SLEEPY HOLLOW Season 2, Episode 11 'The Akeda'

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The Akeda refers to the famous story of biblical patriarch Abraham and his son Isaac, who God commanded to be sacrificed on an alter as a test of faith, loyalty and fear. An appropriate title, not only for it being mentioned by Henry at the episode’s climax, but also from sacrifice being this episode’s primary theme.

Although attaining the Sword of Methuselah was a victory for the heroes, it turns out that the all-powerful blade comes with a severe downside: anyone using it to kill will immediately surrender their soul. Quite how this tallies with Methuselah reportedly slaying a thousand demons with it without repercussion is unelaborated upon, but never mind. That this means it is entirely probable that Ichabod and Abbie will have to voluntarily sacrifice their lives to stop Moloch does not even give them a moment’s pause. Which is handy, since the demon lord is about to release his army from purgatory and unleash hell on earth, and a moment is more time than they can spare. 

Episodes of any show culminating in a final showdown often have trouble adequately filling the time leading up to it, but here evenly timed revelations and interpersonal dynamics keep the pace steady until Moloch is finally located, all the while a mood of apocalyptic dread is maintained by an eldritch storm of crimson lightning followed up by a hail shower of blood. Until the inevitable confrontation, everyone for once gets to make a significant appearance; Ichabod, Abbie, Jenny and Katrina forming the vanguard of the search for Moloch, Hawley being pulled away from partying with pretty girls and AC/DC to provide enchanted weaponry with which to battle demons, and Irving emerging from the hiding he’s been in since escaping from Tarrytown. It really shows that including all the central characters really isn’t that difficult so hopefully it can be done more frequently in the future, and hopefully this is the last time I’ll bitch about it.

It’s not unfair to say that Irving has been vastly underused this season, spending most of his time rotting away in a psychiatric hospital, but his presence here almost entirely makes up for it. Although Orlando Jones is primarily known for comedy roles (“I think we’ve established that ‘ka-ka ka-ka’ and ‘tooki tooki’ don’t work”), he unleashes a magnificently sinister side in Irving’s interrogation of Abraham, for once the inadvertent selling of his soul (which shouldn’t actually be possible in the first place, but we’ll let it slide) working in their favour; the sword can’t claim his soul if it no longer belongs to him. Never once shouting, but letting the contemptuous vitriol from all that has been done to him and his family resonate through his sibilant voice, he effortlessly implies how gladly he would skewer Abraham without a moment’s hesitation or ounce of regret, obliterating whatever might remain of the Horseman’s undead half-life. The man would make a great villain. If that wasn’t enough, he follows this up by hacking his way though an army of demonic revolutionaries before going one-on-one with Henry’s War Armour, his eyes ablaze with such incandescent fury that that even Ichabod can only gape open-mouthed. Rarely has the simple phrase “I got this” sounded so apt.

As well as sacrifice, the episode title is also appropriate given the literal meaning of Akeda. The word is Hebrew for ‘binding’ (as in the Binding of Isaac), with the heroes and villains alike being bound together in a war where personal sentiments play as large a role as the supernatural forces being wielded to fight it. They are soldiers in the conflict, yes, but they are also people – to varying degrees – and it’s this humanity, however small a lingering presence it might be, that makes their struggles all the more poignant.
 

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