Remember when the Headless Horseman was a terrifying badass? You know, back when he slaughtered Sheriff Corbin right in front of Lt. Abbie Mills? And when even the sight of his silhouette against the night and the pounding of his dead-eyed horse’s hooves made you shiver and shake?
Well he’s been deflated lately, reduced to a minion, errand boy, lovelorn suitor and inept host to his captive houseguest. Poor First Horseman of the Apocalypse. He’s been kind of a dolt, or should we say fop, in Colonialspeak?
Until this week’s episode of “Sleepy Hollow,” that is, when Abraham Van Brunt got his swagger back. Some of it, at least, though he still can’t seem to get the drop on Ichabod Crane in hand-to-hand combat-swordplay or foil the Witnesses’ mission to stop Armageddon. Or does he?
It’s a two-parter, with next week’s episode, “The Akeda,” closing out the fall run of Fox’s supernatural sci-fi-tinged buddy cop drama. Monday’s cliffhanger, dubbed “Magnum Opus,” leaves us not knowing whether Abbie and Crane have stopped Moloch from ascending. There’s an ominous shot of Henry Parrish (John Noble) and the Great Horned Devil in a fiery welcome-to-small-town-America ceremony at the end of the hour, but we can’t be sure if the deed is done.
Oh please, we know better than that. But as always on “Sleepy Hollow,” it’s best to just enjoy the ride. In fact, it’s mandatory.
After last week’s episode, “Mama,” that packed such an emotional punch, with heart-tugging and fine acting from the sisters Mills (Nicole Beharie, Lyndie Greenwood) in particular, it was time for some heavy action. And the show delivered, with a frantic race for Jenny Mills to get escapee Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) out of the country and an even more frenzied Ichabbie search for something called the sword of Methuselah that can kill Moloch.
Abbie’s mother, Lori Mills, told the gang last week that they could locate the weapon they need by parsing Grace Dixon’s journal. Well, Abbie and Crane (Tom Mison) have parsed so much that their eyes are crossing and they need to play Head’s Up with their smartphones to clear their minds. It works!
Time for some shorthand here, which the showrunners should be able to understand since they covered about a million miles of twistory in seven seconds in this scene where Abbie and Crane decrypt Grace’s hand-written messages and cross-reference those with maps, Ben Franklin’s old political cartoon and ancient texts.
Something about the Old Testament, Enoch, Hebrew, Knights Templar, Freemasons, thousand-demon slayer. That all makes perfect “Sleepy Hollow” sense.
The upshot is that Abbie and Crane are quickly onto the trail of this epic sword of Methuselah except they realize that the Headless Horseman is on his way there too. Setup for a battle royale!
Could it be said that Katrina (Katia Winter) is helpful somehow in putting together the clues that send Abbie and Crane on their hunt? Not really. She appears to them in a mirror at Good Guy HQ to say that she’s failed (once again) and that Moloch grows like a weed. Seriously, he went from infant to toddler to high schooler in the space of a few days.
But she’s able to speak to them, it turns out, only because Henry allows it and spies the whole time to see how the Witnesses are coming along with that journal deciphering. Katrina has her chat and then runs away with the mirror line still open, the witchy equivalent of butt dialing. Henry sees everything and dispatches Headless to go, um, head them off at the sword place.
Crane has said to Abbie that this search “won’t be without peril,” to which Abbie responds with one of the best lines of the night: “Crane, you and I can’t have lunch without peril.”
Peril, it is!
There’s a through-line about understanding one’s motivations and having clarity of purpose. Abbie has no problem with this, but Crane’s a little fuzzy. He’ll have to get his head on straight for this to work and, snap out of it, dude, this is no time for an existential crisis, Abbie says.
There’s a near miss with Headless (Neil Jackson), with only the rising sun coming to Ichabbie’s rescue. The horseman starts to sizzle and has to retreat, leaving Abbie and Crane to find and confront the monster of the week, an underground snake-troll with a Coolio hairdo guarding the coveted sword.
The creature is called a gorgon, Crane says of the Medusa-like thing, and it turns people into stone. He and Abbie find just such evidence in the cave, where there are explorers from all over the world, including a Dixon ancestor, now decorating the lair. The gorgon has been busy, and he’s happy to add two more statues to his collection, but Ichabbie make it out in the knick.
They decide they need to lure Headless back into this situation to have him do their dirty work and basically act as a decoy while they find the sword. Think he’s game for that? Of course he is, because he hates Crane and sold his soul to Moloch in order to avenge Crane’s betrayal.
Hey, Headless, is it time you faced facts about Katrina? It was an arranged (thwarted) marriage, after all. But things may have changed, as Abraham points out to Crane during their troll cave confrontation: “She always returns to me,” and he promises to ride away with “your former wife.”
Definite benefit of this exchange: Headless keeps planting those seeds of doubt about Crane and his erstwhile wife, and ‘shippers keep eating it up.
While this kerfuffle has been taking place, Jenny and Irving part ways before a roadblock can do it for them. Jenny's still in for shuttling Irving across the border to Canada, but he has other ideas. He'd rather go rogue -- he's already on the lam -- than leave the country. So don't count out Frank as an ally in the war against End Days.
But there’s a trumpet blowing, signaling that humanity-denying Henry is trying to introduce Moloch to the world, kind of like a supernatural debutante ball. Does he succeed?
It’s happening just moments after Abbie and Crane find the sword. Abbie did have to go through a bunch of dummy swords that turned into snakes – who else heard her squeal? – before perfect Witness teamwork solved that puzzle.
There’s a tease in next week’s preview about a major character biting the dust. A few thoughts about that: Hey, this isn’t a pay cable show! It better not be Jenny! And, finally, please let it be Hawley!