Nice Guys (and Dolls)

This post contains spoilers for episodes 1.12 and 1.13, “The Indispensable Man” and “Bad Blood” of FOX’s Sleepy Hollow.

I guess I was exceptionally lucky in college: I only came across two actual Nice Guys in the five years I was working to put myself through school and complete my degree. The first was by far the worst: After all, how exactly am I supposed to respond when a young man I’m not even dating asks if I’m a virgin when we’ve only spent a grand total of five or six hours together?

I certainly never was faced with a Nice Guy who claims he’s the only one who can save me from the coming apocalypse, then willingly turned himself into a demon when I turned him down; nor did I ever run across a guy who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, even after two centuries and his beheading. And I never met a man so incapable of empathy that he orchestrated a ridiculously elaborate revenge plot to prove his own worth and superiority. Then again, I’ve never spent much time in upstate New York. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first season finale picks up a couple days after the events of last week’s episode, where Capt. Irving’s daughter was possessed by a demon after George Washington’s bible, killed a priest, and was then defeated by a magic lantern. (Frankly, if the pacing wasn’t as tight or the performances as engaging, I wouldn’t believe this was a real show sometimes.) But a dead cop, let alone a dead priest, isn’t something that can be overlooked, and Irving and his daughter are both facing some pointed questions.

Meanwhile, Abbie and Ichabod are still figuring out how George Washington could have written a message in his bible in invisible ink four days after his historical death. (Although, considering how much the show has cribbed from the school of ‘wave hands, shout Freemasons’ thus far, I wondered at their focus on the ‘how’ versus the ‘why.’) However, not even our intrepid Witnesses – and, yes, there is finally a line about it being with a capital ‘w’ – can research 24/7, and so Abbie heads home to putter about in her kitchen, which is really a convenient excuse for Deputy Andy (Sadly, not the robotic one.) to creep on her in her home.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Second verse, same as the first.

They have a little tete-a-tete, wherein Andy explains his ‘in’ with Moloch, the Big Demon on Purgatory, means he gets a plus-one to the Apocalypse, and he’s inviting Abby. She’ll have none of it, or him, and Andy hares off back to his sewer hidey hole-slash-bachelor pad.

In the first of the evening’s homages to the National Treasure franchise, Ichabod and Abbie discover a letter from Zombie!George Washington to Future!Ichabod about where to find a map to Purgatory.

Lydia Got Stiles

Zombie Washington: The hottest costume of Halloween 2014.

Our Friendly Neighborhood Sin Eater, Henry Parrish, arrives to help the Witnesses discover the map’s final resting place. Their search takes them to the grave of the priest killed in the pilot, who happens to have been an equally well-preserved relic of the colonial era, but while there, Parrish, Ichabod and Abbie are attacked by a particularly violent reject from a Cirque du Soleil production. They return to the archives, where they then realize the map is buried with George Washington, and head off to retrieve the map.

In the second homage to National Treasure, the Witnesses and Parrish discover Washington’s Mason-fied underground tomb, where they are joined by a newly demon-enhanced Deputy Andy. They manage to retrieve the Map to Purgatory, but they also destroy Washington’s tomb in an attempt to trap Andy while they escape.

Nobody Leaves Without Singing the Blues

How to make John Cho Even Less Attractive: 1) Remove wrinkly neck skin; 2) Add veins. Lots and lots of veins.

(Side Note: I think that destruction counts as a fake felony? Because it’s destruction of federal property? Second Side Note: I have no formal legal education.) However, as the prophecy/rumor that Ichabod will betray Abbie continues to circle, Ichabod destroys the map to both prevent Moloch from getting ahold of it, and himself from using it to rescue his wife and condemning his partner.

The tomb raiders separate for the night, with Abbie heading home, Parrish retreating to his motel, and Ichabod sitting down in the cabin to recreate the map, thanks to his eidetic memory. Meanwhile, to save his daughter from punishment, Capt. Irving confesses to the murders of the cop and the priest, then is frog-marched out through the throngs of shocked Sleepy Hollow PD staff.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Anyone else remember when Orlando Jones was best known for “MAD TV”? Cause, man, he was underused when he’s capable of this.

