Do not read on unless you've seen the "Sleepy Hollow" mid-season finale, "The Akeda."
After a tumultuous ride -- among fans and critics and on screen as well -- "Sleepy Hollow" has brought the first half of its second season to a close. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), Jenny Mills (Lyndie Greenwood), Katrina Crane (Katia Winter) faced down Moloch, and in a surprise move, the demon's minion, Henry Parish (John Noble), delivered the killing blow to Moloch and averted the apocalypse.
However before that moment arrived, Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) died during a sword battle with the Horseman of War. Frank's surprising death was a shocking moment, and executive producer Mark Goffman says it will hit the anti-apocalypse team hard. It's sure to be one of the most discussed elements of the show until it returns Jan. 5, 2015.
And yet despite all that action, there was one thing fans didn't see in the finale: a kiss between Nick Hawley (Matt Barr) and Abbie Mills.
Last July, I interviewed Goffman in Los Angeles and, later that day, sat in the "Sleepy Hollow" writers' room as they worked through this episode's plot twists. There was a lengthy discussion of a planned kiss between those two characters, and also talk of briefly exploring how Jenny felt about a growing attraction between her sister and the artifact dealer (Jenny and Hawley had an on-again, off-again relationship in the past). Between that summer day and this fall finale, obviously all of that went by the wayside.
As Goffman noted in the interview below, not every idea makes it from the page to the screen intact. The writers decided to veer away from a potential Abbie-Hawley attraction, though the artifact dealer will still be around when the show returns next month.
Now that Moloch is dead, the back half of "Sleepy Hollow" Season 2 will differ quite a bit from the first, according to Goffman. I wasn't sorry to hear that changes are in the offing, given that the bumpy second season ran into an array of problems. The team dynamic that made "The Akeda" work more than other episodes had was largely missing from many episodes this season, but Season 2 was plagued by other issues as well.
I summarized what I found troubling in a previous post, and now my problems with the mid-season finale can be summarized in one question: Why kill off Frank Irving, a memorable character with a lot of potential, instead of Katrina Crane, an ineffectual character who has failed to add anything significant or positive to the narrative over the course of 24 episodes?
Imagine if Henry had killed Moloch (whose dismissive, uncaring manner was no surprise to anyone who noticed that Moloch was a demon) as an act of vengeance after the hell creature killed Henry's mother? As it was, Henry turned on his adoptive father for reasons that didn't resonate much beyond "Fake Dad wasn't nice to me and Real Dad was."
Though I welcomed the sense of energy in this episode, and the cast's performances were typically excellent (Ichabod's desire for a motorcycle was the hour's most entertaining moment), the decision to kill off Frank rather than Katrina feels like an enormous missed opportunity. I wouldn't be surprised if some segments of the fandom are upset at this development. (That said, fans of Irving should read closely the section of the interview in which Goffman addresses the fate of that character -- not everything may be as it appears on that front.)
Goffman said that the show's creative team wanted to demonstrate that Ichabod and Abbie's war with powerful supernatural elements has a serious cost, and obviously ending the life a core character is a serious repercussion for the team. Hawley is a minor nuisance at this point, but I can see scenarios in which he could become more useful to Ichabod and Abbie and to the show. But the depiction of Katrina has consisted of a series of serious and often momentum-killing mistakes. In the finale, seeing Katrina tied up by Abraham -- once again needing to be rescued -- caused me to roll my eyes and mutter, "What's next -- are they going to tie her to some railroad tracks?" It was just one damsel-in-distress moment too many in a show that has repeated far too many dynamics (Ichabod and Katrina arguing about Henry, Henry resenting his parents, Ichabod and Abbie battling an evil plot by Henry, etc.).
Also on the debit side: Moloch was too remote to be an reliably effective villain, Frank and Jenny were sidelined for too long, and Headless himself hasn't seemed all that compelling or dangerous this season. But many of "Sleepy Hollow's" current problems are solvable or salvageable: The Crane's marriage is not. If I cared about Katrina for any reason -- because of her relationship with Ichabod, because of her skills or competence, or simply because she was a cool character -- I might not care that she failed in her mission to stop Moloch. But she did. And that was only a problem because it was the latest in a long line of ineffectual moments.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, I am sticking with the show, and I'm certainly interested to see where things go from here, based on some of the things Goffman said. But my concerns about "Sleepy Hollow" aren't gone, even if Moloch is.
When Goffman spoke to The Huffington Post, he was in Wilmington, North Carolina, where the show shoots, in the midst of writing the Season 2 finale:
The first thing I wanted to ask you about was the decision to kill off Frank Irving.
