A Literal Shot of Adrenaline: Sleepy Hollow‘s “John Doe”

Welcome to the Sleepy Hollow Recap! I’ll be reviewing the show each week. OK, let’s be honest—I’ll be desperately trying to keep up with the insanity of the show each week, and most likely making inappropriate comments about Mr. Tom Mison occasionally. These Sleepy Hollow writers, they like to throw a lot at you, and Tom Mison has the most distracting goddamn eyebrows, so I’ll do my best. We now begin our weekly recap, already in progress, with Episode 5: “John Doe.”

To begin: We get a recap! Have we gotten a recap before? It’s from Crane’s POV, and he tells us that he died in 1781, and fate has led him to Miss Abigail Mills. He states that he wouldn’t believe in these things if he hadn’t seen them with his own eyes. Maybe next week they could give Abbie a recap of her own? I’d like to get all this from her perspective as well…

Oooh, then a “Previously, on Sleepy Hollow.” So much recap!

We open on a little girl in modern dress picking flowers in the woods, while a boy, who is definitely wearing clothes from a different era, watches. She calls to him, and he chases her through the woods, but then a Horseman appears! Or possibly it’s Genghis Khan? Or a medieval Japanese warlord? Whatever he is, he chases the boy onto a highway, and then dissolves.

We cut to Corbin’s cabin: Ichabod’s moving in! He’s still looking askance at light switches. This should be getting old, but it isn’t, at least not for me. He’s obviously in a bad mood and declares, “If a building stays up more than a decade you declare it a national landmark.” Abbie isn’t responsible for all the decadence of the modern world, Ichabod. She suggests they spackle over the bullet holes, and he agrees vaguely with, “Spackle. Yes.” Abbie tells him he should just admit it when he doesn’t know what a word means. He doesn’t reply to this. I like that they’re trying to balance them out more, given that last week he had to keep yelling at Abbie and Jenny to shut up so he could work. Ichabod starts unpacking groceries, which leads to some fun moments where he investigates a loofah; Mison is so good at being childlike when Ichabod thinks Abbie isn’t looking. It’s a great aspect to bring out.

Meanwhile, Abbie thinks about skepticism, musing on whether Corbin meant for them to have the cabin, and Ichabod asks if she’s beginning to take more on faith. “I may be a player in Big Guy’s endgame, but I’m not will to abandon my better judgment outright.” Ouch. Did Abbie just sass God? Or is Moloch the Big Guy in this scenario? If this show ends up doing the Quantum Leap thing of pointing at the ceiling and gulping out the word “Him” in hushed tones, well, it’ll still be okay, because I believe in the power of Mison and Beharie.

Speaking of which, Ichabod is trying to open a package, and calls plastic “an impenetrable barrier.” Yay! Abbie takes it away to open it, but then she gets a call about a boy who was found on the road. Ichabod insists on coming along, saying “routine is a thing of the past for us.”

Abbie’s ex, Morales, attempts to flirt when they get to the scene, but the results are painful. “The boy was unaccompanied—I wish I could say the same about you?” That’s really not very good. No wonder they didn’t work out. He asks if she’s getting tired of babysitting Crane, and she tells him “for a detective, you really don’t have a clue.”

The lost child speaks Middle English, which Ichabod tells Abbie was only spoken in the Middle Ages! Like Olde English was spoken in the Olde Ages. Wait… Actually, I’m not sure if a 1780s Oxford professor would have called it the Middle Ages anyway—he might have said Gothic or Dark Ages instead. But none of that is important right now—the thing to focus on is that the boy has mentioned an “evil girl” in a “dead version of our language.” So the boy has decided that the girl in the woods was evil, but we still have no clue who she was, or why she was leading him to the modern world. Then they notice that the boy’s veins are turning black, and they rush him off to the hospital.

Sleepy Hollow John Doe

Back at the station, Irving is now talking to Crane as though he’s just another detective, and parries Crane’s reference to Chaucer by asking if the boy came from King Arthur’s Court. The CDC has been called in to look at the boy, and see what black veins are. I’m going to assume black oil. Morales tries to talk to Irving about Crane—first he a suspect, now he’s a consultant?—but is quickly shut down. Irving asks if Morales’ history with Abbie is going to cause any problems, and the detective backs off pretty quickly after that. Irving’s glower defeats another opponent! It’s interesting that they’re trying to show us a normal police station operating alongside all of Abbie and Ichabod’s work.

Abbie is explaining what kidnapping is to Crane? I’m pretty sure they had kidnapping. No, actually, I’m completely sure they had kidnapping.

Back in the hospital, the poor boy has been quarantined, E.T. style. Ichabod is horrified, and finally lashes out at modernity again. “This plastic—how did we survive without it?” I really desperately want the scene where he discovers bubble wrap. Ichabod speaks to the boy in Middle English. His name is Thomas, and he’s from…Roanoke. As in, the lost colony of Roanoke. HOLY SHIT.

