Previously on Ichabod Touches People And Things, Abbie’s deceased mentor left her a picturesque cabin property, the horned demon Moloch used to model for the Hannibal series book covers back in the day, and Ichabod thinks John Milton’s poetry qualifies as ancient theological texts.
The opening of “John Doe” sneaks up on you with the soft, eerie music as the camera follows a little girl with the most amazing maiden hair I’ve ever seen on television. She’s frolicking in the woods, gathering mushrooms, or flowers, or the teeth of her enemies. The palest little boy in all of Sleepy Hollow watches from a distance, until her laughter lures him out to play. It’s all very Never-Never Land until an fearsome Horseman in a horned helmet appears from the blue mist, theme music swelling and sword at ready.
The art designer on this series must have really loved Highlander. The little boy runs like Hell and stumbles out onto the highway in the same disoriented manner as Ichabod weeks prior. If this keeps happening, Abbie may have to tap the police budget for a webcam to monitor the first known time travel interstate.
Evening commences at the dead sheriff’s cabin in the woods, where the intrepid lieutenant and her Revolutionary Ken doll move his meager box of possessions into his new home. Ichabod likes the modern conveniences and Abbie thinks her pet will be happier in his native environment. When she calls on her slinky voice to say “This is an ideal setting for you. Rustic… by the lake…” it sounds like proposition, but Crane is too distracted playing with the shower loofah from his bag of domestic goodies to notice. Oceans may rise and monsters may roam, but Walgreens understands that you need bubblebath even more during the apocalypse.
This episode is more philosophical than its predecessors, starting from the Adam & Eve style opening and demonstrated when Abbie discusses faith with Ichabod. Nearly every conversation in “John Doe” circles back to faith in some form, and I like the constant artistic choice to have Ichabod mess around with modern objects while Abbie re-evaluates her spiritual commitment. In a sense, they both confront the perils of the unknown from their opposite ends.
His current foe: the hard plastic casing that contains that which you desire most in the world. Ichabod snarls, “What is this impenetrable barrier around this instrument?!” Retail customers have been asking that question since 2002.
Officer Ex-Fiance (Luke Morales as played by Nicholas Gonzalez) is guarding the emergency scene when Abbie and Ichabod arrive to follow up on a mysterious lost boy. Officer Ex asks Abbie if she gets tired of babysitting Mr. Tall, Wispy & Upright, but she’s having none of it and slams his detective skills. Obviously, if Luke can’t deduce that Abbie’s strange foreign friend is actually a Revolutionary spy cast through time to fight the forces of Biblical darkness, then that’s Luke’s own fault.
The mystery boy from the forest was picked up by paramedics after he collapsed from an unknown illness, and his outdated clothes leads Ichabod to believe that the child might be out of his timeline as well.
At police HQ, Abbie, Crane, and Captain Irving discuss the pint-sized “John Doe.” When Ichabod claims that the boy is speaking Middle English, Irving wins the prize for driest sarcasm of the entire episode: “Naturally.” Luckily, Ichabod Crane’s hidden superpower is not merely detecting when people are making fun of him, but having the self-control not to be a dick about it.
Luke approaches Irving to politely ask WTF Ichabod is doing as a “consultant” for their office, and Irving responds with the same tactic that worked to get Luke off his back last time: bring up the fact that Abbie dumped his ass. Irving follows it up with loaded stares and warnings to mind his own work, delivered with scenery-chewing calm by Orlando Jones. Looks like we’re past the point of pretending the police captain doesn’t know more about what’s going on than everyone else still alive.
The CDC sails into town and quarantines the boy for the ominous black veins under his skin, arranging for Ichabod to speak to him through a camera. They have a long conversation in Elvish about the location of the One Ring, and Ichabod expresses his distaste for plastic. No doubt he’ll change his tune the next time he gets a toothache and experiences the miracle of modern dentistry equipment.
The boy, Thomas, hails from the lost colony of Roanoke. Crane gives Abbie a brief history lesson of the North Carolina villagers who vanished in 1590, and once again challenges her to have faith in the mysteries that surround them.
With more people falling ill, Sleepy Hollow goes into lockdown, while Abbie and Ichabod head into the woods to find the boy’s trail. Abbie’s been teasing Crane the whole day about his culture shock, and he gets a little sensitive.
