After months of anticipation, “Sleepy Hollow” returns with a badass premiere that delivers on nearly all fronts. “This is War” awesomely resolves the epic cliffhangers we were left with and chillingly sets the stage for Season 2.
The episode opens with Ichabod Crane calling out for Abbie Mills while stranded in total darkness. The camera slowly shifts from a horizontal view to a vertical angle and we realize that Crane is standing in Sherriff Corbin’s cabin. Abbie surprises Ichabod with an Americana birthday cupcake (adorable.) She instructs him to blow out the candle and make a wish. Crane scoffs at yet another odd modern tradition that has developed over the centuries. Although he appreciates Abbie’s overture, he is not in the mood to celebrate his 251st birthday. Nearly a year has passed and they still have not avenged the loss of their loved ones (Say what?! Nope, not buying it. There’s no way Katrina and Jenny are really dead. But we’ll play along…) Abbie just wants Ichabod to know that she couldn’t have survived this past year without him. Aww. In a way, their friendship is cause for some celebration and Crane can’t really argue with that. Suddenly Abbie’s phone rings and the Sheriff’s department has a case for Sleepy Hollow’s dynamic duo.
A professor at the historical society personally requested Ichabod and Abbie because of their unique skillset. When they arrive on the scene, they see a headless cop’s body at the entrance. Abbie pops her trunk open, Ichabod arms himself with an uber modern supped-up crossbow and enters iconic action-hero mode. After months of training, is he ready for this? “I’ve been ready for this for 200 years,” he reassuringly tells Abbie. Um, okay, Crane, but exactly when did you turn into Rambo? If you thought the cryptic opening and unseemly time-jump seemed a little off, then this crazy scene definitely starts getting under your skin.
Ichabod and Abbie are locked and loaded as they canvas the building. Headless bodies are all over the place, including the poor professor’s. They find Benjamin Franklin’s work on the professor’s desk and Ichabod doesn’t conceal his disdain for his old boss. Ichabod tells Abbie how George Washington ordered him to be Franklin’s apprentice. Crane calls one of America’s most revered founding fathers a pompous “blowhard” and “gasbag.” Mind your tongue, Ichabod! What happened to his sense of decorum? Crane is so forthcoming with his emotions, so you know he really couldn’t stand the guy. Hilariously, the irony of Ichabod’s hypocritical agitation with a fellow know-it-all is not lost Abbie.
Being a smarty-pants himself, Ichabod finds a concealed compartment beneath the desk drawer and some files fall to the ground. All of a sudden the Headless Horseman opens fire on Ichabbie. Abbie slows the Horseman down by unloading her gun into his chest, then Crane fires a few arrows before Headless tosses a smoke bomb and escapes out the window. So maybe we can get used to a modern weapon wielding Crane. The contrasting juxtaposition is thoroughly amusing to see. But it lacks the suaveness of a good old-fashioned duel. Moving on…Ichabod is furious. He wants revenge and he’s tired of waiting for it. Ichabod is so rattled that he gasps for air as though he physically cannot breathe. (Hmm, could he still be suffocating in that hellish box? This feels like a little clue.) Abbie calms him down and says they need to figure out what Headless is after.
Abbie and Ichabod head back to the archive room and scour over Franklin’s documents. Ichabod sees a sketch of Benjamin’s infamous key and tells Abbie the real story behind Franklin’s kite experiment. Ben infiltrated the Hellfire Club, a secret society that wanted to put an end to America’s quest for freedom, in England. In a flashback, we see Ichabod help a very awkwardly nude Franklin prepare for his experiment. The young apprentice is an American now. He must look towards Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin for guidance. Franklin warns that a storm is coming to America. Later that night, the lightning strike (or “heavenly fire”) fails to destroy this special key and Franklin says it must be secreted away.
Abbie reads that this was known as the Gehinnam key, a.k.a the key to Purgatory. Ichabod explains how this key can break Purgatory’s troubling rule: a soul for a soul. If the Horseman gets the key, he will release Moloch from Purgatory. Out of desperation, they decide to ask Henry Parrish/Jeremy Crane/War if he knows where the key might be hidden. They have been keeping Henry as their prisoner and feel as though he cannot hurt them. It sickens both Ichabod and Abbie to face the monster that caused them so much pain, but they have been left with no other choice.
