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Sleepy Hollow’s third season comes to a frustrating end

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For an episode named after the end of the world, it’s surprising how quickly Sleepy Hollow dispatches what was presumably the main threat; Pandora takes out the Hidden One with her magic box maybe twenty minutes into the hour, with Jenny shooting the defeated god in the head as a final revenge for Joe. But then, the Hidden One was never really the threat anyway. Pandora’s the one who’s been with us since the start of the season, and it’s only right and proper that she should serve as the finale’s ultimate Big Bad. At least she has something approaching a personality.

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A shame, then, how haphazard “Ragnarok” is—random, manipulative, and frequently baffling. It feels, at times, like a series finale, which is probably appropriate; I haven’t heard one way or the other, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the end of the road for the series. So it makes a certain amount of sense that they try and tie off as many loose ends as they do, with all the abruptness and clunkiness such tying usually entails. The Hidden One falls! The Headless Horseman returns! Pandora is defeated! And Abbie dies.

That last one is where “Ragnarok” really lost me. Joe dying was bad enough, but at least I can imagine a show without Joe on it. The Abbie/Ichabod partnership is the core of what makes this series work; their relationship and their chemistry helped paper over a lot of the rougher bits, and having her assumed into the aether after she sacrifices herself to power Pandora’s Box is, quite frankly, a ridiculous creative decision. Some shows benefit from their willingness to bump off main characters at a moment’s notice, but this isn’t one of them.

Really, it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of who this story is really about. Apparently the writers considered Ichabod to be the lead, and Abbie an important but not necessarily vital element. Sure, there’s some hand-waving about a potential fourth season plot that has Ichabod tracking down someone who inherits Abbie’s job as Witness—taking on her soul, which actually sounds a little creepy if you think about it. But Nicole Beharie won’t be around for that, which is, quite frankly, absurd. I’m not sure if there were behind-the-scenes issues we aren’t privy to, but Beharie’s a critical element of the series. Tom Mison is a fine actor, but without the two of them together, what’s the damn point?

That’s not even getting into how half-assed this whole thing was, from the quick disappearance of Betsy Ross (which I’m fine with on the one hand, but after making such a big deal of bringing her in last week, shouldn’t she have had some impact on the narrative?), to the laughably random return of the Headless Horseman, who Ichabod is able to resurrect with a few words and a skull. Abbie’s death is bad enough, but the complete lack of preparation of that death makes it even worse. Very little in “Ragnarok” felt like it was something that had to happen, and that makes for a series of random events that can’t really sustain the weight they’re intended to carry.

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The only explanation I can think of for this nonsense is the already mentioned theory that this is supposed to be some kind of unofficial series finale. But even by that metric it fails. I can’t imagine any fan of the show watching this and being happy how things turned out. (I mean, I’m sure some of those fans exist, and more power to them, but this isn’t the series we were sold on.) Abbie’s good-bye to Crane is emotional enough, because both actors are good at their jobs and it’s not that hard to wring tears out of a farewell. But it fails to satisfy because after everything the two have faced together, Abbie’s final sacrifice is too random to be justifiable.

Maybe if we’d known earlier than this week that Pandora’s Box needed a Witness’s soul to power it, this might have some impact. (By the way, how the hell did she get it running in the first place? There are only two Witnesses, and I don’t remember either of them dying in the season premiere. I guess it only matters if the box is destroyed?) As is, it’s insulting in a way that seems utterly and frustratingly avoidable. You want to go out on a high note? Don’t kill your heroine. It’s really not that hard. For fuck’s sake, the episode made me annoyed at a Clancy Brown cameo, and that has to be some kind of record. If this really is the end, what a disappointing conclusion for a story that had such unexpected promise at the start. And if there is a fourth season, I’m having a hard time getting excited about it.

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Stray observations

  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Approve Of This Week: He referenced the classic Star Trek episode “City On The Edge Of Forever!” That was easily my favorite moment in the episode.
  • Okay, I also liked Ichabod bowing to Abbie at the end, I’m not made of stone here.
  • Just to make sure Abbie’s death has maximum impact, multiple characters tell Ichabod that he’s in love with her.
  • “Impossible!” “No, just highly improbable. Which, as luck would have it, is our stock in trade.”
  • How many times did Abbie take one for the team?
  • I’ve heard rumors that Nicole Beharie wanted off the show. I hope she gets projects that deserve her, and I’m annoyed that the writers pushed her to this point.
  • I get that August Corbin is happy to see his son again, but considering that seeing his son means that Joe has died, it would’ve been nice to play the moment with a bit more complexity.
  • Remember when the Headless Horseman was scary? Yeah, me neither.
  • Goodbye, probably. It’s been frustrating!
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