In a tense bottle episode, we learn just why the Horseman is so dead-set on destroying Ichabod

By Hillary Busis
March 20, 2015 at 05:27 PM EDT
Brownie Harris/FOX
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Ever since Sleepy Hollow‘s very first episode, those who know and love Washington Irving’s original short story have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. The show’s hero, obviously, was Ichabod Crane, who shared a name (if nothing else) with Irving’s own protagonist; his ladylove was Katrina Van Tassel, a “blooming lass” similar to the woman the original Crane tried to woo; his chief opponent was a mystical headless horseman, much like the one who frightened Irving’s Ichabod out of Sleepy Hollow.

But one vital figure from the story was missing. Where was Abraham Van Brunt, a.k.a. Brom Bones — the “Herculean” “hero of the country round” who tangles with Crane over Katrina’s affections?

Tonight, flashback sequences addressed that question — giving an answer that fans of Irving’s story should have seen coming. See, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow strongly implies that Ichabod Crane the First was run out of town by Brom Bones impersonating the Headless Horseman rather than an actual supernatural figure. And in “Necromancer,” Sleepy Hollow presented its own riff on Brom and Headless’s intertwined fates. In this version, the Horseman of the Apocalypse known as Death wasn’t born a demon — instead, he started out as Sleepy‘s take on Brom, who was magically transformed into a demon shortly after learning that his ex-fiancée Katrina was leaving him for his best friend Crane. If only Ichie had put brovaries before ovaries!

Before we’re treated to the truth about Headless, though, Sleepy presents some of its darkest, moodiest material yet, set almost entirely within the tunnels under the Hollow. (All those special effects don’t come cheap — which is probably why it’s about time we had a bottle episode.) There, the Witnesses and Captain Irving — we’ve got to come up with a better name for the series’ Scooby Gang — are still standing watch over Headless, who’s imprisoned within a set of hex candles (courtesy of the fallen Masons), weakened by a ring of powerful UV lamps (courtesy of modern technology), and shackled by a set of enormous iron chains for good measure (courtesy of… Thomas Jefferson?).

Irving is tempted to ask NORAD simply to drop a nuke on Headless and call it a day. But Abbie tells him it’d be no use — though they can hold Headless captive and use light to sap him of his strength, they can’t destroy him. They can, however, take this opportunity to find out more about the Horseman’s dastardly plan, as well as what makes their nemesis himself tick. In order to do so, though, they’ll have to call in someone to be a literal mouthpiece for their voiceless foe: Zombie John Cho, whom I’ll start calling Andy Brooks only if you insist.

NEXT: Tonight’s MacGuffin: A thing subtitles will later inform us is called a “phiale”

Brooks, who’s made a nice little hidey-hole for himself down in the tunnels — complete with thematically appropriate reading material! — initially has no interest in playing evil megaphone. But with a bit of prodding, and more than a little shameless manipulation by Abbie (hey, if  you’ve got it, flaunt it), he concedes. Zombie Cho — fine, Brooks — has just one caveat for the Witnesses: Because he’s sold his soul to Moloch, he’s powerless to defy the demon’s orders. That certainly won’t come into play later in the episode.

As Ichabod and Abbie head to the cell with Brooks in tow, Irving heads out of the tunnels to seek another misfit for their ragtag team: Abbie’s sister Jenny, newly released from the local psych ward and just itching to get elbow-deep in some weird magical crap. She gets her wish when, after tracking her down, Irving invites her to come along with him to investigate a “10-65” — which in Sleepy Hollow parlance means “ancient relic larceny.” The two discover that a group of Hessians have stolen a Thracian phiale from a local antiques store. What the heck is a Thracian phiale? Oh, you know, just a ceramic disc once held by warlocks after Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Britain, used to break hex spells… like the one holding the Horseman inside his supernatural cell. Ruh-roh.

The new dynamic duo (Frenny? Mirving? FraJenIrIlls?) deduces that the Hessians must plan to cut Sleepy Hollow’s power grid, which will shut off the lights that are sucking away Headless’s power. After that, they’ll free him with the all-important phiale. And so the pair heads to the local Department of Water and Power, where Jenny proves that she’s a cocksure young maverick who doesn’t play by the rules — but she gets results, damnit. Please pause while I imagine a Sleepy spinoff set before Jenny got locked up, when she was just traveling the world and finding cool supernatural stuff and kicking ass. La Femme Jenita. Listen to me, Fox — this could work!

