If there’s anything we learned from last season of Sleepy Hollow, it’s that all the little pesky problems of life — you know, being raised from the dead, having your former best friend turn into a horseman of the apocalypse, witnessing your wife suffering in Purgatory, losing your badass new best friend and fellow Witness to the end of days in a demonic exchange, and finding out your Sin Eater son who is twice your age is now the embodiment of War, that kind of stuff — all of these flies in the ointment can get better if someone just gives you a cupcake.
But not just any cupcake! Abbie Mills gives Ichabod Crane the most splendiferously patriotic cupcake as a surprise! “I shall consider myself punk’d,” Ichabod says sullenly, asking about Abbie’s ‘surprise’ party, “why must your error celebrate terror with dessert?” Um, because of the deliciousness?
Hey now, hang on a sec, you say — as I did last night — this isn’t the way last season ended. What about Ichabod being trapped by Henry in the coffin? Or Abbie getting shut in Purgatory to rescue Katrina? And though things looked bad for Jenny and Katrina, we didn’t actually see them die, as Abbie and Ichabod seem to feel they did in tonight’s ep. Well, hang on to your patriotic cupcakes, friends, because we’re in the middle of an it’s-all-a-dream moment; clever that Sleepy Hollow is, though, we’re just as befuddled at first as Abbie and Ichabod are about which reality is which.
So I’ll go ahead and spoil everything by noting that last season’s events were in fact true. Abbie and Ichabod did not have a year together we didn’t get to see spent helping each other through grief, watching the Horseman behead various townspeople, training for a Matrix-level badass equipping of weaponry (good heavens, the arsenal in the trunk of Abbie’s car!), and aiding local historians who have discovered disquieting things about Benjamin Franklin’s stuff.
Um, back up a second there. Benjamin Franklin’s junk! No, not that junk (though that too; just hang on, willya?). It’s another One of Our Founding Father’s Had A Magical Doohickey/Book/Map, and We Must Get It Before Evil Does moment! *pauses for everyone to take a shot and/or cupcake*
While we’re still in Alternate Demonic Reality, the bonsai tree on the decapitated historian’s desk unfurls its branches menacingly (cluing us in to the eventual discovery of Ichabod trapped in the coffin wrapped in restraining tree branches), and Ichabod complains about his unwilling apprenticeship to Benjamin Franklin (who was a “blowhard, braggart, blatherskite, and gasbag”) Abbie and Ichabod search the historians desk, eventually finding a false bottomed draw yielding a trove of documents.
Of course that’s when the Headless Horseman shows up, because he’s a freaking killjoy who hates research. At least we get to see Abbie and Ichabod show off their training — code words, practiced maneuvers, and awesome team-work-ery to beat the band! After the Horseman unleashes a flash grenade at them, they escape with their papers and their desire for revenge intact.
At Abbie & Ichabod’s Awesome Sekkrit Hideout, the two regroup, making the standard Harvard joke (“that place still exists?”) and determining Benjamin Franklin’s famous lighting experiment wasn’t to demonstrate electricity, but to try and destroy an otherworldly key. “It must be secreted away, far from evil’s grasp,” Franklin pronounces (after he’s offended Ichabod by taking a naked “air bath” — see, I told you we’d get to Benjamin Franklin’s junk!).
Aha, it’s the Gehenna Key (don’t worry; I’ve never heard of this MacGuffin either). Basically, it’s a Purgatory Cheat — use it, and you don’t have to obey the one-in/one-out rule of rescuing a denizen of that netherworld. It can let anyone or anything out of Purgatory, no need to exchange another person, no takesies-backsies — uh oh, “Moloch,” Abbie realizes. He’s bound by the same trap as the guardian of Purgatory. If he gets to the Key before they do, all Almost Hell will break loose.
At a dead end, Abbie and Ichabod have no choice but to consult their “prisoner,” Henry (another reminder that we’re topsy-turvy to the actual reality; Ichabod is Henry’s prisoner in the real timeline).
“The prophesied Witnesses have come to grace me with their presence,” Henry taunts them before demanding a gift. He takes Abbie’s “magnificent” plant, and sets it under a sun lamp, musing this fake sunlight is “testament to the fact that anything can be tricked into believing a lie.”
Plant-appeased, Henry touches the Benjamin Franklin documents but says, “I taste no sin; not even a fib.” How about they let him read Abbie’s sins? Abbie pulls Ichabod aside; she’s remembered Sherriff Corbin sent her sister Jenny to Philly for a sketchbook that belonged to Franklin. Ichabod gasps and clutches his chest, as though having a panic attack (he had a similar moment back at the cabin during cupcake time).
It’s the strangest sensation; Ichabod knows they trained this past year and discovered things, “but I can recall no detail.” His memory blurs “from the day Henry betrayed us.” Oh no, even Abbie can’t remember how they captured Henry. And now we get the real, craptacular SURPRISE! moment: Abbie’s still in Purgatory, Ichabod’s still trapped in the pine casket (wooden slats and twisty tree branches reassemble around him in a terrific effect as this is revealed, re-trapping him) and Moloch only created this reality to get them to reveal to Henry where to find the Gehenna Key is hidden.
