Forget "Scoobynatural." Forget "Crisis on Infinite Earths." Forget that time The X-Files crossed over with Cops. TV crossovers peaked in 2015 when Fox decided that Bones and Sleepy Hollow existed in a shared universe.
Full disclosure: I had never watched Bones in my life prior to the TV event of the century, more commonly known as SleepyBones. While I did watch Sleepy Hollow for much longer than the show deserved, I didn't make it through all four seasons. And if I'm going to be really honest here, I don't even remember if I actually watched the entire SleepyBones crossover when it first aired. You'd think I'd remember having seen something as singularly inexplicable as a Sleepy Hollow-Bones crossover, but by that point in the series Sleepy Hollow had done so many ludicrous things that they all blurred together, and I genuinely think that my brain might reject Bones content the way some bodies reject organs. (The exception to this rule is this incredible breakdown of every time someone on Bones said the word "bones," which I think about weirdly often.)
But even though I couldn't remember a single detail from SleepyBones to prove that I watched it, my certainty that it is simultaneously the greatest and dumbest crossover of all time has never wavered. So here I am, four years later, watching — or perhaps rewatching? — the two-part event to see if that thesis holds true. And you know what, readers? It does. Sure, Mr. Robot's crossover with ALF made more sense than this, but isn't that the point? There is literally no understandable reason for this crossover ever to have happened... and yet it did. Because at the end of the day, life is meaningless chaos and all we can do is find beauty in its mess. In this case, its mess is SleepyBones and its beauty is the fact that they gave absolutely zero f---s when making this crossover. Because how else would you explain this?
That's right. Although Sleepy Hollow's Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) traveled to D.C. for the Bones portion of the crossover, Bones' Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) couldn't be bothered to mosey on north for the Sleepy Hollow episode and at one point just Skyped into their own crossover. The reason for this was that Deschanel had recently given birth and requested not to leave Los Angeles, where Bones was filmed (Sleepy Hollow's production was based in Atlanta at the time). But the fact that Booth and Brennan never actually strolled the spooky streets of Sleepy Hollow was also a bit of a blessing, because there is no way that Bones would have been able to maintain its highly scientific, agnostic point of view if its characters spent even a few hours in the haunted hub of the Northeast.
And therein lies the true beauty of SleepyBones. Unlike other crossovers, which derive enjoyment from watching two TV worlds merge, SleepyBones was never able to reconcile the polarized philosophical and mythological perspectives of each participating series. A typical odd-couple crime procedural, Bones was ruled by the rational laws of TV science (which include being able to replicate candlelight via a digital screen apparently, but I'm trying really hard not to nitpick right now). Meanwhile, Sleepy Hollow, which saw Ichabod Crane travel from the 18th century to modern times and team up with a no-nonsense cop to prevent to apocalypse, proved time and time again that not only does the supernatural exist, but that demons have drastically and repeatedly altered the course of American history. There are plenty of ways that the two shows could have found some middle ground during the crossover, either by leaving the truth behind the shared case they were investigating ambiguous (like in The X-Files' "X-Cops") or even just committing to one point of view (magic versus science) over the other. But instead, they tried to have their Bones and Sleepy it too — a sentence that makes about as much sense as these deliriously bizarre episodes did.
The first half of the crossover kicked off with Brennan and Booth uncovering the decapitated corpse of one of Ichabod's nemeses from the Revolutionary War, General William Howe (seen below). This morbid discovery led Crane and Abbie to road trip to D.C., where they teamed up with their Jeffersonian counterparts in order to help investigate the reasons behind Howe's unexpected resurfacing.
As the foursome soon learned, Howe's skull was rumored to have the ability to bring people back from the dead, which is why a young medical student had dug it up to aid in her quest to visit the other side. But the woman didn't just rely on the skull's presumed magic to revive her; she had her friend medically resuscitate her after stopping her heart. Afterwards, she claimed to have seen amazing things during her brief trip to the afterlife and convinced her Catholic boyfriend to do it next. But when he returned from the "dead" having seen nothing, the boyfriend became so upset that she had taken away his faith in God that he bludgeoned her to death with Howe's skull.
Yes, an episode where two Biblically prophesied Witnesses teamed up with Booth and Brennan somehow only further reaffirmed Bones' agnostic outlook.
But don't worry. After the first half of the crossover shared the message that magic isn't real and there is no afterlife, it immediately switched gears in the second half when Pandora (of the "box" fame) intercepted Howe's remains en route to Sleepy Hollow and resurrected him as a zombie... who then raised an entire redcoat zombie army, killed some trick-or-treating teens, and attempted to burn down the city with napalm. Yet despite continuing to work with Crane and Abbie on the case, Booth and Brennan somehow remained none the wiser to the supernatural turns the investigation took. (The closest the show got to providing a reasonable explanation for why Booth and Brennan's suspicions weren't raised during the unorthodox investigation was in Crane's quip to Abbie that Brennan's skepticism was so "interminable" that "she'd dismiss Moloch as a tall man with a skin condition.")
Taken as individual episodes, the crossover could almost make sense. Booth and Brennan dig up some bones, as they do, and nothing out of the ordinary happens. Ichabod and Abbie defeat an undead army, as they do, and nothing out of the ordinary happens. But when you watch the two back to back, it only highlights just how mismatched a crossover SleepyBones was, because each show's standard for "ordinary" is so wildly different. And yet — and yet! — I am so glad that this happened. With both shows in their penultimate seasons (although neither one knew it for certain at the time) the crossover was like the final rattle of the death beetle before the cancellation ax came down. If you're going to go out, go out swinging. And what is a Sleepy Hollow and Bones crossover if not a big swing?
It's not like the two episodes weren't without their merits, either. Watching Crane and Brennan awkwardly make small talk proved quite amusing, and the way they folded in the detail that Booth knew Abbie's mentor Corbin was a smart way to build out the shows' newly shared universe. As for the fact that Bones' Hodgins (TJ Thyne) had mentioned DVRing an episode of Sleepy Hollow in a previous episode of the procedural, please don't concern yourself with logic. SleepyBones certainly didn't. It's like how the teens in Degrassi: Next Class listen to Drake. SleepyBones was all about embracing the paradox and doing so with a strong sense of humor and a whole lot of suspended belief.
Terrible but perfect was the Bones way, and perfect then terrible was the Sleepy Hollow way. So it makes sense that this crossover was perfectly terrible and terribly perfect, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Sleepy Hollow and Bones are both available to stream on Hulu.