Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” returns for season two on Sept. 22, and as the premiere opens, War has come to town — in the form of Ichabod Crane’s (Tom Mison) long-lost son, Jeremy (John Noble). Bitter and vengeful after years of parental abandonment and manipulation by the demon Moloch, Jeremy has joined forces with the Headless Horseman to wreak havoc on the town and its inhabitants, which is bad news for everyone in Sleepy Hollow, since its protectors are currently trapped — Ichabod in a pine box six feet underground, and partner Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) in Purgatory, after freeing Crane’s bewitching wife Katrina (Katia Winter). The first season finale also left Abbie’s sister, Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood), at death’s door after an attack from Headless, and Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) behind bars, leaving the odds stacked rather uncomfortably in favor of the apocalypse.
Variety sat down with star Tom Mison at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour to find out what’s in store for season two, including love triangles, Ichabod’s quest to redeem Jeremy and where we find our characters after last season’s shocking cliffhanger.
The finale left Ichabod in a somewhat sticky situation, having been buried alive by his son — I imagine that situation has to resolve itself fairly quickly, to avoid the whole season taking place with Ichabod in a box?
Not too quickly! I think that it would be a shame to leave all the characters in those predicaments and then just get them out instantly. The really nice thing is, the writers decided to put everyone in the worst possible situations before they worked out how to get them out. So all of the questions that we, that everyone watching, has about how they get them out, those were the questions that the writers gave themselves. And then I think they just left thinking, “Well, what’s the coolest way of doing it?” And I think they’ve managed to achieve that.
Much has been made of the sexual tension between “Ichabbie.” From your perspective, how does Ichabod see Abbie at this point? How do you approach their relationship in terms of his motivations?
She’s a partner. They need each other. If they had a choice of partners, who knows whether they would choose that person or not? The really nice thing about it is that it’s not such a black and white answer. There are lots of things that they really, really respect about each other and lots of things that just annoy the tits off each other… as with lots of relationships, which is probably why so many people go into the shipping thing with them. I love the moments where they annoy each other, probably more than the moments where they work in a perfect harmony. That’s sexy. So in that respect, it’s a very sexy relationship. But yes, for them, in the front of their mind it’s that they need each other, they’re partners and they respect each other.
And they have to save the world, so they have other priorities.
Exactly. There’s an apocalypse coming. Let’s not get all doe-eyed at each other.
And, as you and the producers have noted before, he’s a happily married man…
Oh, shit, yes. That should’ve been the first thing I said. [Laughs.] Damn, yes, he’s married.
But he and Katrina haven’t spent much time together over the centuries, what with him being asleep and her in Purgatory. So it’s arguable that he knows Abbie better than he knows Katrina at this point, given that Katrina has been keeping a few secrets from him.
Yes. This is brought up in season two, the deceit. And of course, that’s going to be a problem. But he’s a man of honor and he loves his wife.
During your TCA panel, executive producer Len Wiseman said that thanks to “other characters that come in around [Ichabod and Abbie], you see jealousy come out in ways that are more interesting,” but that Ichabod and Abbie might also be reevaluating their feelings for each other this season. Can you expand on that?
Well, reevaluating their feelings I think is a hangover from the last season where there’s questions of trust in the partnership. In terms of the love interest, yes, there’s a new character, played brilliantly by Matt Barr. And yes, he brings a completely new dynamic. Much as Ichabod loves his wife and respects Abbie as a Partner with a capital P, someone comes in and if he starts distracting her, then that’s going to be a problem, and who knows when jealousy might creep in if someone starts taking her attention away?
So it’s more a case of, “Pay attention to me, Abbie!”?
Exactly. “Look at me. I’ve got long hair and a nice coat!”
The show will also introduce one of Ichabod’s ex-girlfriends, Mary, this season. Given the fact that Ichabod’s not from around here, that seems to imply that something supernatural may be afoot in her reappearance?
There may well be. As with every glimpse into Ichabod’s past, it has knock-on effect in the present and she is certainly the case. It also reveals a lot of secrets from certain other characters…
I hear we’ll also see more of the Headless Horseman in his non-headless form as Abraham, Katrina’s former flame.
And I’m really pleased. Neil [Jackson] came in to join us to play Abraham only very briefly last season and I loved working with him. So he comes back into it an awful lot more. Again, that’s another problem: Katrina is with the Headless Horseman, but she hasn’t seen him as the Headless Horseman, she remembers him as Abraham, her one-time fiancé, who turned bad purely because of his love for her.
Which is kind of romantic, in a twisted way.
Absolutely romantic. I think it’s desperately romantic of him to do that, to risk everything for the woman that he loves. So yes, that does bring an interesting new dynamic to their relationship. And it’s also nice to explore Katrina a lot more because last year, she came in, she gave information and she was the quest for Ichabod, but now, Katia is getting to play around a lot more with more depth to the character and more understanding of who she is and why she’s here.
On a literally related note, Jeremy is back and already causing a lot of trouble as War. How much is his predicament weighing on Ichabod, given that his abandonment — through no fault of his own — contributed to turning his son into this vengeful monster?
There’s a war on. And one of the leaders of the opposition is your son. And that’s a very interesting direction to take with it and the various dilemmas that that brings. And that’s one of the good things about the show, it always comes back down to the characters and the reality of [deciding] what you do when you have to fight against your son. Do you fight against him as an enemy or do you try to appeal to him as a member of your family?
And that’s one of the dilemmas that Ichabod finds himself in. I think the writers are very clever with this, to always bring every predicament — whether it’s a battle like that, or [choosing] which creatures appear in each episode — down to “what effect do you want on the characters?” And I think that’s what, if I may say, elevates the show above a lot of the other fantasy shows.
One of their few allies, Frank Irving, is incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. Is finding a way to free him a priority for Ichabod and Abbie, or is War more of a pressing concern?
Well, War has finally reached Sleepy Hollow and what do you do in a war? You pick sides and you build an army. And on Ichabod and Abbie’s side, there are very few people, because there are very few people who are allowed to know about the war. One of them is Frank Irving, so we need him on side, but he’s banged up. So how do we solve that? I can’t tell you, I’m sorry… But it’s great!
“Sleepy Hollow” season two premieres Monday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. on Fox.