When last we left Our Heroes, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) had been buried alive by the Sin-Eater Henry Parish, a.k.a. his long-lost son Jeremy Crane (John Noble), grown old and evil and promoted to the rank of War, the second of the Four Horseman. The First Horseman, Death, a.k.a. the fabled Headless Horseman, as embodied by Crane’s former best friend Abraham Van Brunt, had taken prisoner the woman they both love, Crane’s witch-wife Katrina (Katia Winter), who had been freed from Purgatory by swapping places with Crane’s partner and present-day best friend, Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie). Abbie was left stranded in Purgatory and trying not to be murdered by the Big Bad behind all the evil, the demon Moloch (currently played by Derek Mears, a former Jason Voorhies), who’s trying to find a way to wage war on our world despite all the interdimensional traveling limitations.
Meanwhile, Abbie’s sister Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) was left unconscious in her flipped SUV after a Horseman attack. Abbie’s commanding officer Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) is in jail for the murder of one of his officers. The real murderer was a demon who had possessed the body of Irving’s wheelchair-bound daughter Macey (Amandla Sternberg), but that sort of information doesn’t play well in an ordinary police interrogation.
That brings us to the season-two premiere: “This is War”. For those who missed out, my attempt to streamline the basic events follows after this courtesy spoiler alert for the sake of time-shifted viewers…
…we fast-forward One Year Later. Abbie and Crane have been free of their traps ever since, and Jeremy/War has been jailed, but Irving is nowhere around, and Katrina and Jenny are dead. Both killed offscreen without so much as a flashback apiece.
Uh-huh. Riiight. But we roll with it. One depressing thing is true: Captain Irving is not in this episode. BOOOOOO.
Abbie teaches Crane how to invoke a birthday wish using a cupcake and a single candle. “And here I thought science had won over superstition here in America.” Y’know what else didn’t win here in America, Crane? KILLJOYS. But then a police call summons the duo to the local Historical Society, where the night professors are now missing their heads. One prof in particular has a collection of Benjamin Franklin research documents — a few in plain view, but all the best effects are hidden in a false-bottomed desk drawer. Crane has no love for Franklin, whom he describes as “a blatherskite, a blowhard, and a gasbag,” and also makes disparaging remarks about his love life. Regardless, the Horseman clearly wants something from Franklin’s collection. The most striking item is a drawing of a key, actual size.
Exposition paused for HEADLESS HORSEMAN ATTACK. The enemy reels at Abbie’s “consecrated bullets” and Crane’s crossbow bolts. The Horseman reels and flees from their new arsenal. End obligatory action scene.
Crane knows the key all too well. Flashback to 200+ years ago when Crane was summoned to assist Franklin (special guest Timothy Busfield from thirtysomething and Revenge of the Nerds) with a critical task, prefaced by begging the Founding Father to put on some clothes and stop gallivanting around in his birthday suit. We Americans have been taught that Franklin used the key to discover electricity by flying it on a kite and attracting lightning to it. ALL LIES. This was no mere door key. the Gehenna Key can unlock the gates to Purgatory and unleash the demons within if it fell into the wrong hands. Franklin’s mission with the kite was to destroy it with lightning. So now you know. He never mentions how the key fell into his hands. More handiwork from America’s first secret cabal, I suppose.
Surprise: zapping the magical metal object wasn’t enough. Franklin hid it instead, but Crane knows not where. Next stop: Jeremy’s cell. Sure, he’s evil now, but he knows stuff. Like Hannibal Lecter, but with a more civilized appetite. Probably.
Jeremy agrees to see them. He asks questions. Abbie vaguely remembers Jenny once ran an errand for their mentor, the late Sheriff Corbin. Somehow she thinks really, really, really hard and remembers this one time when the MacGuffin on one of those trips was a Ben Franklin sketchbook she nabbed in Philadelphia. Jenny would know the story better, of course.
BOOM. The world crumbles around everyone. Illusion shattered. It was all a trap. None of it was real. No tacky offscreen character deaths. No consecrated rounds. No fancy crossbow. No birthday cupcake or unrequited birthday wish or Crane using the quasi-word “punk’d” in a sentence. Yes, see, the entire opening was part of Moloch’s plan. He wants the key so he can release his demon armies from Purgatory and come conquer us and win the world and stuff. So he and his servant Jeremy put them through a long, elaborate dreamworld ruse in hopes that they’d eventually get around to having conversations about the Gehenna Key and maybe even dropping useful clues about its whereabouts, even though it had never been mentioned on the show before and it’s interesting that Moloch somehow knows Crane knew about the Key and could be spurred into mouthing off about it, except Crane wasn’t quite as helpful as Abbie’s utterly random and trivial anecdote about her sister, which was exactly the sort of coincidence Moloch was hoping would be his big payoff for this convoluted stunt. Painful interrogation or, say, summoning a magical mind-reading minion might’ve been a faster way to pick their brains, but then you wind up with an episode that’s fifteen minutes short.
Back in reality, Jeremy turns his attention to Jenny, his captive. He awakens her with an adrenalin shot and uses his sin-eater powers to read her mind. He plucks out that one obscure memory from long ago when she looked at that drawing of the Key exactly once. Too bad the text around it was in code that she, he, and Moloch can’t translate. So the bad guys step back and bide their time until Our Heroes do the legwork.
