Column: Recap and Review: Sleepy Hollow 1:05: John Doe


By P.S. Griffin


Summary: Something sickly this way comes – and goes with Abbie’s help, thereby saving Ichabod, Sleepy Hollow, and probably the world. Prithee I bid ye to cast out all sense lest madness take root, gentle viewers.


Recap: We open in the familiar woods of Sleepy Hollow. A dirty boy in ye olde timey garb sees a young girl, suspiciously clean in a white nightie. They are both barefoot. She dares him to try to catch her; he follows, after initial hesitation and surprise at seeing her. She disappears as he is chasing after her, and then he in turn is chased by an imposing horseman in a horned helmet that covers his face. The horseman hits a wall of nothing and dissipates as the boy runs through it onto the asphalt of the road to Sleepy Hollow, a visual callback to Ichabod’s journey from the past to present in the premier. The horned horseman is another callback: He is one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse from Ichabod’s visionary dream earlier in the season (Blood Moon).

We cut to Ichabod and Abbie at Sheriff Corbin’s cabin, which is the perfect quaint, olde timey abode for our favorite, know-it-all time traveller. Abbie suggests that he spackle the bullet holes and volunteers to tell him what “spackle” means. Ichabod is flummoxed by plastic and loofahs; happily, Abbie provides scissors before his ire reaches epic kvetch levels. Ichabod wonders if he is fitting in with these strange modern times. Abbie teases that he looks great for 200 and suggests a change of clothes (finally), demonstrating far more restraint than most people, who would have gotten rid of the ancient woolen trousers and frockcoat immediately as a fixed term of their partnership and/or release from his psychiatric hold. Before she can further tease him, she gets the call about the boy from the teaser. He’s not roadkill, but he has turned up in town much worse for the wear.

Ichabod notices the boy’s old-fashioned garb, even by his standards, as well as a curious black veining on his exposed skin. The boy awakens briefly, speaking an unknown tongue. Ichabod recognizes this as an early version of English, which of course Ichabod can speak, because who doesn’t prefer their Chaucer in the origina auld lang syne! Ichabod’s translation of the boy’s Middle English is “evil girl.” Yes, she was and you were a very bad boy to go chasing after her.

Things are hectic at at the station. Abbie is reviewing the missing children database. Alpha male Morales is insubordinate by questioning why Irving still has Ichabod partnered with Abbie. Irving is coordinating with the CDC to set up quarantine protocols.

Ichabod is at the hospital, still kvetching about plastic, speaking to the little “John Doe” via Skype, his big gorgeous mug filling the screen because the colonial hunk is clueless about modern technology (LOL).

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We learn that his name is Thomas, he’s from Roanoke, and he’s very sorry that he followed the girl. What he is not doing is freaking out about Ichabod’s enormous disembodied head and all things modern; perhaps he believes it his punishment or a fever dream.

Dashing Ichabod feels kinship with this little time traveller, realizing that this wee bloke is from the missing Roanoke Colony AKA the Lost Colony. These missing colonists disappeared in the late 16th century, a time when the Queen’s English was Shakespearean. If only I had a bare bodkin for every time someone mixed up Chaucer and Shakespeare; I would be weaponless in no time! Capiche?

Although he hails from bloody ole England (There is nothing merry about backing demonic overlords), Ichabod knows enough to infodump about Virginia Dare, the littlest lost colonist, and three-year supply runs. Ever willing to embrace the supernatural over logic, Ichabod believes that he’s solved the Roanoke conundrum: They all relocated to a hidden pocket in the woods outside Sleepy Hollow more than four hundred years hence.

I love how he is embracing the nonsensical spirit of this episode in the fullest. Or is it just a midfall’s night fever dream ….

Abbie still has more sense than the writers because she wants to investigate for answers. A paramedic is sick; he’s seeing the Horned Horseman, for goodness sakes! They need information pronto. I saw World War Z and Contagion and therefore understand the importance of establishing disease vectors. So, I am very thankful for the silent CDC in their protective suiting headed by Agent Henriksen, Dean’s main law enforcement nemesis on Supernatural.

Abbie and Ichabod head to the woods to retrace Thomas’ path. Ichabod’s olde timey tracking skills are phenomenal. He finds the missing colonists as easily as you or I might read a map, and has time to show Abbie a nifty flower that closes at the touch of the living. In other words, this flower will remain open in the hands of the dead.

[Ichabod Crane is] a man, yes, a big man!
With an eye like an eagle and as tall as a mountain was he!

As far as theme songs go, Daniel Boone’s ditty is half-near-perfect for olde Ichabod.

To pass the time on their woodsy jaunt, Abbie pokes fun at Ichabod using sarcasm. He’s petulantly nonplussed, so she teasingly asks about revolutionary humor per the Founding Fathers. Thereby, we learn that Thomas Jefferson loved puns and John Adams had a journal of unsavory limericks. Methinks Ichabod is an elitist snob and an unrepentant name-dropper. He never references anyone who wasn’t the moneyed elite or a colonial mover and shaker.

