Sleepy Hollow Recap: Can I Get a Witness Back?

Photo: Tina Rowden/Fox

For those of you who still JUST CAN’T EVEN with that season finale, here’s a one-paragraph, TL;DR recap: There were a few touching scenes, but overall it was really poorly written. Even if Abbie hadn’t been killed: If she were stuck in some otherworld once again or her fate had somehow been left hanging, that ending still would’ve been tear-up-the-upholstery frustrating, with no real payoff or satisfaction. But Abbie was killed, so now the whole reason for watching Sleepy Hollow — Team Ichabbie’s insanely delicious chemistry — is no longer.

I sat on my couch with my mouth agape (too stunned to bother tearing up the upholstery, actually) for at least 20 minutes after last night’s episode ended. Team Ichabbie may have made the ultimate sacrifice to yet again ward off an apocalypse in tee vee land, but in real life, that decision may have fer realsies brought about the end of days for Sleepy Hollow’s fan base. Geez, when I suggested burning the whole thing down last week, I didn’t think they’d actually do it.

Buying into Sleepy Hollow has always meant allowing the show its numerous (i.e., more than average for the sci-fi genre) leaps of logic. Why do bullets ricochet off this or that demon, while a blade slices right through? What’s the likelihood of always finding the exact right book you need just in time to save the world? How come gods like The Hidden One are sometimes omnipotent but mostly oblivious? Just how many levels of purgatory and/or hell are there, and what’s the schematic relation between them (if any), and why does Abbie get banished to a giant dollhouse one time and the catacombs another time? The third-season finale opens with one of the series’ most egregious leaps: The Hidden One, last seen glowing with evil red energy and literally declaring that his “final wish” was that “this world shall burn,” has apparently had a change of heart, putting off his apocalyptic plans to once again (several once-agains plague “Ragnarok”) toy with Pandora inside his lair. Y’know, whatevs. Anyway, back at the catacombs, Crane and Abbie try to restore Pandora’s box and realize it needs to feed on a witness’ soul. Because why? “Pandora made no reference to this,” Crane states. “I fear the missing ingredient may be one of us.” And I fear that, once again, we’re being forced to just go with the latest plot twist because the writers can’t figure out a way to make us believe in it. (As Abbie and Crane are leaving the catacombs, she senses something I didn’t pick up on at all, which is that Crane is acting like he’s withholding something from her. What he’s withholding is that he’s just now figured out, thanks to the ancient writing on the wall, that the family tablet he was on about at the start of the season reads “eternal soul,” meaning the tablet “knew” all along about Pandora’s box needing one of them as a sacrifice, but we are just learning this now. Personally, I find these narrative catch-up games tiring and insulting.) 

Abbie gets halfway sucked into the box, causing her to stumble and later admit to Crane, “There’s a void. Something’s wrong.” Betsy also senses something’s wrong, telling Ichabod, “You are not the Crane I know.” Is Betsy offended or just confused? I’m not entirely sure and at this point I don’t care — because, as Betsy herself admits, “Only one truth matters: Your heart belongs to Abigail Mills.” She advises Abbie, “Put him in his place every once in awhile. Keeps him honest.” Even shoddily conceived supporting characters who have made out with Crane are on Team Ichabbie. I actually thought this little goodbye scene with Betsy was adorable and managed to inject a little grace into her dumbfounding story line, but overall, there’s not much to say about Betsy except #ByeFelicia. 

Around now is when I jotted in my notes, “Abbie’s starting to sound pretty done with being a witness,” which was followed by her very sweet scene with Papa Mills (love how he’s perusing Corbin’s books like he’s been there all along; definitely one of the episode’s aforementioned touching moments). But I swear, I still had no idea what was to come. Likewise, I’m convinced the writers had no idea what to do next, because as soon as the Scooby Gang confronts THO in his lair (with “Greek fire” that looks more like “energy streams from Ghostbusters proton packs”) and Abbie fully disintegrates into Pandora’s box, the remainder of “Ragnarok” is merely filler — busy work until the episode burns up its allotted hour and can finally reveal that Abbie is truly, actually, entirely dead. 

