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Sleepy Hollow 1×08 “Necromancer” Recap

Previously on Captain Irving’s Suspension of Disbelief Show, the undead police officer Andy Brooks told Abbie how to trap the Headless Horseman, also known as Death incarnate. By their powers combined, Mills, Crane, and Irving now have their very own monster in chains. This episode picks up immediately after they capture him, with Abbie and Crane stepping out of the chamber and pausing right there so that Abbie can teach Crane to fist-bump. “It’s an expression of… elation. Team work. We got him.” Words cannot do justice to how charming this exchange is, from the dialogue to the acting choices.

Apparently the Revolutionary-era tunnels that Ichabod found earlier this season included a prison cell and interrogation room designed by Thomas Jefferson to contain, or protect against, the forces of darkness. This makes absolutely no sense but like many things in Sleepy Hollow these days, you just gotta roll with it and not look back. Their magic dungeon even has a cop-show viewing window. Irving stands behind it, drinking coffee and staring at the chained-up Headless like the devil has come to collect his mortgage debt. Crane, Irving, and Abbie chat for a while, with Crane letting slip his properly English bias against all things French.

They decide to interrogate the Horseman with the forced assistance of Andy Brooks, who, according to Ichabod, is an agent for the demon Moloch and “still holds unrequited feelings for Miss Mills.” “Seriously?” says Irving in the voice of man who four episodes ago had to give Luke a shit-talking for the very same reason. As the saying goes, Abbie’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Proving her character’s savvy judgment yet again, Abbie wants her mercenary sister Jenny to be involved. Decisions like this are why I love Sleepy Hollow.

Irving: “Dead guy, mental patient, and a time traveler from the Revolution.”
Abbie: “That’s our team.”

In the forest, two hunters find a white horse with eyes the color of Dark Lord Sauron’s fireplace. I guess President Jefferson didn’t design any stables in his anti-demon lair, and neither Irving nor Abbie were bothered by the idea of a demon horse running loose about town. One man pulls out a phone, reports to Hessian home base in German, then shoots his hunting companion. Guess the prediction that there are bad guys planted all over Sleepy Hollow was not an idle threat.

Police HQ. “Captain,” greets Jenny, “I’m all for Renditioning innocent Americans when they’re sitting at a cafe, enjoying a soy latte and some free wifi.” I can’t wait for these two to be friends. We get a nice exchange between the characters, where Irving acknowledges that the system failed Jenny but implies she needs to put on her Big Girl shoes. Then he presents the offer in a way that I quite liked: “Abbie wants me to bring you in, says you’d be valuable, but so far you haven’t given me any confidence.”

What’s significant about this discussion is that it establishes Irving as a force in his own right, not just a coverup or a mouth piece. Lt. Mills is his employee and he’s considering her request – to him it is a request, not a demand – but he wants to interview Jenny before including another party, particularly a civilian, in this parade of madness. Often in these shows the will of the heroes tramples everyone around them, but here Irving is taking and using the control he has. If Abbie and Crane are the Chosen Ones, Irving is their executive officer, perhaps their manager, and that’s a good thing for their dynamics. Jenny is pretty smooth here as well, balancing loyalty against her current gripe with her sibling.

Under the city, Abbie and Ichabod easily locate the crypt where Zombie Andy’s been squatting since he came back from the dead. They chat about books; Crane discovered Twain and Faulkner, probably volumes left at the cabin Corbin left to them. Just when they find a clay slab with Egyptian occult hieroglyphs, Andy jumps into frame and wails “Put that down!” He stares at them in horror, and for a moment it’s all vaguely… embarrassing. Even if he’s a zombie who’s killed people, it’s pretty rude to just dig through his personal stuff.

