Saturday, February 18, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x7)

Is it fair of me to compare and contrast Abbie and Molly as Witnesses? On the one hand, Molly is a totally new character who should be allowed to develop and thrive (or falter) on her own merits on this almost totally new show. On the other hand, the comparisons are ripe for the picking and to think the audience wouldn't be looking at both characters in tandem is equally unfair and a bit naive. There are a lot of differences between Abigail Mills and Molly Thomas, not the least of which is their age and situation in life. It's those two differences that are highlighted in this week's episode "Loco Parentis." If some beastie or creature of the night had Abigail Mills captive she could find her way out, Ichabod or no. Abbie would never need a parent to come save her from the big bad. In other words, her status as a grown woman lent her an independence that enhanced her abilities as a Witness that Molly, through no fault nor character flaw of her own, does not possess. In fact, since her introduction, Molly has stayed out of the fray while mother Diana takes the wheel dealing with the monsters of the week. However, instead of looking at Molly vis a vis Abbie, let's leave our Leftenant in her grave and look at Molly as her own character. How does the youngin' fair on her own as both character and mythological construct? Grab your red jacket and let's go!

Diana's concern for her daughter Molly is understandable; Diana has seen the sort of terror monsters can cause. To some extent it's hard to argue against her logic that thus far she and Ichabod have made a perfectly adequate team, taking down the various monsters that haunt Columbia. However, on the eve of Molly's birthday, it is obvious that the larger story at play this year is Molly's own bildungsroman, her spiritual education and journey into adulthood. Surely it's no coincidence that her first encounter with the supernatural occurs as she enters her next year of life, a milestone as a woman and, as it turns out, a Witness. Molly, then, is what we might charitably call a young lady and when one enters that phase, one usually begins to fight ones own battles. Okay, to be fair those battles are mundane things like homework and cooties, but Molly ain't living a normal life anymore and if there was any doubt to that, the Big Bad Wolf taking the form of her father in order to eat her heart certainly settles the debate. So, how did Miss Molly fair against a very literal Big Bad? I'd say rather poorly; Molly had a few good moments with the pointed questions about the bicycle and the fake out with the red hood, but on the whole Molly simply hid, ran, and waited for Diana and Ichabod to show up and shoot the monster. I understand that Molly is 11 and Witnesses are not blessed with innate magical abilities, but if ever there was a time to make Molly feel more real and show her true abilities as a Witness, this would be it. What I think bothers me more, however, is not Molly's lack of agency in the story but what it means for Ichabod Crane. In this episode, Ichabod has a duel role--Witness and father figure to Molly. The writers could have made the Big Bad into any figure from Diana and Molly's life but they chose to make it Molly's long estranged and distant father in order to draw the parallel between the bad father (Mitch) and the good father figure (Ichabod). It casts Ichabod into a role that I don't believe he needs--the paternalistic savior of the fair maiden. It makes Ichabod appear like the real hero of the story while the other Witness is the submissive victim or sidekick, despite Ichabod's protestations that Ichabod and Molly are "in this together." And here's where my question at the start of this review comes back into play. It might be unfair to compare Molly and Abbie but when it came to the Witness relationship, Abbie and Ichabod were equals. The Leftenant saved Crane as many times as he saved her. Partners, true mythological and cosmological partners. Are Molly and Ichabod capable of that same partnership? The show has yet to prove it so; it's proving it has the ability to show it with Diana and Ichabod but Mama Thomas isn't the Witness. Molly is. I wonder if the writers realize this rather vital plot point.

Miscellaneous Notes on Loco Parentis 

--Honestly, who goes into a church graveyard in the middle of the night? You're obviously going to die.

--Ichabod is in awe of "dolls that talk, robots that transform. Putty that is silly..." This is because "all I had in my day was a hoop and a stick and woe the day the stick broke."

--So, Jenny spent the entire episode hanging out with a half naked demon. No judgement; Joeb looked good.

