January 20, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “Sleepy Hollow”


SLEEPY HOLLOW has grown into one of the (few) pleasant surprises of the fall network season, a keenly judged mix of supernatural folderol, increasingly well-drawn characters and light time-travel comedy.  Enough of a hit to already have been renewed for next season, the show’s first fall term culminated in a barnburner of a season finale, bursting with revelations and cliffhangers.

Well, a barnburner of half a finale.  For scheduling reasons, FOX decided to air the season’s last two episodes of Hollow back-to-back, which wasn’t the way they were intended, so tonight’s 2-hour event didn’t really open the taps until its second half.  The first hour, written by Co-Executive Producer Damian Kindler and Executive Story Editor Heather V. Regnier (story by Sam Chalsen) and directed by Adam Kane, was a bit more pedestrian as Sleepy Hollow episodes go, concerned with setting out the exposition for the hour to follow.  Much of it was a virtual three-hander for 250-year old Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), his detecting partner Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and their “sin-eating” consultant Henry Parrish (recurring guest star John Noble), as they went in search of the map to Purgatory–which happened to be buried in the secret tomb of George Washington.  The map was necessary in order to free Ichabod’s wife Katrina (Katia Winter) from her existence between worlds, because the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse (that would be War) was about to arrive on Earth, sent by uber-demon Moloch, and could only be stopped by a powerful witch such as Katrina.  After some worrying about whether a trip to Purgatory would open the gates between hell and Earth, they decided to burn the map.  The episode had only small roles for most of the stronger supporting characters aside from Henry, although oft-killed former cop Andy Brooks (John Cho) did transform into a full-fledged demon for the occasion, and the hour featured Ichabod’s adventures with texting and substandard cell phones.

The big guns came out for the true finale, written by series co-creator Alex Kurtzman and fellow Executive Producer Mark Goffman, and directed by Ken Olin (another EP).  After a genuinely amusing encounter between Ichabod and a Revolutionary War reenactment group (which at least allowed him to buy duplicates of his eternal 1700s clothing), the hour got down to the business of the trip to Purgatory, which it turned out our heroes had to make after all (thank goodness for Ichabod’s photographic memory, which allowed him to perfectly reconstruct the burned map).  They made their way to Katrina, after some fun alternate reality traps that included “live” versions of Andy and former Sheriff Corbin (Clancy Brown) for Abbie and Ichabod’s father (Victor Garber) for Crane, but there was a catch;  she couldn’t come back to Earth unless someone else took her place.  That turned out to be Abbie, for what was just the first cliffhanger of the night.  The next came when Abbie’s sister Jenny (valuable recurring guest star Lyndie Greenwood) had her car wrecked by the Headless Horseman with her trapped inside (the Horseman used to be Ichabod’s BFF and his rival for Katrina’s hand–long story), before she could tell Ichabod the bad news:  Henry Parrish was revealed as both the evil son of Ichabod and Katrina, who had been not-quite-killed by her coven of witches, and the personification of the Second Horseman himself, about to bring War down on humanity.  When we left our heroes, Ichabod had been buried alive by Henry and the Headless Horseman was riding off with Katrina.  So… see you in September.

There are plenty of fantasy serials on network and cable TV at the moment, so many that they overlap at times (this season of The Vampire Diaries also had a storyline about freeing a good witch from Purgatory without opening the gates of hell) and while Sleepy Hollow isn’t in a league with the very top (that would be Game of Thrones), it’s found an effective niche for itself.  Mison and Beharie are enormously skilled leads, able to trek through paragraphs of murky (and often silly) supernatural exposition without apparent effort, while also catching the humor in their byplay, not to mention the occasional spark of will-they-or-won’t-they (they won’t for now, that’s for sure, what with Ichabod’s wife back on Earth and Abbie in Purgatory).  The series has also put real effort into building up its supporting ensemble, enough so that Greenwood and Noble should probably be regular cast members at this point (especially since Noble appears to be Season 2’s Big Bad).  Abbie’s Captain (Orlando Jones) has had his character particularly enriched from the opening episodes, where he was just a stock uncomprehending authority figure.  The series has, in some ways, become a more fitting successor to the Joss Whedon tradition this season than Whedon’s own Agents of SHIELD.

As noted, Sleepy Hollow has already been renewed for next season (it will again run in the fall, much as The Following only appears in the season’s back half), and the writers have months to figure out the next twists and turns of their mythology.  While Washington Irving wouldn’t recognize most of what they’ve been doing to his original tale, one would like to think that he’d appreciate their storytelling verve.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."