Ichabod and Abbie find Thomas’ footprints and follow them to a brackish and deep body of water encircling a small island. It appears unreachable by foot until Ichabod extraordinaire walks on water! Actually, he notices the markings on the trees, which indicate the hidden crossing. This is pretty amazing in itself. Frankly, Ichabod had me at “Leftenant”! Ichabod the gallant helps Abbie across and there they be. All of ye olde timey lost colonists are walking and talking, speaking Chaucer’s English as if everything that was wrong with this silly story suddenly became right. Everything is wrong on the island – at least because every single one of them is covered with the same black veining as Thomas, yet they all appear to be hearty and hale. Also, no one is surprised to see a woman of color in trousers; even our progressive Ichabod commented on Abbie upon meeting her in the Pilot.

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A village elder does us the kindness of an infodump. Roanoke was cursed by the Horseman of Pestilence. This was the Horseman that was never mentioned until now because they were going with Conquest as the fellow on the white horse until this episode. The littlest colonist, Virginia Dare, was the first to die and her spirit led the colonists to the island. where they can be pestilence-rich and symptom-free.

I think that perhaps Pestilence is trapped on the island because he keeps riding around in the background, reigned in by unseen walls that force him to dissipate. Abbie sees him, but doesn’t react appropriately. She is offered a flower that should close at the touch of the living, yet it remains open in the colonist’s hand. This is a clear indication that ye olde lost colonists are long dead. Abbie declines the flower and misses the significance. Either it’s a very off day in the writers room or Abbie is just having one of those days.

Apparently, when Thomas followed the evil girl, he happened upon the path to 21st century Sleepy Hollow. The plague disease is active everywhere but the lost colonists’ interdimensional haven. Therefore, in our dimension, quite-dead Thomas is still sick and spreading the plague. Like I said, t’was a very off day in the writers room.

I am not sure what Pestilence is waiting for. Perhaps someone has to die before he becomes corporeal? Yes, I am extrapolating mightily in an effort to wring some sense out of senselessness.

To paraphrase the wise old timer: Bring the boy home to save them all. He says it clearly enough for me yet, neither of our heroes seems to cotton onto this fundamental truth. Ichabod is lost in reverie and nostalgia for ye good olde times, and Abbie is dumbstruck.

They return to find out that the plague is spreading. Ichabod is infected and tranquilized before he can run amuck. Whilst unconscious, he travels to the World between the Worlds and sees his beloved, the very dull Katrina. She believes he must be near death to be there because she’s been unable to summon him for some time. Katrina’s World between Worlds is actually Purgatory and she’s trapped there with many lost souls. Only Moloch to determine their fates. Moloch, the walking damned and Purgatory … oh, my!

I confess that I am far more interested in these lost souls than Katrina. Are they actually lost or are they unwanted like lost toys? Are they doing penance? Are they unbaptized? Aw, shucks, methinks it’s just a throwaway line to elicit sympathy or at least the heebie jeebies over poor/sad/dull Katrina’s fate. I am having none of that; although Ichabod is – hook, line and sinker. He’s indignant, gobsmacked and afraid for her all at once. She’s suddenly at the top of his to-do list.

He wants to know why Moloch wants her soul. Luckily for Katrina, Ichabod returns to the land of the living before she can answer him. All the better to control and manipulate thee, surely, dear Ichabod. Yes, fellow viewers and Sleepyheads, I still do not trust the stealthy witch clothed in lascivious black. Methinks the lady doth manipulate too much.

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Everyone else was busy whilst Ichabod trysted. Alpha male Morales received intel from Oxford that Ichabod’s revolutionary era academic credentials remained above reproach and that he was a Professor there currently on sabbatical in Sleepy Hollow. Whoan that’s some major string-pulling, whoever you are! Kudos to Morales for investigating something suspicious, even if he was grossly insubordinate.

Abbie tries appealing to Irving’s sense of whimsy to convince him to let her take Ichabod and Thomas to the woods, because really, that’s the most sensible solution. At least that’s their working theory: Something in the woods is the cure. Irving’s having none of her pragmatically delivered nonsense this episode. Maybe he’s afraid of being embarrassed or arrested by the looming CDC presence. Abbie’s next step is the multidenominational chapel.

If you missed it before, you definitely will see now that Abbie is meant to be this show’s Dana Scully, the short, plucky, rational proceduralist from the X-Files who throws her skepticism out of the window in matters of faith. I really loved Scully’s seasons long character development, but I guess that this supersonic approach works as well. It’s not as if I didn’t see the parallels since the premiere. As soon as we got the first long shot of our heroes walking side by side, their genre archetypes were clear: the diminutive, rational beauty with a ferocious loyalty and the tall, handsome misfit willing to believe anything in his fight to save the world from evil invaders.

