Sleepy Hollow 2.18 – Tempus Fugit

sh 201 promo image abbie ichabod branches

Last week a little mother-and-son bonding evil-doing turned into Henry disintegrating and Abbie and Katrina hurling back to 1781. Now? It’s time for Abbie and Ichabod to reboot their relationship in the colonial era in the midst of pivotal battles, Katrina scheming, and a special guest star we like to call Mister Hundred Dollar Bill, the ever-charming and gleeful Ben Franklin. Aww, yeah!

Before we get into this jam-packed final episode of the season, let me take a sec to apologize for my own out-of-time-ness.  Travel delays plus a dead car battery awaiting my return to the frigid New England weather caused some unavoidable obstacles to getting up this recap sooner.  Thanks to all of you for bearing with me, and I hope you enjoy my take on “Tempus Fugit”!

Back to the action!  Ichabod leaves the battleground (where he shows suitable badassery) to meet captive Abbie. Though he’s wary, she startles him by knowing about his current mission (searching for Abraham/not-yet-Headless), and gains temporary freedom by promising to help defeat the Horseman and his “ally” (*cough* Katrina *cough*).

In your own time, Ichabod!

In your own time, Ichabod!

Just as we see Katrina miffed to discover Ichabod isn’t lying mortally wounded (bummer!) Abbie gets stuck with the awkward task of explaining okay, sure, she’s just saved Ichabod, but they need to figure out a way for him to die so they don’t screw up history forever.

So far, reversing Ichabod and Abbie’s situations (with lots of great call-backs to the pilot — Abbie fiddles with a carriage curtain the way Ichabod messed with her vehicle’s power windows) does Person Out of Time style wonders for our two main characters. It’s fascinating to see Abbie’s assurance in working to convince Ichabod they’re meant to be partners, and Ichabod is clearly drawn to Abbie’s intelligence and awesomeosity even as he worries she could be a British spy or just a plain old lunatic with her time-travel talk.

Let's face it, though, that not all the call-backs are silly fun; Abbie in jail carries far different valences than Ichabod's turn behind bars.

Let’s face it, though, that not all the call-backs are silly fun; Abbie in jail carries far different valences than Ichabod’s turn behind bars.

The ep’s energy is absolutely fantastic, though it’s tough to tell if it’s because “Tempus Fugit” is so well written (and it actually is) and gives viewers that terrific mix of scary moments and wonderfully wacky moments we’ve come to love in the show (because it totally does) — OR if we’ve been so weighed down by the redundancy of the go-nowhere domestic drama of the Cranes, that any move to return to the vibrancy and focus of season one just feels like an enormous relief.

In any case, I for one loved seeing the Witnesses again take center stage as they figure out they need to seek Benjamin Franklin’s advice (because OF COURSE) and work on establishing an already tangible support.

Bonjour, baby; Timothy Busfield does a fantastic turn as Ben Franklin.

Bonjour, baby; Timothy Busfield does a fantastic turn as Ben Franklin.

Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison are obviously fabulous together; that’s been what’s drawn me to the show throughout its run. And seeing the series re-commit to their chemistry-fueled partnership while exploring some of the threats and hijinks inherent in putting the characters in Ichabod’s original time period was definitely a pleasure.

Of course, affirming that Ichabod-and-Abbie are important means the show’s got to demonstrate its commitment to Abbie Mills, a pledge that’s been sadly weakened this season by an over-focus on Katrina Crane and an ill-advised shunting of Abbie to the sympathetic friend role. The decision to call out Abbie’s prominence via Ben Franklin’s absolute appreciation of all she stands for is an A+ choice. “A woman who is two centuries ahead of us, brilliant educated, well-spoken, an officer of the law” is, Franklin declares, “everything we’re striving for” in staging the American Revolution. “Miss Mills represents the American dream,” he declares, and hell yeah, she does!

It’s a wonderful moment, the absolutely delightful Franklin taking a break from humorously preening over his inventions being used hundreds of years later and acting thrilled to hear he’s on the hundred dollar bill, to pronounce how much Abbie freaking matters. It gives me huge hope for season three, assuming we get it when FOX decides whether to renew this show. And now, watching this episode that hearkens back to so much that made me love the series in the first place, I’m fervently wishing for just that.

