Action, adventure, and Naked Ben Franklin welcome us back to TV's most enjoyably ridiculous thrill ride.
Sleepy Hollow
Credit: Brownie Harris/Fox

Previously on Sleepy Hollow: EVERYTHING. ALL OF IT.

But seriously, folks—can you imagine even attempting to step into the wacky, overstuffed world of Sleepy by skipping season 1, then tuning into tonight’s premiere? Clearly, the folks at Fox can—which is why “This Is War” opens with a lengthy “previously-on” sequence that handily summarizes (or at least attempts to summarize) the first season’s major plot points.

Come to think of it, much of tonight’s episode seemed designed to explain the show to new viewers, or at least to remind old ones what the hell happened last year. Considering just how long it’s been since season 1’s finale first aired—nearly 250 years!—some of those flashbacks and callbacks were helpful. Others were clunky, like Jenny reminding Ichabod not to eat or drink anything in Purgatory… seconds before an Ichabod doppelganger offers a Purgatory-trapped Abbie a sip of water. Come on, Sleepy; you’re smart enough to know how smart your viewers are. You don’t have to hold our hands.

Generally speaking, though, Sleepy kicked off its second season with an episode nearly as action-packed and gloriously cheeky as last year’s premiere. The hour was so kinetic, in fact, that I didn’t realize how little actually happened in it until a few hours after I finished watching. As entertaining as it was—Naked Benjamin Franklin! Ichabod driving an ambulance! Abbie shooting two guns at once! Jenny kicking ass and taking names, then kicking the asses of the people whose names she just took! Katrina still being a character!—”This Is War” functioned largely as a giant reset button, neatly resolving most of the finale’s cliffhangers and reuniting our central twosome after a bare minimum of separation.

Some questions remain unanswered; the premiere had no time to check in on poor, incarcerated Captain Irving, and it remains to be seen whether Crane’s witch of a wife will be able to escape Headless’ clutches (or if anyone will care if she does). But on the whole, tonight was all about throat-clearing and setup; we’ll have to wait until next week to see what season 2’s really going to look like.

So let’s dig into that cleared throat. But not, like, in a Dr. CokeFoot kind of way. Ahem.

We begin with a shot of Ichabod underground that quickly morphs into a bit of alt-universe fan fiction—in which a year has passed since Henry Parrish’s ascension, Henry’s a captive in the tunnels beneath the Hollow, Jenny and Katrina are dead (must… stop… making Katrina jokes…), and Ichabbie’s all alone in a secluded cabin, lit only by the flame of one seductive birthday candle. We’ll call this The Scene That Launched A Thousand ‘Shippers.

NEXT: Sigh! Nothing gold can stay

It’s too lovely to last, of course; before long, the plot is set in motion. Alt-Universe Crane and Mills must stop the Headless Horseman from getting his hands on the Very Important Papers that point to this week’s MacGuffin: the key Benjamin Franklin used to invent electricity, or whatever. Naturally, Ichabod just so happens to have been Franklin’s apprentice. (By season 4, half of what I write in these recaps will just be variations on “Naturally, Ichabod just so happens to have dated Betsy Ross/worked for Ben Franklin/gone to school with Benedict Arnold/learned penmanship from John Hancock/taught Thomas Paine the phrase ‘common sense’/helped Thomas Jefferson design Monticello/baked the very first apple pie.” I love this crazy show.)

Anyway: Franklin was actually attempting to destroy said key when he flew that fateful kite. Why? Because it’s the key to Gehenna, a.k.a. Purgatory—and possessing it allows a soul to leave the Valley of the Damned without another soul being forced to take his or her place. It’d also enable, say, an entire army of disgruntled dead folk to escape their immortal prison and flood the land of the living.

Thus our main quest is established: Ichabod and Abbie must find the key before Moloch can. And luckily, they’ve got a head start on the baddie: Abbie knows that Jenny once read Franklin’s notebook, which holds the secret to where the key is hidden. Of course, they lose their upper hand pretty quickly once it’s revealed that a) everything that’s been happening for the past 15 minutes of show time is actually an elaborate ruse perpetrated by Henry and Moloch, b) in reality, Ichabod is still trapped underground, and Abbie is still trapped in Purgatory, and c) now Henry knows how to find the key. You win some, you lose some.

So now our heroes are even more screwed than they were at the end of the finale. Fun! That won’t last long, though, because Ichabod is about to blow himself out of the goddamn ground by making a land mine out of dirt.

That’s right: Ichabod is trapped inside of a coffin. A coffin buried beneath at least six feet of prime, upstate New York soil. Soil which, evidently, is composed almost entirely of sulfur. Okay. Fine. Sure. The point is, Ichabod smells and tastes the odious element (ew), then has the bright idea to craft a makeshift wick, which he lights with the flint he also happens to carry with him at all times. And here comes the boom, followed by Ichabod’s wildly grasping left hand. That’s right: Crane didn’t just escape being buried alive. He exploded his way out.

Though Ichabod has escaped his own confinement, the ladies of Sleepy Hollow haven’t been so lucky. Katrina’s being held captive by Headless; Abbie’s running around Purgatory (at least she’s out of that creepy dollhouse!); Jenny’s been picked up off the side of the road by Henry and one of his Hessian henchmen. The Horseman of War decides to read her sins so that he can find where Franklin’s key is, which leads Jenny to spit out one of the episode’s best lines: “I’ve done a lot of sinning. I hope you choke on every one of them.”

