in Television

Sleepy Hollow 1×07 “The Midnight Ride” Recap

Previously on Abbie Mills Gets Shit Done, the Freemasons tried to coerce Ichabod into committing suicide until Lt. Mills recruited a Sin Eater, who gave the man some badly needed therapy and severed his co-dependent relationship with the Death. Everyone suddenly remembered that the decapitated freak from episode 1 was still out there, chillin’ in the river like a net of cold beers. Katrina’s warning that he’ll come for them by the next sundown convinces Abbie, Crane, and Captain Irving to spend episode 7 scrambling to prepare for the second ride of the Headless Hobo.

This week’s theme is the conflict between recorded history and experienced history. Crane has more culture shock than usual, much of it precipitated by the dissonance between the 1700s as he lived them and the 1700s we’ve all read about in school. When he stands before a mountain of what has to be five hundred bucks worth of non-perishable food and says, “My God, do you know what we could have done with these supplies in the war? We could have taken Lexington in a day,” you can see the gears turning behind Tom Mison’s pretty gray eyes.

Abbie’s stocking up on provisions in case Ichabod has to hide out in the cabin to avoid a beheading, but her methods of preparation make him visibly uncomfortable.  The excess of modern America baffles him, as does the idea of a polluted environment or water for sale by the jug. “Why not drink from one of the thousands of taps around town?” he asks, which tells you right there that this man has only ever lived in a world where one must walk to one’s water source. How his brain hasn’t exploded yet is a mystery.

“Tap water’s got chemicals in it,” Abbie warns. I hope she holds her breath next time she takes a shower. Actually, nix all showers. It’s Evian sponge-baths only for the conscientious citizen.

Abbie and Crane split, him to recon with the Freemasons (no girls allowed) and her to do, I dunno, cop stuff. If she even still does cop stuff, it’s unclear. Detective Grumpy Hot corners Abbie on the way into work, and it seems like the writers finally decided we are allowed to like him, because he acts less like a stiff and more like someone Abbie would plausibly date. Luke asks how she’s doing, and is hitting most of the right buttons, until he mentions “the Brit hovering over your shoulder” and she gives him the stink-eye again.

We still don’t know what actually happened during their break up, but it had to be more than just Abbie’s plan to leave town. From what little we know he’s been jealous all month and she’s been pretending he died or something. I get it; that’s what I do with my exes. Now he wants coffee and friendship. SAY NO, Abbie! That way lies guilty make-outs and self loathing.

Boo, she said yes. I guess that’s understandable; his wardrobe is really attractive in this scene. Flash forward a few hours and Morales is walking home with a bag of take out when the Ghost of Coworkers Past hollers from an alleyway. “Who is that?” Why it’s our old pal ZOMBIE JOHN CHO, or as Orlando Jones calls him on twitter, NeckSkin. He’d like everyone to know his name is Andy Brooks, thankyouverymuch. Dead people have feelings, too.

Luke: I thought you were dead.
Brooks: Rumors of my demise have been… pretty much true.

I didn’t even make that up, it was one of the best lines of the night thanks to Cho’s mellow delivery. He appears to have spent his time away perfecting his state of beleaguered irony. I love him, even with his creepy neck skin.

Brooks waves his gun at Luke and growls “Stay away from Abbie Mills! I’m the only one who can protect her!” That Axe body spray is really working for Abbie; all the men in town just want to save her and love her and keep her away from that pretentious foreign guy who dresses like a bum. Turns out Brooks has friends on the other side, and wants Luke to get with the program, but Detective Grumpy Hot looks like he’d rather storm the walls of King’s Landing than continue this conversation. Brooks says something like, “I trust you’ll make the right decision. Zombie out.”

Across town, Ichabod leaves his first voicemail:

Dear Miss Mills, I trust this arrow missive finds you well, if it finds you at all. I’m still trying to fathom the notion that my words are somehow recorded onto your smartphone. After consideration, I agree it is wholly unjust that you are prohibited from attending the Masons assembly. I will rectify this the moment I arrive. Please join us as we strategize our plan of attack against the Horseman’s imminent arrival. I am, most respectfully, Ichabod Crane.

The two delightful things about this message are Ichabod’s belief that he can change a bigoted Old Boys Club through logical discussion and his 100% correct assumption that a strategy meeting without Abbie Mills is not a meeting worth having. No sooner does he arrive at Conspiracy Jerkbag HQ than the Horseman finishes murdering all the Masons. Welcome to Sleepy Hollow, where sexists get beheaded first.

Abbie sneaks up behind him, looking so impossibly beautiful in her close-up that it’s a wonder Crane can remember his wife even exists. I barely remember. “Shh, I’ll cover you,” the actress says. “Shh, make love to me,” screams the subtext. Oops, too late, the Horseman has a bag of heads and disappears into the night.

Irving supervises the near-bloodless crime scene and warns Abbie that his ability to shield her from the red tape is not going to last. Crane is upset at all the beheadings and feeling what might be PTSD from his Revolutionary War days (or, as Crane thinks of it, just last month), but he realizes that Death is looking for his petrified skull, currently in police custody.

Abbie and Crane want to destroy the skull, and they convince a reluctant Irving that destruction of evidence is justified in this case. When the police captain goes to fetch it from the lab, Headless is back with his favorite machine gun. Irving uses his Matrix skills to avoid being beheaded and drives the hell out of that death trap.

