‘Sleepy Hollow’ Postmortem: Inside the Shocking Twists of the Midseason Finale

sleepy hollow orlando jones
Fox

Spoiler Warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “Sleepy Hollow” season two, episode eleven, titled “The Akeda.”

“Sleepy Hollow” has never been afraid to spill some blood in the name of averting the apocalypse, and Monday’s midseason finale upped the body count in a major way — first sacrificing the heroic Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) in the battle against War, then killing off the show’s main antagonist, the demon Moloch, after Henry (John Noble) had a change of heart about following the big bad’s orders when it came to murdering his mother Katrina (Katia Winter).

Variety caught up with Jones and executive producer Len Wiseman to discuss the fallout from the eventful episode, including where Henry goes from here and whether Irving will ever make a reappearance.

Len Wiseman

So, you just killed the show’s Big Bad halfway through the second season, which is a pretty bold move. Talk me through what went into that decision.
We were always leading up to wanting to [see how] Henry comes into his own. Henry has devoted his life to Moloch; he has served Moloch; and then to find out that he is just a servant, that another will take his place, and to see that he doesn’t have an importance to Moloch, is a big deal. We were always leading up to that fight within Henry. So where do we go from there, what happens? We also really wanted to present the idea that it’s not all about Moloch, and that’s why we decided that Moloch doesn’t die at the very end of the season, he dies at the midseason finale, because he’s not the endgame.

Obviously Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Katrina both want Henry to be redeemed, and killing Moloch seems like a step in the right direction, but is it as simple as that for Henry, or are there other motivations at play?
To your point, “is it?” That’s really the question: who is he doing that for, who is he trying to protect? Is he trying to protect his mother? Maybe. Is he trying to save himself? Maybe. What is the reason why he killed Moloch, ultimately? That’s what we’ll find out in terms of Henry in the rest of the season. And [that’s] what our characters are going to question. It’s not going to be clear to them why that move was made and how he benefits from killing Moloch.

The episode also said farewell to Frank Irving — what was the impetus behind that decision from a storytelling standpoint?
That decision, in terms of an ultimate sacrifice… He is controlled and he had sold his soul to evil, so that’s the one last power that he has — the fact that his soul is already taken — in having the power to wield the Sword of Methuselah. It gives him a strength and a power because he’s spent so much time regretting that choice that he made when he was tricked into selling his soul. He wants to be able to use that trick on Henry.

Since Henry was holding Frank’s soul, now that he’s dead, does that mean he can be raised by Henry in some way, or is he actually free?
It’s a pure sacrifice, it’s a soul for a soul, so it is a real sacrifice. He’s free, and where his soul goes may be something that we will find out and our characters will search out, but it’s definitely a sacrifice and he knows it is — it’s not a trick.

How does the second half of the season differ from the first 11 episodes, now that Moloch is gone?
What really takes a different turn is between Katrina and Crane, as well. There’s a lot of curiosity about why Katrina is struggling with her powers and her place in this war, and I’ve heard people say is her character underutilized — I would say there’s a difference between underutilized and not realized. When she discovers her full potential, things really get out of control.

The midseason finale saw Moloch and Henry beginning to merge our world with purgatory — now that Moloch is dead, has that process been halted, or will it continue to play out when the show returns?
The merge is still happening. We kick it off in the midseason finale here where you start to see that Moloch’s army was being raised and starting to merge purgatory with earth, and it absolutely will [continue]. There’s so much I want to talk about because the [season] finale is so exciting and incredible, and I’m really hopeful that it will twist things just as insanely as last season’s did. And part of that twist that I personally think is amazing [is] that we start to see how the cracks in that barrier between purgatory and specifically Sleepy Hollow open up, and purgatory starts to seep in.

You had a slightly longer episode order in season two — 18 episodes versus 13. In a hypothetical third season, what kind of order would you hope for in order to hit the sweet spot in terms of pacing?
I would hope for the same. I think it’s just enough to keep us really on our toes. It is more of a rush to get it done, but I think that I would be happy with 18. Any more than that… I think it’s always fun to have more stories, but I think [on] the production level, I would be happy with 18.

Orlando Jones

When did you learn that Frank would be making the “ultimate sacrifice” in the midseason finale?
I heard about it not long before we shot it, actually. It’s one of those things where the scripts change often and like any episodic television show, it’s not uncommon to get new pages when you show up to work, so even when you think you know where it’s going, you find out you don’t, and pretty early on, I figured out “there’s no sense in me guessing, here.” I knew with a little advance notice but not a lot, and certainly not that way. I didn’t realize it was going to be with the sword and all of that. It was surprising.

