If you’ve followed the adventures of Abbie Mills and her time-traveling magic pixie dream boy this far, you know that a Sleepy Hollow episode will deliver two guaranteed outcomes: someone’s going to die, and someone’s going to have a heartbreaking back story.
This episode begins December 16th, 1773 in Boston Harbor. Dock ruffians are busting open containers of what looks like tea so poorly packaged that it was probably ruined long before by the Massachusetts humidity. We know this is a flashback because the camera is unnecessarily blurry in a radial pattern, and if this is an example of Ichabod’s photographic memory then immortality is not worth it.
Inside the British ship, Ichabod’s captain tells him to hang back by the door. The rebel militia are searching for a secret treasure requested by George Washington, but the chest is guarded by a German-speaking redcoat soldier. Why? Because an evil prophecy sounds scariest in German. Rather than be taken prisoner he blows up everyone but Crane and the treasure chest.
Back in the modern world, we see Ichabod Crane sitting in a car at night, waxing poetic to the empty air about his memories of Katrina. What follows is the best scene in the entire series to date.
Ichabod: “The bravest love is born again with each new day. The kind of love that makes the mundane a marvel, that bewilders with its magnificence… until Fate’s cruel hand intervened, and in the blink of an eye, Katrina was lost to me.”
Sobbing Female Caller: “I’m so, so sorry.”
Ichabod: “I offer this tale, no matter how cruelly he may have treated you, to suggest that you do not give up, nor give in to anything less than certainty in matters of the heart.”
Sobbing Female Caller: “No one’s ever said it like that. Thank you.”
Ichabod: “It is I who should thank you, kind woman, for unlocking this vehicle from afar. And showing me how the entertainment system operates. Farewell, Yolanda.”
Sobbing Female Caller: “Thank you… for calling NorthStar Assistance.”
At this point I was laughing so hard I had to get up, leave my laptop, and go watch Dancing With the Stars for a minute in the other room until I could stop the giggling. My face hurts but I’m back, I’m hydrated, and I will smother my smiles for the sake of recapping destiny.
On a side note, Ichabod demonstrates a continual inability to operate electronic car locks, though at least he’s sussed out the computer dialing system. Tom Mison is worth every penny he can eke out with that fine foreign accent.
Your everyday white snatcher van whizzes noisily by, and Crane, freed of the shackles of technological ignorance, steps out of the car – showing a bit more chest hair than usual. Whoa there, soldierman, casual viewers can only handle so much neck acreage.
Apparently it’s still the same night that Abbie realized her sister had escaped from the Implausible Mental Hospital For Crazy Criminal People Who Commit Crimes, so he’s only just put his shirt back on from their dream-walking adventure in the third episode. I think the audience is meant to believe that Jenny had just stolen the white snatcher van during her escape, but since there’s never any comment made about the van it could simply be that Sleepy Hollow is full of rude drivers.
In the police station, Abbie attempts to convince Captain Irving to hold off the police search and give her a head start to find her sister. Since Jenny was only in a minimum-security facility for stealing $4,000 dollars of camping gear, it’s not clear why Irving would have a manhunt going for her at all.
Abbie tries to assure Irving that her sister is acting with purpose, but he claims that makes her “even scarier.” Either the state of New York is truly concerned about the threat posed by hardcore survivalists, or Irving wants her captured for suspicious reasons. Or possibly they just wanted an extra scene with Orlando Jones.
Ichabod believes Jennifer Mills is “a brilliant, misunderstood woman haunted by a past she’s struggling to understand.” Ichabod thinks Abbie is awesome and anyone related to Abbie must be awesome as well. He’s really into powerful women; it’s cute. Abbie attempts to get her boss’s approval in the proven method.
Abbie: “There’s dead bodies everywhere! My sister is in danger! Let me go Training Day on this sitch.”
Irving: “Why the hell would I agree to that?”
Abbie: “Look into my enormous eyes. They are beautiful, brown, and just on the verge of crying.”
Irving: “Ehh… okay, you’ve got twelve hours and you better come back with a sandwich wrap.”