Still buried, Crane takes out the smartphone that Abbie bought him a few episodes ago (which he used exactly once, while still using his flip-phone on and off) and tries to record a final message to her. Sadly, the memory is full as no one thought he would need a memory card. Thankfully the living tree roots that had ensnared him in the finale have depowered and gone slack. Also thankfully, Crane realizes the dirt around his grave is loaded with sweet, flammable sulfur. He uses the phone to bludgeon a small hole in the rickety coffin lid, crams a few things from his pockets into a makeshift fuse, and lights it up. BOOM. The ground above the coffin explodes outward. It does not explode inward and turn Crane to fried pulp. Maybe that wooden coffin lid wasn’t as rickety as it looks.
Crane exhumes himself, discovers that his phone still works after bludgeoning the explosion-proof coffin lid, and calls Jenny, who happens to be held in a warehouse down the road and by this time has freed herself of her chair and can answer her phone, which Jeremy forgot to take away. She’s surrounded by patented warehouse goons (those pesky Hessian henchmen), so Crane finds an ambulance parked outside for some reason, luckily finds the key in the ignition, figures out how to turn it on because he’s smart, figures out how to shift from Park to Drive because maybe he watches Abbie at times, figures out how the accelerator pedal works because there aren’t that many controls left to decipher, and rams it through the warehouse wall. Jenny joins him and has to take the wheel and finish her own escape because he declares Reverse is too hard for him to figure out. Better luck on his next driving test.
They adjourn to the late Sheriff Corbin’s underground library. They find the page, which Crane decodes instantly because Franklin wrote it in a secret alphabet he invented himself and taught to Crane because, uh, perhaps he thought Crane would be America’s next Benjamin Franklin. The message: “The key to success lies under the alarm clock.” That means next to nothing, so instead Crane remembers the key would be “with him”. Because traveling to another city would take too long, they brainstorm possible Benjamin Franklin places in or around Sleepy Hollow, such as the precisely only Benjamin Franklin statue in Sleepy Hollow, in front of this one building. Lo and behold: there’s a brick cornerstone with the initials “B.F.” carved into it, which they pull out to find the Gehenna Key. All of this works because, as Crane randomly remembers, “Franklin created riddles in threes.” Of course! Uh.
At this point, Crane’s goal isn’t to find the key and play keep-away with Moloch forever: he means to use it to go rescue Abbie from Purgatory. Speaking of which: Abbie has spent her downtime running from a raging Moloch in the creepy Purgatory forest. At one point she’s accompanied by the once-traitorous, once-living Deputy Andy (a returning John Cho, on furlough from Selfie), who’s decided that being evil is bad and he wants to remember what it’s like to be human and free-willed and smiled at by a girl. Andy directs her to Moloch’s lair (while he’s out on evil errands, of course), where there’s a magic room that lets anyone contact the outside world. The lair also has a fire-pit and a giant wall pentagram and decor made of skulls, hundreds of lit candles, and pet bats that frighten easily. She utters the inscribed incantation that allows outgoing calls: “Karlosu naseparasi tock-tay-he mumble mumble mumble Ichabod Crane.” For a brief, glorious minute, friends are reunited so they can hug happily and compare notes. Elsewhere, Moloch is busy slicing his hand open and watching his blood droplets summon forth a zombie army that can’t go anywhere near our world without the Key, but at least he’ll have friends he can hang out with for a while.
Leaving Jenny behind in our world in case of disaster, Crane pockets the key, returns to the right spot, utters the spell to enter Purgatory, and walks through a cloud of floating shards. Jenny has already recapped the Rules of Purgatory for him: no eating, no drinking, no accepting anything from anyone. So Purgatory is like the waiting room at a hospital after you’ve undergone hours of morning testing to confirm your terminal condition.
Abbie and Crane happily meet. He offers her some water. TRAP. Behind Crane is another Crane. IchaNot roars at her. The Cranes fight and fight and fight. The winning Crane approaches her and calls her “lieutenant”, which he pronounces “lieutenant”. TRAP. She immediately calls him on it, grabs a convenient sword nearby, and beheads him with a single swipe. The real Crane is glad to see “Leftenant” Mills safe and sound, and they celebrate with a partial fist-bump. He messes up the little fake explosion you’re supposed to mimic at the end. If only he had some sulfur lying around, he’d show her a real explosion. And a very safe explosion, of course.
They run for Purgatory’s gate. Moloch looks up from his zombie party and realizes he’s about to lose. They reach the gate; the key fits; they return to life through another cloud of floating shards; and the gates lock automatically behind them. Moloch is not happy. The Key crumbles. Apparently Ben Franklin didn’t leave a memo behind to tell anyone it was a one-time pass. Ben Franklin’s library must not be as comprehensive as he thought. Crane and the Mills sisters are reunited once more, but they realize this isn’t a perfectly happy ending. They killed none of the bad guys and Katrina Crane is still a damsel in distress. If only she could free her hands and do some witchcraft.
Elsewhere in reality, throughout the episode: Katrina is still Death’s captive. At one point we’re treated to the sight of a shirtless Headless walking around and showing off his pecs for the ladies in the audience, assuming they can overlook his hideous red stump. Then he gives Katrina a turquoise amulet that lets her see him as the old Abraham, human head and mouth and stalker vibes and all. He’s more impressed than she is, and he’s forgetting an earlier incident in which she stabbed him in the hand when he tried to feed her bread. Wooing her may not be as easy as he thought.
Meanwhile, Moloch rewards Jeremy for their failed plan with a special gift. Animated armor enters his lair through a surprise lava door. The armor is thought-controlled and armed with a flaming sword. “COOL! This would’ve been a great thing to have several hours ago,” Jeremy doesn’t say.
To be continued!