What was your reaction when you found out?
Whenever you sign up to do this sort of thing, my first obligation is to the character and what I do for a living, so I was really more concerned with… I often believe there’s this emphasis on action sequences, and that’s cool, but that’s not what I respond to as a fan. I respond to what that character is going through emotionally and how that informs the action, and less the action [itself]. I was just focused on what the sacrifice meant to Irving, given where he’s gone and given where it’s falling in the course of this season. So I was really obsessed about how to make you care, and less about “oh, I’m dying” — whatever with that. [Laughs.] There’s that thing — the 12-year-old boy in me — I remember really well being older than 12 and watching Michael Jordan having to go play basketball after hearing reports that his father had died in this very mysterious death, and then he had the flu, and here he is going into game 7 of the championship, and I just wondered what that must’ve felt like, because his career legacy was going to get judged on whether or not he won that game, but what he had to be going through emotionally, he lost his dad… That really stuck with me, and so I thought, Irving hasn’t seen his family, and so what must it be like to be in that moment, wondering about his wife and daughter, how they’re going to respond, how they’re going to react, never having had a chance to say goodbye? That really was where my head was.

His death scene was so powerful — especially Abbie’s (Nicole Beharie) reaction to it; it was a very visceral, affecting moment.
Yeah, it’s rare that that happens. I often feel like they’re reaching for it [with emotional death scenes], and in this case that wasn’t the case. I always feel that death is really about how it affects those you leave behind and not about the death itself. Those are the parts I’m excited about.

Tell me about the process of filming that fight sequence with War — it seemed like it must’ve been fairly complicated to shoot.
I do all my stunts so I feel like it’s an acting thing for me — there’s a way I want things to land and the way I want him to feel about things. I was really focused on just trying to deliver the elements that were most important, and as a fan of the show first and foremost, I really wanted to see more of Irving’s struggle and how that impacted Macey and Cynthia because he made those choices that he made for his family. Amandla Stenberg and Jill Marie Jones are amazing and I hope that they get to come back to the show so we can see how they’re dealing with the trauma of his passing. I was happy that he got a heroic death, because I felt like that was important. But that’s where I focused, because obviously it’s complicated in the sword work and all that jazz. I love those elements, it was fun to film, because it really is grandiose: he is emotional, he is fighting War who has proven to be a formidable foe, and technically kind of fighting Henry as the operator of War, so it was super personal, and I wanted to make sure it felt very personal and very visceral and not like an action sequence. I wanted you to forget that there was a sword involved at all, so that with each moment of it happening, what you really took in was how much it meant to him.

John Cho has proven that death isn’t exactly final on “Sleepy Hollow,” so do you think there’s a chance we could be seeing Frank again at some point down the road?
I certainly would like to think so. I would like to see how his death has impacted Abbie and Ichabod and Jenny and Katrina and Macey and Cynthia and the host of other characters that are on the show, so if it’s an impetus to really get down to the nitty gritty of what happens when you lose a loved one and what happens when you lose a comrade in the war, that’s awesome. I don’t know, I’ve been a fan of the show since I’ve been on the show so I’m hopeful, certainly, about it, but not well-educated.

What was your take on Frank’s character trajectory as a whole, since fans have taken notice of the fact that he was somewhat sidelined this season?
From the beginning of “Sleepy Hollow,” the co-creators, Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci and Len Wiseman, have always talked about the amazing diversity and representation on the show, and they also talked about how it wasn’t a conscious choice on their part — they just went with the best actors for specific roles, but the fact that it ended up the way it ended up was very exciting for me. So if you think about the episode where we reveal the true story behind what happened to Abbie and Jenny’s mom, you realize that there’s so much exciting ground to cover with those characters and their backstory, and to learn more about how Abbie became one of the two Witnesses, how we arrived here. I had legit man-tears seeing the interaction between Nicole and Lyndie [Greenwood] and Aunjanue Ellis; I look forward to seeing more of that in the show. And even though Ichabod is obviously a highly evolved man considering the era in which he came from, I look forward to seeing further character development for him that challenges his preconceived notions about the modern world. So if Irving becomes the impetus for us to explore those stories, then as a fan I’m really happy, because I really think that’s an important part of why “Sleepy Hollow” has been relevant as a show in the first place.