Jenny “I’m Too Bad Ass For You” Mills shows up at a bar, and like any good friend, the bartender Wendell pours her a shot without asking. He’ll probably pay for those loose morals later. Jenny asks Wendell for her stuff from storage, and disappears with a cryptic warning.
Across town, a scary man with a German accent is teaching piano lessons to a teenager, but he stops when he gets a phone call warning him of Jenny’s escape. Is it still the same night? Who lets their kid take piano lessons at one in the morning? Timeline continuity on this show is tenuous at best – wait, never mind, it’s dawn! Poor child.
Scary Piano Man and two goons show up at the bar to threaten Wendell in what I can only describe as successfully unnerving phraseology. Armed with a shotgun, Wendell replies, “You all walk out of here, and I won’t redecorate this place with your face.” Not the wisest thing to say in Decapitation Capitol, USA. Scary Piano Man shows him the error of his ways. Roll opening credits!
The same morning, Abbie’s busy snarling at service people on the phone, attempting to track Jenny’s movements, and someone let Ichabod read Jenny’s police file. The fact that he’s even allowed in the building is the true mystery of Sleepy Hollow.
Turns out the other Mills sister is not just a petty criminal but “a world traveler.” Abbie reluctantly tells Crane that her father bailed on them as children and her mom was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, landing both in the care of the state. They were split into different foster homes, and Ichabod suggests they visit Jenny’s last foster home to investigate.
Jenny has her bag of goodies from Wendell, and it’s filled with guns. Watch yourselves, creatures of the night, or the Mills sisters will come after you.
Speaking of monsters, Wendell didn’t make it. Irving and his police team spend the morning examining the bartender’s decapitated corpse, currently strung up on the wall. The bloody head is decorating the pool table, and Captain Irving calls on all his experience reading Sherlock Holmes fanfiction to deduce that Wendell was tortured by humans instead of slaughtered by a mysterious Headless Horseman. Abbie’s ex-boyfriend cop says something pithy; no one cares.
In the Foster Home From Hicksville, Abbie accuses Jenny’s former foster-mother of defrauding the state’s childcare system by neglecting her current foster child. Abbie says, “You have one choice right now, that is to tell me something that will help me find her, or so help me I will rain legal brimstone down on you so hard it will make God jealous.” For this reason and many others, Abbie is my favorite.
As a parting shot, the Hick Foster Lady baits Abbie with the story of how she abandoned her sister. For a moment it looks like Abbie will introduce some of that brimstone right now, but Ichabod wordlessly steps in front of his partner, holding Abbie’s gaze the whole time. He physically blocks the old woman from Abbie’s sight (making himself a shield against the attack, the pain, the guilt) in an act of silent body language that went straight to this recapper’s heart.
The cabin the old woman sends them to find once belonged to Sheriff Corbin, and Abbie has to use some classic B&E skills to pick the door lock. Ichabod speculates on all the delinquency they might perpetrate with her skills, which should be a reminder to the audience that this is a guy who betrayed his king and country, spied for the Colonials, conspired with George Washington to battle the forces of darkness, dabbled in the occult, and belonged to at least one secret society. Ichabod Crane is not all poetry and tea time.
Jenny pops around the corner, gun pointed in their direction, and explains that Corbin recruited her long ago to fight the good fight. The siblings wave their pistols at one another until Crane snaps and gives them a dressing-down that seems particularly cutting when delivered in a British accent. For a moment it looks like they’ll shoot the interfering white man instead, but sanity wins out.
This episode is a rich well of development for both sisters, as we learn Jenny has returned to the cabin to fetch an object left to her from Corbin’s death. It’s a 250-year-old sextant, and while he tinkers with it, Ichabod explains that he invented the Boston Tea Party as a cover for the flashback raid at the start of the episode. Abbie remains skeptical, but Jenny looks back and forth between them like she’s trying her best not to break out in a giggle fit.
The German redcoat guarding the mystery chest that night in 1773 was a Hessian, like the Headless Horseman. The sextant is actually a secret map device for the whereabouts of the hidden chest, but as soon as they realize it, the Scary Piano Man and his goons attack the cabin with gunfire.
