Nicole Beharie in FOX’s “Sleepy Hollow”
“I must internet! Immediately!”
It’s a good thing the writers can still come up with hilarious lines like those and the actors charged with reciting them have charm levels that reach the stratosphere. Because we’re about to lay an opinion bomb on y’all. After this episode, it became clear to us that without the witty dialogue and the perfect cast, this show would be all but unwatchable. We feel bad saying that about a show we enjoy so much and an episode that had some pretty great moments. During Ichabod and Henry’s argument, as they each became more emotional and furious, we were quite literally on the edge of our seats, leaning into the performances. In terms of delivering on thrills and fun, witty character work by a cast with tremendous chemistry, Sleepy Hollow can’t be beat. In terms of telling a long-form story that progresses and expands naturally, the show has yet to show any mastery.
Once again, the world of these characters and this supposedly apocalyptic story is almost ridiculously small. In fact, when you think of the very first episodes of the series, with Clancy Brown, John Cho, and various other members of the S.H.P.D. fleshing out the cast, it’s hard not to think the story has actually gotten smaller than when it started, which really makes no sense for an apocalypse tale. As much as we love John Noble when he’s being eeeeeeevil, we think the show relies way too much on the character of Henry. Every week, it seems to be Henry vs. his parents, with Abbie sometimes caught up in things and sometimes standing on the sideline. Frank Irving and Jenny make cameos every now and then, but they’ve been largely sidelined this season. The introduction of a Han Solo-like rogue character in Hawley was encouraging, but he instantly became a romantic figure coming between the two Mills sisters, which means instead of opening up the group a little bit, he became subsumed into it. We’re not even sure what the purpose of Reyes is, since this episode dispensed with the one thing that gave her any definition as a character; her mistrust of Abbie and especially Ichabod. Otherwise, she is, like Hawley and Henry, another person who is defined almost entirely by her connection to IchAbbie. For an apocalyptic story pitting ancient demons against the Founding Fathers in a war that spans centuries, it’s all a little insular and incestuous.
It’s possible of course to tell a story about large events through the eyes of small group of people, in a manner that feels personal and intimate. But even so, we’re finding it harder and harder to care about the outcomes of each particular mini-adventure, task or episode because they all seem to be happening on a loop. Henry has a plan, Henry enacts a plan, the plan either fails or succeeds based on how well Abbie and Ichabod respond, Henry starts hatching another plan. It never seems to break out of that cycle and it never seems to acknowledge the world outside this small, insular group of characters. Even in this episode, all the drama hinged on saving Katrina’s life rather than preventing an apocalyptic demon from being born. Sure, that makes sense from an emotional perspective but that’s the problem with making every episode about some emotional connection to the main characters. Eventually,the apocalypse starts taking a back seat in the drama.
Now granted, when the emotional drama is centered on Abbie and Ichabod and their relationship with each other, it’s hard for us to complain, because Mison and Beharie are just that good with each other. But when it’s about Henry or Katrina – as it so often is this season – it starts to grate after awhile because the rise of the ultimate, mankind-destroying evil and the centuries-long effort to stop it all get reduced to cliched family drama. Mommy and daddy abandoned me. I don’t trust my lying wife. That’s fine when it’s used as a way to round out the characters’ motivations a little and give them a personal bent, but when those become the entirety of the characters’ motivations, the story really suffers. It doesn’t help that, despite the clear attempt to make Katrina a more well-rounded and defined character, she’s still a big drag on the story every time she appears. Believe us, we’re not the shipper types, so this has nothing to do with Abbie and Ichabod’s chemistry, but we really thought for a second there that Katrina was going to die and we were excited by the story possibilities that opened up. When she didn’t die, we realized how much more worth she’d have to this story as a ghost rather than a witch.
We reiterate: it’s still a really fun show and we still enjoy the hell out of the leads. But the plot and storytelling could really use a major opening up, as well some world-building. We can’t have the climax of every episode happen in an abandoned building, underground tunnels, or out in the woods.
[Picture credit: Brownie Harris/FOX]