Sleepy Hollow: And The Abyss Gazes Back

Posted on October 28, 2014

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Tom Mison as Sexy Yoga Jesus in Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow”

This was like the Sleepy-Hollowest episode of Sleepy Hollow ever, with the show hitting on all its major themes, tropes and characters in confident, economical fashion. The dialogue was snappy and funny (when it wasn’t poignant or tinged with evil); the town was threatened by a monster out of American mythology who also happened to have a close personal relationship with Abbie; the monster had a connection to a founding father or other Great Man from early American history who also happens to have been someone with a close personal relationship to Crane; Ichy and Abbie being adorable, Henry being eeeeevil, and Katrina eating a bug.  Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t a theme or trope, but she’s so damn useless. Abbie’s kicking ass left, right and center and this chick becomes a victim once again just by breathing through her mouth while she’s sleeping. Anyway, our point: it was the typical raucous fun time in Sleepy Hollow and we think we might have laughed more during this episode than any other. All the charm and fun was there and it felt like the show really hitting its stride in a lot of ways.

HOWEVUH.

We’re not sure why Henry’s plans always have to involve people Abbie has a close or important relationship with. It would be one thing if he was deliberately trying to unsettle her somehow, but 1) he never alludes to that, and 2) it should be more than obvious by now that it’s not working. She never seems to get all that upset that people she knows are being turned into or abducted by monsters on the regular. Not that we’re criticizing Abbie. Her cold, stick-to-the-case method of dealing with the Creature of the Week is one of the more likable things about her; especially since, in a lovely bit of gender twisting, it tends to be Crane who gets too emotional and upset over each case. So there didn’t seem to be any reason whatsoever for Henry to turn Sheriff Corbin’s heretofore-unrevealed son into a Wendingo, especially since it involved mailing a child’s bone-dust-covered letter to Afghanistan and waiting for the recipient to kill enough people to be discharged and sent back to Sleepy Hollow. Why not just infect Abbie’s first grade teacher or something? Then again, Henry’s plans do tend to outrageously complicated with all of these strangely arbitrary rules applied to them. We swear at least ten minutes of dialogue this episode was written just to explain what they were fighting and how they were going to defeat it. Granted, it helps that Nicole and Tom can handle that kind of stuff (“That means the next time he changes into the Wendingo, it will be permanent!”).

But this illustrates our second problem with the show as it’s currently conceived: these characters don’t live in the world. Abbie doesn’t know anyone but Crane, her sister, her boss, her former boss and now Hawley. Sleepy Hollow, the town, appears to be largely unpopulated until the story needs someone. Then they disappear back into the fog. That is, when the script needs to have an emotional connection with a creature-of-the-week story, they just invent someone and dismiss them when the episode is over. There are virtually no interactions with anyone outside of that.  You don’t even see many background characters in scenes. We suppose we can understand that approach because it makes the setting somewhat eerier and it makes the protagonists look like they’re fighting a war all by themselves, but it also brings the emotional stakes down to about zero. Let’s face it: no one in the audience cares all that much when Katrina is threatened. Nor do they care when a random who happens to know Abbie is threatened or killed.

Last week’s first victim, who was apparently a dear friend to Ichabod, was what really started us down this path, forcing us to notice how much the show is lacking this kind of context. Then we saw all those people running out of the library after the local cop fired shots and then almost drowned in a hole in the floor, which forced us to wonder just what the hell people in this town actually think about what goes on around it. Then we wondered why the show doesn’t have a Native American character, since they just tend to pull random ones out of Central Casting whenever they need one (although to be fair, Ich’s confrontation with Big Ash was pretty sweet). And finally, we thought right up until the last minute or so that Joe Corbin was going to remain in Sleepy Hollow as a good ally to have (and possibly yet another potential love interest for one of the Mills sisters), but he was shuffled out by the time the credits rolled, which was pretty frustrating.

What this show needs is a believable, bunch of colorful peripheral characters the creators can call on from time to time to pop up, maybe act like a victim or provide some form of information (it’s a town loaded with amateur historians, it would seem), or just provide some interaction with the main characters that help round them out. What this show needs is to turn Sleepy Hollow into Sunnydale.

Still, we can’t deny we had fun. It’s just that, as the story progresses, we find that we’re only emotionally invested in the two leads. That’s a flaw, as far as we’re concerned, and it’s likely to become worse over time if it’s not addressed.

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