Headless Masons Are Mourned and Water is Overpriced in Sleepy Hollow‘s “The Midnight Ride”

When last we saw our Apocalyptic Witnesses, Ichabod had just had his biggest sin removed by wandering sin eater Henry Parish. I’m going to assume that Parrish leaves all the little ones, like lying to your mom about whether or not you’ve gotten your flu shot yet, and all the impure thoughts you have when Tom Mison’s on the TV screen. Parrish announced that the sun had gone down, and the Horseman was coming. The other Freemasons agreed to help Abbie, Ichabod, and Jenny man the battle stations, and Headless stopped off at Ichabod’s grave to grab a handful of what I’m assuming is Tracking Dirt.

I thought this episode was going to start with them in the tunnels, gathering weaponry, but instead we begin with the ride of Paul Revere, and learn that the Horseman was the one chasing them! This would have made Johnny Tremain even more exciting. Paul and his men tell people, very quietly, that “The Regulars are coming.” Then we cut to the modern day, and begin a packed episode—honestly, enough happens in this hour to fill two episodes of a normal, less batshit show, but I thought it mostly worked. And there were a ton of “Ichabod confronting the future” moments.

We begin in the cabin, with Ichabod faced by the modern marvel of a pile of groceries. Wait, has Abbie still not taken him to grocery store? They speak some exposition-y dialog to catch us all up on the Freemasonry and Sin Eating that’s been going on, and then Abbie runs out to the station, where she’s stopped by Morales! Poor Morales. He seems to be a nice guy, and he just wants to be friends again, but he keeps interrupting her at vital End of Days moments. She agrees to a coffee date the next day, which I found kind of goofy since there might not be a tomorrow if the Horseman succeeds? She tells him to temper his expectations. Ouch. Oh, and they’re being watched but I’m sure that won’t be anything.

Suddenly it’s night! Like, full dark. Where is the Horseman? Why isn’t he terrorizing the town? Morales walks out of a bar, and the camera is doing this strange late-90s MTV bobbing motion, so he might be a bit drunk. Someone in a dark alley calls his named, so naturally he heads down to investigate. But who is it? Could it be…

YES! Andy Brooks! When Morales reasonably says he thought Andy was dead, Andy replies, “The rumors of my demise have been… pretty much true.” I’m beginning to think Sleepy Hollow hires its police force based on some sort of witticism test. They have to go out to a firing range and quip appropriately while they hit targets, or they’re packed off to some less sassy town. Anyway, Andy tells Morales to stay away from Abbie, because he’s the only one who can protect her. So we’re dealing with an undead stalker, now, too. Then he flips poor Morales onto the ground, and amplifies his voice to talk about the battle between good and evil. So now Morales knows about that, and about Andy being undead, and that Abbie’s involved.

Ichabod leaves Abbie a voicemail—so at some point I guess she got Ichabod a phone and taught him how to use it—and the message he leaves is essentially an extremely formal verbal letter. He signs off by saying “Yours Respectfully, Ichabod Crane,” and you can just hear the perfect cursive script. This is probably launching a thousand Tumblrs right now. But, slightly more important is the content of the message: he agrees that Abbie should be involved in the meetings with the Freemasons, so he’s going to insist that they include her, despite their “no girls allowed” rule. So he’s going to force his Freemason brothers to change a centuries-old rule for her! Or he would, but the Horseman has just decapitated all of them. So, goodbye potential cast members… Irving tells them to call it “cult ritual suicide” until they think of something better.

Ichabod and Abbie find the Masons’ heads in what might actually be the most gruesome moment on the show so far. In a mockery of Paul Revere’s “one-if-by-land, two-if-by-sea” idea, the Horseman has lined the Masons’ skulls with silver, turned their heads into lanterns, and hung them up from the church belfry. Ugh. Ichabod is shocked and horrified, and it took me a minute to realize that he’s standing there pontificating about the Horseman while Abbie is the one who has to pull all the heads down and blow the candles out.

Nice, Ichabod.

They ask Irving to get the head back for them so they can destroy it. Interestingly, Irving swings into a completely different personality when he’s interacting with people who are not Ichabbie. When we meet Paul, the forensics guy, he and Irving seem to have a whole camaraderie and backstory together! I immediately like him and start looking forward to him being on the cast, which of course spells his doooooom when the Horseman shows up with a machine gun. Dammit. But more importantly (sorry, Paul) Irving meets the Horseman! And not only do we get to hear him say, “I got you, you headless son of a bitch!“ but we also get to hear him wail, “I have to file a report!” once he gets the head back to the office.

Then they have the hilarious head destruction montage. Of course nothing they try works, but we do learn that Abbie looks adorable in a Hazmat suit.

So, they need a manuscript to tell them how to dispose of the Head and defeat the Horseman. To the Historical Society! And now it’s Ichabod’s time to shine, as he yells at people for paying for water (“It should be an inalienable right”) corrects the elementary school field trip (“Paul Revere said ‘The Regulars are coming.’ We were all British back then, so saying the British are coming would have been most unhelpful.”) and, when faced with the news that the manuscript is in London, mournfully whispers, “That’s a three-month journey by ship.”

Which—wait a minute. Hasn’t he seen airplanes by now? Has Abbie not explained this? Are they all just telling him that birds are huge and shiny in 2013?