And I also would add that the writers have a lot of ground to cover on this show, and it’s always been a bit of a balancing act to tell numerous stories. I guess in the current entertainment and pop culture landscape, the IP is not the only asset; the audience is an essential asset as well. It’s easy and convenient to pigeonhole the audience into being concerned about things like shipping — but they’re unambigiously clear about what matters to them in the programming they watch, and they want characters and storylines that reflect their lived experiences, so I’m glad the show has laid the groundwork for that. I hope they continue to earn it with the audience. And don’t get me wrong, I’m the biggest shipper of them all — I love that people feel invested in the potential pairing between Frank and Jenny after one episode, that kinda blew me away, and Lyndie Greenwood and I are definitely working together in the future on other projects. But the hope and promise that this show began with is still something very close to my heart, and it’s why I was always very proud to be a part of it.

You’ve inadvertently become the show’s unofficial social media ambassador just by being active and creative on Twitter and Tumblr, and you’ve connected with the fanbase in a truly meaningful way that’s still fairly rare to see from content creators, even in today’s connected entertainment industry. What has being involved in the “Sleepy Hollow” fandom taught you, or given you, in your opinion?
I’ve made friends, which was not [something] I thought was gonna happen. I learned a tremendous amount; I’ve always been involved in fandom, since I drug my black ass down to Comic-Con on “MADtv” when no one was even thinking about it and you could park across the street from the convention center and walk in. I’m really grateful, because I believe what has been special about “Sleepy Hollow” for me has been the interaction with fandom and the fact that “Sleepy Hollow” began as the most multicultural show in network history. And it also showcased women with agency for the most part; Jenny and Abbie were women of color who weren’t subservient or dependent on men and I thought that was important — as the father of a little girl, that was important. Amandla Stenberg is one of the only representations I’ve ever seen of a woman of color who’s handicapped. There were big elements here that I thought were big fish, so I’m really proud of the fandom, and I’m proud to be a member of this particular fandom and the other fandoms I’ve been a part of, like “Supernatural” and “Orphan Black” and the like. It’s a special time for the entertainment industry, but I also think that time is underscored by the conversation about diversity — about the status quo — changing. I truly believe there’s an us versus them, and the “us” is people who want to leave this world better and see stories that really reflect what we see in our everyday lives, and the “them” is the people who are okay with the status quo, and I’m not okay with it. In that regard, I am very much a fan, but my position in it as an actor, as a writer, as a producer, is challenging, because I hear it all very loud and clear, and it’s difficult when it’s not my call to make.

How integral do you think social media is for a television show’s success or longevity in the current pop culture climate?
I think it’s essential. We live in a digital world and a connected world. And the belief system that the primary portal is a movie screen or a television screen is just simply not true anymore; that’s 1980s-1990s thinking, that’s just not where we are. I don’t know how much Hollywood is aware of that, because as you say, what I do, what Misha [Collins of “Supernatural”] has been doing, there’s just not a lot of that around. And we’re not interacting with the fanbase as agents of the show, we’re interacting with the fanbase as members of the fanbase, so that’s a very different thing. How much of that has taken root in Hollywood remains to be seen. If I’m looking for examples of it, there aren’t a lot.

Do you have any other projects in the works, so that fans can continue to get their Orlando Jones fix? I loved your webseries, “Tainted Love” — are there any new developments on that front?
Well, Lyndie Greenwood is gonna be Jezebel — we’re making the feature version. That’s gonna be super exciting, I think she’s gonna be incredible and I’m looking to poach as many of my other castmates as I can because I really enjoy working with them, so that’s gonna be fun. We’re finally going to do our official launch of our multicultural emoticons, iRoc Emoticons, that’s gonna be fun. I just believe that diversity is a huge thing and looking at how much of the world is underrepresented right now in mainstream media is troublesome to me, so I’m excited to be a part of projects that continue to tear down those barriers. I’m probably going to drop another mixtape. [The first one took] nine days — it was kind of a fluke idea out of nowhere and we were like “let’s do it” so I threw caution to the wind and jumped in and it’s been exciting. It seems to have hit a cord, I think we’re at 15,000 downloads and picking up thousands every week, so that’s been really fun just to watch it. I’ve gotten a lot of requests to do another, so I think I’m going to do a workout party version of that, and I’m gonna drop another one which will have some of the stuff that’s on this one and then a bunch of new stuff too.

“Sleepy Hollow” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.

What did you think of the “Sleepy Hollow” midseason finale? Are you sad to see Frank Irving go? Were you surprised to see Moloch dispatched so early? Hit the comments with your reactions.

