‘Sleepy Hollow’ season one finale recap: ‘Bad Blood’

Yes, “Sleepy Hollow,” that’s how you do a season finale.

The first season of FOX’s bonkers breakout hit came to a delightfully thrilling conclusion in tonight’s two hour finale. Literally every character was left in jeopardy and the writers pulled one hell of a twist on us, so let’s start there.

It’s no secret that John Noble has already committed to season two when the show returns later this year, so we’ve known for awhile now that his character, sin eater Henry Parish, would take on even more significance in the story. But was anyone prepared for this?

After Ichabod returns from purgatory with Katrina (more on that in a second), Parish surprises them both with the dramatic reveal of his true identity. He’s… Keyser Soze!

No, he’s actually Ichabod and Katrina’s long lost son Jeremy (so that “Golem” episode had a purpose after all), who’s been bent on revenge ever since Katrina’s coven buried him alive. And since Moloch was kind enough to dig him up thirteen years ago, Jeremy’s loyalties naturally lie with the demon. (He nabbed the name Henry Parish from a local church, the naughty boy.)

I couldn’t be happier about this development because it solves two big problems while setting the stage for potentially great things to come. For one, the show could really use a human (or human-ish) big bad. Moloch is creepy and all, and Headless is badass, but are either of them going to give grand scenery-chewing speeches like Noble? Or have the ability to drive Ichabod into anger and despair with a personal connection as meaningful as being a blood relative? Nope. But Henry can.

The other problem it solves is exactly what to do with Noble. I don’t know what form “Sleepy Hollow’s” cast will take next season, but I’m hoping that Lyndie Greenwood’s Jenny survives the car crash and gets upgraded to full-time regular. Now that Irving’s no longer Captain (since he took the fall for the murders his daughter committed while she was possessed), he’ll be free to round out the Scooby Gang (once he’s out of prison). The show works well with that foursome, but Parish wasn’t really clicking as a good guy. Maybe that was by design, but either way he’s much more intriguing playing for the opposing team.

Anyway, let’s jump back to purgatory because that’s where we last see Abbie — trapped in a dollhouse along with the embodiments of her missing memories from the day she and Jenny saw Moloch in the woods.

Before we got to Henry’s big reveal, the bulk of “Bad Blood” was about saving Katrina. Once Ichabod and Abbie survived their tests of temptation (involving welcome guest work from Victor Garber as Crane’s father, as well as Clancy Brown and John Cho), they discover there’s an even bigger stumbling block in the way of their rescue mission. Katrina can only leave if a soul to takes her place. Although Ichabod naturally volunteers, Abbie is adamant that it’s her job. She needs to face down Moloch. Katrina gives her a protection amulet but Ichabod gives her a hug (“Remember our bond, I’ll come back for you”) — which doesn’t go unnoticed by Katrina.

And so Abbie has essentially dug her own grave, while the last time we see Ichabod he’s literally lying in his son’s former grave. Right before that Jeremy allowed Headless to ride off with Katrina*. I don’t have a clue how the writers will get any of these characters out of their predicaments and I love that. This was a great way to go out, with a series of nail-biting cliffhangers.

*[While I’m pleased Katrina is finally out of purgatory, and the show may finally make better use of Katia Winter, I really hope that Headless riding off with her doesn’t mean we’re in for another season of, “We must rescue Katrina!”]

At the start of the season, “Sleepy Hollow” drew a lot of attention for its cuckoo bananas pilot (as well as its massive debut in the ratings). The conventional wisdom was that the show was so nutty it couldn’t possibly sustain itself. So here we are at the end of season one and guess what? It did. FOX’s decision to limit the first season to 13 episodes was probably a wise one. Not all of them were great, but it’s clear that the writers were working off a master plan. It reminds me of the first season of the revived “Doctor Who,” when you get to the end and realize every episode provided something to drive the larger arc forward, even if it didn’t seem that way at the time.

Sure, the show is still nuts, as all the George Washington goofiness in the finale’s first hour proves. But what “Sleepy Hollow” really pulled off in this first season was giving us a group of characters worth caring about, tightening their emotional bonds with each other (especially between Ichabod and Abbie, and Abbie and Jenny) and never getting so bogged down in an overall mystery that we lost that personal connection.

It’s a fun show, it’s a clever show, and I can’t wait for season two.

Odds and ends:

– The second hour, “Bad Blood,” was directed by Ken Olin, who helmed more episodes this season than any other director. He’s got a good feel for what the show is at its best.

– Did I miss an update on Detective Morales? He wasn’t one of the murders that Irving turned himself in for, so is he just recovering in the hospital? (I’ll be happy to correct this if I did miss it.)

– Even though Abbie proclaimed poor Andy dead, I’m kind of hoping we’ll get more John Cho next season. “Sleepy Hollow” is certainly the kind of show where being dead doesn’t really limit opportunities for your character.

– And big props to John Cho for enduring that insane demon makeup/body suit/whatever the heck they did to him. He’s a class act.

– Love that first hour callback to the OnStar gag: “Yolanda was a much better listener.”

– But Ichabod’s best line (or lines) in the first hour was clearly: “I had only seven close companions. Four of them died. Those were good odds.”

– Aw, how sweet of Moloch to remember the 13 year anniversary of his first meeting with Abbie and Jenny.

– How does Abbie prove to Ichabod it’s really her in purgatory? With a fist bump, of course.

– Binge watching this show would probably be really fun, so hopefully FOX gives newcomers some good options to do exactly that before next fall.