The goons disappear with the sextant, so they interrogate the Scary Piano Man, whom Jenny manages to capture. Crane nerd-flirts with him in German, and we see that he has a tattoo similar to that of the Horseman. Surprise: he’s part of the rival secret society of Hessian Soldiers From Upper Middle Class Hell.
There’s a legendary book of black magic called “The Lesser Key of Solomon” that contains a ritual to raise 72 demon souls from Hell and bring them through to Earth.
The Hessian goes into a narration about his boring life as a sleeper agent, while we see Captain Irving’s SWAT team bust open the guy’s house after investigating Wendell’s murder. Let’s hope they’ll finally tell the piano kid to stop practicing and go home. The Hessian’s basement is something out of the The Following, full of brains in jars and skulls piled in the corner.
Back at the cabin, he calls our three heroes by name, including Miss Grace Abigail Mills. The names were given to him by Moloch, the horned demon who appeared in the forest and the broken mirror. The Hessian whispers “Moloch shall rise” in German, then chews a cyanide pill.
While Jenny tries to convince her sister that the cops and Irving can’t be trusted, Ichabod uses his photographic memory to redraw the map from the sextant. The treasure chest is hidden in a church, and on the way, war twins Jenny and Crane bond over her overseas insurgent history. The conversation goes approximately like so:
Ichabod: “So you’re a freedom fighter then?”
Jenny: “I kinda learned long ago that if you don’t fight for the things you stand for, you don’t really stand for them.”
Ichabod: “Excellent! Have you seen the tax on croissants in this era? I may require your assistance to start a lil’ somethin’ somethin’ with the local governance.”
Abbie: “WTF STOP TALKING RIGHT NOW.”
Ichabod: “Well she does make a compelling point —”
Jenny: “Neener neener! Your boyfriend thinks I’m right.”
The Hessian goons open George Washington’s Tea Party Box, and spoiler alert: what’s inside is not a party. It’s a black magic grimoire, and the two remaining bad guys dribble their blood over the pages while reciting more creepy German prophecy. This activates The Goblet of Fire, a baptism altar conveniently placed in the center of the church and filled with black demon goop. The goop spills out onto the floor to form a pentagon-shaped gate to Hell. Writhing goblin creatures push against the surface tension of the portal like living skeletons trapped under cellophane.
The hero trio arrives and immediately take their family problems out on the two Hessians, but one gets Jenny in a headlock. Abbie throws the book into the demon portal, breaking the spell, and they shove both of the Hessians in before it vanishes. Who needs the Fourteenth Amendment when there’s a convenient Hellmouth to dispose of bad guys? This upholds the four-week tradition that if you’re a white male in Sleepy Hollow and your name doesn’t end in “Crane” you’ll probably die nightmarishly before the episode is done.
“They left without a farewell. How impolite.” Stop trying to be sarcastic, Ichabod; you haven’t watched enough TV yet.
Sometime later the Mills sisters are back at the police station, reminiscing on the Bible. Jenny thinks it’s pretty ironic that eternal skeptic Abbie is the Chosen One, but the two come to a peace when Abbie offers to help her sister get out of the psych ward within six months.
Crane pulls Abbie into a side office for what looks momentarily like a saucy workplace hook-up, but turns out to be his nerdgasm over finding the name Moloch, the god-demon of child sacrifice, in “several theological texts.” Milton’s Paradise Lost isn’t a legitimate theological text by even the lowest standards, given that it was published in 1667, but it’s cute that Ichabod still believes everything he reads. “This is the creature you saw in the forest, Miss Mills, the one who controls the Horsemen, who guards Katrina. And now we know his name.” Commence spooky music!
This week is Sleepy Hollow‘s best so far, picking up considerably from the previous one in characterization and pacing. The back story of Abbie and Jenny Mills is expanded to render them fully-fleshed out characters with ongoing emotional journeys. Their arguments provide the most entertaining scenes of the night, familiar to anyone with competitive sibling relationships. Add to that, Ichabod’s little touches of humor and smoothly delivered exposition, and “The Lesser Key of Solomon” is an example of why Fox already picked up Sleepy Hollow for a second season.