A Recap, by definition, WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS! Proceed at your own risk!
The Sleepy Hollow midseason finale (or, as was trending on Twitter at one point #MidSeasonFinaleMidtacular) is titled “The Akeda.” My religious upbringing was sadly lacking, as evinced by the fact that I had no idea Methuselah was a demon-slayer, so it’s no surprise that I didn’t know what the heck the “Akeda” was. Never fear, Google helped me out: the Akeda is the binding of Isaac described in the book of Genesis. My Jewish friends might see where this is going. My gentile friends? Hang in there, it’s all going to become clear. For now, let’s just say that the Sleepy writers are really good at leaving clues to the episode in plain sight. Like the title.
When last we saw Ichabod and Abbie, they had just retrieved the Sword of Methuselah but Moloch had already risen and blown the shofar that sounds the beginning of the end of days. Because our favorite Witnesses didn’t have enough going on. The episode opens with them driving hell for leather towards Fredericks Manor (or as I like to call it, Henry’s House of Horrors/HHH) with the Sword in hand. Crane is checking his map, Abbie is relying on GPS to find the place, and almost before the words “Forgive me for not trusting an electronic device in an apocalyptic storm” leave Crane’s mouth, they get zapped by a demonic lightning bolt. I blame Abbie, she was the one who said they only needed a few more minutes.
The good news is that even in crazy demonic storms, auto repair garages are still open as usual in Sleepy Hollow. The bad news is that the car is fried, and as you could guess if you’ve ever been stranded in a small town because of car problems, the repair shop doesn’t have the part. Crane is understandably wild to get going and rescue Katrina at this point, so the nice mechanic goes off to call them a cab. In the meantime, Crane spots a motorcycle, which as Abbie recognizes has no electronic parts to be disrupted by the storm. Crane grabs the Sword and they get on the bike. Crane, not having experienced life in that joyfully dangerous time before buckling up was the law, freaks out a little about the lack of seat belts, but Abbie’s got this—she had a motorcycle when she was a teenager (of course she did, the badass). Away they go.
The ride to HHH is just long enough for Crane to fall in love with motorcycles and declare that he wants one “as soon as this is over.” Way to look for the light at the end of the Apocalypse tunnel, Crane! In the meantime, though, the Manor is dark; looks like no one’s home, but they decide to check anyway. In the course of their search, they find what could be a landscape for a train set, but is actually a model of Sleepy Hollow with flags in the places where Henry has struck. What at first seems like some serious vanity on Henry’s part becomes much more sinister as Crane finds some red yarn and plays connect the dot with the flags. When looked at that way…the Horseman of War has drawn a really nice pentagram over the city. Just like the one in Moloch’s lair. As Crane suddenly remembers that Katrina was at HHH to stop Moloch, they hear her yell from outside.
She’s got a good reason to yell: Headless Abraham (outside of last week’s gorgon’s lair, it looks like we can’t see his head again) has her tied up and is starting the binding ceremony that has been in everyone’s dreams this season. Ichabod isn’t taking this lying down. He draws the Sword of Methuselah and goes after Headless. Pretty soon the special Sword makes short work of that axe Headless has been wielding all year and Crane has his former friend at his mercy. If Headless/Abraham doesn’t give up Moloch’s location, Crane will kill him. He asks Katrina if she can still see Abraham. As long as she’s wearing the amulet around her neck she can, and she quickly casts a spell that extends the amulet’s capabilities to Ichabod so that he can see as well. It might have been better if he couldn’t, because Abraham immediately tells him that wielding the Sword of Methuselah comes with a price: the soul and life of anyone who uses it. Because these words come out of that lying liar Abraham who works for Moloch, Ichabod doesn’t believe him and is about to kill him when the Sword starts glowing. In the glow we can see that there are runes engraved in the side of the blade. Katrina can read them and says that they talk about angels and earthly justice, but she needs more time to research and find out if Abraham is telling the truth or lying. Abbie reminds him they don’t have time, Abraham snarls up at Ichabod from his position on the ground, the storm rolls, and…
We’re back in Witness HQ with Katrina locking Abraham up in his old set of chains (so many BDSM fanfics being written now because of this scene, so, so many). Abbie is irritated that so many of her family members lost their lives searching for a Sword that can’t even be used. Crane tries to calm her down because Jenny will be back shortly with the research Katrina needs. In the meantime they’re going to have to rely on Katrina to get Abraham talking. Abbie knows this whole situation must be hard on Crane and to her credit talks with him about it without saying the words “don’t you think it’s weird that your wife is so attached to the Headless Horseman?” (I don’t know if I would have been able to do the same.) And Jenny calls to break up the camaraderie.
