who spent most of last season battling the neck rolls of the damned and getting routinely murdered.) Plus, we know time really is of the essence for John Cho. Her decision to trust him pays off, with a guide to Moloch's Lair, home of the Mirror of Purgatory, which she can use to warn Ichabod.
"I won't be here when you come out. I got a pilot."
It's just as well Abbie's looking for a way to reach Ichabod, because the man needs the help. He's alternating between leaving heartfelt, self-aggrandizing messages on his phone, and blowing up his own coffin with the sulfurous soil above him.
Sleepy Hollow: When you hope someone will make Tom Mison snack on loam, but somehow never knew that was a thing you wanted.
Once free, he touches base with Jenny (by phone! I'm so proud!) and arranges a quick pickup from her prison warehouse.
(Favorite moment of the episode.)
Jenny takes over driving once he can't reverse. "Let's learn to drive," he mutters to himself as they peel out, which feels like he's not giving himself enough credit for starting up the ambulance, turning it around, and accelerating/braking in the first place, but okay.
So, there's so much plot happening in this episode, even for an episode of this show, that we're just going to pause a second and enjoy all this. One of the things I appreciated most from last season is how well the Abbie-and-Ichabod dynamic shifted to include Jenny; Abbie got a largely-great, if occasionally rushed, arc about mutual redemption and becoming closer and gaining their trust back, and Ichabod was always as happy to be of service to Miss Jenny Mills as to the Leftenant. It was sort of delightfully no big deal, and it means that now we are perfectly happy to watch these two yell at each other in an ambulance and solve crime for a while.
Pictured: How Jenny feels about solving nonsense supernatural mysteries again; how I feel about the show coming back.
A sometimes-less-delightful thing that has nonetheless become a hallmark of the show: how everyone on this show is exactly as smart as the plot demands. They'll go around in circles for forty minutes if they have to ("It's written in some kind of code." OH, IS IT?) but when pressed for time, Ichabod can instantly deduce that the only person Benjamin Franklin trusted was himself. He also handily recalls "The key to success lies under the alarm clock," which is not a very good aphorism on Ben Franklin's part, even if it does lead Ichabod and Jenny to the Gehenna Key.
On the other hand, since the plot's often in the service of goofball adventure while our characters hang out, it's mostly fine. It certainly helps speed the Ichabod and Abbie reunion along! And in what I assume was an attempt to do absolutely nothing to stave off all those shippy vibes, they staged it in the middle of a Meat Loaf video.
Ichabod's on a roll, too, as Abbie suggests he destroy the key and let her stay in Purgatory instead: "You and I must remain together if there is any hope of victory! The only risk is in leaving you behind!" Lyrics from "We're Fighting a War," off the latest LP from hit band The Archives, I DO NOT ACCEPT GOODBYE, out September 22.
Because this show's main cast is so delightful, even when it's incomplete (Irving: Momentarily Absent, Moustached Forever), the second half of the episode is actually about everyone getting hugs.
Ichabod and Jenny, with a little bonus Romantic Lead Face? You bet!
Next, the second single off that Archives album: "She Doesn't Belong to You," courtesy of Ichabod interrupting hell!Ichabod in the race to hug Abbie the most.
Naturally, Abbie's able to determine the decoy moments later (that "Leftenant" business pays off), and welcomes back regular Ichabod with their own secret version of a hug, since they're still worn out from the sheer intensity of that hug on the astral plane earlier.
She finishes with a "Pow," and then, offhand, "I'll show you the other part later." Sleepy Hollow: When you want all the emotional codependency of The X-Files without the wait or the issues with being demonstrative.
(Also, just a reminder. Time Katrina spent in Purgatory before Ichabod reached her: thirteen episodes. Time Abbie spent there before Ichabod reached her: twenty-eight minutes.)
As a reminder how little the plots actually matter on this show, the key immediately disintegrates, in case you were worried about that lasting all season. Then sisters hug.
Good priorities. I'm behind all of this. Tell me all you want about the secret chess board that contains within it the secrets to defeating Hell's armies, so long as everybody's sniping and hugging.
At home, realizing they've conquered a major plot hole in a single afternoon, they sit down and take stock. Ichabod: "My wife is now a captive of the Horseman of Death, and the Horseman of War is my son." He literally cannot stop name-dropping. (It's a better line than Abbie's "We won't get fooled again," which is pretty rich talk for someone who almost drank Purgatory water 90 seconds ago; it's a worse line than her leaning forward and intoning, "This is war.")
And in a section of what looks like the tunnels under Sleepy Hollow that they have really got to install some surveillance equipment in so that minions of the dark forces can no longer camp out in there, Henry apologizes to Moloch the Dark Lord. The Lord of Purgatory is surprisingly supportive:
Say what you will, that's a nice daily affirmation even if it is coming from the only telephone booth in Hell.
An because Henry is a valued member of the team and Moloch believes he's a good long-term investment for Biblical Horsemen, Inc. he even gives him a plot present, using up the show's CGI budget for the week while John Noble reminds us all why people hire John Noble, intoning, "I bring not peace, but a sword."
NEXT WEEK: THE HORSEMEN RIDE TO MEDIEVAL TIMES.