(And encapsulating this relatively major plot point in one sentence is not even as abrupt as the show handled it, frankly.)

The following morning, Parrish informs Abbie and Ichabod that he had a vision of the second horseman, War, being awakened sometime that day. Ichabod reveals he redrew the map, down to the special incantation needed to open the Hellmouth door to Purgatory. While annoyed, Abbie agrees that if the timeline has been moved up, they must use the map to go to Purgatory, find Katrina and bring her back, as she is the only one capable of stopping War from arriving. Jenny Mills appears and begs Abbie not to go messing around with these grand cosmic powers, worried Moloch will be particularly unkind to the elder Mills sister. (The entire exchange prompted me to start referring to him as Old Man Moloch, who keeps yelling at those darn witnesses to git off his lawn.)

Doe Eyed Cat

As a sister, Jenny and Abbie’s relationship feels mostly realistic to me. Y’know, demons aside.

Abbie promises to return to Jenny, and Jenny agrees to stay close to the archives, where it is safe, which Jenny takes as orders from her big sister to comb through Sheriff Corbin’s collection of x-files, looking for further information to help their fight.

Ichabod and Abbie recite the incantation and cross into Purgatory, with a final warning from Parrish not to eat or drink anything they’re offered. (Now we can add the Persephone story to the various myths the show has used.) He also reminds them not to forget each other, as they will offered what they want the most.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Don’t try this one at home, kids.

Abbie’s deepest desire is up first, as she awakens in the cabin, calling for Ichabod but finding Corbin, Andy and fresh pie. She’s confused, but is all too willing to accept a reality in which her pseudo-father figure and good friend are both alive and whole. But when they all sit down for a slice of pie, she realizes it’s an illusion and refuses to eat her pie. The illusion shatters, and the scene shifts to Ichabod’s temptation: The love and admiration of his father, who actually renounced him when he switched sides after meeting Katrina. As they’re about to toast Ichabod receiving a full professorship, Ichabod realizes he’s trapped in an illusion, and his father does an excellent Walking Dead impression as ye olde teacher’s lounge explodes.

Meanwhile, Jenny has discovered in one of Corbin’s x-files information about an unnamed church, which, when she tracks it down and discovers the church’s name, sets her on a collision course with the Headless Horseman – literally.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Dead? Or merely unconscious?

The last shot of her is hanging unconscious and suspended from a seatbelt in an overturned truck as the Headless Horseman rides in the opposite direction.

As a dazed and disheveled Ichabod wanders among extras from Pan’s Labyrinth, he nearly stumbles over Abbie. Both are reluctant to believe the other is real, until what was a throw-away moment six episodes ago becomes integral to proving to each other they are who they say they are.

Fucky Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Fist bumps: They’re the new shibboleth.

From there, it’s a race to the last five minutes: Abbie and Ichabod find Katrina, who says she cannot leave without destroying the veil between the real world and Purgatory unless someone stays in her stead. Katrina and Ichabod return to the real world while Abbie is left behind, and promptly faces off against Moloch.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

I’m not one to shout “FACES” about characters, but: HER FACE.

She’s unsuccessful and soon finds herself trapped inside a facsimile of the dollhouse she and Jenny had as children, unable to escape and with only teenage versions of herself and her sister for company. In the real world, Ichabod introduces Katrina to Parrish, and the three hike through the woods to Chekov’s Four White Trees, which have cropped up nearly every other episode. Unsure of how to proceed, Katrina and Ichabod dither until they are abruptly thrown against two of the trees and secured with vines as Parrish is, in fact, their own magically inclined son, all growed up and in cahoots with the forces of Evil. Jeremy ‘Henry Parrish’ Crane explains he did not die when his mother’s former coven trapped him in a grave for more than 200 years, but instead lay aware but unable to free himself until he was freed by Moloch. The Headless Horseman arrives and Jeremy/Parrish gives Katrina to the Horseman, in fulfillment of their long-broken engagement, then throws Ichabod into his own former grave and buries Ichabod alive.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Not gonna lie: This scene did remind me of Angel and Connor more than a smidge. And The Woods are as desolate as the Pacific.

