It finally happened! Apocalypse has arrived! Who else has never felt more eager to witness the beginning of the end of days?
While last night’s episode of Sleepy Hollow finally brought us the day of reckoning we’ve been promised since the series premiere, it also made us wait for it. In fact, I found the first half of “The Akeda” frustrating for the way it repeatedly employed a hurry-up-and-wait narrative approach: We have to get there now! Wait, we have to make sure there isn’t another way! This can’t wait! But wait!
With this week’s episode picking up right where last week’s left off, we start with Abbie and Crane speeding toward Fredericks Manor with their recently retrieved, Moloch-slaying sword. (Neither lightning storm nor vocabulary-stunted gas-station attendant nor gloom of dead car battery stays these witnesses from the swift completion of their Earth-saving duties. To the motorcycle!) At the house, they find Henry’s model-size rendition of Sleepy Hollow, the one he’s been tinkering with all season, and we finally get a little payoff for those occasional scenes as well as a swift recap of the season’s escapades as our heroes recount all the places where Henry has struck (the flower shop, the carriage house, etc.). Hey lookie, string ‘em together (literally) and they make a pentagram! Abbie remarks that there was one that looked just like it in Moloch’s lair, but, um, all pentagrams look pretty much exactly the same, right?
Then, in our first patience-testing moment of delayed gratification, we’re sidetracked as Abbie and Crane go to save Katrina — YET. AGAIN. — from Abraham, who apparently refuses to give up on this whole binding ritual that, for myriad reasons I can’t recall at the moment, he could never seem to carry out to its conclusion. Abraham winds up telling Crane and Company that their sword is cursed with a catch-22; if you use it to slay Moloch, you die. “I need time to prove or disprove Abraham’s assertion,” Crane says, which, even as a Crane-ism, is a really lame statement to make when the apocalypse is about to rain down on you (in the form of blood hail; gross!). Cue more waiting, which on this show means — to the library!
What I liked most about the first half of “The Akeda” was seeing Crane and Katrina finally getting to the truth of how frayed and fractured their marriage has become. (Second-half spoiler alert: They break up! In a totally junior-high way.) Early on, Crane has a conversation with Abbie that shows how much he’s still equivocating over his allegiance to both Katrina and Henry. “It isn’t easy for you, seeing her with him,” Abbie remarks about Katrina and the now-captured Abraham. Crane: “Katrina must take a more personal approach.” Abbie: “And now she’s saved Abraham’s life.” Crane: “Only to save mine.” Abbie: “You must be able to kill Henry.” Crane: “Moloch is our target; everything else is secondary.” We also have Katrina (ugh) acting every bit the emotionally unfaithful girlfriend with her see-right-through-you statements like, “Maybe I should stay here and guard Abraham,” and, “My love, there’s always another way.” (Yes, there is, and oftentimes that’s the problem with this show.)
We’ve heard this wishy-washiness from them before. Crane’s stalling because he finds it so hard to identify or admit his truest feelings and desires. (It’s almost as if he’s trolling his own “true self,” which gave him such moral ajita last week.) Katrina, meanwhile, seems even less sure of what she truly wants, other than for everything to stay in a certain limbo that lets her have things both ways, and is a total hag (sorry, couldn’t help myself). But I actually appreciated all of this fretting because it served as a stark reminder that if Sleepy Hollow is about one thing only, it’s loyalty. With whom do your loyalties truly lie? What sacrifices will you be able to carry out for the sake of that loyalty? How will you choose which person, belief, or ideal you will be loyal to above all others?
Yet the character who most dramatically embodied the life-or-death importance of those questions wasn’t Crane, Katrina, or Abbie; it was Frank. His soul has already been claimed, which makes him, on a technicality, the one who must play evil-slayer. That both frees and forces him to be loyal to a loftier ideal (save humankind), one that lets him fulfill certain aspects of his loyalty to his family (in that they’re part of humankind), but only if he risks abandoning the ideal he’d most like to fulfill (reunite with his daughter, which, in this context, carries an understandable but slight sense of selfishness).
When Frank started fighting, this episode switched gears in all the best ways. There was kick-assness (Frank being all, “I got this!”; the look of pure admiration on Crane’s face as Frank did, in fact, get this! Puddles of Horseman-melting lava and fire!). There was dread; when I saw that Frank was badly wounded, I said out loud, “No no no no no no no.” And then when he (ugh, don’t want to type it) died, I said through an entire commercial break, “Nope nope nope nope.” There was the A-team (as Hawley cheekily called them this week) saying stirring calls to action (“I swear to you his sacrifice will not be in vain,” “I’ve been on borrowed time for far too long”) as it seemed Frank’s death finally clarified for all of them that their utmost loyalty is to one another.
“The Akeda” ended with one of the best episode-ending cliff-hangers of the season: Henry slays Moloch! But perhaps even more important, Henry’s loyalties finally shift away from the demon he insisted on calling “Father.” In fact, I’d say it was the best ending since the first-season finale in one very key way: I have no idea where Sleepy Hollow is going to go next. Which has the delicious effect of making me feel all the more loyal to it.
Okay, how does Frank come back from the dead? My guess is that since Henry previously took his soul from him, he has the power to somehow give it back to him, in effect resurrecting him. You never know when or in what direction Henry’s loyalty will turn, but I’m hoping he does Frank a solid for one reason or another. (I kept thinking of the Princess Bride line, “He is only mostly dead.”)
Also, as alluded to above, what happens next with Henry? Does he join the Scooby Gang? Or now that he’s slayed Moloch, will he try to assume his command post as ruler of all evil?
“We must have conveyance immediately.”
“Where do I buckle?”
“I want one of these. As soon as this is over.”
And one from Hawley: “I’m gonna have to do something less fun, aren’t I?” (I do wish they would’ve let him have a little more fun; I was disappointed that he was introduced into this episode only to go guard Abraham and nothing more.)