Abbie begins questioning Brooks about Headless, and this kickstarts the finest episode performance from John Cho so far. Bringing him back from the dead was worth any penny it costs to have a celebrity guest, because Cho sells it. Every regret is painted on his face and every dashed hope is reflected in his eyes. He used to care for Abbie, he used to be human, he used to not be a scary monster’s plaything. Here and now, no one in this town has a worse deal than Zombie Andy.  I shouldn’t feel bad for a stalker and murderer but damn you John Cho, you’re breaking my heart here.

“You gotta understand,” he says. “The decisions I made when I was alive, I can’t take back. My soul doesn’t belong to me anymore. When (Moloch) visits, I have no choice but to obey his commands. I’ll help you when I can, but if you put me in there with him it is not going to end well… Confronting Death leads to nothing but misery.”

Of course, Ichabod doesn’t give a crap about the homeless zombie traitor, proving a suspicion I’ve had for a while that Crane is not as uniformly benevolent and compassionate as he’d like to believe himself. Or maybe he’s still mad about Brooks kidnapping Abbie in the pilot. “This way,” declares Crane, only to spin around a second later and mutter, “No, apologies, this way.”  The little breaks of humor are deftly handled in Sleepy Hollow, something that relieves the intensity and maintains the self-aware cheekiness of the entire adventure.

Irving brings Jenny to a crime scene of an antiquities shop she knows. It’s a good thing this isn’t a real police procedural, because the Sleepy Hollow PD  seem about as talented at investigation as the cast of How I Met Your Mother. Less, possibly, if you consider Lily Aldrin’s zeal for mischief. The show has stopped pretending entirely; now they just have Irving arrive, make a declarative statement, and the relevant plot device reveals itself within a half-minute of exposition. For heaven’s sake, the cops on scene didn’t even know there was a conscious man bleeding from gunshot wound in the back room until Jenny helpfully pointed it out! Turns out the shop was robbed of a valuable phiale letter with 16th century Druidic scripture, although the Druids were a thousand years dead by then, left no written accounts of themselves, and not one single artefact or image has been unearthed that can undoubtedly be connected with the ancient Druids. The only reason we know they existed is because the Greeks, the Romans, and medieval Irish bards spread rumors about them.

Jenny figures out that the Hessians thieves will use the phiale artifact to break the hex spell protecting Jefferson’s torture chamber, and will likely cut power to facility too. How do they even get power down there? It’s a hidden dungeon under a cemetery in an unimpressive city in upstate New York. I assumed they’d brought down generators to power the UV lights. If they’d brought generators, this whole problem would not exist. Ah, who cares, it’s Sleepy Hollow. LALALA GOODBYE LOGIC, MORE ZOMBIE JOHN CHO PLEASE.

Brooks is strapped down in a chair, and invites Headless to speak in his voice. Crane taunts the monster, clearly still smarting over the death of his Mason brothers. When he manhandles Headless (ew, don’t get close enough to smell his decapitated wound, Ichabod!) a necklace falls out of military uniform. Bazinga! Katrina used to wear that emerald. Let the head games begin.

Flashback time jump! Crane’s best friend back in the day, Abraham Van Brunt, gave the necklace to his fiance, Katrina, but needed Crane’s help to pick it out. They all attend a fancy party; I guess Ichabod kept his upper class status even after he defected to the Colonial cause. The same night she receives the necklace – awkward is the only way to describe that moment – Katrina confesses her love for Ichabod and tells him her intention to break the engagement.

This is a major act for Katrina, not the done thing, as it potentially condemn her family to poverty and social ruin if society shuns her for it. While I like the modern attitude, it’s a real shame we don’t know anything about the character in the here and now to tie our sympathies to the woman in a flashback. It’s hard to get roused by the love story of a character we’ve only ever seen from Ichabod’s limited perspective. Abbie points out how conveniently Ichabod made off in that situation, and he tries to play down his role in Katrina’s decision.