But for some reason Abbie didn’t learn about the lost colony of Roanoke and the mystery of “Croatoan” every year in school like I did, so she seems baffled when Ichabod brings it up. That way, Ichabod can provide us with a blurry flashback of life in the colony, the birth of the first European-American, Virginia Dare, and the colonists’ mysterious disappearance. Abbie is skeptical, because she’s still hanging on to a few shreds of sanity, but Ichabod says, “My own circumstances make me open to possibility.”

But now things have gotten even worse—Thomas’ black veining plague has spread to the EMT who picked him up. The poor guy has a seizure while invisible Horsemen crash through his walls. So Abbie and Ichabod head back to the woods to investigate!

As they walk through to woods to track Thomas, Abbie asks about the Founding Fathers:

“Who was more sarcastic? Jefferson or Adams?”

“Jefferson had a fondness for puns, and Adams kept a notebook of unsavory limericks.”

Please let this become a plot point…

We cut back to the station for a minute to check in with Morales and his partner, who are still talking about Crane. So is Morales going to become a bigger player? I think I’d rather have Undead John Cho back, honestly.

Then back to the woods! Abbie asks Crane where he learned to track, and Ichabod says “Foxhunting.” We finally get a glimpse of his pre-Katrina life when he tells Abbie that he had a noble upbringing, and that it’s “one of the things he’s glad he left behind.” So we’ve been dealing with Lord Crane this whole time, and his defection to the American cause was actually a rejection of English nobility as well?

Back to the hospital! CDC guy says he’s never seen anything like Thomas’ illness. He’s never been inoculated! And now we get a real hint that if this thing spreads, many more people will be in danger. Irving says he has officers retracing the boy’s trail—which means that Crane is just an officer now, in Irving’s mind. Which means that between this show and Elementary, America now has two dapper British consulting detectives. In your face, England—we’ve won again.

(I’m not sure jumping back and forth in plotlines is working here—neither plot is building enough tension because of all the crosscutting.)

Sleepy Hollow John Doe

Back in the woods again, Ichabod and Abbie find a tiny island. For the first time, Ichabod displays a certain amount of Depp-esque fear. He finds a way to cross to the island—a solid path hidden beneath about an inch of water. He then chivalrously allows Abbie to go ahead of him into danger. Then they get to TARDIS island, which is suddenly a) huge and b) hiding the lost colony of Roanoke! This is awesome! Except…they’re all infected. The Roanokers seem to be expecting them, and tell them about their strange history. The original colony was cursed with a plague, and Virginia Dare was the first to die. So her spirit came back and led them to Sleepy Hollow, where they’d be safe from the Horseman of Pestilence, and the plague would be neutralized. But for some reason, Thomas managed to cross into the modern world, creating a gateway for Pestilence. Huh. So, who was the girl leading Thomas through the woods? And wait a minute, why does Ichabod look so pleased? It’s because they’re trapped outside of time, isn’t it.

“It seems the colonists of Roanoke and I have much in common.”

Then Ichabod announces that this means the Horseman of Pestilence has arrived to join with Death, and they need to get back to stop him. Abbie sees the horseman in the woods, so they race back to the hospital to try to save Thomas. But then:

Ichabod is infected! They hit him with some kind of shot, which naturally sends him whooshing off to the spirit realm, where he’s apparently well enough to make out with Katrina for a few minutes before she tells him that if he’s here, he might be dying, which would impede his whole plan of stopping the apocalypse.

Hmmmm… Morales has called Oxford? And the Oxford University receptionist tells him that yes, they do have a professor Crane, and yes, he is on loan to a New York police department. IRVING IS NOT WHAT HE SEEMS.

Back to Purgatory! This show is seriously giving me seasickness at this point. Katrina tells Ichabod that souls have been collected, “trapped together, but apart,” until Moloch determines where they are sent next. Why is Moloch running Purgatory? Is this like the Buffy-verse, where there are countless hell dimensions?

Back to the hospital! Abbie has wandered into the chapel. “Really? What the hell…” she says, as she walks further in…

Back to Purgatory! Ichabod, clearly as confused by this Moloch-centric theology as I am, says, “Why would Moloch have your soul? What is it you’re not telling me?”

Abbie meanwhile, ducks into a room to get away from Irving for a minute, and finds she’s in the hospital’s chapel. We’re finally getting our “wrestling with faith in a church” scene! I’m surprised that it took until episode 5 to get here, given that they seem to be fighting in the Capital-A Apocalypse, and that Abbie and Jenny were flinging Bible verses at each other last episode. I love that the show has updated this scene, though. Rather than the usual incense-clouded Catholic church, we get the stark, interfaith hospital chapel, with art from all the major theological players on the front wall. Abbie says she’s going to need some evidence—because deities are well-known for their willingness to provide that – and asks if she’ll be able to stop the plague by taking Thomas back to the colony. She only gives God, like a minute to answer, and then scoffs and says, “Didn’t think so.” But as she’s leaving she sees a woman using holy water to bless herself, and has a thought.