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  1. P Sykes says:

    It was a huge disappointment to see Frank Irving killed off. He is one of the shows best characters. The Katrina character has grown old and somewhat boring. The constant fawning over each other between her and Ichabod is superfluous at best, also grows boring and maybe should become a less important part of the show. The show was much better when Katrina was in the background helping occasionally and there was more action, adventure and exploration involving Abbie, Jennie and Crane. And please bring Orlando Jones back to the show, sooner than later. Also like Hawley’s occasional interaction with the characters.

  2. Sandra says:

    Considering what poor Crane has been going through with his family, it would be a real horror to turn his wife into a baddie. Now he has to fight his “beloved” wife? But, she’s dicey, which may be why Henry responded when Crane volunteered to be killed, instead of killing his mother which would have essentially killed both his parents anyway, if she’s the loving wife she seems to be. I think Henry will turn out to be worse than Moloch, because he feels he’s now been rejected by parental figures three times. That’s got to hurt. I like the thought of Henry and the Horseman versus Katrina and the rest of the gang and I have never felt right about the Reyes character. There is something about the dead performance of that actress that doesn’t fit here. Either she’s a horrible actress, showing no emotion, or she’s part of the plot to get rid of the witnesses and her “dead” performance is telling on her.

  3. Marc Ouellette says:

    I have a feeling this will lead to War taking over Moloch’s armies, Reyes turning out to be either the third Horseman or War’s new Demon master (in which case I suspect Katrina to become the Third Horseman)… and the third Horseman being Pestilence (simply because Katrina has been suffering a lot of illness of late). Frank Irving will probably come back as the archangel Gabriel, whose horn will ring in the next part of the Apocalypse. Of course these are all guesses, but I would dearly love to see that scenario happen.

    I love this show.

  4. Kathie says:

    Hey writers, Katrina is OVER utilized. Call it “realized” if you want. Please either reduce her character drastically or kill her off. Honestly it should have been her instead of Irving who everybody likes. This was dumb. I don’t know if it’s the new producers they’ve brought on (note: Albert Kim wrote the worst episodes of Leverage–talk about Hardison turning into an idiot for 45 minutes and being treated like crap, gimme a break, and this new woman Heather kadim apparently loves Katrina so much that she’s willing to destroy the show for her. Maybe this was the plan all along and the new additions in the producing/writing department are just gung ho for the ride, but it’s bad all the same.).

    So now we have Abbie, hey remember abbie?, sidelined and Irving gone. This is after they’ve already gotten rid of Andy, hey what happened to him?, and that other latino cop. I wonder if they got rid of him because they knew they were going to bring the woman in and they didn’t want 2. I hope not. I’m sorry, but what was once very good is becoming pretty bad, and I’m almost done.

  5. meret says:

    I was too through when they killed one of my favorite characters. I am sorry but Henry should have gone to perdition with Moloch. He made his choice so pay. And he should take the horseman with them. Katrina is irritating me and I do not see the appeal Ichabod. Team Abby. Time has marched on and so should you. Let Katrina hook up with Hawley, they would be a hoot together.

    • Sandra says:

      I’ve been reading all the comments here and I just don’t get why people hate the Katrina character so much and think the Abbie character is being sidelined. She’s been a big part of the show since the beginning,( much more than Katrina), she’s been given a position of authority, she’s been involved in all the action, she’s had an episode of her own, involving she, her sister, her mother and there is an ongoing legacy, she is one of two witnesses who will always be present! Now people are upset over the Irving character? Frankly, I preferred Sheriff Corbin, Abbie’s friend and mentor. He took his small time on screen and made it memorable. I can still remember the conversation he had with Abbie! Irving’s part was small from the beginning, and I don’t understand why he is so revered here. So what REALLY is the problem, aside from all the shipping fantasies. Can it be that diversity really can’t exist in a TV show because killing off one character and or allowing a romance/marriage to exist between a same race couple (from 1780?) is considered a diss? Shippers talking about chemistry and that is important. But I’ve seen chemistry between partners (male and female) on a lot of shows (shipped) and I was so happy they didn’t do it. It’s suicide. Bones has been reduced to going back in dream sequences so that the Bones/Seely characters can meet and fall in love again TWICE now because the tension is what drove that show. I loved the show at the start, as I did the X-files, but when the writers went the romance root, the balance died. You need to consider the consequences of trying to sideline what are the essential mechanics of the show. You also need to get real about why you are and are not invested in the writers’ vision of the show. Their vision is a beautiful friendship between the witnesses and why/how they came to have the roles and how that affects them and their families and their views of themselves. I think that’s pretty obvious. I’ll bet you thought The Walking Dead was about zombies.