Photo: FOX

Jenny and Irving, all suited up in SWAT gear, appear at the electrical plant looking for saboteurs. I guess no one has a problem bringing a civilian to a police raid. “Wait here,” says Irving, and when he walks off Jenny gives an excellent “Yeah right,” expression before doing the exact opposite. A bad guy almost gets the drop on Irving, until Irving gets him in a chokehold and breaks his neck. Wait, stop, rewind! Did he just break guy’s neck? What? Are we going to talk about this later? Probably not. Meanwhile, Jenny captures two saboteurs of her own, BAMF that she is, and then a whole bunch more swat guys pop out of the woodwork. Always bring back-up. Who actually gave a mental patient convict a set of handcuffs to use against these men? Shhh, just be quiet and enjoy the show.

Headless and Crane argue for a while, with Death getting more and more personal in his rants. Death was searching for Ichabod specifically on the battlefield in 1781, and again when he returned to Sleepy Hollow. Here’s where the mythology gets somewhat muddled; was Death trying to kill Ichabod because he’s a divine Witness and a threat to Moloch, or because of a personal revenge for Ichabod’s slain friend, Abraham? If Ichabod hadn’t been killed, would the apocalypse have happened in the 18th century instead of the 21st century? Or did he need to sleep so as to be alive at the time of the second Witness, Abbie Mills?

Just when things get interesting and Ichabod starts to flip out, a freaking bomb explodes at the energy plant (not killing Irving and Jenny, luckily) and they lose power to the UV lights weakening the Horseman. Phone reports to Abbie suggest at about 2 hours before they get power back, which is by far the most unbelievable wish-fulfillment statement written in this entire series to date. They just blew up the power plant! That’s going to be on the national news and keep the town in the dark all night, if not for a week. Again: where are your generators, Abbie Mills?

Flashback time again. The day following the party, 1774, Crane and Abraham are on a special mission, and Abraham starts bringing up his personal issues why they’re walking in the middle of the woods. Crane, being a supreme fool when it comes to anything involving Katrina, thinks this is an adequate time to tell his best friend that she’s not just dumping his ass, she’s dumping his ass for Ichabod. The wisdom of Katrina’s choice is subsequently demonstrated when Abraham reacts to this news by trying to duel his friend to death. Abraham wins, only to be shot by enemy troops. He orders Crane to leave, and appears to be killed.

Ichabod wants to continue the interrogation, but Abbie wants him to hold off before the Horseman starts manipulating him. Crane, who was shaken badly last episode when the Masons were murdered and has been continually stressed since his revival, finally snaps.

Abbie: “Crane, we both know how interrogations work. You don’t face your adversary when you’re raw, that’s how you lose control.”
Crane: “I’M IN CONTROL!”

When he shouts at her, Abbie gives a look that somehow combines two emotions of “Oh hell no, you do not yell at me,” and “I can see that you’re in a really bad place so I forgive you for that outburst.” Nicole Beharie is a subtle and smooth performer; we watch her eyes as she assesses and evaluates every decision before she makes it. Irving’s arrival with Jenny interrupts any potential response from her, and they discuss how the phiale could be used to break the cell’s magical protection. The Mills sisters think they should keep the other cops out of the tunnels in case there’s another mole like Brooks.

Irving grudgingly agrees.  “I’ll station an armed Tact Team at every access point. Nobody’s getting down here.” I cringe at the very idea of his budget reports. In a city of 144,000, his would not be the only precinct nor his captaincy the highest police authority.

They agree to split up to get more artillery, Abbie reluctant to leave Crane alone with Headless. She says, “If Brooks gives you any flak, take his head too.” Her sympathy toward friends-turned-traitorous-zombies has a reasonable limit. Unfortunately, Ichabod is so stuck in his own headspace that he doesn’t notice Brooks pulling the phiale relic out of his corpse-y stomach. Yeeeuck. Apparently he’s had it this whole time, and was receiving it when they found him outside of his underground hovel. The timeline is confusing, but it’s just a plot device, so moving on.

Brooks, or Death-as-Brooks, bespells the phiale to break the cell’s protection and summon the demonic minions of Moloch: creepy-ass goblin creatures made of dirt that attempt to kill Irving and the Mills sisters. Jenny’s “what the Hell was that?!” reaction is priceless, but the creatures prove easy enough to destroy.