Early in the season, Katrina tells Ichabod that Evil wins when good men do nothing, and his decision to disown his commission in the King’s army and join the colonists is driven, in large part, by his belief in two things: His own inherent goodness, and his desire to do something when confronted by the possibility of something worse than corruption and injustice. These two beliefs are what connect most of the main characters, to varying degrees: Abbie went into law enforcement to be a force for good, even though she came from a troubled background; Jenny risked life and limb to track and retrieve artifacts that could be useful in case of Armageddon; and Katrina aligned herself with questionable forces in an attempt to secure safety for her husband and child. While Ichabod and Irving began as skeptics, their shared belief in truth and justice were enough to carry them through events that strained the suspension of their disbelief. In the two-hour finale, the faith and trust these characters have in their cause, themselves and each other was severely tested. And as it wavered in the face of deeply held desires, they were weakened.

But here’s why I was so excited at the prospect of Abbie and Ichabod trapped, helpless and alone; by Jenny hovering on the edge of death; by Irving sacrificing his freedom; and by Katrina carried off by her former fiancé, now the embodiment of Death: They believe in their own goodness, but they aren’t arrogant about it. Where Moloch, the Headless Horseman, Parrish and Deputy Andy are certain they cannot be stopped, the show illustrates how the White Hats are plagued with self-doubt. Ichabod, Abbie, Jenny, Katrina and Irving never assume their plans will work, or that those plans will work exactly as they hope, especially as there isn’t exactly a “World Saving for Dummies” they can reference.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Yes, because telling Abbie Mills what to do is generally quite effective.

Furthermore, the agents of Evil assume the women involved in this story are less of a threat, that they are helpless without a man or backup. While the show has never shied away from killing anyone, Abbie, Jenny, and Katrina are not traditional Final Girls: They may be punished, but not for behaving in an unladylike way. They are not forced to run from the demons that chase them; most of the time, they don’t run at all, choosing instead to stand and fight. They are post-Final Girl heroines, embracing their flaws and femininity, and using their wits to defeat their enemies, rather than a well-placed pitchfork to the sternum.

In the same way Nice Guys underestimate the women they alternately fetishize and belittle, Sleepy Hollow‘s forces of Evil are focused on stripping Ichabod and Irving of their power and authority, believing it is enough to frighten, threaten and shame Abbie, Jenny and Katrina into submission.

 

Evil has grown arrogant, and that is its greatest weakness, as it assumes Abbie, Jenny and Katrina are no more than pawns, dolls which can be moved about arbitrarily without consequence. The finale elegantly sets up what will surely be a firecracker of a season two premiere, and I, for one, cannot wait to see the forces of Evil crumple under the weight of its own smug self-satisfaction.

2 thoughts on “Nice Guys (and Dolls)

  1. YES. I love this review–totally agree about the contrast between the arrogance of the Evil characters and the realism/ self-doubt of everyone else. Also, I need season 2 now.

    • Thank you for reading and letting me know what you think. 🙂 When I was in middle school, I read a book about a clairvoyant set in 1912 (“Ghosts Have I Been” by Richard Culp), and a character had a line something like, “Arrogance can be our greatest downfall,” and it stuck with me. And if you look at Moloch, Andy, the HH and Jeremy/Parrish, they trade a lot on talking big and jumping out from the shadows to say ‘boo!’ (Yes, they kill people, too, but they seem to think they’re above getting their hands dirty.) And the ‘Good Guys’ are usually like, “Wow. That worked? That worked. OK, onto the next thing,” which I think is part of their charm because it’s how I think most people would react.

      Also: YES DEAR GOD YES. How are we supposed to wait until September or October? I mean, sure, I’m going to probably going to watch “Salmon Fishing In the Yemen” (Tom Mison) a lot, but I’m going to need to figure out what else can I watch in the meantime because season two *cannot* come soon enough.

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