--I didn't even notice Alex and Jake were missing from this episode until someone pointed it out in the show.

--Dreyfus wants to help the world be reborn. I'm sure that will go well for all of us.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x6)

There's no place like home. There have been a few vital components missing from this new rebooted version of Sleepy Hollow; Abbie is the most obvious and the Horseman of Death comes in at a close second but the third elephant in the TV room is the quaint and charming--yet riddled with supernatural monsters--town of Sleepy Hollow. In this week's episode, "Homecoming," we finally went back to where it all began, to where Abbie watched her friend and mentor become a head shorter followed by meeting a man out of time who told her of her destiny. As you might imagine, it's an emotional episode, fraught with memories of days gone by and people who are no longer with us and likewise no longer with Ichabod and Jenny. The emotions of both Ichabod's homecoming and his betrayal at Washington's hands play so much better than the too broad monster of the week who is truly characterless. Often times rebooting a show means revealing new information previously unknown to the audience; in this case, taking another look at Ichabod's death in ye olde Sleepy Hollow works to propel the overarching arc forward. Grab a magic-finding-scepter and let's go (back home)!

You have to give Sleepy Hollow credit when it's due; it doesn't forget its past like other shows do when they hit the same reset button. It would have been easy for the writers to start over at square one this season; all they would need to do is never mention Abbie, ignore the mythology and characters of the first three seasons, and pretend that Jenny is simply some girl Ichabod knows from "somewhere." Instead, the first six episodes have tried to remember their past, even while they push their own new agenda. Katrina, Abbie, Henry, past missions, and past emotions were all touched upon in this episode proving that even the writers miss aspects of Sleepy Hollow, season one through three. The emotional resonance of missing Abbie and that past life compacts the weighted feeling of betrayal when Ichabod learns that George Washington, his commander and his dear friend, condemned him to die all those years ago. Ichabod keeps losing many dear people in this little village, but in both cases the loss is mitigated by the joy of having them in the first place. A few blogs ago, I discussed Ichabod's archetype as a solider; one of the most prominent aspects of said archetype is a willingness to sacrifice their life for the greater good and a just cause. Ichabod has never hesitated to walk into the fire when called, but being pushed into that fire by a friend has a different taste. A more bitter one. It's to Ichabod's credit that he does not resent nor hate Washington for the decision to send our hero into battle against Headless, knowing Ichabod's life would be forfeit; indeed he understands it and agrees with it. If Ichabod's life meant that the American Revolution was won and that evil was stopped for a short period of time, then die Ichabod must. What this sacrifice caused is two fold; a unique bond was forged between Ichabod and the Headless Horseman--a bond Malcolm uses to his own ends in this episode with the Philosopher's Stone--but it also forget a new life for our man out of time. Without that sacrifice, without Washington's machinations, Ichabod would never have met Abbie, never known he was a Witness, and--in the long run--never met his new teammates, a new family. Sacrifices can often feel like betrayals in the moment, when we cannot see the path that lays before us, but hindsight is 20/20. If given the choice, Ichabod would want Washington to make the same choices the General made the first time around. He's still a hero, our Ichabod Crane.

Miscellaneous Notes on Homecoming 

--Ichabod with a giant blue Slushie (and then a brain freeze) feels very much like classic Ichabod.

--Jenny, regarding Ichabod and Abbie: "They had something special."

--Jenny's emotional journey this episode was also well done. She's right that there are "lots of ghosts in this place, but all ones I adore." In the end, she's able to see Alex and Jake as valuable teammates, who will fight by her side just as much as Abbie and Joe did.

--Making a Faraday cage is a total shout out to LOST, right?

--Look, I'm pretty familiar with ancient Egyptian mythology and that wasn't a sphinx.

--Ichabod at Abbie's grave was an emotional gut punch but it was perfectly acted and written. The Headless BobbleHead was a nice touch.

