It’s kind of hard not to start off each review of Sleepy Hollow with “You know what makes this show so great?” and then following up with a different answer each week. “Ichabod’s breeches!” “Abbie’s on-point eyebrow game!” “FRANKLINSTEIN’S FREAKING MONSTER!”
Oh, to hell with it. You know what makes this show so great? The backstory that recasts the American Revolution as some sort of Tolkien-esque apocalyptic struggle between white and black magic, with the Founding Fathers recast as a bunch of Aragorns and Gandalfs, doing battle with the forces of evil. It’s just impossible not to get swept up in the idea that Benedict Arnold was under the influence of the coins of Judas, which, like the Revolutionary War itself, get recast as powerful – and cursed, of course – magical talismans that cause their bearers (or…anyone who looks at one?) to do eeeeeeeevil things. It’s just all so insane, even if it must cause conniptions for any historian who watches it. You’ve gotta love any fantasy story that uses Jesus AND George Washington as background players.
Ichabod is not the Aragorn in this tale, however. He’s more of a Revolutionary-era James Bond, with no less than George Washington serving as his M. With each new chapter in the story, some other heretofore unrevealed connection with the talisman/monster of the week gets unveiled. “Of course! I remember! General Washington sent me on a mission to collect the cursed coins of Judas!” It’s likely that at some point down the road, this sort of formulaic (and even, let’s face it: nonsensical) reveal could get tiresome, but we suspect that day’s a long way away, as long as Tom Mison is here to sell those lines like butter to a baker.
In many ways, a “talisman/monster of the week” tale like this is already formulaic, since shows from The X-Files to Fringe to Warehouse 13 have been doing it for decades. Coins that make people give into their darkest impulses doesn’t even sound all that original until you layer Judas, George Washington and the Horsemen of the Apocalypse onto them. And even then, it takes a cast like this to make it work for the audience. What’s encouraging for the show in the long term is how it’s getting better and better at hooking these blank-of-the-week stories back into the main characters’ histories and relationships with each other. We thought the sudden outbreak of tension between Abbie and Jenny seemed like a step backwards, since they’d reconciled last season. But after this episode, we can see we got that one wrong. It’s better in any case to have some innate tension in a show like this, where all (or most) of the characters are so likeable. But it specifically makes sense for Jenny and Abbie to still have issues just because their backstory is pretty horrible and not the kind of things you get over quickly. Not that we want to see them pointing guns at each other every week (or succumbing to some cursed object over and over again), but these two sisters should, by virtue of the differences in their backgrounds, see almost everything differently. And because they’re both strong-willed, it makes perfect sense that they would argue a lot. We didn’t realize it until this episode, but conflict among the protagonists was something this show desperately needed. Fortunately, the creators realized it before we did.
Abbie seems to be at the center of all the conflict, interestingly. Her opposition to Jenny is to be expected in a lot of ways, but we were really thrown for a loop when she told Ichabod she doesn’t entirely trust Katrina. And again, this idea doesn’t seem remotely implausible; especially since she made the entirely reasonable point that he’s asking her to base her trust on the idea that a mother will turn against her own child. It’s a powerful point to make and one that quite cleanly and efficiently inserts a point of conflict between these two characters; one that’s only going to grow over time, we’re sure.
And if that wasn’t enough, here comes Unwelcome Sexual Tension in the form of the best bit of eye candy this show’s given us since they put Mison in skinny jeans, Jenny’s diamond-in-the-rough friend Hawley, who helps out our heroes this week and manages to get on Ichabod’s nerves at every turn. He’ll be kissing someone in this cast soon, we have no doubt. Personally, given his open and progressive ideas about the gays (not to mention his fondness for Glee), we’re hoping it’s Ichy, but alas, we’d bet he’ll be making a play for a Mills sister soon enough.
In other news, John Noble gets all the prizes for being the very best at eeeeeeeeeevilness. We can watch him stare at things, burn things and threaten people in a low monotone all day. Can’t say we’re loving Reyes as much as a foil. It just feels like she’s throwing her weight around and getting all up in people’s faces without a good enough reason. If nothing else, she serves as the wedge that keeps the sisters apart, but we just wish we had more to go on.
At any rate, the show remains as entertaining as it’s always been and for the first time, with the introduction of multiple points of conflict, all of which arise naturally from the characters and situations, we’re detecting something of a long-term plan and structure for the show, as well as a willingness to evolve. It’s encouraging.
[Photo Credit: Fred Norris/FOX]
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