Now, that’s not to say this episode is without its flaws, because it’s got them. Last week left me horrified when I saw townspeople and soldiers sneering at Abbie, wondering what the hell might happen to Abbie in an era where she’s suspected of being a fugitive slave. Abbie’s quick mention that habeas corpus won’t apply to people like her for another hundred years is way too glancing. Though this ep touches on slavery another time or two (Ichabod’s surly colonel vows to shunt Abbie off to a slave encampment), it also skirts race issues big time.

I get why we see this avoidance; dealing with oppression and institutionalized racism when there’s not the generic promise of a feel-good weepy resolution centered around a white character makes TPTB very wary. It makes the writers shy away from acknowledging the obvious injustices lest they fall prey to missteps or, god forbid, just have to feel uncomfortable taking those matters on.

Sleepy Hollow, with its irreverent approach to danger and history both, isn’t a show most people would imagine would be well-equipped for approaching such topics. But honestly, writers: figure it out. If Blazing Saddles could marry hilarity and pointed social commentary to incisive effect decades ago, Sleepy Hollow can play the damn cards it’s already dealt itself instead of wimping out and folding.

Truly, though, I believe this show can deliver fun and fright and deal with its social context in whatever era it lands in. Hey, the show asks us to believe Ben Franklin delivering the good news that, what do you know, spells can be reversed if they’re caught soon enough after launch! So basically, all the disaster that Katrina’s Traveler’s Spell might wreck can get clean-slated *if* Abbie and Henry can hightail it over to Abbie’s awesome ancestor, Grace Dixon, and use magic to set things right.

Why shouldn’t I then hold out some hope, or really some serious expectation, that the writers and producers and showrunner here can reverse some of their stepping around race issues and take them on capably next season? Folks, let’s clean-slate that failing of the show while we’re at it, right?

Meanwhile, Katrina’s already tenderly patched up Abraham, now back in his terrifically scary Hessian demon soldier guise instead of the Very Human Abraham we’ve been getting all s2; a serendipitous outcome to Abraham’s regular actor being unavailable due to scheduling conflicts. She’s also killed an eye-witness to their meeting without batting a blue eye.

That sets up Abraham to freaking DECAPITATE Ben Franklin, sending Abbie and Ichabod scurrying. Good thing we can do-over all this mess, right?

Ichabod, horrified and frustrated, takes Abbie back to prison. Abbie ignored Franklin’s advice to her and reveals the Horseman’s ally is in fact Katrina; Ichabod leaves in disgust while Abbie calls after him that Katrina’s pregnant and a witch. She pleads for him to check her cell phone for their selfies — “the password is your birthday!”

Ichabod’s disquiet takes him home, but his relief at finding Katrina there goes south when he glimpses her herb mix for pregnant women, and notices the Grimoire open to a pentagram-bearing page. Soldiers call for him to ride to General Washington, foiling Katrina’s floating-knife plans and syrupy sweet questions about asking for Abbie’s location so she can help the “poor madwoman.”

Now partially convinced, Ichabod uncertainly pokes at Abbie’s cell phone, delivering some of the funniest interaction with modern devices we’ve seen from him yet (his “slide to unlock” solution of sliding the actual phone across the table is perfection). He figures out how to enter his birthday, and man, are we lucky that he immediately understands to enter the month and day only in the American fashion!

Meanwhile, Colonel Sutton pays Abbie a visit, and I’m relieved when the show doesn’t go the typical route of immediately threatening sexual menace. Nope, Sutton is just mad as hell that Abbie was involved in the death of such an awesome diplomat as BF. Luckily Abbie’s hand-to-hand is way better than the colonel’s. She takes out the threat just before Ichabod comes jogging up “to save you?” he says uncertainly, seeing Sutton already subdued.

Ichabod and Abbie re-reunite.

Ichabod and Abbie re-reunite.

On the way to Fredericks Manor to consult Grace Dixon, Ichabod shakes his head in disbelief that Katrina would want him dead. Abbie gently explains his wife did good things, but “that Katrina’s gone.” Even if he didn’t see it coming, though, “the seeds must have been there,” he says forlornly.

I would be with you, Ichabod, except that this whole turn to evil thing on Katrina’s part really was sudden for all of us. Would that the seeds had been there all season! Still, it’s fun watching Katia Winters play the baddie, and there’s a fun blithely malicious energy from the actress that would have been great to witness episodes ago.

