So after a long week of Ferguson and Thanksgiving, two things that could not be more opposite if they tried, Sleepy Hollow finally came back with its midseason finale. Was it good? Well, I wouldn’t say so. Major spoilers after the jump.
Everything we’ve pointed out about the season continues to be wrong in “The Akeda”: Irving is underused, magic in Sleepy Hollow is confusing and easily molded to suit plot purposes, and Hawley continues to be irrelevant to the plot. When the episode starts, Ichabod and Abbie have the previously acquired Sword of Methuselah and race to save Katrina from the Headless Horseman, who wants to behead Katrina and bind her to him as his bride. Before Ichabod can kill him with the Sword, however, Abraham tells him that whosoever takes a life with the Sword will lose their soul as well. After some research, the team finds out that Abraham isn’t actually lying, and chain him back in his Season 1 dungeon to await his fate. Katrina thinks they can get more from him by keeping him alive, to which Ichabod grudgingly agrees.
Jenny, however, thinks that Irving will be able to wield the Sword with no consequences, because Irving has already unintentionally signed his soul over to Henry. Abbie and Ichabod find him easily and tell him what he has to do. Irving makes Jenny promise to take care of his wife and children, and the entire team goes off to Hawley to get more weapons. (Hawley is left behind to babysit Abraham and doesn’t take part in the final battle at all, so it’s anyone’s guess why he’s even in this episode.) When the group fights Moloch, Abbie’s somehow taken out by a minor flesh wound and as Jenny drags her away from the battle, they see Irving start to attack Henry’s War avatar. He manages to kill the avatar, but suffers a fatal wound in the process.
Finally, after Abbie makes a badass speech, Henry himself is sent by Moloch to collect the group. Abbie and Ichabod put together a convoluted plan to trick Henry, one that hinges on Ichabod’s willingness and ability to kill his son. Surprise surprise, Ichabod does not kill his son, and Henry captures all of them with ease. Then he takes them to Moloch, and when Moloch orders him to kill Katrina, as the blood of a witch will really do wonders for his Purgatory garden, Henry refuses. He takes the Sword and runs through Moloch instead.
What the what?
So first things first: Henry and the Cranes. Not really a cool band name. This first half of Season 2 really shifted its focus from Abbie and Ichabod, the two Witnesses, to Henry and Crane drama. Since the Witnesses are our main characters and are supposed to be at the center of our main conflicts, this made no sense to me and no sense for the narrative as a whole. Abbie can never be as invested in Henry’s issues as the Cranes can; no more than if Ichabod decided to stick his English nose in Jenny and Lori Mills’s affairs. The main conflict should be a villain that both of them share. This whole episode hinged on
Henry Jeremy Crane’s redemption arc, and it wasn’t one that made sense, much less evoked positive feelings in the audience. Moloch could not be a more one-dimensional villain if he tried: constantly belittling Henry and ordering him to die, telling him he was nothing. This is at the heart of all emotional abuse, true, but when Moloch makes such bald, unsubtle statements, it’s difficult for a presumably largely neurotypical audience to even understand why Henry would have chosen to be loyal to Moloch for so long, which in turn makes both Moloch and Henry into weaker characters. It’s a shame when Disney does a far more nuanced job with emotional abuse than does a show written for an ostensibly adult audience. In order to make Henry’s character arc believable, the writers would have had to devote much more time to his character. They tried to show Henry as this lost child, which worked some times (his burning the bed in Fredericks Manor was fantastic), but ultimately, he wasn’t given enough screentime for his redemption arc to make sense or for the audience to give a fuck about it.
But the other thing is, in order to give Henry more screentime, even more time would have have to been taken away from Abbie, Ichabod, Jenny, and Irving. Hawley’s pointless addition to the cast has already taken away many scenes which could have gone to an existing character—writing about Henry could have taken even more. And that’s not the point of the show. This show was formed on Abbie and Ichabod and their partnership. Aside from that, Sleepy Hollow already has a wealth of fantastic side characters who are intimately involved in the fight against Moloch without introducing any new people. Even characters like Joe Corbin and Ichabod’s friend Caroline could have been interesting—they were already involved with the characters we had grown to love, and they could have added character development and backstory while being entertaining. Instead, one was sent off to Quantico and the other was killed, and we got Hawley, who brought neither character development nor backstory to the rest of the cast.
Hawley being in the cast meant that there was less time for Jenny and for Irving. Irving especially is a point of contention here, because guess what, he was freaking killed by the avatar of War! So in this whole half season, he got to 1) sit in Tarrytown, 2) sign his soul over to Henry, and 3) come back as a convenient plot device so he could die. Irving was a character with a ton of potential, as he has a family and Rue as a daughter, and all of them could have been expanded upon to give us some excellent side characters. Instead he’s both a plot device and the “death of beloved character” that the network has been teasing us with for days? What even is the point of that?
As Henry still owns Irving’s soul, there’s a chance that Irving could come back as a villain when the rest of the season premieres. That would also free him from the plotlessness that he suffered from in this first half of the season. I hope that does happen, because Irving deserves so much more. Another character who deserves more from the plot is Katrina, who in this episode was somehow a very good witch as the battle called for it. Why couldn’t she have done any of this earlier in the season? Why is she still wearing that corset? Nobody knows.
Isn’t it supposed to be the Witnesses’ destiny to defeat Moloch? Isn’t that what Ichabod has actually been going on about for episodes on end? Why shift the focus of the story to Henry’s redemption arc (and then do a piss-poor job of it)? Will the rest of the season be about Henry’s continued redemption arc as we struggle valiantly to stay interested in whether he killed Moloch for himself or for his parents? These are questions that I hope someone will answer before Sleepy Hollow comes back in January. See you then.