--I'm not sure I'm on the new #TeamWitness all the way yet but damn it if the show isn't selling it to me slowly, week after week.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x5)

Predictability can be a good or a bad thing in TV--and all other--writing. On the one hand, if the story crafted is predictable it might be an indication that the writer did a good job of laying clues, of developing their characters, or building the story to a logical end. On the other hand, if the story is predictable, it's more likely that the writer has not attempted to stretch themselves, that they've done the bare minimum in creating a beginning, a middle, and an end. The twists can be seen a mile away and nothing learned is surprising and, more importantly, is something the reader of the text guessed or knew several pages/chapters/minutes before the story itself made the reveal. The second this week's episode, "Blood From A Stone," showed that Malcolm Dreyfuss once had a partner who apparently died, it was painfully obvious that the same former partner was the Hooded Warlock gunning for Malcolm and laying siege to his building. When Sleepy Hollow had Dreyfuss playfully say that he sold his soul to the devil it was a giant neon sign that he really had made a deal with the demonic forces for wealth, fame, and recognition. Rich, egotistical men: they are all fragile and insecure little boys. Is this message relevant, a little more than meta, and pertinent to the plot? Sure. But it's also pretty gosh darn predictable. Grab your sigil and let's go!

It's not fair to say I didn't enjoy this episode. As I said above, predictable can be good. All the pieces fit together nicely; but, rather, none of it makes any lasting impression because I had guessed the majority of it several episodes ago. This is somewhat of a narrative paradox; the story progresses in that we get our main villain fleshed out and given a proper motivation, but at the same time the story doesn't move forward at all since the audience is already in on the reveal. It's a plot heavy type of episode that does not lend much in the way of analysis so a brief rundown is needed. Malcolm Dreyfuss felt like no one saw him when he and his friend and partner, Ansel, were trying to get their business started. Malcolm believed he deserved more credit because, after all, he was "the brains" of the operation. His genius went unnoticed while his partner's charm and charisma were noticed in spades. Enter, predictably, a wish, a magical place, and a demon with a contract. The forces of the Underworld would grant Malcolm the life he wanted, in exchange for his soul, and Ansel would be cast down into the pit to suffer so that Malcolm's star could rise. In an effort to cheat his eventual death, Malcolm has been collecting pieces of the Philosopher's Stone (side note, the show didn't even give us one good Harry Potter joke about this!) All of this plot is necessary for whatever is coming up. That doesn't make it any less predictable, rote, and a touch boring. The only real emotional and character push here occurs at the end when Diana tells Molly she's a Witness, like "Mr. Crane." There is a throughline about good versus bad partners in this episode, the narrative takeaway point being that good partners are equals and are there for each other while bad ones are egotistical, self-centered, and will--literally!--damn the other to Hell to get ahead. Molly appears to have a lot of emotional maturity for one so young but the show needs to spend more time with her, and quickly, because right now she comes across as a Wesley Crusher-Wudnerkind sort of character. And those are always annoying. Surely she's got some spunk, some pizzazz buried somewhere in that mystical kid shtick. All of this is to say that this was a groundwork episode, neither good nor bad. But hey---next week? We're going home!

Miscellaneous Notes on Blood From A Stone

--Ichabod gave a rather rousing speech on the very bloody history of soccer. To a bunch of 13 year old girls. Bless.

--"A Witness is no different from any other person." Is that actually true? I would say the three Witnesses we've met--Ichabod, Abbie, and Molly--defy that rule.

--Apparently Dreyfuss was trying to drain a literal swamp at one point. Once again...subtle, writers. Subtle.

--I am a broken record but when it comes to Jake and Alex, I'd rather the show just...not. Surprisingly, Alex was more likable this week as Jake got creepy in his instance that the only reason why Jenny isn't "in to him" is because she doesn't know him. That's not okay! Also, Jenny not only lost her sister but also Joe. Do the writers have to force a romantic relationship on her so soon?

