It’s hard to know where to begin after an ending like that. We’ll start nonetheless, but may we suggest a couple deep breaths first?
Sleepy Hollow‘s two hour finale was – sadly – the show’s finest performance all season. Sadly because now that the show has found its perfect groove, we must wait several painstakingly long months for the next new episode. Of course the “shocking” last ten minutes left most of us out of breath, but every other element of strong small screen storytelling was present in both “The Indispensable Man” and “Bad Blood.”
Some have argued the show’s formulaic approach holds it back. They’re wrong. These episodes proved that the show succeeds far better in the procedural format, allowing for every aspect of its narrative structure to stand out. The opening joke (and subsequent fish out of water humor), the balance of multiple running plot lines, heart-racing horror and action sequences, charming character and relationship development, drops of revisionist history, last minute twists and always affecting dialogue should remain predictably consistent. The reason? It works. You don’t fix something that isn’t broken.
The shows themes truly shone tonight and were, if only momentarily, investing for every character. Whether it was Frank’s confession and sacrifice for his family, Ichabod’s initial sacrifice of his wife for the greater good, Andy’s own life for an unrequited love, Jenny’s potential end for the care of her sister, or Abbie’s literal sacrifice of her own person for the world, the show hit it out of the park. The final scene in episode twelve during which Ichabod burns Washington’s map, confessing that his love for his wife must be second to saving the world, was his first real hero moment – though it was essentially a lie. Abbie and Jenny’s confessions to each other in “Bad Blood” were bittersweet. We finally see the two sisters meet in the middle and effectively turn all of us into emotional mush, only to be left wondering about Jenny’s fate. Frank “confession” was also quite the sacrificial heroic moment, solidifying him as a true every man.
As for the twists, what heart-stopping, eyeball popping affairs they were. We are now faced with the reality that Ichabod has helped create two horseman (now running around Sleepy Hollow hand in dead hand), while he is locked away in the ground. Abbie, meanwhile, is locked in a doll house purgatory with the younger version of herself after staying in Katrina’s place. Jenny could be dead or alive, no one knows. Frank is also locked away, being prosecuted for the deaths of two people. And Katrina? She’s now playing “My Girl” with Headless.
When you really think about it though, the best part isn’t that we didn’t see it coming. That’s not what made this finale so jaw-dropping. Again, shock isn’t what this show does best – though the shock was aplenty. Quite a few of the finale twists and reveals from previous episodes were predictable. People did see them coming.
No, it was the follow up, the resulting action of those reveals that left most of us desperate for a brown paper bag and a shot of bourbon to warm our body out of its temporary paralysis. The (sometimes gray) moral area that the characters in this show dance around in is completely enthralling, and adds a level of complexity to each of them. This is what gives the characters their hearts. This is why we root for them. They are both the heroes and the fools. It’s all very… human.
It’s unclear where this show can go from here as the majority of its characters are locked away, captured, or possibly dead. Who will be the person to retrieve our witnesses? Or will they somehow get themselves out? What’s even more frightening to think about is what happens once they are out. With two of the Horseman risen, our world could look a whole lot different after evil has gone unchecked for however long.
Even with all of its finale successes, there are things this show needs to work on if its to consistently bring it at A level next season. Perhaps most importantly, the writing needs to tell less and show more. Illustrate how every character on screen is useful to the larger apocalyptic problem. It will be upon us after all. It’s also the easiest way to avoid your characters becoming plot devices (or recurring princess in the tower tropes).
Next, put the brakes on introducing more recurring characters and more fully develop the ones you already have. When you start a storyline with Luke, don’t end it by leaving him on the floor and have the viewership wondering whether he’s alive. While we liked Devon, Abbie’s ex doesn’t need a new partner when he’s got not only Abbie’s storyline, but Frank’s, to contribute to. There’s enough people for us to be invested it, so better invest us in them.
Sacrifice is a theme that needs no work in the show, but the same can’t be said for family. Frank’s family storyline is arguably the best executed and consistently maintained, investing us without seeming repetitious. We don’t need to see the Mills sisters having a sentimental moment every episode (not that we had it) or hear how much Ichabod loves a son he never knew three weeks in a row.
Rather utilize the sisterly bond, chemistry, and acting talent between Beharie and Greenwood physically on screen. They are both plenty capable of handling what’s been thrown at them and their performances are consistently the best, no matter what the episode’s focus. No one needs to wait by the car. Also, let Mison’s incredible performances sell single scenes that we’ll remember, not have to continuously be reminded of through slightly altered dialogue week after week.
While you bring family to the front for some, remembering to develop it well is important. Build a more realistic (and frankly) romantic storyline between Ichabod and Katrina – when they are together. If there isn’t any Ichabbie but you are adamant about including romantic plot b storylines, you must give it to us somewhere. Ichabod and Katrina are the most viable option, so your primary canon romantic relationship shouldn’t consistently make “Driest Couples on TV” lists. Also, this show has already proved that Abbie can exist as both a main character and hero without romance clogging her storyline. Give Luke a decent chance of being a plot b focus. The worst thing that can happen is that we see more of a character the show already struggles with.
Fix the problems and stay the course, Sleepy Hollow. If you can do that, every episode will go down as the week’s best hour of television – just like this finale.