At Corbin’s cabin, Jenny has found the text they were looking for and it’s not good news: the soul thing is true. Abbie’s betting that they’re both going to die before this thing is over since Moloch and the Horseman of War will need to be slain. Two demons, two witnesses, zero sum game. But she has to be sure that Crane can kill Henry when they find themselves in that situation. He sidesteps, saying that Moloch is the target, and Abbie calls him on the fact that his family is his weakness and Moloch knows this. He’s willing to lay down his life, but will he sacrifice Henry? Jenny sees another angle, though, and wants to know what happens if the Sword is wielded by someone who doesn’t have a soul to lose. No soul to lose means no soul to pay. Now, who do they know that’s missing a soul? The obvious choice is Irving, who signed his over to Henry a while ago (and if Sleepy Hollow has taught me anything this season, it’s to always read a contract the whole way through). Abbie has to point out that if it doesn’t work, he’ll die and lose his family. Jenny says it’s a chance they have to take. Now, how do they find him?
Out by the four creepiest trees in the woods around Sleepy Hollow. Henry and Moloch are having a confab. Henry’s excited by the location, calling it his “true birthplace” since it’s where Moloch pulled him out of his coffin and became his “new father.” Molloch commands purgatory to rise into the world, and he does so speaking in English. (This either means my Rosetta Stone, Demon Edition is finally paying off or things are going really badly for the good guys and Moloch’s already got the souls of all Sleepy Hollow viewers under his command. I’m really hoping for the former, not the latter.)
Katrina and Abraham are having a heart-to-heart at the same time. Katrina is still trying to get Abraham to give up Moloch’s location, but he is tired of her tricks and calls her out on ruining his plans. From his point of view, he wanted nice things for them, she wanted to destroy him. Not him, she explains, just Moloch. She was a spy, but during her time with him she saw the real Abraham, the one she used to know, and she grew to care for him again. Crane picks this point to walk into the adjacent room and hears all of it, of course. He plays it off and only asks about the Sword and Irving’s ability to use it without repercussions, which Katrina agrees sounds logical. While he goes to find Irving, she’ll stay with Abraham and try to find out more. Ichabod is totally not falling for this line and you can see it on his face, but before he can get away she apologizes for going back to HHH without “a proper farewell.” He said he trusted her judgement, and she says she hopes he still does. To deflect whatever emotions that statement brings to the surface he asks Katrina Abbie’s question: will she be able to kill Henry if that’s what it takes? She cites the same loophole he did: Moloch is the one they need to focus on, because if he’s gone Henry’s soul is free. But what if there’s no other way, Ichabod insists, what then? Katrina is confident: there is always another way. He leaves.
Back at Corbin’s cabin, Abbie’s been reading the Bible for clues and because it’s an illustrated Bible, there’s a picture of Abraham binding Isaac for sacrifice. Crane of course sees the similarities between that and his own situation, Abbie sees the differences, namely that Isaac was an innocent child and Henry is the freakin’ Horseman of War. Crane asserts that he will kill his son, but still wants her to admit that it’s an “unreasonable request.” Because, as Abbie says, oh so many things they’ve come across have been reasonable. Not. Jenny has been replaying Irving’s voicemail to her and has noticed something a little odd: numbers at the end of it like a call sign. Or a date: September 23, 1780. With his eidetic memory, Crane recalls a passage from Washington’s journal for that date, the date that the British spy John Andre was captured and taken to Sleepy Hollow. Abbie remembers that the old military post is downtown near their tunnels, and they’re in business. Jenny and Ichabod will go there and find Irving, and Abbie will go back to Katrina and Abraham.