Henry agrees to give them information in exchange for a new plant. Then comes the not so subtle metaphor. Isn’t it funny how these plants believe the artificial light is the sun? Even though it isn’t real, they continue to grow. Then John Noble calculatingly delivers the big clue we’ve all been waiting for: “Anything can be tricked into believing a lie.” Oh yeah, something shady is definitely going on.
Henry goes into Sin Eater mode and tries to read the paperwork for clues. When the Hellfire Club’s document prove to be fruitless, he insists on reading Abbie. Perhaps Corbin slipped something about the key in the past. This jogs Abbie’s memory. She and Ichabod step outside so they can speak privately.
Corbin sent Jenny to Philadelphia to acquire a sketch book, but Abbie never found out where it was hidden. Suddenly Ichabod starts gasping for air again. Crane explains that he knows all of their training and experiences over the past year happened, yet he can’t recall any details. His memory is a blur since the day Henry betrayed them.
Finally, Henry reveals the game he’s been playing. Moloch set up this illusion so that Henry could learn where the key is hidden. Now he knows he must ask Jenny about it. So the good news is that Jenny is still alive, the bad news is Abbie is still stuck in Purgatory and Ichabod is trapped in that creepy vine-riddled box. As Henry shatters the illusion, Ichabod becomes engulfed by the box and Abbie returns back to Purgatory.
This entire scene is so well done! The graphics are spectacular. It is so cool to see how the vines and box rebuild themselves to entomb Crane. The acting, as always, is phenomenal. Tensions are extremely high, emotions are raw, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.
With blackened eyes Henry once again expresses his desire for Ichabod to suffocate to death in that cursed box. As Abbie starts getting sucked deeper into Purgatory, she tells Crane to save Jenny and find the key. Before the coffin lid is sealed, Ichabod vows to return to Purgatory and rescue Abbie. You’ve got to love their commitment to each other. It is heartbreaking to see them physically ripped away from one another. This just keeps getting better! While Ichabod struggles to find a way out of his box, we see how Jenny is doing.
Henry interrogates Jenny, rather he reads her sins. Jenny delivers a fabulous response to Henry’s threat: “I’ve done a lot of sinning. I hope you choke on every one of them.” Now that is badass. Unfortunately, Henry gets a clue from her memory. He needs to decipher a code that will lead him to the key. In the meantime, he leaves Jenny in the care of one of his Hessian henchmen.
Back in the box, Ichabod can’t get any cell reception underground and frustratingly bangs his phone against the lid. Some dirt slips in and Ichabod recognizes the scent of sulfur. Clearly, Crane has a clever idea, but we’ll have to wait for it. Now it is time to check on the others.
The Headless Horseman has Katrina tied up. He frees her hands so she can eat some bread and she seizes the moment. She stabs him in the hand, but before she can do anything else, he ties her up again and heads out. At least we know Katrina is fighting to get back to her hubby. She is going to give Abraham hell and we will enjoy watching him squirm. With that settled, we quickly move on to Abbie, who gets a visit from an old frenemy in Purgatory.
Andy Brooks is trying to redeem his soul and prove he still has a shred of humanity left by helping Abbie out. Brooks explains that Moloch is preparing to enter the earthly realm and he’s raising a demon army. Abbie needs to warn Crane, so Brooks shows her how Katrina was able to contact them from Purgatory.
Andy takes Abbie to Moloch’s lair. Inside there is a pentagram shaped mirror with an inscription beneath it. She must read the incantation and then recite the name of the person she wants to contact. Brooks is happy to have used the little bit of Free Will he had left to help Abbie. As we saw several times last year, no matter how badly Moloch tried to control him, Abbie always brought out Brook’s humanity. Andy won’t be around to see if Abbie’s plan works, but he wants her to know how much this meant to him. Ok Andy, considered yourself redeemed, at least in the fans’ eyes. Back on earth, Ichabod tries to communicate with Abbie in another way.
