I would like to wish you all a happy New Year, Sleepyheads. I would like to, but are we really in the mood to bandy about a term like new after last night’s Sleepy Hollow, which wound up feeling so much like yet another ho-hum monster-of-the-week episode, and infuriatingly so?
What I’m saying is, I have some problems with this midseason premiere (or whatever the Fox honchos marketed it as; wintry mix dump?) that I would like to discuss with you. For frame of reference, let’s start with the end of the midseason finale. After ten fall episodes promising us that the apocalypse was nigh, building toward nothing but that singular event, the onset of said apocalypse seemed to be averted at the last possible moment last month when Henry stabbed Moloch in the heart. We didn’t know what, exactly, that would mean — would we get no apocalypse? Some apocalypse? Is having a little bit of apocalypse like being a little bit pregnant with a demon baby? — but deep down, I didn’t think it bode well for our collective half-season’s worth of pent-up tension and expectations.
Now let’s tally how much the season-two story line was furthered between that cliff-hanger four-ish weeks ago and the end of last night’s “Paradise Lost.” What’s different now is … Abraham has been released on his own recognizance. (Yes, there’s the Irving reappear, too, and I’ll get to that in a bit; suffice it to say that I don’t think springing another twist ending on us compensates for the sins of the rest of the hour.) So that’s how much the needle got moved: No apocalypse, no imminent threat of one at present, but Abe is now kinda maybe a reluctant ally or a distant frenemy to our Scooby gang. I’m … bored. And a little pissed.
Sometime after Orion the angel appeared (wearing a set of wings he clearly stole from Emma Thompson’s Angels in America hope chest) and explained how he’d escaped purgatory and how his mission now was to kill other spirits who’d escaped purgatory, I wrote in my notes, “There’s no payout for investing in this show.” I don’t mean to sound overly harsh, and surely I’ll find future episodes much more engrossing and entertaining than this one (because, to repeat myself, on SH, history repeats itself). But on a macro scale, big things need to happen when you’ve set them up to happen. Apocalypses can’t be rescheduled. Otherwise, let’s not bother having season-long story lines at all. Let’s just be Law & Order: Metaphysical Victims Unit and call ourselves a procedural.
There was a lot of “re” dialogue last night. “We might have to reinvent ourselves.” “Reexamination of my marriage.” “Remake and reinvent this world as a paradise.” “I will let you try and return me to the man I once was.” “Miss Mills and I have redefined our role as witness, so you and I must redefine our role in marriage.” This motif struck me as intentional, as if the writers were trying to give import to their choice to revert back to the way things were before they promised an Apocalypse and failed to deliver. I did like the discussion early on about Crane and whether he could imagine a life for himself in the modern world that didn’t involve evil-battling, but I think I liked it simply because I like watching Tom Mison act when given an inner conflict to verbally parse. Just because Crane knows no other purpose than “traipsing through the woods with a loaded weapon,” that’s no reason to let him keep doing so. The very fact that he can’t imagine such a future is exactly why he should be put in that future. To put it bluntly, SH feels to me like a sci-fi/fantasy/detective hybrid show with a real issue when it comes to conflict avoidance, even though all of those genres rely on expectations being thwarted and truisms being challenged. So, to be a dead horseman, I’m underwhelmed.
After that aforementioned Orion scene, I really was just coasting along on the acting in this episode, takin’ my kicks where I could get ’em. I’ll always enjoy the double-edged knife of Abbie’s personality, the simultaneous sass and sense of wonder, which was fantastically demonstrated when she quizzed Orion about God. (“What’s He like? If He is a He and not a She … Does Heaven exist? Why are we here? Did creation really take seven days? How about dinosaurs — you ever see a dinosaur?”) Mison is an actor I may have to induct into my rarefied Actors I’d Watch Read a Phone Book club. And I’ll even say it: I like Hawley! I am jealous of those characters who get to have a drink with him at Ye Olde Sleepy Hollow Tavern, and I was glad he was given a reason to show up last night, even if it had to do with some lame-o GPS stone-egg — and even if it resulted in the single worst line of the show: “You’re shiftless, Hawley!” Who talks like that? (P.S.: Second-worst line of dialogue, which, unfortunately for Jennie, also came out of her mouth: “Nothing can’t not matter. Only something can.” I have a headache.)
Hawley may be shiftless, but Katrina is now officially shifty. So, so shifty. Do we really even have to talk about her? Ugh, fine: Katrina and Crane are separated now (I did love his cot in Corbin’s library), and her affection for Abraham seems only to be growing as she thinks she’s found a spell that will unbind his mortal, human, non-evil side from her Headless Horseman persona. She tries to convince Crane to let her try this spell by “leveraging our marriage,” as he later puts it, when he’s royally peeved at her. (I’m starting to see in Katrina every emotionally manipulative chick who never says what she means and only knows how to get what she wants out of a relationship through guilt-ridden subterfuge.) But, of course, she never actually gets around to the spell. She never actually does anything except mildly tick off other people and recite chants that do nothing in what my husband now dubs her “English witch voice.” She is the worst, but at least Crane is starting to see that.
Now, let’s deal with Frank and the 45 or so seconds of genuine surprise and suspense he brought to the tail end of this episode. First, I gather we all figured out it was Frank before his face was actually revealed, although wondering if maybe that was somehow Henry or somebody else was a nice bit of fun. Did he seem zombie-ish to you, with the gray complexion and the lumbering gait? Do you think he’s supposed to be a zombie now, or some other kind of supernatural, undead entity?
“Where am I? Is this Heaven or Hell?” he asks the clerk. “Neither, man,” the kid replies. “It’s Sleepy Hollow.” Truer words have never been spoken; it’s we, the viewers, who have now been put in purgatory, and we’ll just have to wait and see if the writers have it in them to figure out a way to spring us — and surprise us.
Did Crane say in the opening scene something like, “He sent my son to purgatory,” he meaning Moloch? If so, am I right in assuming that we’re just supposed to place-hold that information until it gets picked up again?
- “All produce is organic by definition.”
- (On grape-apple hybrid fruits) “A union that hardly seems necessary.”
- “Witness, represent.”