Guess who's gone bad—and who's gone back in time?

By Hillary Busis
March 20, 2015 at 05:10 PM EDT
Credit: Brownie Harris/FOX
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Well, that’s one way to flip the script.

Almost all season long, a vocal percentage of Sleepy fans have been grumbling that the show’s sophomore year has seemed off—there’s been too much Katrina, too little Abbie time, too many detours into repetitive Monster-of-the-Weeking. In this recapper’s opinion, though, the main issue has been that up until this point, the series seemed to have lost a crucial aspect—the breakneck, go-for-broke, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks batshit insanity that characterized season 1, hooking all of us on the rickety roller coaster that was Sleepy Hollow in the first place.

But evidently, the Sleepy gods have heard us—and are responding by getting back to basics. And by that, I mean waaaaay back.

It’s tough to talk about “The Awakening” without beginning with its ending: a mirror image of Sleepy Hollow‘s pilot that’s focused on Abbie rather than Ichabod. Now our intrepid heroine is the one who’s found herself stranded in a strange, unfamiliar time, thanks to the machinations of a witch named Katrina; now she’s the one being frightened off the road by a foreign vehicle; now she’s the one being questioned by local law enforcement and thrown into jail, hopeless until she meets her predestined partner.

This bizarre twist of fate is, by many metrics (read: all of them), completely and utterly ridiculous. But I ask you: Isn’t sheer balls-to-the-wall ridiculosity, the type that can only be described via multiple hyphenated compounds, what this TV series—nay, this great nation—was founded upon?

Sure, seeing Abbie being treated like a fugitive slave is already getting real old real fast—and you’ve got to feel for poor Nicole Beharie for having to go through that business in the first place. But as much as I can see why some people might have an issue with her sudden trip through time, I’m all in. Why? Because the big ending of “The Awakening” did something that few episodes this season have done: It made me feel the same sort of frisson I felt during the highs of season 1, when Sleepy legitimately earned its stripes as one of the least predictable series on television, network or cable alike. (Also: That all-strings version of “Sympathy for the Devil” was to die for.)

One could, perhaps, argue that the show is playing this card way too early in its run—Sleepy has only existed for a whopping 30 episodes; it took Lost five whole seasons to mine the Time Travel vein. But I vehemently disagree with that argument. If Sleepy‘s going to be more than “Grimm, but different,” these are the sorts of out-there risks it needs to be taking. I’m not saying they should leave Abbie stranded in 1781 for more than a few episodes or, God forbid, an entire season—we all remember what happened when Hiro took that extended trip to feudal Japan, right?—but a brief sojourn could be just what Sleepy needs to get the burst of energy it needs to sustain itself for another year. Plus, it’s vital to note that the time-travel occurred in season 2’s penultimate episode rather than its finale; by next week, Sleepy‘s visit to colonial Williamsburg may have already run its course.

Something that nobody’s going to argue against? That’d be the emergence of Evil Katrina. Mrs. Crane finally, finally, finally broke bad tonight—and while yes, it was a little strange to see her transform from the dull Worst Witch we’ve come to know to a full-blown magical eugenicist in, what, the span of three short episodes, I’m not complaining. And that’s for a simple reason: Evil Katrina is fun. Her powers actually exist, her line readings sound more convincing, and given the episode’s big death, we won’t ever have to worry about her old We Need to Talk About Henry hand-wringing ever again. That’s a win/win/win, for those keeping score at home.

First, though, we should probably cover the actual plot of the episode. Our story tonight revolved around a very familiar-looking bell (yes, it was cast by the same mold that cast this ringer; yes, Ichabod recognizes this fact immediately) with a very sinister purpose: to activate all of the potential witches in the greater Sleepy Hollow area, giving them wicked powers and joining them as a coven to be led by Norman and Norma Bates—er, that is, Henry and his suddenly beloved mum. Why does Henry want to start a mega-coven, staffed by the descendants of Sleepy Hollow’s original witches? Because he thinks his breed of magical folk have been marginalized and mistreated for too long by mugglekind. It’s their turn to take control, to be extraordinary instead of hiding themselves away. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that a good deal of the magic Henry ends up performing in this episode has to do with controlling the path of metal bullets.

It’s Katrina’s love for Henry—and, who knows, maybe some sort of evil seed planted in her by Solomon Kent the Blood Mage—that gets her on his side initially… but it’s her own apparently inherent belief in witch supremacy that keeps her there. See, it turns out that George Washington promised Katrina and her kind that if they helped win the Revolutionary War, “witches would finally be allowed to reintegrate into society.” Okay, sure, fine. Washington of course did not abide by his pledge to give the witches 40 acres and a mule—and evidently, that’s been sticking in Katrina’s craw for the past 200 years. Again: Okay, sure, fine! Who really cares about the explanation; let’s see this witch finally effing blow someting up already.

Ask and ye shall receive, my little Sleepyheads.

But we’ll get to that! For now: Abbie and Ichabod are on the case. They quickly determine that if they can crack the bell, the same way Ichabod cracked the Liberty Bell (don’t ask), the Witch Awakening spell won’t work. So they head to the hardware store for bomb supplies—ahh, America!—before stealing the bell, which they intend to blow up in the tunnels so that no innocent bystanders get hurt in the process. Simple, right?

