The Witnesses have to decide how far they'll go to stop the Hidden One
Credit: Tina Rowden/Fox

Please allow me to introduce myself: I’m overwhelmed. Losing a key member of Team Witness was emotional enough; losing an actual Witness is something else. Looking back, it’s almost unsurprising — Pandora called out Abbie earlier this season for not “craving” mortality. She saw her life as a duty, and it was inevitable that her trips to the underworld would catch up with her eventually. But despite the warning signs, I didn’t expect this. What is Sleepy Hollow without the dynamic between the “lef-tenant” and the man she calls Crane?

Watching “Ragnarok” as if it’s the series finale, it mostly works. There’s a sense of finality to the episode: It pays respect to some of Abbie and Crane’s best moments and acknowledges the cost of their role as Witnesses by claiming the woman who was ready to move on anyway. Abbie Mills dies saving the world. That feels right. But watching the episode for what it is — an open ending — is a lot less satisfying. Sleepy Hollow is caught in the waiting room between renewal and cancelation like Abbie between worlds, and there’s a chance that while Abbie moves on in one direction, the show might have to move on in another. That makes what should be a fitting eulogy feel like it’s shortchanging her by default.

“Ragnarok” starts out well. Betsy, who looked last week like she was going to spend the whole finale as the Witnesses’ third wheel, is dispatched in minutes. She hangs around just long enough to tell Crane that his heart “belongs to Abigail Mills” (even plot devices can see it), and then it’s back to her own time. The Betsy who returned from the catacombs was the real Betsy after all; she just broke off their friendship because she knew that he had a bigger future in store. Is Betsy Ross the anti-Katrina? I wish that were the episode’s biggest twist.

As for the Witnesses, they’re left alone to deal with the fallout of Pandora’s latest betrayal. None of her detailed instructions for restoring the box bothered to mention one ingredient: a Witness’ soul. Crane narrowly rescues Abbie from the box’s first attempt to snag her, but something is still wrong. She’s wobbly on her feet. There’s just no time to worry about it, what with all of the tearful hugs from Jenny, the news of Joe’s death, and her dad making himself at home in the archives like he’s been here the whole time. And the apocalypse.

The Hidden One has Pandora locked up in the Stonehenge of mirrors while he monologues about his plans to destroy the world. (He’s been a bust as a villain, but I do enjoy his ignorance; he acts like plaguing humanity with “rivers running red” and “crops turning black” is a really original idea that no god has ever had before.) Jenny and Abbie distract the Hidden One with Greek Fire while Crane slides the box to Pandora, but it’s not powerful enough. If the back half of season 3 has a subtitle, that’s it: The Box Isn’t Powerful Enough But Could Be With a Small Human Sacrifice, Oops, Sorry, Pandora Doesn’t Make the Rules.

Abbie knows what she has to do. As Crane insists that there has to be another way — all while repeatedly calling her “Abbie,” which I’m finding hard to cope with right now — she stands in the light of the box, and it takes her along with the Hidden One’s power. “Crane, never give up hope,” she tells her partner. She means it in the broader sense; he takes it to mean that he has to get her back.

NEXT: Heads will roll

Crane and Jenny make appeals, but Pandora refuses to return Abbie’s soul. She’s mad at Jenny for shooting the Hidden One in the head, which is funny, because I love Jenny for the same reason. (“That was for Joe.”) Sighing that she’s through being ordered around, Pandora — who inherits all of her husband’s powers — snaps her fingers and disappears, only to pop up in a church in one of Regina Mills’ (MILLS!) discarded Once Upon a Time costumes. She makes it work. Pandora promises the trembling mortals in the pews that she’ll watch out for them as long as they fear and worship her properly. She opens her box, and they all run screaming. Now she’s just toying with everyone.

Crane and Jenny catch up with Pandora in a cemetery, where they find her scattering rose petals and muttering, “Now he’s dead,” like a jilted bride who’s happy about it. Imagine how much more fun we could have had if Pandora were the sole villain all season. Wasn’t she enough for us? Only one Sleepy Hollow villain could ever compare — and he’s about to ride again. Crane has the skull. Pandora has the box. Welcome back, Headless Horseman.

I didn’t know how much I missed him until he galloped through the headstones, but he’s a sight for sore eyes and a callback to the show at its madcap best. Even the way Crane tosses the Horseman his head and invites him to “end” Pandora, reminding Jenny that nothing they do can bring about Moloch’s apocalypse now that Moloch is dead, feels like something the show used to do all the time: win. Sleepy Hollow is never better than in those moments when Abbie and Crane know they’ve got the upper hand over the monsters; the characters aren’t impervious, but they’re fun when they feel like they are. And isn’t this show supposed to be fun?