He is a beloved character on the show and in the fan world. As we were crafting the story in the first half [of the season], we wanted to give him an epic story and it really seemed like [that would involve] bringing him back into the fold in the biggest possible way, making him a hero and helping the team. It was something that we were certainly longing for and excited about doing.
But then, we wanted to show there’s a cost to it, and that this is a war and there are tragedies and casualties. It felt like it really gave both the episode and the series a certain kind of momentum that we wanted to have in the mid-season finale. I liked the way that the story evolved and think it’s a really good path for him in that episode.
Well, Orlando is so active with the fandom and he's a core part of the team and the cast -- I just wondered, should fans walk away thinking we’ll never see him again, or should there be more ambiguity about it?
What I love about the show is that just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you’re gone. We saw Andy Brooks return. We’ve seen Sheriff Corbin return. So I think that there’s still a lot more story to tell with Frank Irving.
One thought that popped into my mind was that Henry still owns Frank’s soul.
I didn’t get my supernatural lawyers on the case, but is that still a valid contract?
Yeah. I think that we really left it in a really interesting place. We set up [the contract with Henry] early in the season and I think that’s still the case. It really takes hold when someone dies, so I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.
So because Henry killed Moloch and did not kill his parents, does that mean that the Crane family could have reconciliation?
Katrina was in Purgatory for over 200 years and essentially all of the first season. The first half of Season 2 is the first time that we got to see her in the natural world, and she was finding her place and she was trying to continue her role as a spy and serve a purpose that way.
When all of this comes to a head in the mid-season finale, that last moment everything changes for our characters. And there are wholly new developments in their relationships moving forward from the back half. So we’re going to see everyone trying to figure out their new role in this post-Moloch world. Where does Katrina fit in as a witch and as someone who’s never experienced the modern world before?
I think we really teed up some interesting questions about her relationship with Crane, and what do they do now that Moloch is gone and [redacted -- see below]. Where does that leave the two of them? I think there’s room for reconciliation. There’s also room to explore all of the challenges that they’ve had in their relationship. And now they really get to dig into that. And I think what’s exciting to me is that I think we’re gonna see new shades of Katrina and Crane and their relationship in January.
You know, all of these characters are going to have a new dynamic -- we really wanted to shake things up in the second half of the season. So there’s a lot more focus on Crane and Abbie and their role as witnesses in this post-Moloch world and them trying to find their place. There’s a completely new dynamic with Katrina and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
What's going on with Henry when the show returns?
Henry looms large in the show. John Noble’s a phenomenal actor and that character has been such a heady part of the show. But again, one of the exciting things about the next part of the season is he’s been released from Moloch’s hold. As have our characters and really the whole world [have been saved] from the apocalypse that Moloch was trying to form. So we’re going to see a lot of evil coming from different directions. It’s going to be a lot more unpredictable and there’ll be a very different role for Henry in that as he finds his way.
Moloch was pretty much kind of a Big Bad for a lot of the show's history and especially Season 2. Going forward will there be more monster-of-the-week episodes, and will it take a while to work up a head of steam toward the last few episodes of the season?
I don’t really ever think of the show as a monster of the week [show]. I feel like Abbie and Crane are two witnesses and they have trials and tribulations ahead of them. They are tested. The whole show is about the two of them going through these trials and being tested, and so sometimes those are learning about or facing a creature that really forces them to face a part of themselves. Sometimes it’s a part of their history and learning from the past to help with the present. And sometimes they are adventures, like [in the Nov. 24 episode], they are like knights on a quest. I think that the show’s a little broader than just that, and we try to continue that mold throughout the back half. We definitely have a plan and forward momentum leading towards something, but I think what’s exciting is that it’s not just Moloch’s plan anymore.
We also really want to bring in different religions and different theologies and mythologies, so there’s a much more universal theme -- we aren’t just confined to the apocalypse that many of us think of. Moloch’s death changes all of that, because there’s no longer a plan or whatever that we can pull from the Book of Revelation -- it’s going to be much larger than that now. Also, there are going to be some creatures that seep through in the merging of worlds. All of that is going really shake things up for our characters in the back half.
Could another Horseman emerge this season?
At any time, but Abbie and Crane certainly have their hands full dealing with the two we’ve already met.
I got to be in the writers' room for the breaking of part of this episode, and when you look back at the conception of this episode and as you went through production, editing and so forth, can you talk about the changes that were made and things that were dropped or added?
Well, we always want to find the moments of humor and levity that help counterbalance the urgency and the incredible stakes. We always look for, what is ultimately the arc for Abbie and Crane in the episode. What are they going through personally? Ultimately, I think what drove the story for me was trying to find the moments that were going to bring our team together. What emotions did I want to see Abbie and Crane go through?
