Sleepy Hollow Season 1, Episode 8 “Necromancer”
Written by Mark Hoffman and Phillip Iscove
Directed by Paul Edwards
Airs Monday nights at 9pm ET on Fox
After the events of “The Midnight Ride” where Ichabod (Tom Mison), Abbie (Nicole Beharie), and Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) capture and neutralize the Headless Horseman, it seems his threat is over for a while. This isn’t the case as the Horseman’s probing reveal Ichabod’s deepest fears and yet another dark secret from his past. “Necromancer” also explores the idea of free will vs. destiny using the undead cop Andy Brooks (John Cho) and Ichabod’s wife Katrina (Katia Winter) as case studies. Writers Mark Hoffman and Phillip Iscove use both Ichabod and the Horseman’s past to create conflict in this episode while also giving it real thematic resonance. There is also a nice B-plot involving Jenny Mills (Lyndie Greenwood) and Irving as they work together to prevent the Hessians from rescuing the Headless Horseman. Even though it isn’t as humorous as previous episodes, “Necromancer” has a tight plot with only one possible hole in it near the end as well as strong character and thematic development.
The best parts of “Necromancer” are the flashbacks that reveal Katrina was engaged to Ichabod’s best friend and partner Abraham which alternate with his interrogation of the Horseman. She broke off the engagement because she wanted to marry someone she loved, and this leads to tension between Ichabod and Abraham. With one shot of a necklace that used to belong to Katrina, the Horseman instantly makes things personal for Ichabod. Up to this point, he has been taunting the Horseman, but now he is a basket case. Tom Mison does a great job conveying these emotions from arrogance to rage with a bit of melancholy. “Necromancer” adds even more layers to Ichabod’s character while moving the Horseman plot along and connecting his past to his current conflict against the forces of evil. Up to this point, Ichabod has had problems adjusting to the modern world, but he has remained logical and cool-headed. However, the events of this episode reveal a more broken Ichabod, who is ultimately a more interesting character.
Along with several big reveals and some great characterization, “Necromancer” develops a theme that has been simmering in Sleepy Hollow since “Pilot” where Andy was possessed by Moloch, and Ichabod and Abbie were revealed to be the Two Witnesses that will warn about the upcoming apocalypse. This theme is the conflict between destiny and free will and brings up some interesting questions. Because he is possessed by Moloch, is Andy responsible for his negative actions in this episode? Because of all the prophecies and portents, is anyone responsible? Andy could just be a one-dimensional henchman, but Hoffman and Iscove use this theme to make him morally ambiguous instead of plain evil. In contrast with Andy, Katrina chooses to be with Ichabod instead of Abraham even though he is a wealthy landowner who would improve her social standing. The writers explore this theme, but don’t provide any concrete answers about whether the characters of Sleepy Hollow has autonomy or are just puppets for higher, darker powers.
In contrast with its strong characterization and thematic depth, “Necromancer” has a relatively straightforward plot with lots of action and some new dynamics between characters. The team-up between Irving and Jenny borrows a few cliches from the buddy cop films, but at least, Sleepy Hollow is exploring character relationships other than Ichabod and Abbie’s. They also are part of an entertaining shoot out with some Hessians that is one of the several set-pieces of this episode. Iscove and Hoffman reveal these characters’ weaknesses and motivations, and then director Paul Edwards gets to show them letting off steam in his well-choreographed action sequences. “Necromancer” is definitely the most thought provoking episode of Sleepy Hollow and continues to make Ichabod Crane an even more nuanced character.