Once the box has Abbie’s soul, THO is made weak again, which Jenny takes as an opportunity to assassinate him as retribution for turning Joe into a Wendigo, which forced her to kill Joe last week. That beat, which I wanted to enjoy as tribute to Joe, instead makes everything go cattywampus: Now the problem is that Pandora’s mad pissed she didn’t get to enjoy THO’s undoing for herself (“This was my victory, not yours.”), so she decides to embark on an ego trip and raise hell her own way. Not an actual apocalypse, since she’s grown fond of Earth (“As long as I am obeyed, I shall be a benevolent goddess.”), but maybe she’ll just launch a grassroots campaign to drum up some worship by interrupting a church service in what turns out to be the most unnecessary scene in the history of Sleepy Hollow. See? Filler.

Pandora insists Abbie is “not gone, but she is trapped,” a lame (and ultimately false) justification for the rest of the episode’s existence. I will give Sleepy Hollow credit for unveiling a sort of greatest-hits, this-is-your-life pastiche amidst Crane and Jenny’s attempts to get Abbie back. The Headless Horseman returns! Hey, there’s Corbin and Joe!! (Corbin’s return was so full of feels for me that I actually noted, “There are not enough exclamation points!!!” I cried when he went to buy Joe a beer.) There are callbacks to Moloch and to eating pie in purgatory. Then Crane gets in on the reminiscing when Pandora’s box explodes and knocks him out. We see him and Abbie relive their first meeting in Sleepy Hollow PD jail; they have drinks on her porch; we even get a final glimpse at several of Abbie’s past hairstyles. Despite the fact that these scenes are stuffed with empty platitudes like “my journey isn’t over” and “it’s time for a new beginning,” it’s all very endearing, because Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison are an amazing duo. If this show had to fall short of its potential, it could’ve at least done so while finding more reasons to put them together more often.

As she lays dying, Pandora tells Crane that Abbie was “never inside” her box and is actually “dead and gone.” She also says, “You love her, don’t you? She is your hope, your everything.” The former statements strike me as further proof that the finale was making it all up as it went along — lives are so often rescued in the final 10 minutes of SH that I didn't believe Pandora while watching. The latter statements lead me to believe that, intentional or not, this show’s careless disregard of its Ichabbie ‘shippers has been fucked up. Make them just-friends or make them more-than-friends, but have a conversation about it and stick to your decision. Don’t keep stringing the ‘shippers along with your hand-kissing and your “be still my beating heart” (which no person has ever said platonically) while you know Abbie’s imminent fate full well.

Here’s the kicker: I loved the final scene. It was pure Sleepy Hollow goodness. I laughed at the cheeky return of that shady FBI agent and the callback to “Sympathy for the Devil” and I bawled like a goddamn baby when Crane told Abbie’s headstone about watching American Idol without her. (I’m actually blubbering right now as I type just thinking about it.) AND I STILL THOUGHT ABBIE WAS SOMEHOW ALIVE, like she’d just stroll up on Crane in the cemetery all, “What’s up?”

I did not accept Abbie’s death until official word got out on Twitter last night that Nicole Beharie has exited the show. Allegedly, she’d wanted out for a while. I’ve talked before about the meta-ness of Sleepy Hollow, the way its dialogue and story lines sometimes feel like commentary on the show itself and/or its relationship to its fans. Stars leave shows for all sorts of reasons, personal and professional, and sometimes even when a series is at its artistic peak. But feeling how you feel right now — and as someone who, like Beharie, invested three years of your life in Sleepy Hollow — can you blame her? 

Favorite Crane-isms
Abbie: Oh, I know you well enough to know when you’re bugging.
Crane: Very well, perhaps I am a little more than moderately agitated.

Abbie: Or we risk damaging the time stream. I get it. I saw Star Wars.
Crane: Trek. Not Wars. But, yes.

Betsy: Leftenant? ... There are no female officers in the Continental Army.
Abbie: It’s a pet name.

 Abbie: I hope you got the plates off the truck that hit me. 

Abbie: In through a tree, out through a well ... how about an escalator to the catacombs?
Crane: It would not have the same metaphorical heft, I fear.

Abbie: Tally ho!
Crane: That was not very sporting! ... [grunts] What she said.

Jenny: You think [the Headless Horseman] has a chance against [Pandora]?
Crane: He is the embodiment of death. 

Pandora: Impossible!
Crane: No, just highly improbable. [Ed.: An allegory for the whole show.]