“You have to get out of that coffin, find Jenny, and find the Key,” Abbie calls out as Purgatory again begins to swallow her up. She’ll try to stop Moloch from the inside.
God, you know what I love about the Purgatory deception? Okay, not the deception part, but the fact that even in a hopeless scenario that’s been demonically generated to make Ichabod and Abbie feel desperate, they still are finding comfort and relief and strength in one another. When they do give in to consult Henry, they go in walking tall, because they’re at each other’s sides. Even though we soon learn that’s not the case — they’re literally a world away from one another with Abbie in Purgatory — it shows how emotionally committed they are to one another.
Cut to Jenny Mills, tied to a chair in a warehouse as Henry wakens her with a shot of adrenaline to her arm (and let’s all celebrate Lyndie Greenwood and John Noble being part of the top-billed cast now and no longer merely guest stars with, you guessed it, more patriotic cupcakes!). When she expresses confusion, he tries to tell her Abbie used her.
To Jenny’s huge credit, that doesn’t set her off like it might have earlier last season, and Henry’s abrupt questions about the sketchbook in Philadelphia get him exactly nowhere. “I am a Sin Eater; I can taste your lie,” he tells her. “I’ve done a lot of sinning,” Jenny spits back. “I hope you choke on every one of them. THAT’S RIGHT; YOU TELL HIM!
Ah, nerts; Henry finds the info in her sin-brain in two shakes of a demonic tail. Ah, the page was in code, as OF COURSE it would be. “I must decipher it,” Henry tells a random German, because demonically-allied Hessians live a not-so-underground life in Sleepy Hollow, remember?
Ichabod struggles in his coffin only to find there’s no service on his cell phone. At least the wriggling lets him know the dirt falling on him has tons of sulfur (presumably because it’s all hellishly arranged), and he’ll soon be able to make an escape as the Colonial Era MacGuyver.
Remember how Henry handed Katrina off to the Horseman last season? Now she’s his prisoner, but she’s far from cowed. When he unbinds her hands and gives her a chunk of bread (which, to be fair, looked pretty yummy; I need some actual cupcakes up in here, apparently), she pretends to reach for the food but instead grabs his knife and slams it into his hand. Yeah! Let’s hope out-of-Purgatory Katrina gets to do lots more Screw You, Evil Horseman maneuvers soon!
“You need to get somewhere safe, before Moloch finds you,” says special guest star John Cho as Dead Officer Andy Dunn. Skeptical, Abbie tries to shake off his help, but he needs to tell her Moloch’s preparing to enter the earthly realm and creating a demon army to bring with him. Hey, wasn’t Katrina able to communicate with Ichabod and Abbie from Purgatory somehow? Abbie tells Andy he has to help her do the same.
“If I do not survive,” Ichabod tells his video app on his phone, giving Abbie one last heartfelt message before he tries to explode his way to grave escape. Then he sees “memory full,” and grouses, “And none of that recorded. Wonderful!” Fine, he’ll proceed with his own personal gunpowder plot. “Hear, hear for fire and brimstone,” he mutters as he lights a fuse, and GRAVE GOES BOOM!
Having clawed his way out of the grave like a colonially garbed zombie, Ichabod tries Jenny’s cell phone. When the Hessian guarding her is distracted by the ringing, Jenny slams him in the groin, undoes her bindings, stabs the German with a freaking knife she throws through the air, and takes his fun. BADASSERY! Turns out she’s trapped on Junction 9; that’s just where Ichabod’s walking. LUCKY BADASSERY!
Andy takes Abbie to “Moloch’s lair”, where there’s a mirror “capable of reflecting the path to the outside world” (we get some cool flashbacks to the mirror communications of last season). “You remind me that I am human,” Andy tells her after giving her instructions to use the mirror. He helped her to remind himself he had some traces of free will left. Ah, crap, now I ship them; their love is so Purgatorial!
As Jenny tries to shoot her way out of the Hessian-guarded warehouse, Ichabod hijacks an ambulance and drives it right the hell into the joint. Love his shrug when she sends him a stunned look, almost as much as his gallant, “Madam, care for a lift?” invitation to get the hell out of dodge with him. Oh my god, “you don’t know how to reverse,” Jenny says in disbelief before shunting Ichabod aside bodily and climbing into the driver’s side to slam out.
Ichabod gets Jenny up to speed, including the detail of his Unreal Birthday Party (let’s face it; he wants those patriotic cupcakes for realsies). “Is there any good news?” Jenny asks after hearing Abbie’s in Purgatory and Katrina was captured by the horseman of death. Well, they’ve got a shot at screwing Purgatorial Law over. They rush off to the Franklin archives in hopes of beating Henry there and finding the Key.
Oh noes, what about that code Henry mentioned? Turns out Benjamin Franklin made Ichabod learn his alphabet (he thought it would replace the twenty-six letter one, much to Ichabod’s derision. Well, that crappy alphabet is the can’t-be-cracked code, and Ichabod knows it because Benjamin Franklin was a jerk! WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, ICHABOD? Um, not Benjamin Franklin, because he’s dead. I think. You never know with this show.