Sleepy is at a crossroads: Go one way, and the Witnesses start winning again; go the other, and you get the rest of this episode. Crane joins forces with Headless to defeat Pandora, then talks his old foe out of killing him. Pandora is bleeding to death; all she has to do is release Abbie’s soul, and they’re back in business. But Abbie’s soul was never in the box. She’s really dead — or at least on her way there. While Crane fights to get her back, Abbie finds herself in an otherworldly version of their old bar, enjoying some literal pie in the sky with August Corbin himself. The Sheriff tells Abbie how proud he is of her, then claps his son on the shoulder and buys him a beer. That’s one round of closure for everyone.

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I doubt Pandora gets to go to that bar. After joining Betsy in the Stating the Obvious department — “You love her, don’t you? She is your hope, your everything” — Pandora dies, leaving Crane and Jenny with a box that’s ready to blow. Crane locks it into the Masonic cell, but the explosion knocks him out as he makes his escape — and he wakes in the same holding cell where he and Abbie first met. His hair is long again; she’s in her old SHPD lieutenant’s uniform. He asks her to unlock the door (“let’s go home”), but Abbie has other plans: “It’s time to say goodbye.”

NEXT: Men in black

In a flash, Crane and Abbie are back in the archives. They’re in a waiting room between life and death, she explains, and Crane’s journey isn’t over. She takes his hand and leads him to her front porch swing, where this nice (if VERY EMOTIONAL) trip down memory lane starts to unravel. Abbie feels like her life has fallen into place; she’s found peace with her sister, her father, and Danny, and she’s ready for a new beginning. But isn’t that already a new beginning? Being settled and happy is a new thing for Abbie, and while it isn’t a bad place for her to find herself in the end, it would be nice if she had some time to enjoy it.

And if Abbie doesn’t feel like she has unfinished business with Crane, he definitely has some with her, which is the same thing in the end. Everyone is talking about how much Crane loves Abbie, but he isn’t saying anything (at least not directly. “What is there for me in a world without you?” is close). I’ve waffled on this ‘ship, but the past few months have pulled me on board — and no matter what you want to see happen between the partners, it’s bittersweet to know how he feels about her and see nothing come of it. The time to be vague about it has passed. Let’s just have the conversation.

Then again, if the conversation is going to sound like Abbie’s pep talk, maybe they shouldn’t. Abbie tries to give Crane the motivation to keep going, but in the process, she says the one thing about their relationship that no one asked to hear. Speaking of Crane’s other partners and mentors, Abbie says, “Our job was to carry you forward. My job is done.” It’s an idea that relegates Abbie to the role of supporting player, and while the show clearly sees her as more than a prop for Crane — she just saved the world — that’s not a fitting exit line. Crane shuts it down, but he shouldn’t have to.

With a fist bump-turned-kiss-on-the-hand (“Be still my beating heart”), Abbie is gone, leaving Crane to wake up as Jenny finds him in the tunnel. Jenny is really getting the shaft in all of this. She doesn’t get to journey through her greatest hits with her sister, and when Crane visits Abbie’s grave, Jenny is off scattering Joe’s ashes. There’s a hint that she can’t bring herself to stop by Abbie’s grave yet, but the Mills sisters deserve a more ceremonial farewell, even though Crane’s conversation with Abbie’s headstone is one of the most affecting scenes of the hour. When he updates her on his life — he’s been accepted as an archivist at the historical society, he’s applying for citizenship, and he’s put her house up for sale — Abbie’s life feels like nothing but unfinished business.

Now to the unfinished business that is the future of this show. Ezra shows up at the cemetery to drop a couple of revelations on Crane. First up, Witnesses are the partner version of Slayers: There must always be two, and the second one has already been called. Witness No. 2 will be a member of Abbie’s extended bloodline, and that part of her soul lives on in someone else. And! Washington founded a secret organization to battle the supernatural, which still exists within the government (the X-Files unit. It’s the X-Files unit). Crane is its appointed leader. As if on cue, men in suits roll up in black cars, FBI Assistant Director Jack Walters asks Crane to come with him, and a cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” sends him into the unknown. How many more covers of that song can this show use? Do we want to find out?

Doughnut Holes:

  • Is Jenny the new Witness?
  • “She sacrificed herself so that you could be here and win the day. Don’t you dare let that be for nothing.”
  • “Are you coming back?”
  • Nothing can soften this blow, but having Joe around wouldn’t have hurt.
  • Sign me up for sleeping tapes that are just Crane doing his intimate “Abbie is injured in the catacombs” voice.
  • “It’s a pet name.”
  • “That was not very sporting!”
  • Trek, not Wars.” Crane just lapped Abbie on pop culture.
  • “Well, the final season of American Idol has begun. It’s not a return to form. Requires your spirited commentary.”
  • “She bore witness.”

Episode Recaps

Sleepy Hollow
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