If he has to stay underground (see what I did there?) Irving either has a career in home security or as the next Unibomber ahead of him because he’s rigged up the tunnels with tripwire and explosives and draws a shotgun on Crane and Jenny before they have a chance to do anything. Ichabod lays out the plan for him. Irving has doubts. What if it doesn’t work and he dies? If they don’t do anything, Crane replies, they all die and Irving still has to fight for the Horseman of War. Irving accepts his fate but wants to see his family first, except in an Apocalypse there’s no time for that. He makes Jenny promise she’ll take care of them for him, and then grabs the Sword like the BAMF he is and leads the way to see the Horseman.
Irving and Abraham, face to face (nice touch, writers, because the last time they were face to face, Abraham’s head was in a jar). Abraham taunts him, asking if he hasn’t already lost enough, but he doesn’t know the full extent of Irving’s losses so Irving lays them out for him. No soul, no death equals no more sacrifices for him. But Abraham still has some stuff to lose…like his arms (damn, Irving is really into this mental torture…I’m guessing he’s had a lot of time to devise paybacks for his enemies between his stint in Tarrytown Psych and his time in hiding). Abraham caves, Moloch’s at the four trees. Oh, and the trees aren’t white anymore, because with each of them that burns, Moloch brings more of purgatory over. The first tree brought lightning when it got scorched, the second will bring blood, the third tree will bring Moloch’s demon army, and when the fourth tree goes, hell will be on earth. Irving is ready to run Abraham through, but Katrina pleads for his life because he might still be useful, and Crane agrees. Moloch is their only target tonight. Jenny points out the obvious: they’re in need of weapons for the fight ahead. And in Sleepy Hollow when you need weapons, you go to…
Hawley, who is drinking at Mabie’s Tavern. Because taverns, like auto repair shops, don’t close down for the Apocalypse. (Either Sleepy Hollow has way more of a nightlife than I had previously thought or most people aren’t noticing it’s the Apocalypse yet, which is a little disturbing.) Crane and Jenny have to break it to him that the party’s over and Moloch is rising. Crane leaves to go back to the Archives, and Jenny tells Hawley she wants every weapon he’s got. Hawley is skeptical that the end is actually nigh, because haven’t a million people already said that and been wrong? At that moment it starts hailing blood, proving Jenny right. Hawley’s in.
Back in the Archives Hawley displays his arsenal, all of which are supposedly magical. Katrina starts chanting over a set of Blackbeard’s guns while rubbing them and Hawley is a little disconcerted until Jenny tells him Katrina’s a witch, and then he’s a little impressed with Crane. Katrina thinks she can recharge the magic in the various weapons, but it will take a little bit of time. Crane has something for them to do while they wait. They’ll ask Hawley for another favor.
Hawley gets his first look at the Horseman of Death and is suitably awestruck. He’s less happy when he’s told that demons might try to break Headless out while he’s babysitting the Horseman, but he agrees to it. Abbie is obviously amazed that he does and Hawley says he understands that the world is going to end and they need to take care of it.
In the Archives, Ichabod admits to Katrina that he overheard her conversation with Abraham, including the part about her caring for him. Without coming flat-out and saying it (probably because the term hadn’t been invented yet when he was buried), he suggests that she might have Stockholm Syndrome. She accuses him of having lost faith in her, saying she’s only acted to ensure their survival so that they can go back to being a married couple someday. Ichabod recites his laundry list of baggage about all the things she’s kept from them and questions if they even have a marriage. Judging by the look on Katrina’s face she has never understood he had this level of doubt, but she recovers quickly and says that until the war is over, they should just consider themselves soldiers. Comrades-in-arms, Ichabod agrees. And then Irving and the Mills sisters show up and they’re back into war mode.
