By Clara Pullman
Sleepy Hollow is bringing to a close its surprisingly satisfying S4 reboot, with this penultimate episode kicking things up a notch. Friday’s episode was more like a Sleepy Hollow mashup. We saw Crane’s season 4 partner back in Corbin’s cabin, and the season 4 baddie (Malcolm) meeting the season 2 baddie (Henry), all with various Sleepy Hollow worlds and mythologies merging together.
Even better, the writers let the season 4 characters react to the old ones exactly as the audience might, offering up some funny commentary on the absurdity of the show’s supernatural mythology. That self awareness helped make this episode feel looser and more playful than Sleepy Hollow has sometimes been over season 4, while still being scary and ominous. They are really swinging for the fences and what’s even nicer, they getting some good hits. (Sorry, it’s springtime. A girl’s thoughts turn to baseball.)
The show begins by showing us how Lara, the grown up version of Molly, came to travel back in time to prevent the dystopia she knew as her world. This is the world where Malcolm has achieved his dream of ruling over America, with the Four Horseman as his henchman and enforcers. And where Molly grew up under Malcolm’s protection in a world of his lies, believing that her mother and Crane died, leaving her on her own, and that there is no such thing as Witnesses.
The episode shows us how she learns the truth and travels back in time to, in a sense, be reborn as a Witness. Rebirth is a theme, as the gang also has to prevent Crane from being “reborn” into the Horseman of War. And they get a timely assist from Crane’s son Henry, reborn out of the jar of despair creature goo that had happily been left sitting in the Vault these many weeks.
In this future world, we see Lara capturing Jenny – who is, of course, leading the resistance – and then her life starts to unravel. Jenny tells her Crane is still alive. When the Horseman of War kills Jenny (which, ugh) Diana’s face is briefly revealed under War’s armor. Lara then goes looking for Crane and finds him locked up alone in the depths of Malcolm’s prisons. He’s that wizened version of Crane revealed earlier the season but I love the way we can see the Crane we know even as he’s a little different. He’s immediately protective of her and as impassioned as he always is, but it’s a little closer to unhinged in this incarnation of him.
We knew this would be a different Sleepy Hollow when Crane tells Lara the way to save him, and the world, is through a travelers spell used by his wife Katrina in a failed attempt to change history. Katrina, the “She Who Shall Not Be Named” of season three, got name checked several times in this episode. So much so I started to get a little nervous. With all the callbacks and special appearances, they wouldn’t? They couldn’t? They didn’t.
All this happens in just the first ten minutes and if I have one complaint about this episode, it’s that they are still trying to pack so much plot into these final few episodes. This is also the last time we see Tom Mison onscreen until the final ten minutes, which is a shame since he does wonders with everything he’s given.
Lara jumps back to the past and, as we know, successfully prevents Malcolm from taking Diana but now Crane is being turned into War. Jake, Jenny, Alex, Diana and Lara have to stop that, and at the same time, keep Malcolm from re-animating the Horseman of Death. The team is off and running from here and I won’t review every plot detail but suffice to say you could have played Sleepy Hollow bingo on this episode. The Grand Grimoire, the Dragaur, Hessians and zombies…it was all there. Plus Henry. And the cabin. Yep, Corbin’s cabin. The cabin that disappeared in season 3 so that Crane could move in with Abbie, allowing Three’s Company style hijinks to ensue. Yeah, that cabin. It’s back, only now it’s Diana and Lara there, and Henry appears in the NotTheArchives and Jobe is tangling with Hessian zombies and it’s all just a wild mashup that really works. With the characters providing amusing commentary. They’re not breaking the fourth wall but…they do seem to be playing the role of the audience in these moments. Like Diana basically looking at the cardigan-wearing Henry and going, this old guy is Crane’s son AND was the Horseman of War? Or Malcolm, thanking present day Lara for helping future Malcolm and observing, Boy, time travel sure complicates verb tenses, doesn’t it?
Henry’s main role is to tell the team that Crane can be separated from the Horseman by a decoupling ceremony, as his mother had promised to do for Abraham van Brunt. This prompts Jenny to send Diana and Lara off to the cabin, while she, Alex and Jake work on stopping the Horseman of Death.
Henry’s other main purpose it to let us bask in the wonder that is John Noble. The only person having more fun watching him than the audience looks to be Noble himself, who seemingly delights in setting everyone off kilter with his deceptively avuncular demeanor and beatific smile and his habit of quoting Shakespeare and it’s all very entertaining and you can’t quite figure out what he’s up to. He’s supposedly Crane’s version of Henry, as captured in the goo, so Noble plays him as little childlike, but he’s just as opaque and vaguely creepy as always. Is he going to be redeemed (reborn, if you will) in the finale – or is he double-crossing the team?
Sleepy Hollow is also doing its damnedest this season not only to tie up its own threads but secure a few from past seasons. When Jenny started talking about how Katrina had promised to separate Abraham Van Brunt from the Horseman, I about fell off my couch. That was one of the oddest hanging threads from this series: Katrina leaving Headless by himself, in season two, promising to return to perform this amazing bit of magic but then….nothing. We were all left hanging on that one, most of all poor Abraham. (PS Doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out much better for him in this season though. I don’t think the Wizard of Sleepy Hollow has anything in his bag for Headless. But hey, I’m always wrong!)
Everything comes to a head with Lara using Katrina’s spell to reach into Crane’s psyche and pull him back from the Horseman of War. She does this by using her bond with him as a Witness – as Molly did when she brought him back from the despair in his head, a nice connection to this earlier episode. Tom Mison finally re-appears in the episode in a gorgeous scene between Crane and Lara, who has been badly injured by War. He once again takes on the role of a protector, repeating the Bible passage about the Witnesses that he recited to her on her 11th birthday (another nice link back to the early season) and reminding her she’ll never alone. You can see Lara reconnecting to herself as Molly and as a Witness, knowing that Crane and her mother will look after her.
Lara wakes up from Crane’s psyche in Diana’s arms. Throughout the episode, Lara and Diana were tentatively feeling their way to a relationship in this strange new reality. Since the future where Lara came to be has now been obliterated, she has essentially sacrificed her life to give Molly back hers with Diana. And while that sentence makes my head hurt, this character Lara who is and isn’t Molly is touching and vulnerable and sympathetic.
Meanwhile we’ve got Jobe raising the zombie Hessian army to re-animate the Horseman of Death. Unfortunately for Malcolm, he’s still down one more Horseman since Crane has been decoupled, but the ever resourceful Jobe has provided a solution. A former Horseman of War conveniently recently revived.
By the end they’re just throwing it all out there. Henry in the woods with Malcolm and Jobe and he’s ready to become the Horseman of War again and the Sleepy Hollow mashup is complete. I love that Malcolm doesn’t nod and stroke his chin and go, sure this all seems normal. He’s just, what is even happening with this random old man who is supposedly Crane’s son and used to be the Horseman of War and why is he here with us in season four in the woods? But he comes around and in the end, he and Henry walk off together to start a beautiful – excuse me, revolutionary friendship and there is a kind of DGAF attitude about it all and it closes the episode on a high note.
For a show that had a lot to prove with this reboot, Sleepy Hollow has mostly come through this season. To finish off the confused sports metaphors, let’s hope they stick the landing.