Back in Purgatory, Katrina is just about to tell Ichabod why she’s there… And then he gets sucked back to the hospital bed, because Moloch or the PTB or God, Time, Fate, or Whatever realized it isn’t sweeps week yet.

Sleepy Hollow John Doe

Abbie somehow convinces Irving to let her steal Thomas and Ichabod, to try her vague theory that spring water will cure them. Irving agrees suddenly, even though he flipped out on her before, and it’s really weird. HE MUST NOT BE WHAT HE SEEMS. So Abbie steals the two patients, and they hobble through the woods while Ichabod tells Abbie about Purgatory. Poor Thomas is curled in Ichabod’s arms, trying to cling to him while the strength drains out of his body. Most of the show’s audience is now violently jealous of Thomas. Abbie stabs Ichabod with a needle full of adrenaline to keep him moving, which introduces Ichabod to the First Thing About The Present That He Actually Likes. They make it to the town with Pestilence right behind them, and Ichabod jumps into the town’s water supply with Thomas. And then Pestilence…disintegrates? Abbie looks up at the sky, and I start dreading a serious Quantum Leap moment, and then there’s a whooshing effect and she and Ichabod are alone in the present. They realize that Thomas, along with the rest of the colonists, must have been dead all along.

But wait, how did the CDC people see him? Pestilence brought him back to life to bring illness into the world? He was brought back from the dead to be sick? Pestilence is now my least favorite Horseman.

Then Ichabod tells Abbie that she stopped Pestilence “by having faith” and she leaves that alone this time.

Irving calls about a minute later to say everyone’s getting well, and to prove it we see a mom literally shoving a baby in a plague victim’s face. Seriously, shouldn’t they give it another day or two before they bring the babies in? Maybe make sure no one relapses?

We cut back to the now abandoned colony, and Abbie tells Crane that she was worried he might try to stay with the colonists. “You belong in Sleepy Hollow.”

And he replies, “Well, what do you say we go home. We have much work to do, we will require more than faith if the Horseman of Death returns.”

Cue the Horseman rising from the river to ominous music!


To Sum Up:

The fifth episode of Sleepy Hollow is a commentary on illness and infection. We meet the Horseman of Pestilence for the first time, which is the obvious connection, but the show also gives us quarantine rooms and people fleeing from plague. In the modern world, we encase everything in plastic, and have shots to ward off sickness and weakness, while the colony of Roanoke is protected by magic—by the spirit of Virginia Dare and their magical island.

Meanwhile, Abbie learns to have a little more faith in her role in the End Times, Ichabod gets a formal welcome into our world, and Katrina has definitively stated that she’s in some sort of airlock for Hell, which makes it all the more urgent for Ichabod to free her.

There was a lot going on here, and some of it worked perfectly, like the inclusion of the lost colony mythology. But sometimes it felt overstuffed—trying to pack a plague and town-wide panic into the background was already stretching things, and then they brought in the thread about Morales checking on Crane, and more Katrina mystery. I think this is the fastest-moving show I’ve ever seen, and I’m wondering if the adrenaline shot was a little dig at the audience.


Lingering Questions:

  • They never explained who the “Evil Girl” was! Was it Virginia? Was she not actually the good, protective spirit Ichabod and Abbie thought she was? Or was it yet another agent of Moloch?
  • Speaking of Moloch, what is this Purgatory sub-plot? Why does Moloch get his own realm of lost souls? Was my Dante missing a chapter? Does God outsource afterlife management now?
  • What is Katrina’s deal?
  • Why the hell does modern Oxford know who Crane is?
  • And finally, where was Jenny? I assume she’s still in the mental hospital, but nobody mentioned her this week…

Ichabod’s Struggles With Modernity:

  • He’s still openly afraid of electric lights.
  • He’s not great with plastic, and seems to distrust it.
  • He mocks the compass on Abbie’s smartphone.
  • He loooooves adrenaline shots!
  • Abbie says his clothes could use an update. I must insist, television show, that he keeps his old clothes! Or at least the hair.

Abbie’s Struggles With Scully:

  • Abbie is not OK with being part of a supernatural plot. She wants to rely on solid detective work and her own reason to solve problems, and not make the wild leaps that Ichabod seems to love. She even does the patented “struggling with faith in a church” scene, but she figures out a possible answer to the illness on her own.

OK, I’ll spend the next few days making some sort of graph of all the plotlines here, and then we’ll be all set for next week’s episode!

Leah Schnelbach went into the first episode of Sleepy Hollow a skeptic, and came out a believer. She is still a skeptic about her ability to tweet.


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