At the four trees, the third tree is burning and Moloch is a little pissed that the Headless Horseman hasn’t shown yet. Henry blames Katrina, Moloch blames Henry, and dispatches the first of his army and the Horseman of War, which means that Henry goes all demon-eyed as the zombie redcoats start popping up from under the soil.
Team Good starts fighting the zombies and Abbie is shot, so she’s out of action. The rest are putting up a good fight, and then the Horseman of War’s avatar shows up. “I got this,” Irving proclaims, and you can see that this time it is very very personal. They fight, and Irving cuts off the avatar’s right arm. Although he’s with Moloch, Henry feels the pain of the blow in his right arm but pushes the avatar to resume the fight. War slashes Irving a couple of times, but Irving powers through and stabs War in the gut. War dissolves in a flow of lava. (Well done, special effects team, that was brilliant.) Irving turns around in triumph, but as he walks back to Crane it becomes clear that he’s been horribly wounded. Crane calls for Katrina as Irving collapses on him, and Crane assures Irving that Katrina will fix him and everything’s going to be fine. But with hell and earth merging Katrina’s powers aren’t enough and while Crane is still telling Irving to fight, Irving bleeds out and dies. Not gonna lie, I sobbed like a baby and cursed the Sleepy Hollow writers for their unforeseen depths of cruelty, which frankly rivaled Steven Moffat in this two minute segment. Somewhere demons are feasting on the tears of Sleepyheads right now.
In the church (because of course all of this happened by St. Henry’s Parish), Jenny is binding up Abbie’s wound when Ichabod and Katrina come in to tell them the news. Ichabod can’t get the words out and just shakes his head, and Abbie pushes past him to see Irving’s body on the ground. Ichabod holds her in their shared grief (and you know fanfic is going to be written about that moment as well).
They’ve brought Irving’s body into the church, and Abbie closes his eyelids. The Mills sisters struggle with the loss, and Crane swears that Irving’s sacrifice will not be in vain. Damn right it won’t be, Abbie declares; she’s going to take out Moloch for Irving. Crane argues with her, saying that he can’t lose another friend to Moloch and that he’s been on borrowed time anyway. Abbie denies him this moment of self-sacrifice because they all have to stick together to win this fight. She will go first, and if she falls, Ichabod will have his shot. And if he falls, Katrina says she will take up the Sword. “Then me,” Jenny says. (It’s like the Three Musketeers except actually moving and not cheesy.) It’s the final fight, Abbie tells them, and they have to be prepared to make big sacrifices. She vows that Moloch is not going to take another soul. Crane agrees, and thanks her. And just when the scales could have tipped towards overemotional, the writers rescue it with a bit of humor, Abbie’s line “Don’t thank me yet, you haven’t heard my plan.”
At the trees, Moloch commands Henry to go get the Sword. Henry asks how he’s supposed to do that since Irving destroyed his armor and he’s now vulnerable (and clutching his right arm to prove it, the Sword apparently did some damage even through the avatar). Moloch tells him that he is to delay them, and Henry’s suspicions begin to rise. He protests that he’s the Second Horseman, and Moloch basically tells him that he’s an interchangeable part and he should be grateful to die for Moloch’s cause. Henry cries out “father,” but when Moloch turns on him and Henry can see that there’s no mercy there, he agrees to obey.
Henry walks into the church and is met by Abbie with the Sword. Henry taunts her and starts flinging roots at her, which she answers with my absolute favorite line of the episode, “You brought roots to a sword fight?” Except not so funny, the roots bind Abbie and she drops the Sword, and Jenny comes out shooting one of Blackbeard’s pistols. It seems to sting Henry a little, but doesn’t slow him down. He binds Jenny with roots, too. As he picks up the glowing Sword, Katrina comes out chanting and the Sword fades and becomes an ordinary sword. Ichabod has the real Sword of Methuselah, and it’s at Henry’s throat. Katrina pleads with her son to just let them go to fight Moloch, but Henry closes all the doors and windows and says they’ll have to kill him first. Here it is, the test we’ve been building up to all episode, and…commercial.