Death breaks free of his chains and grabs a sword to go after Crane, who figures out that the Headless Horseman disobeyed Moloch’s orders by sticking around to hunt Crane. Once again we have a sword duel,  and once more Ichabod is bested. He realizes, then, that the Hessian soldier whom Crane beheaded in 1781 was his friend Abraham, presumed dead for 7 years. Abraham sold his soul to Moloch, and was reborn as the Horseman of Death. “My prize is not revenge. It is Katrina.”

Before Headless Abraham executes Crane, Brooks successfully seizes control of his body and summons the minions to the cell to apprehend himself and the Horseman. “Stop!” he shouts. “You can’t kill him!  The Master forbids it!” As the goblins arrive and teleport them to a fiery somewhere, Andy manages to say, “Tell Abbie I’m sorry.”

The pacing is a little strange here, because after that climax we’re immediately dumped back in the Witness Lair, with Abbie and Ichabod talking by candlelight. (GUESS IT TAKES MORE THAN TWO HOURS TO GET THE POWER BACK, HUH GUYS? Yeah, I thought so.) Rather than a mug like Abbie, Ichabod’s drinking tea out of a steel enamelware cup that I’d swear was from the same exact set I once used as a Girl Scout. It tickles me to think that their secret demon-fighting lair has camping dishes in it.

Crane is feeling sorry for himself, still sulking about the whole thing, but Abbie’s speaking truth and cutting through his bullshit. He has some necessary self-reflection out of this fiasco, though it bothers me that he neither apologizes for yelling at his partner, nor apologizes for losing two prisoners and endangering everyone on the team. All Ichabod Crane can think about is bemoaning his role in this drama.

Abbie: “People make their own decisions, you are not responsible for his actions.”
Crane: “No, I was so blinded by my love for Katrina I created my own nemesis.”
Abbie: “That is your arrogance talking.”
Crane: “I always found Abraham arrogant. Perhaps he was just a mirror to myself.”

I’m deeply disappointed that Katrina is not in Purgatory as a result of her own misdeeds or as the price she paid to save her husband’s life, as fans have speculated. Nope, she’s just a prize for two dueling men, very literally described as such in the dialogue. I understand that this is to some degree an homage to the original story, where Ichabod desired Katrina as a symbol more than a person, but for modern storytelling it’s disappointing. Her character was already on a pedestal for Ichabod, the damsel waiting to be rescued from the demon, but at least we had hoped she was put in captivity through her own actions. This story choice strips her imprisonment of any potential subtlety or ethical conflict, not to mention characterization. Everyone else has purchased their own damnation: Brooks, Abraham, and even Crane are where they are because of their decisions. Katrina’s character deserves the same agency.

Abbie spells it out at the end of the episode. “If Katrina is being held for the Horseman as his prize, and Abraham was willing to rogue, kill you, sell his soul to trap her…” Crane finishes the thought: “Then we found the Horseman’s weakness. My wife.”

I’ve watched this exchange three times and this stills seems contradictory to me. If anyone wants to postulate in the comments, please do. If Katrina is being held for Headless, why would he go after Ichabod to win her? Why should he disobey Moloch, when Katrina is promised to him anyway if he just waits a while until the Horseman ride out? It’s been 200 years, what’s the sudden rush that Abraham can’t wait to get his prize on schedule?

This episode once again gave Ichabod some dramatic range as an actor, and focused very tightly on his personal backstory. That’s three episodes in a row devoted to Ichabod’s development, so I hope Abbie gets her history developed next time around. Both actors were in fine form, with a smooth chemistry that’s always so easy to enjoy. Orlando Jones and Lyndie Greenwood also brought their game, but the gold star of “The Necromancer” goes to John Cho. He gave pathos to a character who would otherwise be reprehensible, and drama suits him as a medium. I hope we see Brooks again before the season ends.