--"We will not stand idly by while innocent men suffer for your sins."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x4)

Who killed Abigail Mills? On the simplest level, the answer is straightforward: Pandora and The Hidden One both contributed to Abbie's death. The Leftenant also chose to die in a moment of sheer heroism at the end of season three, running headlong into danger and refusing to come back to the land of the living, claiming her time and her mission were over. The last person upon whom we could lay blame for Abbie's death would be Ichabod Crane, her best friend and partner. Right? The question of Ichabod's guilt over many losses is the question at the heart of tonight's episode, "The People vs Ichabod Crane." Ichabod leaves a trail of bodies behind him: Joe Corbin, Abraham von Brunt, Katrina, Henry Parrish, and Abbie have all died under Ichabod's tenor as a Witness and do good'er. Are they all his fault? The narrative certainly does not suggest that; Abraham chose to have his head removed and become the Horseman; Katrina turned evil and threatened to kill Ichabod and Abbie both; Henry was already a vessel of evil working alongside Moloch. Joe is the true tragic figure but there are always losses in the fight against evil. So who is it that really thinks Ichabod is responsible for these people's deaths? Ichabod, of course. The man carries the weight of the world, the universe, the battle of good versus evil, and all the lost souls in that battle on his (arguably handsome) shoulders. Grab some Fire of Joy and let's go!

There are a lot of archetypes we apply to Ichabod Crane: hero, man out of time, father, journeyman. But the one we rarely talk about is soldier. Crane has been a literal solider in the American Revolution and a more metaphorical one in the war against evil. In that regard, he has adopted some of the more striking soldier traits. Ichabod is undaunted in the face of death; he accepts that his demise might occur at any moment and, moreover, that those he love might perish in his long war. Ichabod has a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong and that he is on the side of right and good. Along with these hallmark characteristics is knowledge that there are risks and that sometimes you and others will pay the ultimate price; it this knowledge that Ichabod uses to defend himself against Henry Parrish, his long dead son, and a courtroom of angry 18th century villagers. Ichabod tries to explain that he is a soldier and as such both he and Abbie knew the risks and made their own choices accordingly. Does this mean that Ichabod is responsible because Abbie and others died "on his watch?" After all, Ichabod refused to give into Katrina's desire to redeem their son; Ichabod "stole" Katrina from Abraham; Ichabod did not protect Henry from the supernatural forces and ensorcelled him. And perhaps most damning, if Ichabod hadn't convinced Abbie to believe in the fight against evil and her role in it, maybe she'd be alive, off at Quantico, with the FBI and living it up with Daniel Reynolds. Is a soldier to blame for those that die in his wake if he's just doing his duty? Is he responsible for the lives that are overturned while he's out on his righteous mission? In a court of law, the answer would most likely be no. A soldier is following orders and he cannot be held accountable for what happens while performing his duty. Ichabod, too, is following orders. In the olden days, he did what Washington commanded him to do and in the present he's following that self-same mission. And while it's nice to imagine that in another universe Abbie might be still alive, being her badass self, would she still be Abigail Mills? Our Abbie Mills? Without that title of Witness, without Ichabod by her side, without her pragmatic approach to the fight against evil, without breaking down stereotypes and gender norms and racial assumptions would she still be Abbie Mills? Probably not. Abbie developed as a person because she chose, freely, to fight along side Ichabod Crane. I expect Ichabod to feel guilty over the deaths of those whom he's lost along the way, the same way I suspect soldiers are never fully comfortable with the knowledge that they've killed enemy combatants. But Ichabod soldiers on (if you'll pardon the pun) because that's what he must do. Everyone needs a little bit of hope now and then and it's only through his partner's words--through the eternal soul that is the Incarnate Witness--that he is pulled back from being swallowed up by this guilt. I think in a lot of ways this episode was a memorial to Abbie; a way to question if Ichabod could truly go on without her (and, if we're being meta, if the show can go on without her). The ending spells it out: she's not gone, not really. Abbie Mills may have died, but the things that she gave to Ichabod and to the show--the hope, the wisdom, the kindness, the ability to save our man out of time--they still exist. If only in a slightly smaller scale. I still don't know if I'm all for Molly being the next Witness (I think there are a myriad of problems here) but the essence that a dual TeamWitness brought to Sleepy Hollow is slowly but surely coming back to life.