Though Irving and Jenny have managed to neutralize the Hessian threat at the power grid, Ichabod isn’t having quite as much luck with his interrogation of the Horseman. He seems to think that the best way to get Headless to talk is to engage in nonstop self-congratulatory boasting — “I took your head!” “I’m holding you captive!” “I look better in anachronistic military garb!” Needless to say, he’s getting approximately nowhere — and when he realizes that Headless has been holding onto a necklace that once belonged to Katrina, Crane is shaken enough to lose sight of the real reason he’s interrogating the Horseman in the first place.

NEXT: Zombie Cho’s moment of glory

Just as the Horseman has accused Ichabod of betraying and killing his last partner — Brom Van Brunt, a fellow American spy, natch — the lights go out. Blast those crafty Hessians; they’ve found a way to wreck Sleepy Hollow’s power grid after all! (The way: ‘Splosions.) Headless isn’t immediately set free, but he is getting stronger by the minute now that the UV lights are kaput.

After Irving and Jenny return to the tunnels, the crew comes up with a new plan: Everyone but Ichabod is going to head out and grab some heavier artillery, just in case the Hessians invade. (Why aren’t they going to come clean about Headless’s existence to a larger team of cops, enlisting more support in the fight against the apocalypse? Because everyone decides that this war should remain a secret, at least until season 3ish.) Crane, meanwhile, will stay behind to keep an eye on the Horseman.

The hellspawn Ichabod should be keeping an eye on, however, is Brooks — who’s actually been concealing the hex-crumbling phiale within his very flesh all along. The bloody mess as Brooks pulls out the relic: grossest Sleepy visual thus far? Eh, maybe not, considering the Mason head-o’-lanterns from “The Midnight Ride.”

And so Zombie Cho — crap, I mean Andy Brooks — releases the Horseman, who promptly heads off to find a weapon before returning to challenge Ichabod to a duel. It’s during this swordplay that Ichabod realizes Headless has moves he’s seen before — specifically, when a lovelorn Brom challenged Crane to a duel right before his untimely death. (Contrary to the Horseman’s warped memory, Brom was shot down by wicked Redcoats while on a top-secret mission with Crane. He was then brought back to a cursed sort of life, shaved V for Vendetta style, and fitted with a Lecterian all-face mask.)

Ichabod is so shocked to learn Headless’s backstory that he nearly allows his former friend to run him through with his borrowed blade… until Brooks rears up, screeches that “the master” has forbidden the Horseman to kill Ichabod, and summons up a gang of demons to whisk the whole evil crew away. Phew! That’s what I call an exit.

NEXT: Get ready for the Witching Hour

Here is where we stand as the episode ends: Ichabod now knows that Brom sold his soul to Moloch, thereby becoming the Headless Horseman, solely so that he can get revenge on Crane for “stealing” Katrina. Headless Brom is also holding Ichabod’s wife hostage because he intends to make the witch his once more — but he can’t have her completely until he rides with the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse, thus beginning the End of Days.

So even if they didn’t find a way to stop Headless Brom, the Witnesses did at least discover the second best thing: that their opponent’s one weakness is a buxom redheaded sorceress currently trapped in a cut-rate purgatory. Which means that the Witnesses must find a way to get to Katrina. Which means that things are about to get even more interesting. This show!!

Doughnut Holes

– Ichabod Line of the Night: “[Jefferson] foresaw holding the worst type of demons that may walk the earth, a product no doubt of his years trying to reason with the French.”

– Historical Tidbit of the Night: Brom was murdered/reborn by Redcoats while he and Ichabod were on a mission to deliver the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress. Naturally.

– Abbie: “She dumped her fiancé for you? You got some game.” Ichabod: “I neither wanted, nor did I invite, game.”

– In between fighting demons and railing about the evils of sales tax, Ichabod has somehow found time to read some of the works of Mark Twain and William Faulkner. Which American classic should he look into next? I vote Little Women.

– Sometimes Sleepy feels like it’s about 50% exposition — but when it’s delivered this breezily, I can hardly bring myself to care. Examples: Ichabod instantly knows that the symbols he’s found in Brooks’s hidey-hole are Egyptian hieroglyphs for communicating the dead. And Jenny, of course, needs zero seconds to figure out that the writing within the phiale’s holding box is 16th century Druidic scripture.

– Between her 0th-wave feminism and her passionate dismissal of 18th century social mores (“I do not wish to go to the effort of creating an independent country only to have it dictated by the same senseless customs as the motherland”), who else started really liking Katrina tonight?

– Although, wait — should we care that Flashback Katrina has somehow transformed from a humble Quaker nurse to a richly dressed Georgian bombshell, or is it not worth the headache?

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