I really wanted to find a story that would bring together a team that has gone through so much this season and has had so many changes. Irving’s been off and had to really go through the wringer at Tarrytown Psychiatric. And we wanted to bring Jenny into the fold. I wanted to find a story in which it finally united them all for a cause. That was the biggest driver for me, when I was pulling apart and putting the pieces back together.
Also, a big theme on our show is that magic has a cost, as do these tests and trials. Even though you have this sword that’s supposed to be the most powerful sword ever, it can’t be easy to use. It wasn’t easy to find, it can’t be easy to use. How do our characters deal with the challenge that they face? And they found a very creative solution in having their best friend, in this epic moment, taking down War.
It seemed like it revolved around this realization that the characters all arrived at -- that they can’t necessarily protect each other anymore. They have to be all willing to go down swinging.
Exactly. That’s part of this team coming together that I find inspiring. We’ve done episodes from the beginning of the series that highlight both Abbie’s and Crane’s commitment and the fact that they’re willing to make sacrifices of themselves. But this was really the first episode in which they have to be willing to sacrifice others. They have to be willing to all go into this together, and all be in harm’s way. I thought that was an important bridge to cross and something that felt really powerful to watch.
When I went back and looked at my notes for that day in the writers' room, I remembered that Abbie and Hawley were supposed to kiss in this episode. So that was a big change from the original conception. Has a potential relationship between Abbie and Hawley being pushed back to the second half of the season? Or was there a decision not to go down that road?
You know, a show is an evolving, living, breathing entity, and as you’re watching -– as you’re crafting things in the writers' room and then you see them on screen, sometimes they don’t translate and the storylines don’t work like they do on the page. That [situation] was one that we felt after a while we wanted to take in different direction. I think we found a really fun, different direction to go with Hawley in the back half that I’m really excited about. We have a big storyline for him coming up in Episode 14. And I think it's just a more creative use of his character, a way for him to work with our group that plays with his relationship with Jenny.
As it was evolving it seemed like Abbie and Hawley were -- you know, I love watching the two of them together. But Hawley is a loner and we don’t always know which side he’s on. And there’s a really interesting chemistry that we’re going to see with him and [Jenny] in the back half.
The last part of my notes from being in the room has everyone talking about the idea of the characters realizing that the whole team would have to step up and be willing to sacrifice themselves, potentially one after the other.
The moment in the church.
Yeah, that's what that moment you all were discussing became.
After Irving’s death, they’re finally like coming to terms with how serious this war is. They never had a casualty of this kind -- one of their own, and especially after everything that Irving has been through. It really hits them hard. To me, that was really exciting and inspiring -- they’re all willing to do that, and Abbie and Crane realize there may be more casualties but that’s what it’s going to take.
I think the fact that the team was all together in Episode 11 gave it more power. I just wondered if you wanted to talk about why the characters were so dispersed for so long. I wish there’d been more if that, I’ll be honest with you.
You know, it’s a longer season. We went from 13 to 18 episodes, and we added cast this season and we’re telling some different stories. I think the biggest reason is because we wanted to really pay tribute to what we did in the finale of Season 1. We didn’t want it to be easy to get everyone back together. Each character was in such jeopardy and we wanted to be truthful and honest in the storytelling before allowing them to come back together. And so we wanted to fully explore those storylines. I felt like we had to be honest to have everything play out that way at the end of the season and earn it.
It seems like "Mama," where the sisters confronted the legacy of their mom at Tarrytown, got one of the more positive receptions of the season. Speaking for myself, I liked it because it was about family history and difficult relationships, and I watch the show as much for the relationships as anything else. Do you pay attention to responses like that? Does that kind of fan reaction matter to you?
Yeah, I hear you completely. Absolutely, we pay attention to the responses and the expectations of fans and our own expectations. It’s incredibly important to us. I was a huge fan of "Mama," and I thought Nicole and Lyndie were phenomenal in it. At the core of the show are these characters, and that’s always going to be first and foremost. I’m excited that we’re going to be able to tell more stories with them and I think we’ve had a lot of learning and growing this year. That's how it goes.
What would you say you learned about what works and what doesn't? What have you filed away over the course of Season 2 and thought "We need to do more of this and less of that."
Well, one of the things you just brought up -- I love the episodes where our team is together and kicking ass and having fun. I think exploring their relationships more deeply is something that I’m excited about doing in future episodes. Jenny is a character who we can see a lot more of, and I’m excited to see a lot more of her in the season.
There’s a host of things. At the core of the show is Abbie and Crane, and we are now getting to test them in different ways. Getting to know them as people better and understanding their relationships and their histories -- it’s always just an incredibly exciting part of the show. And then the "twistory" is really, really fun and we’re going to continue to do that. Those are the things in which I want to be focusing a lot more on.