“This is insanity,” he says when he gets back their lair. “He murdered Paul in front of me. I need to… file a report. I need to call the governor.” When Ichabod wonders what he plans to say, Orlando Jones earns his paycheck yet again by snapping out an embittered retort so harsh that he actually cows Ichabod. They could not have cast anyone finer for this part, and it’s great to see the calm demeanor splinter as the truth of the apocalypse suddenly gets personal for Frank Irving.

Abbie and Ichabod try a variety of methods to destroy the skull – all fail. Then they notice what has to be the most far-out visual gag in the show so far: four lanterns hang from the roof, but they aren’t lanterns at all. They’re heads. Heads with candles inside and coated by silver. How a creature with no eyes can achieve this level of engineering just shows you the true power of the Dark Side. Abbie casually blows out the fire from one head and starts dismantling it while Ichabod stands at least six feet away being philosophical. Abbie has no peers.

We get a little history about Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and Ichabod remembers that he once saw a devil’s trap in a manuscript used by the revolutionaries. When morning comes they set out to a local museum which, naturally, keeps that sort of thing on hand just in case. When Ichabod hears a docent give an apocryphal description of Paul Revere, he finally loses it and starts correcting the man in front of a pack of school children. Apparently Crane didn’t really get much sleep with the whole murder situation. Best line of the episode:

Abbie: I’ve good news and bad news. What do you want first?
Crane: Is this a riddle?

The manuscript has already been uploaded online, and when Ichabod tries to read it on Abbie’s laptop, he descends into the frustrated keyboard banging of a PC user encountering a Mac for the first time. “Lieutenant! I’ve done something catastrophic.” I can relate.

Photo: FOX

He realizes the whole thing is in code and sets about studying it, while Abbie remembers she has to break her coffee date with Luke. Ichabod criticizes her for not “annulling the engagement in person.” Crane’s reserve of passive-aggressiveness with regards to Luke/Abbie: The Love Story is a bottomless well on the tiny island of Slippery Slope Quicksand in the Sea of Profound Disapproval. Luke, meanwhile, is still busy googling zombies and doesn’t care about coffee on account of his palms sweating so much he can’t pick up the phone.

Brooks confronts Abbie in the basement beneath the precinct, and claims to be trying his best to protect her. Is he in love with her? Is he saving her skin for a heinous sacrificing deed later? Does he worship her in some kind of freaky-deaky cult religion-of-the-Witnesses way? What moves the heart of Zombie John Cho?

Down the hall, Ichabod discovers online porn. That inspires him to decipher the code, and he rushes out to see Brooks and Abbie discussing the Headless Hobo. Crane tells him to deliver a message to have Death meet them at the cemetery at nightfall. “Don’t threaten me,” says Brooks. “Zombie out.”

Irving, Crane, and Abbie spend the afternoon gathering supplies for their plan to entrap Death.  Irving slyly interrogates Crane about his good pal Thomas Jefferson. When the discussion swings around to Sally Hemings, we have the flip side of Ichabod’s scene in the museum. He doesn’t want to accept that Jefferson fathered children with his slaves, insisting it’s an invention of the press. Just as our history books might have distorted the midnight ride of Paul Revere, Ichabod’s own friendship with Jefferson distorted his perception of the truth. That this discussion happens with the two African-American stars of the show while all three characters are working together to solve a challenge is an important element of presentation.

While waiting for night to fall, Abbie and Crane ruminate on the loneliness of their role as Witnesses, and the viewers ruminate on how attractive the lighting in this secret lair is. It’s romantic lighting, perfect for doing unwise acts just before a life-threatening mission.  But these two are all talk at this point. “All we really get is one another,” Crane says. “I’ve got big plans for our future,” screams the subtext.

While touching for both characters, this exchange did give me pause. We’ve just seen Ichabod and Abbie work with their boss to stop the bad guy, yet the show offers us a reminder that these two are essentially alone with their destiny. I find this more than a little sad, because I’ve been hoping for Sleepy Hollow to do what so few urban fantasy shows have the courage to do: bring in the community. These events are obviously real and present in the lives of the townspeople, and Zombie Brooks warned Luke that other people know and have already picked sides. If that’s the case, then Abbie, Crane, and Irving need to start building a crew of their own. In television, it may be cool to be the underdogs fighting the good fight alone, but humans always succeed when they band together to give a big middle finger to whatever’s threatening them. A few seasons from now, I hope the entire police department knows about the prophecy and is helping Abbie to manage the monster outbreaks. I hope Ichabod has begun teaching the townspeople how to defend themselves against magical attack. Cooperation is how we win.

In terms of pacing this episode zips along but doesn’t seem to have a method to the madness; the climactic capture of the Horseman should be dramatic but comes off as mere closing resolution.  They lure him into the basement, mock him with Halloween skulls, and maneuver him into the devil’s trap under anti-demon UV lights. Next week: interrogation hour!

“Midnight Ride” was a chance for Ichabod Crane to shine, and we saw him embrace a whirl of emotions. Comedy and drama both feel like natural homes for actor Tom Mison, and he hit all the right notes this week. Thanks to his intensity, Crane is a dish, hands down a full hottie. Frank Irving also came out well this episode, with a great action sequence and a few scenes that told us more about his character. I used to think Irving new more than he was saying, now I’m not so sure, as his shock at finally meeting the Headless Horseman appeared genuine. Sleepy Hollow gets more fun every week, and continues to impress me with its story delivery.