After a strong start and a very bumpy middle, Sleepy Hollow pulled out all the stops for its mid-season finale. With epic battles, moral dilemmas, plot twists, and the slight issue of the apocalypse, The Akeda hurtled at a break-neck pace, right through to its final second.
But as the stakes were raised and the drama got bigger, the show's recent problems also became more obvious, marring an otherwise dramatic and fun episode with frequent moments of, "Wait, what?"
First, there's Irving. Although he played an important role this week, as the only person who could wield the Moloch-killing sword with impunity, his sudden significance to the plot only highlighted the fact that he's had pretty much nothing to do for the past few months. His death, while tragic, felt like confirmation that they had no idea what to do with him, even if it means he'll be resurrected or conscripted into evil or otherwise brought back with a stronger plotline next year. And as for his ability to wield the sword, I felt like I missed something. He's immune to its soul-stealing power because Henry already took his soul. But I can't remember if a reason was ever given for Henry's action. Was it just for the lolz? Just because he could? Since the horsemen seemed to know all about the sword and its powers, why would he basically turn Irving into a weapon that could be used against them all without a good reason?
And then, sadly, there's Katrina, the show's vessel for negative female character tropes and general uselessness. One and a half seasons in, the show still can't figure out how to make her into a powerful witch beyond saying "she's a powerful witch" several times an episode. She was meant to spy on Henry and Abraham, but mostly she ended up giving Henry information about Ichabod and Abbie's plan. She's supposed to have powerful magic, but the show seems reluctant to actually use it, as though afraid that it'll provide too much of a deus ex machina. The plus side to that is that the peril is higher, and Ichabod and Abbie have to save the day with ingenuity rather than by pointing a witch in the problem's general direction. The massive downside is that Katrina's magic is always "weakened," and so she appears weak and useless herself. When she said that she had to work fast to revitalize the weapons, before her power weakened in the face of Moloch, I nearly laughed. When has her power ever not been weak when it really counted?
Katrina also got to play the damsel again this week, as she first appeared bound, gagged and screaming for help, needing the heroes to rescue her. She is meant to be a very powerful witch, as they keep reminding us, but calling her a "spy" does little to change the fact that she appears in a classic damsel in distress pose, and does absolutely nothing to subvert that.
She also gets to play the role of "Are you crazy?", disguised as the caring, loving mother figure. Many of my notes while watching this episode were of the caps-locks-in-disbelief variety, as though typing into a word document could convince this fictional character that the horseman of death is not your friend, and is probably not redeemable, because he is one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. He is literally an embodiment of evil. He is probably not going to be reasoned with. Henry is not going to be reasoned with. He may decide to kill Moloch in a dramatic plot twist because the demon asks too much of him, but he's still evil. He's still willing to bring about the apocalypse. He is the enemy, no matter what "Katrina the mother with unconditional love" may say.
It's just wearying, when the show can be so fun, and so good. It's almost as if they used up all their Awesome Female Character abilities with Abbie and Jenny -- who thankfully got to be badass leaders again this week -- and only had cliches left over for Katrina. It's genuinely perplexing.
That said, the episode in general was tense and dramatic and twisty, and it was a lot of fun to watch. I just hope they manage to fix their Katrina problem after the Christmas break. But after a season and a half of issues, I'm not holding out a lot of hope.