Abbie enters Moloch’s lair, which is decorated much as you might expect: burning hellfire, lots of candles, and a big ol’ ominous pentagram wall art thingy. When she reads the Greek lettered inscription, Ichabod appears and she runs to hug him. Guys, they hold each other SO TIGHT, awwwwww! They bring each other up to date, but though Jenny has been rescued (let’s just note she did like 80% of the rescue herself) and Abbie has learned Moloch’s plan, things still aren’t good. What if getting the key is exactly what Henry and Moloch want Ichabod and Abbie to do?
To avoid Moloch’s rising, Abbie tells Ichabod to leave her there in Purgatory, but he refuses: “No, lieutenant,” he says stoutly (using his fandom favorite English pronunciation of Left-tennant), “I do not accept goodbye.” If they’re supposed to act as the Witnesses together, if there is any hope of victory, the only risk is in leaving her behind.
Ichabod reminds Abbie of the charm to defend against Moloch Katrina gave her; Abbie runs off to find where she dropped it in the Purgatorial woods. “Hold fast, Abigail Mills,” Ichabod tells her, “I’m on my way.” He returns to reality with Jenny so they can try to find Franklin’s Key.
Okay, so Franklin apparently liked riddles in three parts (the jerkface). The first was the alphabet code; the second was the clue explaining the key would be where he was buried. They head to the statue of Franklin in Sleepy Hollow, but how do they know the key will be there instead of his actual grave or any of his thousands of other monuments?
“It’s all about the Benjamins,” Jenny comments (about the Franklin mint), and Ichabod gets tipped off to the last part of the riddle. It’s Franklin’s overweening pride, yo! He remembers Franklin repeating, “the key to success lies under the alarm clock.” Let’s not worry about how anachronistic the whole alarm clock thing might be right at the moment — instead, let’s just cheer when Jenny and Ichabod find a brick marked “B.F.” in a clock tower facing the statue and discover the key buried within.
We watch, along with Katrina, as the Headless Horseman walks around all buff and bare-chested and headless, and there’s someone out there with the weirdest boner right now. “I shall never submit to you!” Katrina declares, but he makes her wear an amulet that glows and seems to make her unwell. “The sooner you accept your fate, the sooner your life will begin anew.” Yes, with a man WHO HAS NO HEAD.
Though Jenny wants to accompany Ichabod to help Abbie, he needs her to stay to tell the truth in case he doesn’t return from Purgatory. She hugs him fiercely. And much as I love this glimpse of found-family-integrated Jenny, I don’t want her to let go of all her years of resentments just yet, okay? I was kind of surprised she wasn’t even mad that Abbie was exchanged for Katrina; Jenny is more distrustful than this.
Before he goes, she reminds him of those rules of Purgatory: don’t eat or drink anything; don’t’ accept anything from anyone. No cupcakes, Ichabod; I mean it! He repeats the incantation and opens the gateway.
Abbie searches the ground, trying in vain to find Katrina’s amulet. “I’m here, just as I promised,” Ichabod announces, hugging her. “My god, you’re parched,” he says in concern, handing her a flask of water. DON’T DRINK IT, ABBIE! “Lieutenant, no!” calls out The Real Ichabod, stopping her in time.
The Fake Ichabod and The Real Ichabod fight each other, and when one drags Abbie away, he tells her to “recite the incantation, Lieutenant,” so they can return to her sister. She grabs a sword from the ground littered with weapons and slashes his head off, dang! How did she know that one wasn’t The Real Ichabod? “Because he didn’t say left-tennant,” she tells him. They fist bump — at last, he gets how to do that! “I’ll show you that part later,” she adds when she adds a “pow!” at the end and he looks confused.
Just as Moloch is in the middle of raising demons, Ichabod and Abbie escape. They run and recite the incantation at the same time before rushing up to the locked gate of Purgatory. The Key opens the gate, and they run out. Moloch rides quickly, but is swallowed back up. The Key in Ichabod’s hand turns to dust, and Jenny and Abbie embrace as Jenny exclaims, “Welcome home!” aww!
“So who’s had a rough day?” Jenny asks back at the cabin in Sleepy Hollow. “I say we’ve earned a victory lap,” she decides. But Abbie and Ichabod aren’t ready to celebrate. “Today was merely an opening salvo,” Ichabod says. “This is war,” Abbie agrees grimly.
You think Moloch had a cool lair?
Well, Henry has taken over Dead Officer Andy’s lair in the tunnels below Sleepy Hollow, and as the new Death, he has an automaton set of armor that obeys him and a fiery sword of flamey-ness! “Magnificent,” breathes Henry.
Welcome back to all of us! Aren’t you glad Sleepy Hollow’s back on the air? Don’t you wish you had your very own Patriotic Cupcake? No joke, if you ask in comments, I’ll create a recipe for one and post crappy camera phone pictures! Let me know what you thought of this week’s ep for sure, and definitely join me next week for the second episode of season two, “The Kindred”!