Miscellaneous Notes on The People vs Ichabod Crane

--"Hello Father." Ah, John Noble. So glad to see him again (and yes, I still call him Walter when I take notes).

--"The world needs me to have more time. This is for the world's benefit." The show isn't exactly subtle in their Dreyfuss-Trump comparison, are they?

--The spider demon was absolutely creepy.

--"These are the times that try men's souls." Well, this episodes is maybe the most literal reading of that line ever.

--Jake is growing on me a bit more as a character but Alex is still so terribly bland. I don't really believe we need either of them in the show except to fawn over Ichabod and give science exposition.

--"Maybe he went to the mall and got lost. Again."

--"I would die a thousand deaths if it meant she lived but one hour more."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x3)

There is something hysterically meta about the fictional female President of the United States almost getting her head lopped off by a mythical headless horseman on the same day that, here in the real world, a terrifying, misogynist, and racist man was sworn in as the 45th President. I'm not entirely sure Sleepy Hollow didn't plan "Heads of State" that way. Meta commentary on the state of the union aside, this week's episode actually felt more like a proper bout of Sleepy Hollow weirdness than what we've been served the past two weeks. Several important icons and motifs of the show reared their much missed heads to say hello: Headless is here with his glowing axe; Molly is drawing the four trees associated with the demon and main antagonist of season one and two, Moloch; Jenny's sass is tempered by her heart and Ichabod found his funny once more. The camera trick of season one by which we enter a scene upside down even made an appearance! Sleepy Hollow's main goal in season four has nothing to do with plot; it needs to prove to me (and, okay, all the viewers) that it can carry on, be the same show, without Abigail Mills. Stumbling in the dark, maybe the show is slowly finding its way toward the light. Even if sunlight gives you cancer. Let's go!

There are many good things about this episode, but the one that sticks out the most is that this week had a strong case. Sleepy Hollow has always towed the line between case-of-the-week and mythology building arcs. The case of the weeks were, in the past, met with applause because they were fun, well thought out, and combined history with the supernatural. The past two cases-of-the-week fell drearily flat because it lacked all those important aspects. However, in this case of the week (which doubles as the start of a long arc given Dreyfus's role) we have a lot of classic Sleepy Hollow hallmarks: an important historical figure, a secret otherworldly history of an American story we thought we all knew; a totally bananas, larger than life figure giving cryptic hints about the story at large and, most importantly, Ichabod playing a crucial role both in exposition and heroism to save the day. That, by the way, is the second best part of this episode. Ichabod has always been the center of the story; his knowledge in history and the supernatural provides the audience with much needed context while developing his character as a sacrificer for the greater good with a noble heart. In the past two weeks, the show has had--almost understandably--to take a step back from Ichabod, a character we already know, to introduce and flesh out the newbies with whom we have previously been unacquainted. However, focusing on the other characters means that the main narrative of the cases of the week and the larger arc were seriously lacking in any sort of meaning or thrust. I have no idea what Dreyfus wants (though I suspect he's telling the truth about selling his soul to the devil), but for the first time all season, I'm actually really interested in finding out. The story of what this evil billionaire mogul (again with the meta commentary!) feels like it belongs in the Sleepy Hollow world; Ichabod didn't just fight against monsters; he fought against injustice and attempts to tear down liberty. An egotistical manic who claims to be fighting for the rights of the people--but is really just fighting for himself--fits right into Ichabod's overall storyline. Speaking of acceptable storylines, it was nice to see Diana have a very natural and normal reaction to learning her daughter is the next Witness. After taking demons, witches, headless horsemen and time travel all in stride, it's the safety of her daughter that breaks this particular camel's back. Diana doesn't quite feel like a real person yet--she's still too new and raw, but moments like her telling Ichabod "no more you!" even when the latter promises that Molly's safety will be held in the highest regard, help us understand her more. She's tough but she has a weakness, a rather big one. Molly might be Diana's fatal flaw, her harmatia, but because that flaw is one that speaks to human emotion and connection, she's instantly a little bit more compelling. She has no role in the supernatural world and thus Diana can feel quite disconnected from the larger, and arguably more important, narrative but her true purpose is that of a protector. I wouldn't be surprised if she does the heavy lifting of Witnesshood for Molly given the latter's prepubescent stage. It's an interesting way to keep the integrity of the show--two Witnesses--while making Ichabod the lead choir boy. All of this is to say that the show might be finding a fair footing. It's up to the writers to keep from stumbling once more.

