Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way (for now, of course — we’ll most definitely circle back): Sleepy Hollow, at its core, has always been a show about free will. What duties must you face in life because you have no choice? How do you exercise free will in the most dire of circumstances? It’s a show that’s demonstrated time and again how we always have more choice, more free will than we believe we do, even when — especially when — those choices are so monumental that they alter the course of history and reveal our innermost selves. No surprise Sleepy Hollow is always at its best when its characters are made to face these formidable forks in the road — which is just one reason why Sleepy Hollow’s second-season finale pretty much rocked.
Bucking the show’s (frustrating, in my opinion) penchant for self-contained episodes and smaller narrative arcs, last week’s penultimate season-two installment gave us a story line that served as a callback all the way to the pilot: Just like Crane, Abbie unwittingly became a person stuck out of time, brought back to the Revolutionary War alongside Katrina. I spent all week with a little knot of worry in my gut for Abbie, wondering how Crane would react to meeting her again for the first time and how far the SH writers would take the premise of a heretofore free black woman plopped down in Colonial times. (The moment she was approached by soldiers at Ye Olde Village Bulletin Board last week, I actually said aloud, “Uh-oh.”)
It, surprisingly, took a good 15 or 20 minutes this week before it dawned on me that, hey, things are going swimmingly for Abbie! Between her headstrong attitude and her secret intel, convincing Crane of her good intentions and from-the-future authenticity turns out to be relatively easy. Other than a couple of verbal nods to her predicament (“You want her? Buy her at auction”), it seems like the most uncomfortable part for Abbie is that bumpy stagecoach ride to Ben Franklin’s house. I attribute my distraction on this issue to two things: (1) This was a zippy episode that sped along at an entertainingly brisk pace from start to finish, and (2) Nicole Beharie’s wonderful performance. Abbie has always been intense, but last night Beharie also brought a pathos to her character that we haven’t seen since early in the first season, when she was still being haunted on the regular by Corbin’s death and Jenny’s psych-ward incarceration.
So things really kick into high gear about a third of the way through. Katrina meets up with the not-yet-headless Abraham and reestablishes her loyalties to him by zapping some poor soldier on the battlefield. Then Abraham up and lops off Franklin’s head, which I totally did not expect, but not before Franklin informs Abbie and Crane that Katrina’s time-travel spell can be undone. (I considered this plot wrinkle, the notion that time travel can be undone, as a kind of allusion to Back to the Future, which was heavily referenced last week.)
Everything’s going so well up to this point, and then Abbie gets thrown back into the clink and I can feel my anxiety peaking, and then — brilliant! — Abbie remembers her smartphone. Folks, I’ve quibbled in the past about the low-stakes-ness of various SH monster-of-the-week episodes. This was not one of them, especially not during the sequence that cut between the smartphone subplot, which was equal parts high-pressure and hilarious, and Katrina and Ichabod’s cat-and-mouse scene at the Crane residence. Considering the show’s tendency to explain most everything through copious dialogue, I loved the way Crane silently picked up on the visual cues to Katrina’s witchiness while Katrina, unbeknownst to him, pointed a levitating knife at his back! And I loved the way that tension further escalated as Crane fumbled with Abbie’s phone while Abbie struggled to free herself from her cell. (Her badass beatdown of the colonel was just a bonus.)
Then we’re treated to the scene at Fredericks Manor, which is as emotionally rich as the previous sequence was action-packed. There’s beautiful chemistry between Abbie and Grace Dixon, but the hug between Abbie and Crane — oof, that’s the emotional high point of the night. I mean, what a wallop to the feels, am I right? And I’m realizing now that these two people have barely touched one another all year. So, I have to ask: Is that some 'shipping news or what? Does Katrina’s impending demise right that 'ship? Is the #IchAbbie 'ship setting sail once again?
Okay, I’m done with the 'shipping jokes, so now I’ll revisit my original exclamation: ZOMG KATRINA!!!! I’m going to type the obvious just because I still can’t quite believe it: Crane killed Katrina! (With basically the same knife she was preparing to stab him with back in the 1700s, by the by.) It was insanely unexpected and practically Shakespearean (or at the very least Chekhovian), and I cannot believe — CANNOT BELIEVE — the show had the balls to do it. “You had no choice,” Abbie tells Crane, who was clearly as stunned as the rest of us. “Yes, I did,” he replies. His choice, in fact, illuminates several definitive choices that have now been made about where this cuckoo-in-a-good-way show is headed. The message has finally been received that very little could be done with Katrina. That doesn’t mean that she (or Henry) is gone forever, but she’ll no longer be narrative dead weight, just as Crane’s feelings of marital obligation toward her, I think it’s safe to say, are henceforth eradicated. Meanwhile, I can’t help recalling Abbie’s first-season ex-boyfriend Luke, who was unceremoniously vanished from the show, and I can’t help feeling like the dismissal of both Abbie and Crane’s significant others points to a possible more-than-witnesses future relationship between them. That’s not to say I want that because, really, I’d prefer they keep things strictly business with a generous side of platonic loyalty and love. But if nothing else, this finale wiped Sleepy Hollow clean of its weaknesses and impediments and pared it back to its essentials.
“[Grace] told me that the most crucial battles are still ahead of us,” Abbie tells our Scooby Gang foursome at the end. “This is why we’re here, all of us, together.” Copy that, Leftenant.
Do you think Henry’s apparition at the time of Katrina’s death was a visual reference to Return of the Jedi’s Force ghosts?
Crane: Her accent ... it alludes to upstate New York.
Abbie: That’s gonna be a Starbucks ... that livery stable, too.
Crane: [Slides phone across table to unlock] What devilry is this?
Crane: I viewed a moving picture in which you and I attempted to create a still picture.
Abbie: A selfie.
Crane: As you said.
Crane: Is this intimacy commonplace in 2015?
Abbie: We hug it out.