NEXT: Baby, you can drive my car

Alas, Jenny’s awesome words are just words—they can’t prevent Henry from reading her mind and seeing the notebook pages she once spied, which contain a coded message about the key’s location. Soon enough, he’s off to find the item, while the Hessian is left behind to watch his captive. And that poor sucker’s about to learn why you never leave just one dude to guard Jenny Mills. (Can we still celebrate Jenny’s awesomeness now that she has straight-up murdered another human being? Ehh, Sleepy moves too quickly to leave time for pondering issues like that.)

As Jenny fights her way out of the compound—after letting Crane know where she is, via the magic of cell phones—Ichabod is fighting his way in. (Evidently, meticulous Henry didn’t think it’d be a big deal to bury his father mere steps away from where he interrogated Jenny. Details!) The two converge when Jenny is cornered by a pair of Germans—and Ichabod comes barreling inside in a stolen ambulance. After Jenny spots him, he gives her the most marvelous “ehhh, what can you do?” Kanye shrug. His heroics are dampened slightly when Jenny climbs on board, tells him to step on it… and realizes that Crane actually doesn’t know how to drive. Ha!

Thankfully, the two make it out alive—and more importantly, back to Corbin’s archives, where they consult the coded notebook. The message is written in Franklin’s phonetic alphabet; according to Ichabod, it says that the founding father “left a key in Sleepy Hollow with the only person he trusted.” Meaning Benjamin Franklin. Ha again! They use this to glean that the key must be near a statue of Franklin in town.

After a touching emergency broadcast from a still Purgatory-trapped Abbie—poor Nicole Beharie really doesn’t have much to do tonight—Ichabod and his substitute lieutenant arrive at the statue, only to find that the Hessians have beaten them there. The bad guys aren’t finding the key, though, because it’s actually located beneath a nearby clock tower—as Ichabod realizes after remembering an aphorism attributed to Franklin: “The key to success lies under the alarm clock.”

And so Crane and Jenny finally have the key to rescuing Abbie. (I say “finally,” although really, I think maybe 12 hours have transpired since the events of the finale. Life moves pretty fast in Sleepy Hollow. If you don’t stop and look around and murder demons every once in awhile, you might miss it.) Before you can say “cheap CGI,” Ichabod has arrived in the bleak hellscape that is Purgatory—only to find a fiend with his face trying to trick Abbie into drinking from his canteen.

NEXT: Reunited and it feels so good; plus, Doughnut Holes!

Get ready for the fight of the century: Ichabod vs. Ichabod! Basically, it’s this, but more handsome:

In the end, the true Crane kicks away his doppelganger and starts leading Abbie away. “Let’s go home. We recite the incantation, we return to your sister,” he tells her. “Finally, lieutenant.”

Pronounced “loo-tenant.”

Which is when Abbie chops the impostor’s lying head off. K, I’m taking back that thing I said about Nicole Beharie having nothing to do tonight.

And so the Witnesses are reunited, as are the Millses; once they’ve crossed the CGI border back into the land of the living, the key crumbles into dust, meaning we’re going to have to start being a lot more careful about who we leave in Purgatory. All is well—or as well as well can be when Moloch has just given his wicked foster son a kickass, larger-than-life Horseman of War puppet, complete with a flaming sword. Just another Monday night in Sleepy Hollow.

Doughnut Holes

–Petulant Alt-Universe Birthday Ichabod could be my new favorite flavor of Ichabod, especially when he’s suspiciously eyeing Abbie’s candle: “We just stare at it?”

–Have I mentioned that Crane was none too fond of Franklin—a “blowhard, braggart, blatherskite, and gasbag”? He gets in his best line when Abbie mentions old Ben’s impact on colonial America: “Impact? On the scores of strumpets he crushed beneath his girth, perhaps.”

–Also, wait: Crane was Franklin’s apprentice? Learning… what, exactly? The art of making pithy quips?

–And one more, before this section becomes nothing but Ichabod lines—Ichabod on Harvard: “That place still exists?”

–According to Ichabod, Franklin claimed to have infiltrated a secret society called The Hellfire Club, which was “fixated on defeating America’s quest for freedom.” According to several questionable internet sources, it was also orgy central. This may or may not come up in future episodes.

–Yes, West Wing fans, that was Danny Concannon (a.k.a. Timothy Busfield) as Franklin. Expect to see him pop up a few more times this year.

–Curse you, opening credits, for spoiling Ghost John Cho’s surprise appearance! Unfortunately, it’s the last we’ll likely see of him for awhile, since he’s currently trapped in Purgatory (a.k.a. ABC’s Selfie).

–It’s fun to watch Jenny play the role of Abbie-by-proxy and wonder what Sleepy Hollow would be like if she were the Witness and her sister was just a simple cop. I feel like there’d be a lot less delightful chatter and a lot more dead bodies.

–Hey, Katrina actually did something besides deliver dire messages and get kidnapped… until Headless easily fended her off and tied her up again. I’m reminded of Ron yelling at Hermione when they’re caught by Devil’s Snare in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: “HAVE YOU GONE MAD? ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?”

–Another potentially interesting wrinkle: Headless has the necklace he once gave Katrina, back when he was Abraham, and it allows her to see the man beneath the horseman. Should we prepare ourselves for a Beauty and the Beast-style plot here?

Follow me on Twitter: @hillibusterr

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