A couple of months after Sleepy Hollow premiered in 2013, Vulture’s own Margaret Lyons wrote a piece called “Sleepy Hollow’s Secret Formula: A Bunch of Great Shows Rolled Into One.” Calling the series a “crazy pile-on of a dozen supernatural stories,” she noted influences as far and wide as The X-Files, House, Kate & Leopold, True Blood, American Horror Story, Lost, and Law & Order: SVU.
For the bulk of this season (as well as a good number of episodes last year), I’ve felt like the primary, if not sole, Sleepy Hollow inspiration has only been that last one: SVU. Despite a wack-a-doo premise with the promise of so much genre-bending fun, SH has seemed content to pace itself as a procedural buddy-cop drama, albeit with a few metaphysical flourishes thrown in.
The past few weeks, encouragingly, have yielded more action-packed episodes than usual, suggesting a return to the show’s original, as Lyons put it, “sarcastic sense of humor that keeps things from getting too gloomy” and “more-is-more approach.”
And then came last night’s episode. Which was called “Awakening.” And holy Headless Horseman, Ichie — was it ever! I don’t think Sleepy Hollow has ever given us a more boffo, badass moment than when Abbie, after being unwittingly transported by Katrina to the 1700s, slowly realizes where she is (at the same time as we do, through the clever visual clues of the stagecoach and the Sleepy Hollow village sign) while a classical-music rendering of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” plays in the background. This is the sort of witty, winking-at-pop-culture, balls-out, cheeky WTF-ness the show has needed for so long!
While that was by far my favorite moment, there are others sprinkled throughout “Awakening” that likewise woke me the hell up from my complacent SH-viewing habits. Did anyone else catch that the name of Sleepy Hollow’s funeral home was Aarniokoski — also the surname of the guy who directed this episode? If that’s not quite the Hoffs-Drawlar Funeral Parlor, it is still most definitely a deliciously Lost-like Easter egg that I am super psyched to find. I also picked up on a couple of Back to the Future Easter eggs, which of course made perfect sense, once we got to all that time-traveling at episode’s end. “I had no idea that a man out of time was itself such a timeworn literary trope,” Crane muses in the opening scene. Abbie ticks off famous time travelers throughout literature: “Doctor Who, Connecticut Yankee, Marty McFly — the list goes on.” Then after Henry’s half-assed attempt at ringing the faux Liberty Bell — which causes a guy driving a van to strike a cyclist and get electrocuted — Crane muses, “It does seem improbable that an electrical surge would occur at the same instant as a road-rage confrontation.” One point twenty-one gigawatts, people!
Next: Katrina!! Yowza, all that newfound swagger coursing through Katrina’s coven-coveting veins. I mean, Katrina is finally (if not instantly) a character with texture and intrigue and slippery-slope morals, right? The defiant, insouciant looks she tosses toward Crane when the whole gang meets at the bell are priceless. I hope to God I’m not the only one who likes Katrina better now that she’s evil. Matching her bravado is Crane, emphatically and finally unafraid to sever his family ties for the sake of his duties as witness and his sense of what is right. Pardon my French, but when Crane stood in the middle of the street and yelled out, “HENRY PARRISH,” he may as well have been yelling, “MOTHERFUCKER!”
There are also, to be sure, several small moments throughout “Awakening” that rubbed me the wrong way. Frank’s arc was kinda one-note (basically, “Tell me where my family is or I’ll shoot you, Jenny”) but worth it in the end, because we got old Frank back and because Frank is a character for whom I feel endless compassion. In the first half of the episode, Abbie is strangely relegated to spouting Leftenant Obvious exposition, like, “These people are exhibiting magical powers,” and, “A thousand people turn into witches? We’re talking mayhem.” That whole Gorgon’s head “nuclear option” plotline fizzles into nothing, and I can’t help feeling like Katrina’s sudden concern that “witches would finally reintegrate into society” is both too sudden and 200-ish years too late. (Katrina: “No longer would our kind be hunted, marginalized, burned.” Me: “Um, point of information: They are no longer any of those things.”)
But for the first time in a very long while, I finished watching a Sleepy Hollow episode and COULD. NOT. WAIT. for the next one to get here already. I want the Forrest Gump–ian brushes with history to reach a fever pitch. I want to see what Katrina’s main objectives will be now that she’s gone back in time: Will she stay evil? Will she tell 18th-century Crane about Jeremy? Will she anything Crane at all? And then the biggest question mark of all: What’s going to happen to Abbie??
This whole business about how Crane cracked the Liberty Bell: Does it feel to you like they just had him say that because it sounded cool in the promo teaser for this week’s episode? Because, um, not only did Crane not crack the Liberty Bell, but I don’t believe they ever fully explained how Crane blowing up a Liberty Bell prototype some 100 years prior counts in any way as cracking the Liberty Bell.
I luuuurve me some Tom Mison, but have you ever noticed that his acting pretty much boils down to dramatically raising his index finger? I can’t believe I never put my finger on this before (HAR HAR), but in “Awakening” I counted you-shall-not-have-this-bell finger, aha-I-need-to-buy-flint-and-steel finger, I’m-telling-you-for-the-last-time-let-Katrina-go finger, be-wary-what-you-say-cannot-be-unsaid finger, and a general I-don’t-understand finger (a.k.a. wait-wait-wait-hold-up finger). I’m not complaining, I just fingered I’d mention it.
Crane: I had no idea that a man out of time was itself such a timeworn literary trope.
Abbie: Doctor Who, Connecticut Yankee, Marty McFly, the list goes on.
Crane: Here I thought I was rather unique.
Abbie: Don’t worry; you’re the only one in the nonfiction section.
Bookstore owner: There’s rare and obscure, and then there’s your list … I mean, where exactly did you say that you’d seen these books?
Abbie/Crane (simultaneously): Oxford/internet.
Abbie: A witness always tips their witness. A witness never starts a land war in Asia. [Princess Bride reference!!!]
Crane: We must refrain from spoiling the ends of motion pictures. Thank you, Rosebud.
Abbie: The problem is, the witness had already downed half a bottle of wine.
Crane: And the Articles of Confederation were written on the back of a bar napkin.
Abbie: That was your brilliant plan. A decoy dummy.
Crane: A time-tested tactic since Hannibal of Carthage.
Crane: If only we had such a wealth of tools whilst building a nation … What, pray tell, are seasonal items?
Crane: My good man, could you direct me to the store quadrant where I might find flint and steel?
Store employee: Uh, is that a CD? Or a cologne? ‘Cause we don’t carry either.
Abbie: A lighter. Modern marvel. Right by checkout.
Crane: I appreciate the modern world, but sometimes old school is the best school … Ooh, batteries!