I have to say, it’s really hard for me to care about Ichabod and Katrina. It’s basically impossible for me to care about Katrina as a character, or Hawley and Abbie. You seem to have dialed Abbie and Hawley back. But you have Ichabod and Abbie, who have such great chemistry -- and I wonder if you see that chemistry as both a blessing and a curse. Was the part of the point of Season 2 to kind of separate them a little bit and have other people in their orbits?
It always a blessing to have any characters who have real chemistry like they do. Tom and Nicole are just phenomenal. We really wanted to expand the world this season. We were excited about the prospect of having Katrina in our world, but we also didn’t want the show to just be about magic and witches. There are plenty of shows like that. So we wanted the magic to be hard and rare and we wanted to make Katrina an interesting character in her own right.
I feel like the show has done really well with strong women, and has characters that were very strong female characters, and we wanted Katrina to have that same kind of presence. She is Ichabod’s wife, and I think it’s a really dynamic storyline when you have a woman who’s a witch and a spy and has very strong opinions who is also the mother of the Horseman of War. I don’t think of her as an obstacle. I think of her as a character who, you know, has her own opinions and agendas and goals for herself and the way she wants the world to be. And that’s something that we played out in the first half of the season.
To be honest with you, I would take issue with the idea that she was shown consistently to be a good spy and a powerful witch. She was often put in jeopardy. At one point when she was trying to do magic she fainted. Intelligence came from Ichabod and Abbie's camp into Moloch’s camp because she used the mirror. I mean, she’s often not helping the situation or has to be rescued. She does not seem like a character who’s additive to the narrative.
Yeah, no, those are valid things to bring up. You know, she chose to stay and be a spy. She chose to go back [to Abraham]. I think she’s made a lot of strong decisions too.
But she didn’t kill Moloch.
But magic in her world is rare, you know, and so I think she’s dealing with that too. I mean, I hear all your points.
I understand that she is meant to seem powerful, but her overarching mission was to stop or even kill Moloch, and she didn’t do that. I know that there are intellectual reasons to do that. But she basically didn’t complete her mission.
Well, first let me say, I think we’re going to find a couple of surprises in the back half of the season that will give some explanation for a lot of the questions you’re asking. So I think that’s something to look forward to.
And also there are a lot of emotional reasons too. This charm that she was wearing showed Moloch as this child that she has been guilt-ridden about for over 200 years. So that’s a powerful emotion.
Could Katrina ever turn to the dark side?
When Henry introduced the coin of Judas, he told Ichabod that everyone has both light and darkness inside them. There’s still a shroud of mystery around Katrina’s past, which could impact her journey in Sleepy Hollow in the future.
Regarding Katrina and magic, she spent more than 200 years languishing in purgatory without her powers. Gaining her bearings can take a while. Look at how hard it is for people to adjust back to civilian life after spending time in prison, so try practicing magic after being trapped in a level of hell for two centuries.
When the show returns, will you be building up the world of the town and the supporting characters?
We’re going to keep growing the world for sure. I think that’s something that is going to be really fun for the show to continue to see more Sleepy Hollow and ultimately even beyond.
How does Abraham factor into what goes down next?
Headless is certainly the most formidable evil on our show, and I think a very scary visual, so we want to continue with him as Headless. We’ve gotten to humanize him some and see a lot more of him this year and understand that relationship and why he’s so driven with Crane. But I think getting to see more Headless is kind of exciting too.
Could John Cho come back and could we see other notable guest stars in upcoming episodes?
We all love John Cho. I really, really hope that we get to see him again on "Sleepy Hollow." We’re also going to have some awesome additional guest stars that are going to appear. We have the role of Thomas Jefferson and he'll bring his own kind of attitude and special delivery to the character. We will see also more of Franklin.
Spoiler alert: The next part contains information about a "Sleepy Hollow" character. The first comment is the unredacted part of a reply that you can see above. Then there's a little more of that part of the conversation.
Here is Goffman, in response to a question about Ichabod and Katrina: I think we really teed up some interesting questions about her relationship with Crane, and what do they do now that, you know, Moloch is gone and Henry is gone. Where does that leave the two of them? I think there’s room for reconciliation. There’s also room to explore all of the challenges that they’ve had in their relationship. And now they really get to dig into that. And I think what’s exciting to me is that I think we’re gonna see new shades of Katrina and Crane and their relationship in January
I promise you I did watch the episode, but I don't recall Henry going away at the end. What happened to Henry?
All we know at the end of “The Akeda” is that Henry kills Moloch. Why, and what he does next, or even if he survives using the sword, can only be answered over the course of the rest of the season.
This interview has been edited and condensed.