There's good news and bad news in the fall finale of Fox's "Sleepy Hollow."
As is customary, the good news first: the great-horned apocalypse starter, Moloch, is dead, or so it seems. It's tough to know, though, what that means for his evil minions, the patricidal Horseman of War and the imprisoned Horseman of Death.
And anyway, death (lowercase "d") is plenty fluid in this supernatural sci-fi buddy cop drama, so could the Horrid King still be lurking in some netherworld, waiting to pounce again?
And now the really, really bad news: Frank Irving is killed in the battle to thwart the End of Days. The show runners had teased a significant death last week, at the cliffhanger first-of-two-parts episode, "Magnum Opus." They make good. Wahhhhhhhhhh!
Orlando Jones, the comic-turned-dramatic actor who plays Irving, did his best to pick this devastated recapper up out of her puddle of tears during a phone interview. His final scene was intense for him and the cast, he said, but he found a way to lighten the mood on the show's North Carolina set with a little rant that went something like this:
"Let me get this straight, Katrina can bring Ichabod back to life after 250 years, and I get stabbed and all she can do is hold my stomach?" Jones said. "How is it that she can't save me? I don't need a nurse, I need a witch!"
Jones, who had never been in a scene with Katia Winter's Katrina until this episode, said he "feels horrible" for the character because she does try to help in the aftermath of his brutal sword fight with the Horseman of War, a.k.a. Henry Parrish (John Noble).
No such empathy here for the witch who speaks some gibberish but basically stands by as Irving slips away. Lotta good she is, which, if you follow the series, is a sadly recurring theme.
No amount of verbal arm-twisting could get Jones to say if he'll be back on "Sleepy Hollow" in the future. But there is the matter of the premonition that Irving had of fighting monsters against a fiery small-town backdrop, video-game style. That isn't how it ends for the former top cop, so will he get another chance?
Only time will tell, but Jones says he's "glad that Frank got a heroic death – a death that's about something, not just a casualty with no real impact on the war."
He does take out the Second Horseman in the process, reducing the black-armored baddie to a pile of molten lava. That's no small feat in an episode called "The Akeda," which repeatedly references the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac and uses sacrifice as its emotional through-line.
Before the weekly play-by-play, though, how about a good news-bad news mash-up? Katrina and Ichabod finally have The Talk about their relationship and come to the conclusion that it can't be saved. That's good news for many of us 'shipper fans, but it can qualify as bad news too if you harbor some affection for the peril-plagued redhead. You're misguided, sure, but you're entitled to your opinion.
On to "The Akeda," which picks up where "Magnum Opus" left off, with Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) carrying the sword of Methuselah and desperately trying to get 6.2 miles to Fredericks Manor. This is the only time in "Sleepy Hollow" history, by the way, that one critical location is more than seven seconds away from another.
Moloch is putting his dastardly ducks in a row for his full hell-to-earth coming out party, setting off a fierce electrical storm that disables Abbie's SUV. Auto club is fast but not fast enough, so never mind, Mr. Mobile Mechanic, we'll just commandeer that motorcycle over there. ("Fast bike" is now at the top of Crane's holiday wish list).
At a seemingly deserted Casa Horrible, Abbie and Crane quickly connect the dots on Henry's elaborate scale model of the city and realize his murderous antics form a pentagram.
There's a shriek from somewhere out back and – shocker! – Katrina's in danger. Again. the Headless Horseman, a.k.a. Abraham Van Brunt (Neil Jackson), is just about to marry her, which involves lopping off her lovely head as part of the "binding ritual."
Quick catty aside: She could've avoided all this if she'd just done what she returned to Fredericks Manor to do. You had one job, Katrina. ONE. Kill baby Moloch. You even made the poison, but wimped out and dumped it. How can you be so consistently and maddeningly ineffectual?
Crane, wielding the sword, fights Abraham to the ground only to hear that using the weapon comes with a price. Anyone who kills with it will forfeit his soul and his own life, Abraham claims.
Katrina asks Crane to spare Abraham so she can find out if he's telling the truth or some such. She extends her charm necklace so that Crane can see Abraham with his noggin intact, which Ichabod hesitantly leaves that way for the time being. To the shackles in Thomas Jefferson's beast jail!
This gives Abbie, Crane and Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) time to confer, and Katrina opportunity to hover around the captured Abraham for "spying purposes." It also gives Crane the chance to hear her tell Headless that she cares for him. Uh oh.
It turns out that Methuselah's all-powerful sword is in fact double-edged. Abbie and Crane vow to sacrifice themselves to use it against Moloch, but Jenny has a better idea. "No, you cannot use the sword," says Abbie. "That's not what I was going to suggest, but thanks for thinking of me," replies a tart Jenny in one of the only chuckles of the hour.
Frank! His soul already belongs to Henry, so he has nothing to lose. Maybe? Could this work? Sharp fans already know that he broke himself out of Tarrytown for a larger purpose.
Frank's gone underground, but he's left a voice message breadcrumb trail so he's fairly easy to find. What if they're wrong about the soul and the sword, he asks Jenny and Crane. He agrees to do battle anyway and makes Jenny promise that she'll take care of his wife and daughter if the worst happens. That's when we know, fans, that he's not going to make it.
Meanwhile, it starts to hail blood, and the Good Guys "weapon up," with Katrina infusing some magic into the hardware. Abbie asks Nick Hawley (Matt Barr) and his perpetually unbuttoned thermal Henley to guard Headless while they're away beating down Moloch and Henry, whom Crane has vowed to kill if necessary.
This would seem to be an inopportune moment to hash out marital issues, but Crane can't hold his tongue any longer and pelts Katrina with, "Sometimes I question the very idea of our marriage." There's been a slow burn of lies, betrayals and distance all season that's grown into a gas-fed bonfire now.
What's left is a pile of ash. Katrina says they're soldiers in the war. Crane says they're comrades in arms, nothing more. When the battle's finished, they'll march their separate ways.
Some fans might consider that a shocking development, where many of us probably think it's long overdue. And it's a fairly bloodless conversation between the two of them, so that's revealing, is it not?
Abbie, Crane, Jenny, Katrina and Frank are locked and loaded just in time for the next course of Moloch's doomsday buffet – an attack by demons released from purgatory. A zombie with a Colonial musket shoots Abbie in the arm, and Frank goes toe-to-toe with the Horseman of War.
There's victory in this skirmish, no doubt, because War crumples to the ground, literally a hot mess. But Frank is mortally wounded, taking a beloved character out of the picture. As a man of shaken faith, Irving still serves the greater good. RIP, Frank, but here's holding out hope that we'll see you again.
Speaking of sacrifice, Moloch expects the ultimate from Henry. The doting son just wants to be close to Dad, no matter how terrible, unfair or pleather-covered he is. He's beginning to get the picture that he's disposable, though, even if he is an alleged key player in Armageddon. Cast off yet again, Henry? Poor thing.
Moloch is impatient, wanting to get on with his end-of-the-world soiree, so he sends the battered Henry to retrieve the sword and the A-Team.
Now it's all about sacrifice: Crane wants Henry to sacrifice Moloch and be free from those devilish ties. Moloch wants Henry to sacrifice Katrina. Crane says he'll sacrifice himself to save the witch. Head spinning, yes?