Crane still has the Sword at his son’s throat, Henry is taunting him, and Abbie is trying to get Crane to do the needful, but Crane has other ideas. He starts telling the story of the Akeda, the binding of Isaac. Abraham was willing to make the sacrifice of his son, but at the last minute God gave him a ram to sacrifice in Isaac’s place. Crane says he will sacrifice Henry and himself if he needs to, but there is another way. Instead of a ram, they have Moloch to sacrifice. If Henry will just let him past, he’ll kill Moloch and Henry will be free to live the live he wants to live, be returned to the bosom of his family, and have free will again instead of being Moloch’s pawn. Henry asks if his parents would really do that and tears up, saying “You never gave up on me and you never will.” It’s a really touching family moment until Henry moves with surprising speed for a middle-aged guy, knocks the Sword out of his father’s hands, and hoists Crane up by the neck before dropping him to the ground. He holds the Sword over Crane’s head, reminding everyone that there’s no sacrifice for him to use it because he’s immortal. But for the moment, they will all come with him because Moloch is waiting.
And here we are again where we were at the end of last season, with Witnesses and various family members tied to the four trees. Moloch commands Henry to burn Katrina on the last tree. Henry protests that she’s Abraham’s (Headless, not the Bible Abraham in case that confused you like it did me), and Moloch says that because Abraham fails, he gets jack. Basically Abraham is nothing, Henry is nothing, sacrifice your mother, Moloch commands. “Very well,” Henry says and turns on his mother, sword in hand. But as he pulls back to strike, Crane’s selfless streak kicks in and he cries out “Take me.” Henry goes over to his father and asks him who would worship a god that requires sacrifices like the Akeda. Those days are over, he declares, and the true lesson of the story was that of Isaac. Any man who would sacrifice his son deserves to die. “As should any god!” Henry pulls his sword arm back, pivots, and stabs Moloch through the gut. Moloch bursts into flames and then explodes in a cloud of ash, and we are on hiatus for the next month. Unbelievable.
Tonight was my favorite episode of the season thus far, because it gave me nearly everything I wanted. The acting was amazing (it’s always amazing, but special kudos to John Noble as Henry and Orlando Jones as Irving who outdid themselves this week), the set, props, costumes were fantastic, the writing was great, simultaneously tying up a lot of loose ends from this season and giving everything one hell of a springboard for the spring premiere. You watch a midseason finale knowing that there is going to be a cliffhanger, but I have to say that this was an insanely great way to leave the fan base hanging. One of the phrases used to describe Sleepy is “twistory” or “twisted history,” but I would argue that it could also stand for “plot twist and history.” There is no denying the Sleepy creative team are past masters of the plot twist, especially after tonight.
I had only two issues with tonight’s episode. One was the timing. At various points it felt like time was either rushing by (hurrying to get to the manor to find Katrina, Irving not having enough time to talk to his wife and daughter before the battle) or like they had all the time in the world (waiting for Jenny to show up with the reference texts, time to go find Hawley at the bar). The timeline got a little wobbly wobbly timey wimey, to use a phrase from another fandom, and I wasn’t sure if we were in a mad rush, had some time on our hand, or if the Apocalypse distorts time. It’s an Apocalypse, who knows how time works in one of those? It’s also winter, which means long nights, but this one night seemed to last an extraordinary amount of time. I also wonder where Sheriff Reyes was in all of this…we’ve only seen her sporadically throughout the season, and the Apocalypse is literally happening in her jurisdiction. She’s an observant woman and a good cop, so what exactly is she doing while the end of days is happening on her watch? But in the grand scheme of things, both relatively small gripes.
And now I’m faced with the problem of what to do during Sleepy’s hiatus. It’s a relatively short break until new episodes start airing in January, but that still seems too long. Can’t we get a new ep for Christmas or Hanukkah or something? New episodes of Sleepy Hollow start airing on January 5. A little over a month, Sleepyheads. We can do this.