Abbie: “So who was more sarcastic, Jefferson or Adams?”
Ichabod: “Is this more sarcasm?”
Abbie: “No, I’m serious.”
Ichabod: “I’ll tell you this: Jefferson had an obsession with puns, and Adams kept a notebook of unsavory limericks.”
Ichabod: “Welcome to Roanoke.”
Luke and fellow his officer, Jones, gossip about Crane’s dubious history and decide it’s all down to Irving’s omniscient behavior. Just in case you missed it the last two episodes, they really want the audience to know that Irving has a larger agenda. Because he has something to prove, Luke investigates Crane’s cover story of being a liaison from Oxford, but to Luke’s surprise, the university employee on the phone confirms that they have a professor by that name.
Thanks to Crane’s mad tracking skills, earned from fox-hunting on his father’s estate, he and Abbie discover the footprints of Thomas and the malevolent flower girl. Ichabod admits he had a “regal upbringing” with a nobleman for a father, which means his choice to fight with the American Colonies was probably a more loaded decision than the series is ever really going to delve into.
The CDC representative marvels that Thomas has dissimilar blood chemistry to modern Americans, and I take a moment to enjoy the fact that here we have a conversation between two black actors and a Latino actor, all of whom I’m confident will make it to the end of the episode.
Our heroes find a mystery swamp island and use a trick ford to cross the waterway, Ichabod acting the gentlemen once again. Across the water they discover Thomas’s home: the entire lost population of Roanoke. All of them disappeared after being cursed by the Horseman of Pestilence, a.k.a. Conquest. A spirit led them to safety, but they can only hold back the symptoms of the disease as long as they remain in the village. By escaping Roanoke 2.0, Thomas may have unleashed an apocalyptic plague and lured the Horseman of Pestilence to Sleepy Hollow.
When Abbie and Crane return to town, intent on retrieving the boy, the disease has spread and Ichabod is infected. Abbie fruitlessly tries to prevent his quarantine, and when they eventually sedate him, Ichabod has another dream vision about his wife, Katrina. She explains the rules of her captivity in Purgatory, but she’s afraid to explain why Moloch has her imprisoned. Katrina is busy enough just watching the dead souls float by and screaming “Fight for your life! Fight for the both of us!” every time Crane has a fever dream.
To cap the episode’s theme of embracing faith, Abbie does what all cynics do when your supernatural BFF is dying from a ghost disease: she slouches into the pews of the hospital chapel and asks for a sign. “If this is a trial, I’m gonna need a little evidence.” She doesn’t even say please, she is that unaccustomed to praying. Nevertheless, the Powers That Be still like Abby enough to remind her of the well she saw at Roanoke 2.0. If the water has healing properties, she’ll need to get the boy back to the village.
Abby pleads her theory to Captain Irving, who helps her steal an ambulance with Crane and Thomas unconscious in the back. The ease with which Irving agrees to this goes strangely unnoticed by Abby, considering she’s only known her new boss for a month, tops. She brings them to the woods, with Thomas near the point of death and Ichabod weakening every step. In the background, the specter of the Horseman Conquest rides through the mist. Abbie makes Crane chuckle with a joke about the trees all looking the same, then provides him a booster shot from her medical bag. He jerks back to awareness, perky as can be.
Ichabod: “What was that?”
Ichabod: “I like it.”
As the spirit of pestilence is close on their heels, Crane finally jumps into the village well with Thomas in his arms, breaking the curse. Roanoke 2.0 vanishes from sight, leaving Abbie and Ichabod standing in the ruins of an old encampment. The boy and his townspeople were ghosts, dead the whole time. Fortunately, Crane’s black veins are gone, his clothes are clean, and his hair is soft and whispy again.
In less important news, everyone in Sleepy Hollow recovered instantly.
Ichabod compliments Abbie on trusting in the mystical forces to save them, and she responds with her own admission: for a moment, she’d wondered if he would stay with the village. “Believe me,” she says, “You belong in Sleepy Hollow. In the here and now.”
For a moment Crane is speechless, then he wraps up the episode with a confident summary of adventures to come: “We have much work to do. We will require more than faith if, and when, the Horseman of Death returns.”