‘Sleepy Hollow’ Season 2 Finale Recap: “Tempus Fugit”

If this is the end of Sleepy Hollow, then it will have gone out on a high note. In fact, it’s probably best that it does go out like this, because an episode like the second season finale — one that has time travel, deep historical revisionism, and lasting consequences — isn’t something the show can do on a weekly basis.

Yes, “Tempus Fugit” is too good an episode for the second season of Sleepy Hollow. It has “Awakening” and its cliffhanger ending to thank: sending Abbie back to the Revolutionary War and forcing her into a kind of Terminator “I’m from the future” scenario turned the show on its head while still allowing it to operate in its own fish-out-of-water world. The same, but new — radically so.

The plot particulars of the episode are, as with most episodes of the show, somewhat inane but a little beside the point. The first half-hour finds Abbie, who was imprisoned in the last episode, fighting to convince Ichabod that she is, indeed, from the future. This involves getting him to take her to the home of Benjamin Franklin, which is kind of cool but also not so cool because the horseman follows Abbie and decapitates him. It was an unexpected jaw-dropping moment, if only because, at this point, the show was still tricking us into thinking there would be serious world-altering effects from this time traveling.

Anyway, Ichabod freaks out when Franklin is killed, believing Abbie was responsible for his death. He takes her back to the prison. But, in the end, it’s a pointless runaround because Abbie remembers a selfie she and Ichabod had taken. It’s on her phone, which is in the custody of the army.

Tom Mison’s physical comedy has, in the life of the show, been a constant joy to watch, even if it’s only used sparingly. The scene in which his Ichabod battles with the little black box that is Abbie’s iPhone isn’t hysterically funny, but it’s fun to watch, a kind of extended version of Zoolander‘s “The files are in the computer?” bit. It’s made even better by the fact that, as this is happening, Abbie is choking out a colonial dude who has come to punish her for being a spy. She caps off her beat down by whispering in his ear, “That’s true American strength.”

From here, they go to Frederick’s Manor, where Grace Dixon — Abbie’s ancestor, who had appeared in several episodes prior to this one — uses her own witchery to reverse the time travel spell that had been used by Katrina. It’s here, at the house, that the evil Katrina plot comes to a real head. She, the Headless Horseman (Abraham), and Ichabod fight, inconsequentially, while Grace and Abbie do some chanting in the house. The spell clicks just as Ichabod is about to be beheaded, and Abbie, Ichabod, and Katrina are sent back to the future, where Ichabod eventually stabs his wife in the stomach, killing her, and bringing an end to a storyline that should have concluded weeks (or months) ago.

At the very end, when Katrina is dead and gone, we see Jenny and Irving. Remember, Irving is no longer possessed. He convinces them all of this, and they leave. That’s the end.

And it could very well be the end of the entire series. It wouldn’t be a complete travesty if Sleepy Hollow didn’t return for a third season. It would be a real shame for the great Nicole Beharie to be out of a job, but this second season has been an absolute letdown, even if you remove it from the context of the first. With very few exceptions, Sleepy Hollow rested on the procedural conceit, its week-to-week resulting in too few lasting changes in the too-many long-term plots. The few episodes that deviated from that formula were strong, but those were saved for key weeks — finale, pre-finale, and, now, finale.

Maybe it’s a sign that the writers don’t know how to develop these characters on a weekly basis, able only to make these big, sweeping changes rather than incremental ones. Or maybe it’s just that the weird, supernatural character piece of the first season was a happy mistake, and this cop show routine was what was intended all along. You can’t know for sure, but if this show is renewed for a third season, there needs to be some major retooling. It can’t be Abbie, Ichabod, Jenny, and Irving just killing a different mythical beast each week. Well, it can, but it won’t be good, and it certainly won’t be the best this show could do.