Anyway, luckily the manuscript is online, so we get to watch Ichabod accidentally find internet porn. (And he’s just as adorably flustered as you would think: “I’m flattered, Madame, but I am already espoused.”) Meanwhile, Abbie’s trying to call Morales, but he’s so spooked by Andy’s warning that he ignores her call. So they’ve set Morales up to be a pretty good guy, but now he’s abandoning Abbie to the “protection” of a zombie? Hmmm.

Andy himself shows up to confront Abbie, and tells her that while they can’t destroy the Horseman, they can trap him. So she, Irving, and Ichabod work out a plan, involving a bunch of Halloween decorations, UV lights (to simulate sunlight) and a magically warded room designed by Thomas Jefferson, whom Ichabod knew and admired. Which, well, the show immediately went where I was hoping it would, and had three lengthy scenes of Abbie and Irving asking Ichabod how his close personal friend Jefferson justified owning slaves and having children with Sally Hemings, and did not let it go until Ichabod stopped defending Jefferson. The writing in these scenes was perfect, light without sugar-coating the facts, and it pretty much fixed all of my lingering discomfort with the Arthur Bernard plotline… and then we got a graveyard-horseback-chase-scene!

This is why Sleepy Hollow is such a great, weird, breakout show. They don’t just go for a call back to Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, they create a crazy pop culture mashup ride that’s one part Revolutionary War and two parts terrifying classic Legend of Sleepy Hollow race through a graveyard. When this show decides to tie threads together it seriously commits. Ichabod leads the Horseman into the tunnels, where Abbie waits with his skull, and Irving waits at the trap. They throw the surprise UV lighting on, paralyzing him, and Ichabod claps him in irons while Irving holds a gun on him. And the second they have him, the show cuts to credits!

 

Man, this was a seven layer burrito of an episode! But I’m going to skip straight to the knottiest moment: How great was it that they tackled Thomas Jefferson here? There is so much to love about Thomas Jefferson, but then you run into the solid unmovable fact of his life as a slave-owner, and his relationship with Sally Hemings. This is a goofy horror show, so I’m trying to dodge around heaviness as much as I can, but after last week’s Arthur Bernard scene, which relied on a tortured black man downplaying his own pain to absolve his white torturer, it made me very very happy that Irving and Mills didn’t coddle Ichabod when Jefferson came up. And Mison did a fabulous job as usual as Ichabod went from smugly asserting his friendship with Jefferson to being shaken and hurt when he learned more of the truth. When Ichabod says, “I guess we never truly know anyone, do we?” it actually connected.

This led beautifully into a larger arc—Ichabod is finally starting to react to being trapped in the present day. He’s becoming increasingly angry, and even snaps at Abbie when she makes a snippy remark about Katrina. This episode has a very different tone from last week’s. I have a theory here that the show has once again buried something important: last week Ichabod thought that his suicide would destroy the Horseman. In a way, he had found the perfect solution—as terrified as he said he was, he would get to escape the modern world through a noble death, which would ensure his enemy’s final defeat. Saved from that, he has to face the fact that he’s committed to staying alive, fighting the horseman, and seeing this through to the end, however bloody it may get, and however many more friends he has to see murdered.

Abbie meanwhile is dealing with the fact that her old life is truly over. She can’t reestablish a connection with Morales, even just as friends, because she’ll never be able to share her whole life with him. I love her dedication to honesty. She lives her life by as many codes as Crane does, and I’m really excited by the fact that the show points that out, and makes that one of the things they have in common. This is clearly more of an Ichabod episode, though—after he talks about feeling isolated and trapped in a time he doesn’t understand, Abbie saying, “I’m lonely too sometimes” feels pretty hollow.

Giant Plot-Changing Moments:

Holy crap this episode contained things!

  • The Masons we met last week have all been killed by the Horseman.
  • Irving faces the Horseman!
  • We learn that Irving has an ex-wife and a daughter!
  • Jenny’s back in the hospital, but Abbie tells Morales that she’s coming to live with her. Is that real? Or is she just trying to shake him off?
  • Morales meets Undead Andy, and possibly abandons Abbie out of fear.
  • Undead Andy claims to be protecting Abbie. Somehow, I’m skeptical…
  • But, biggest of all, they now have The Headless Horseman, Death Himself, in custody. This interrogation can’t possibly end well….

 

Ichabod Wrestles with the Future:

  • When did he get a cellphone, and how long did it take Abbie to teach him how to use it, and why wasn’t this an entire episode by itself?
  • He’s mad that we willingly pay for water! How mean is it, though, when like two days after he poisoned himself For The Greater Good, she tells him that there’s arsenic in the free tap water he’s drinking? Too soon, Abbie.
  • He’s not so great with computers! He think he’s “done something catastrophic” when he minimizes a window. He prints their papers five times “in case it suddenly disappears from the screen” and then somehow stumbles onto a porn site.
  • Why haven’t Ichabod and Abbie gone to a supermarket yet???
  • How has he not seen airplanes??? They’re fairly large.

 

History According to Ichabod:

  • Samuel Prescott rode into Concord, not Revere (true)
  • Jefferson totally stole “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers” from Ichabod (probably not true)

Questions:

  • Jenny? Shouldn’t she be out and helping them, especially now that Irving believes them?
  • Are they going to be able to hold the Horseman? And how do you interrogate someone with no mouth?
  • Is Andy watching invisibly in the tunnel somewhere? Have they even told Irving that Andy’s back?
  • Did Henry Parrish just go back to Hartford, even though he said the Horseman was on his way?

Leah Schnelbach thinks that Sleepy Hollow should open with “Voicemails from Ichabod” every week, forever. She thinks about tweeting sometimes. 

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