  6. British Babe says:

    I must admit I did not understand the #AbbieMillsDeserveBetter hashtag until I watched the last three episodes and read this interview!! Wiseman continuing to ignore Sleepy Hollow’s FEMALE LEAD as portrayed by Nicole Beharie is indeed problematic and renders SH as a completely different show than it was last year, it’s banner year, and one I am not interested in investing anymore time in when it returns to air.

  7. HelloSweetie says:

    It’s obvious from this and other interviews that the showrunner, Mark Goffman, has decided that Katrina Crane/Katia Winter is the hill he wants to die on. Critics and fans be damned. He’s determined to stan for his favorite even if that means killing the show in the process. Every time someone mentions how problematic the Katrina character is and how the show’s greatest strengths are Abbie and Ichabod and their wonderful chemistry as partners, he brushes it off by praising Katrina and focusing the story on her EVEN MORE. It’s so telling how he’ll give Abbie a one sentence bone like “Nicole’s great” or “We have things in store for Abbie too” and then he’ll go on and on about Katrina’s story and how awesome she is in intricate detail. I want to believe the fire is just temporarily off course and it will get better if only I hang on, but evidently, the writers see no problem with the current state of the show and have no plans to course correct. Notice how in this interview with Len Wiseman that he doesn’t even mention Abbie, THE FEMALE LEAD, at all? There’s plenty about Katrina though. If the second half of this season is truly going to be the Katrina show, I’m done. I can’t believe this was my favorite show last year.

  8. It’s an echo chamber of mediocrity over there in white dude ivory tower given they tune out critics and the few viewers they have left. Some people are holding out “hope” they will come to their senses and fix the show they intentionally broke. but most have long moved on. They put the nail in the coffin on this series. If ratings for Fox weren’t so poor across the board and had this show been on another network it would’ve long been canceled. At this point they’re just spitting in the faces of the few viewers left. There’s a reason why #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter and KatrinaRuinedSleepyHollow are trending. As long as the few who hope for an improvement continue watching, those dudes in the ivory tower who’ve disrespected the audience continue getting paid very well to write dreck. It’s time to meet their indifference with our indifference and TUNE OUT.

  9. I can’t wait to see what will happened when the series return in 2015 when the main villain is dead. I can’t wait to learn who will replace the main villain.

  10. Brit says:

    I know that ‘Sleepy Hollow’ has gone down hill but I want to strongly urge fans to NOT give up on the show. Give the writers a chance to fix things. Too many good shows hit a rough patch and do not get a chance to rebound because fans abandon ship…networks are too eager to cancel shows that start to drop in ratings.

    • P Sykes says:

      I agree. We should stick with it because the writers will get this turned around. Hopefully they will listen to the folks posting here and make some improvements.

  11. Sweetp says:

    Did not like the mid season finale

  12. HQ says:

    They should have killed off Katrina. Fans love Irving and tolerate Katrina. I’m not sure I’ll continue to watch. This season has been such a drag.

  13. jan trusty says:

    Dec1, 2014 We have watched the show from the first. We are older (68 & 62) We love the twist and turns. The writers do an amazing job and we thank them. Hope Orlando can be resurrected in some (good) way.Otherwise, the balance is good and the storyline is great. Please give us more!

  14. Amelia says:

    This season just keeps getting worse. Killing Irving makes no sense. Except it also made no sense to barely show him the whole season. He was so strong in the beginning back when this show was good.

  15. British Babe says:

    After the excitement of last week’s show, the finale of The Cranes of Sleepy Hollow was a huuuge snooze fest!! Viewers are fleeing so let’s fall back on that old, overdone plot point–let’s kill the Black guy instead of the ineffective witch (of course she is over 200 years old and isn’t what she used to be). Without John Cho and Orlando, I doubt Sleepy Hollow can return to its previous glory UNLESS and UNTIL showrunners focus on the TWO WITNESSES equally for Story. rather than Crane Family Values. As for Moloch, he was rarely a presence, except in the form of Henry, Ichabod’s bad arse senior son (ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!) When the highlight is Ichabod on a bike in the first 2 minutes, it is time to retool, reboot and rewrite like a MoFo!

  16. TOTALLY bummed about the loss of Frank Irving from Sleepy Hollow. Sigh. Let him come back via The Force, like Obi-Wan.

  17. Susannah says:

    People think Katrina is underutilized? I think the word is overexposed.

    • I have to agree. The character works better in small doses. But even Abbie and Jenny have had some of their strength taken away this season. The mid-season finale had its moments, but the show has been a bit…lackluster this season. Still watching in the hopes it improves. Losing Frank Irving instead of Hawley is very disappointing.

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