He is recording a sweet goodbye message for Abbie. He wants her to know that he never stopped fighting. Sigh. Once again, we are putty in your sweet hands, Mr. Mison. Of course, none of it got recorded, so he goes on with his plan and hopes for the best. Ichabod uses the sulfur as ignition and explodes his way out of the box. “Fire and brimstone,” followed by an earth-shaking boom. Simply awesome!
Ichabod hits the road and calls Jenny. Jenny overpowers her Hessian guard and texts her location to Crane. Luckily he is nearby. Ichabod hears gunshots, Jenny has broken out and is under fire. Ichabod hops into an ambulance and crashes through the wall. “Madame, need a lift?” he asks as Jenny jumps in the car. How is it that Crane can be so boyishly cute and badass all at once? This is too adorable. Crane doesn’t know how to drive, so Jenny takes the wheel and they make a clean getaway.
Ichabod fills Jenny in on everything that has happened since her car accident. They head over to the archives and hope to beat Henry to the key. As Henry discovered earlier, the key’s location is written in a code. Cue another flashback!
Franklin created his own alphabet, but Crane hadn’t memorized it. When the kite experiment failed, Ben told Ichabod: “The key to success lies under the alarm clock.” Franklin forces him to learn the weird alphabet, so Crane can now decipher the code. Franklin left the key with the only person he trusted…himself. Thankfully, Jenny has an idea of where that may be. While Ichabod and Jenny head out to find the key, Abbie enters Moloch’s creepy lair.
Abbie recites the incantation, she appears to Crane in the side-view mirror (artful and awesome) and he is metaphysically transported to Purgatory. Serious swoon alert! After a heartwarmingly tight embrace (and new favorite Ichabbie moment), they get down to business. Once Abbie is all caught up, she fears that they are fulfilling Moloch’s plan. They want Ichabod to get the key for them and unleash the demon army by trying to rescue Abbie. Echoing the events in the finale, Abbie believes she should stay behind in Purgatory. Again, Ichabod refuses to abandon his friend. He grabs her by the shoulders, looks her in the eyes and stands his ground. Ichabod made a promise and they don’t stand a chance of defeating evil if they part ways now. Yup, there is no stopping Ichabod. To hell with the consequences, no matter what happens he is saving his friend and fellow Witness. Abbie warns Ichabod to be prepared for the worse when he returns to get her. He tells Abbie to get the amulet Katrina had given her for protection from Moloch. She heads out to the Purgatory woods to find the enchanted charm and Ichabod’s consciousness returns to Jenny.
Once Jenny and Ichabod reach their destination, he puts the pieces together and quickly finds the key hidden behind one of the bricks under the “alarm clock.” Oh Ben, you clever, pompous ass. With the key in hand, Jenny and Ichabod head to Purgatory’s gates. Elsewhere, Katrina is living in her own personal Hell.
Katrina vows never to submit to the Headless Horseman as he clasps the emerald necklace around her décolletage. The enchanted gem glows and the Headless Horseman morphs into a more humane looking Abraham. Using this necklace as a tool to woo Katrina is pretty ironic. Abraham may have given it to her, but Ichabod was the one who picked it out. Interesting, no? Anyway, Katrina insists that this transformation will not change her feelings towards the beastly Horseman. Her heart belongs to Ichabod alone, but Abraham says it doesn’t matter because Crane will be dead by midnight. Yeah right, we all know better than that.
Outside the gates to Purgatory, Jenny reminds Ichabod of the rules before giving him a hug and watching him go through the portal. While Abbie frantically searches for the amulet, Ichabod suddenly appears by her side. She holds onto him tightly, relieved to see her friend. (Ichabbie, you are killing us with these super sweet moments. We are literally turning into mush and we are loving every second of it.) He offers her some water, saying she looks parched. Purgatory Rule #1: Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. This Ichabod is an imposter! Luckily, the real Crane surfaces just in time. Get ready for the best part…
What is better than one Ichabod Crane? Two of them! In another crazy-awesome scene, Ichabod fights himself. After being thrust against a tree, both Ichabods are a blur to Abbie. With one Ichabod down, another runs and urges Abbie to recite the incantation and get out of Purgatory ASAP. Then Ichabod addresses her as “lieutenant.” Abbie grabs a nearby sword (convenient) and chops off his head (cool!). For shame Fakabod! The real Ichabod runs over shouting “Leftenant!” Now that the real Ichabod Crane is standing before her, Abbie celebrates with an explosive fist bump. They see Moloch preparing to leave Purgatory and his demon army starts rising out of the ground like a scene straight out of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. Ichabod and Abbie recite the incantation and jump through the portal.