Speaking of Katrina, she scrapes out Abbie’s blood from one of the soldiers (I totally missed that scratch fight; was it in last week’s ep?) to blood-magic GPS Ichabod and Abbie.

Okay, so I love all aspects of the Mills Family Story, and I’ve already wished here that we got to see more Grace Dixon, not just hear quick-time solutions to the supernatural evil of the week from her journal. I adored Abbie’s emotionally charged meeting with her ancestor even more than I loved fun but savvy Ben Franklin in this ep (and you know I love me some BF).

Because Grace has to weaken the wards on the Manor to perform the reversal spell, Katrina and the Horseman find their way to Ichabod and Abbie even faster. Ichabod offers to act as the distraction, and it goes to show how marvelous Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison are that it already felt wrenching for *this* version of Ichabod and Abbie to have to separate. “Is this level of intimacy common in 2015?” Ichabod asks stiffly when Abbie throws her arms around him. “Yeah,” she says, choked up. “We hug it out.” *draws hearts around all manifestations of the Witnesses*

Abbie’s already told Grace how important her journal has been to Abbie’s entire family and to herself and Ichabod, what a pivotal guide it has been in the fight against evil. “Look at the end of my journal,” Grace tells her as the spell is about to go into effect. Abbie’s puzzlement over the empty pages dissipates as Grace assures here, “these are the most important pages of all, the pages you will write. The most crucial battles still lie ahead.”

While Ichabod and the Horseman battle, Grace spell-i-fies, and just as the Hessian raises his axe to Ichabod’s neck, the characters become frozen. “No, no, you cannot stop this,” Katrina yells, but they’re returned immediately to 2015.

Katrina's gotta go back in time!  And other pertinent Huey Lewis and the News lyrics.

Katrina’s gotta go back in time! And other pertinent Huey Lewis and the News lyrics.

“This is your doing,” Katrina says furiously, attacking Abbie, strangling her mid-air with magical power. When Ichabod scrambles to them, yelling for her to stop, Katrina shouts, “She killed my son; she dies!” Lady, practically everyone killed your son at this point! Ichabod is forced to stab her to stop her from murdering Abbie.

Though I loved much in this episode, the moment of Katrina’s death felt awkward and too quick. The strange choice to CGI in an apparition of Jeremy/Henry while Katrina reaches for them was just creepy, and though Ichabod’s obviously regretful, it didn’t have the full emotional thrust one might have expected in a scene where he must kill his wife to save his partner.

Like Henry, Katrina turns to ash as she breathes her last, so I’m guessing they’re both 1000% dead. Cue lots of anti-Katrina viewers singing “the witch is dead,” with glee. If we go by the theory that she and Henry were living out of time, that makes sense, though it doesn’t explain why Frank Irving got to cough up his badness and keep on living.

“You had no choice,” Abbie says to comfort Ichabod.   “Yes, I did. We all did,” he says, and hey, fair enough. Though it’s pointless to overthink Katrina’s choices — how can we, when she was always a plot convenience rather than a full-fledged character? — it emphasizes what can be great about the show, if the network renews it and the writers support its potential. At their best, Ichabod and Abbie must continually choose, choosing one another over others, thinking of their supernatural mission above all else.

Frank Irving and Jenny show up in time to reaffirm that in a post-Katrina & Henry world of Sleepy Hollow, they’re meant to round out our important the four characters. I don’t know about all of you, but I feel pretty great about Jenny taking Katrina’s place in the original line-up (Lyndie Greenwood, yay!), and about Irving reclaiming his place of importance from last season (Orlando Jones needs to be crucial to the storyline and never again sidelined). “That’s why we’re here, all of us together,” Abbie reminds them, to fight the crucial battles that follow. If that’s the direction season three will take, I will be here for it with freaking patriotic bells on, my friends.

It must be said, too, that if this becomes our de facto series finale, I will be very sad indeed not to have more Witness-y goodness every week to talk about with you. I’m really crossing my fingers and toes that renewal notice comes soon. Come lend your good wishes for an awesome Ichabod & Abbie-focused season three, or tell me what you think about this past season and “Tempus Fugit”!