Abbie enters the chapel hoping that God will give her a sign that taking the enormous deadweight of sick Ichabod as well as little Thomas, who actually belongs back in his Roanoke pocket universe, back to the woods is the right thing to do. The chatty village elder seemed to think that returning the boy where he belongs would close the loop and stop Pestilence’s plague. This makes sense to me. Yet, Abbie ignores the obvious.

A Catholic patron genuflects with holy water on the fingers. It happens in churches daily all over the world. Abbie takes this as her sign and decides that the well water is the cure!

The true mystery remains. What has prevented Abbie from using her top-notch investigative skills in this episode? Yeesh. The lost colonists are dead. Remember the lesson of the flower? But because the special baby ghost led them to a colonial pocket universe (Purgatory, perhaps), the pestilence didn’t spread and Pestilence was thwarted. As the elder said, please return the missing kid home to stop the plague and close the supernatural loophole.

Amazingly, Irving actually buys that there is a secret well with special curative waters in the woods outside Sleepy Hollow. He engineers the conditions for Abbie to abscond with two near-comatose, contagious plague victims. It’s a slow stagger through the woods as they come. Thomas can barely move and Pestilence lurks within eyesight. Ooh! Things must be dire. Things most certainly are dire because Pestilence chases them all the way to the well, which they reach just in time. He dissipates just before he reaches Abbie.

Ichabod rouses. He and Abbie are amazed to see that they are alone in the rubble ruins. DUH! Ichabod finally realizes that little Thomas was dead all along and was lured to Sleepy Hollow by Pestilence to spread the plague. The hows and whys do not matter, folks; just chalk it up to the supernatural! Ichabod must still be addled from the fever because he believes that Abbie’s faith in her exalted WITNESS status enabled her to solve this week’s kooky supernatural conundrum. Now Ichabod’s faith is a wonder to behold.

Happy endings are magical! Irving phones to let Abbie know that everyone is recovering from the plague. Abbie is happy to hear this, but perhaps not as happy as she is about the disappearance of Ye Olde Yesteryear Village.

Yes, we’ve come full circle, with character growth to show for this nonsensical journey. We started the episode with Abbie mocking Ichabod’s man-out-of-time, fish-out-of-water status; as well as Ichabod questioning her about how odd he seems because of it. We and Abbie see Ichabod’s wistful glances at the quaint people of yesteryear, who are almost two centuries distant to his time. Yet, Ichabod feels a kinship and comfort with these earlier colonial times, moreso than he feels towards modern Sleepy Hollow. Abbie is observant enough to have guessed how Ichabod was feeling since the man wears his heart on his sleeve.

Abbie tells Ichabod that he belongs in Sleepy Hollow in the here and now (with her). I need her to tell him that she needs him, because she does in so many ways. Of course she doesn’t say anything except with her eyes. For Ichabod, she has said enough.

The episode ends on a welcome-if-ominous note, as we cut to the Headless Horseman emerging from his underwater slumber.

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Vital Statistics: “John Doe” was written by Melissa Blake and directed by Ernest Dickerson.


Review: I added a considerable amount of commentary and snark in the Recap portion of this Review. Let’s sum it all up for those who missed my meaning – this episode makes no sense.

Logic fails in the plotting aside, what were they thinking with the Middle English gaffe? It’s nonsensical. I realize that it’s not the only time that the show has raised eyebrows with the creative licence that it takes with fact and history. Some of the changes obviously impact the AU world building and contribute to the considerable charm of the show. Others make sense because they add fluorishes that would otherwise be lacking. For instance, witch burning offers dynamic visuals; is a much more horrific end for the wicked; and allows for a final, lengthy grandstand by the condemned, punctuated by well-earned screams. I can see why it might be substituted for the drabber hanging that was used in England and the Colonies.

I did enjoy the way that some ideas originally used by the television series Supernatural were employed in a fresh way that supersedes the borrowing. Fans of Supernatural will certainly recognize the use of a plague of demonic origin to further cement the victory of Hell in the coming Apocalypse. This was also tied to the disapearance of the Lost Colony of Roanoke by the show’s mythology, featured in episodes “Croatian,” “The End,” “The Devil You Know,” and “Two Minutes to Midnight.” Supernatural also featured the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, with Pestilence spreading a lethal flu virus. The Horsemen feature in the series’ fifth season, after Lucifer is released and Death is raised, with Pestilence or his storyline appearing in the episodes “Sympathy for the Devil,” “The End,” “Hammer of the Gods,” “The Devil You Know,” and “Two Minutes Two Midnight.”

That’s a lot of plot overlap with borrowing of significant details (Roanoke), yet Sleepy Hollow managed to make it their own. This was the high point. Unfortunately, it seems that episodes that borrow heavily from another vehicle, like “John Doe” and “For the Triumph of Evil,” fail miserably in terms of logic. That, my fellow Sleepyheads, is a mighty big rub, one that rubs me mightily the wrong way.


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IFPColumn: Recap and Review: Sleepy Hollow 1:05: John Doe