Once Ichabod and Abbie have made it safely into the earthly realm, the key turns to dust. Well, that’s at least one victory for the good guys. Right? The Mills sisters share a sweet hug as Ichabod fondly looks on. They return to Corbin’s cabin and realize that the war against Moloch is officially on. Ichabod and Abbie are ready to raise a little hell of their own because nobody gets away with twisting their sacred blood bonds and messing with their minds. Abbie declares, “This is war”. You know that’s right! It’s a good thing we’ve all enlisted to see what happens next because Henry is bringing some epic trouble to Sleepy Hollow.
As the spellbinding episode closes, Moloch gives Henry control over the armored Horseman of War. (Well now the imagery of the Four Horsemen makes more sense. Let’s face it, none of really pictured Henry underneath all of that shining armor.) Henry will use his soul to make the Knight of Hell do his bidding. Uh oh! Henry hands him a sword, as the Horseman raises it in the air, the sword ignites. We see a reflection of the flames dancing in Henry’s glasses. “Magnificent,” he utters with a twinkle in his dark eyes as he plots his next evil scheme.
Wow, Sleepy Heads! There is a lot to take in here. This was a wonderful episode, filled with many fantastic, crowd pleasing moments. Cinematic action sequences, tender Ichabbie interactions, suspenseful and intense build-ups, followed by satisfying resolutions. “This is War” certainly lived up to our expectations.
There are only a couple of things that were slightly disappointing, if you want to be extra critical:
“Sleepy Hollow” has been very forthcoming about Season 2. We knew everyone was going to make it out of their frightening situations, we just didn’t know how. All of the spoilers took away some of the element of surprise. A third of the episode was spent on an elaborate fake-out that was pretty predictable. Sure, it gave us some fun twistory and more time with Ichabbie, but Henry’s confession wasn’t that shocking of a reveal. Diehard Sleepy Heads could see it coming because we know these characters so well and everything seemed a little off from the start. Nonetheless, from a storytelling perspective, the illusion served its purpose very well and gave our protagonists even more urgency to break free.
It was also surprising that we didn’t even get a glimpse of Captain Frank Irving. We know he is stuck in prison and his cliffhanger was not as life-threatening as the others, but we’re still worried about him. Hopefully we’ll see what he’s been up to sometime soon.
One hour was not enough time to cover everything because there is so much happening on this show. It would’ve been great if FOX gave “Sleepy Hollow” a two hour premiere because we just can’t get enough of this phenomenal series.
Other than that, everything was pure perfection. The witty dialogue, brilliant performances, atmospheric cinematography and progressive plot all prove why “Sleepy Hollow” is one of the best shows on TV.
What did you think, Sleepy Heads? Did you love the premiere? Did you fall for Henry’s illusion? Did you swoon over those heartwarming Ichabbie moments? Did you feel like anything was missing? Did you fall in love with Ichabod Crane all over again?
Share your thoughts in the comment below and stay tuned for more news on next week’s “The Kindred.”
“Sleepy Hollow” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX.
I have an insatiable passion for TV, Film, Music & Entertainment news (which is really a fancy way of saying I'm a TV addicted couch potato). I'm currently a National Examiner for "Galavant," "Once Upon A Time," "Saving Hope," and "Sleepy Hollow" on Examiner.com. I provide detailed, thoughtful, witty, and occasionally saucy recaps/reviews, as well as some fun and interesting interviews. You'll frequently see me tweeting away about my favorite shows. If you love chatting about TV as much I do, then join the fun and Talk TV with Tiffany!