NEXT: It’s not that simple.

Then Henry shows up with his new bestest pal in tow. At first, Ichabod thinks Katrina is their son’s captive—but Katrina soon disproves that assumption. (Which, in retrospect, probably wasn’t the most strategic move. Katrina doing the wrong thing? Maybe things haven’t changed so much after all.) And without much more preamble, she’s giving Ichabod the magical version of the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech—”I could never be with a mortal man”—and trapping Ichabod and Abbie inside the tunnels, taking the bell so that she and Henry can perform their ritual “when the perigean tide is the highest.” Wait a minute—what time of year is it supposed to be on this show? How much time has actually passed since the pilot?

There’s no time to worry about that now, because the Witnesses have to figure out a new plan. One that still involves explosions. Yasssss.

The real reason the WitchCranes couldn’t just do their spell once they nabbed the bell is clearly because Katrina first required a costume change—into a dramatic Evil Ballgown—and because the show went to the trouble of making a whole new set, Sleepy Hollow’s old town hall. It’s not long, of course, before their little party of two is interrupted by another pair—the Witnesses, armed to the teeth and ready to do battle.

And then Katrina sets Abbie’s car on fire.

The lady Witness isn’t in said car, of course—but Katrina didn’t know that when she pulled her Michael Clayton. Yep, it seems like she’s made a full face-heel turn; you just don’t come back from trying to murder your husband’s best friend and mystical demon-fighting partner.

We’re almost treated to double explosions, because Abbie’s thisclose to blowing up the bell—but she’s caught by Henry at the last moment. Soon enough, she and Ichabod are tied up, much like Ichbod and Katrina were by Henry in last year’s finale—only this time, of course, Katrina’s free as a bird who is also a witch. It seems that our heroes may be well and truly done for… until Ichabod reveals that he’s still got two flintlock pistols in his pockets, and Abbie discloses that she’s holding onto some flint and steel they can use to cut through their hand bindings. The Boy Scouts of America must be very pleased by this level of preparation. The bell is beginning to toll, the witches all around town—the lady who works at the bookstore! Some other lady named Michelle! A third lady!—are beginning to awaken… and then Ichabod shoots at Henry, who neatly stops the bullet. What he doesn’t know is that Abbie’s also got a gun—and while he’s distracted, she’s aiming it at his middle and pulling the trigger.

Thought being the Horseman of War meant you couldn’t be killed by a bullet, even one imbued with the power of Greek fire? Maybe that was true when Moloch was around—but it seems that the demon’s death has left Henry nothing more than a powerful but mortal warlock. The bullet’s blown a glowing hole through his center; he’s collapsing, breathing heavily, clearly not long for this world. It’s all he can do to whisper that he wants his mother to call him by his given name—Jeremy—before he crumbles into ash, whisked away by an invisible wind. I’m gonna guess this marks that permanent death Sleepy‘s EPs mentioned a few weeks ago. If so: Farewell, Henry! You were a formidable villain, until you became a boring one; in any case, your death will not be in vain.

Because Katrina? Katrina’s not blaming herself for her son’s death, as Old Katrina may have. Instead, she’s blaming Ichabod—and she is piiiiisssed. “You are the source of my sorrow, Ichabod Crane,” she snarls, a mama bear in her moment of deepest grief. He’s the reason she wasn’t there to raise her son, and the reason she lost him again. “I never should have saved your life when the Horseman cut you down. I should have let you die!” she crows. “And this time… I will!”

You almost expect her to hop onto her broomstick and corral a crew of flying monkeys, don’t you? Instead, she magicks herself into a great whirlwind, and while trying to stop her, Abbie is sucked in too… which brings us back to 1781. At least after she’s so rudely apprehended, Abbie realizes she has one final ace in the hole: She has vital information that can turn the tide of the war, and she refuses to give it to anyone but Captain Ichabod Crane. This oughta be good.

Doughnut Holes

  • The Irving Report: Irving is evil, until Henry dies, at which point he is no longer evil. This concludes The Irving Report.
  • Things Ichabod Is Appalled By This Week: Citizen Kane spoilers, the “seasonal items” sold at the hardware store (like lawn gnomes), and, to a lesser extent, lighters.
  • Wondering which time travel story Ichabod’s reading at the top of the hour? That’d be The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells.
  • Abbie can’t help wishing they had taken some of the books from Jefferson’s fenestela. Then why didn’t you?! AUGGGHH.
  • According to Still-Evil Iring, both Cynthia and Macey are Potential Witches. Now I’m kinda hoping that Awakening spell ended up working.
  • The show went to a lot of trouble to remind us that Abbie and Ichabod are in possession of a gorgon’s head; that’s gotta be Chekhov’s Medusa face, right? What’s the over-under on it playing a role in the finale?
  • As Henry dies, he’s reciting Hamlet’s words about his slain father—”He was a man. Take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again”—to his own father, who helps him finish the line. It’s kinda sweet, and fully appropriate.
  • According to Colin Quinn, it’s the Constitution that was written on the back of a bar napkin rather than the Articles of Confederation, as Ichabod says—but who’s counting?
  • Fighting the urge to call the show’s new big bad VoldeKat. I may lose this battle.

Follow Hillary on Twitter: @hillibusterr

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