Miscellaneous Notes on Heads of State

--"I could not in good conscience stand by while a nation was oppressed by tyranny." Ichabod had a lot of great patriotic quotes that I half expect to see on placards in future protests.

--Jake very clearly has a crush on Jenny. I hesitate to comment on this but Jenny did just lose Joe. To thrust her right into another pairing feels cheap.

--Ichabod has a "proclivity toward obscure donut toppings." That and his boots apparently make him a hipster.

--"Just admit it! You're a time traveler!" Well, at least that particular cat is out of that particular bag.

--One thing that was missing, however, from this episode was that Ichabod failed to explain that the Headless Horseman isn't just the Horseman of Death from the Apocalypse but is also his former best friend who fought for the hand of Ichabod's late wife. Abraham and Katrina were important facets of this show, just like Moloch and Abbie.

--"My strength is replenished and I am ready for battle once more." Ichabod tackling IKEA furniture after downing Chinese from carton boxes is exactly the sort of Ichabod I expect from this show. I've missed this version of Ichabod.

Monday, January 16, 2017

In Which I Review Sherlock (4x3)

Now that is how you do an episode of Sherlock. Not since the unbelievably well executed season two finale has an episode of Sherlock resonated so powerfully and so satisfactorily as to be near pitch perfect. If you were to distill down in bullet point form what makes a great episode of Sherlock you would undoubtedly find every single one of those points in the season--and quite possibly series--finale, "The Final Problem." There is so much to pick apart and discuss in this week's installment; from John and Sherlock's relationship to the Holmess' family dynamic (so all the kids are absolutely nuts, right?) to the ideas of morality and whether or not a human being can live without them and still call themselves human and, maybe most importantly, whether or not sociopathy--true sociopathy--can be overturned by the simple act of having a best friend. Sherlock has never been a perfect TV show; it's often too self-indulgent with freeze frames and weird special effects meant to awe instead of move the story along. It gets too caught up in giving the rabid fan bases something to quickly reblog, retweet or turn into a smutty fanfic and it has problems of the average, run of the TV mill sort like hints of misogyny and some overt queer baiting. None of this is dismissed with a spectacular episode, which this unquestionably was, and it's always worth pulling back to examine all the messages that lay behind a rollicking good time but, honestly, problems of ego and privilege aside, didn't you just enjoy the ever loving hell out of this show from start to finish? I know I did. One last time, then. It's only elementary. Let's go!

I love when I'm right. In last week's blog, I predicted that Euros's importance wasn't so much as a threat to national security or some sort of big case-of-the-week (though both of those are equally true), but rather that her existence has been such a closely guarded secret because it was she who made Sherlock who he is. His attempts at cold indifference, at friendlessness, at emotional detachment, and even at sociopathy all stem from the secret sister he locked away in his mind palace and forgot all about. Families. Sometimes they really do suck. Euros herself is an extraordinarily interesting, if extremely terrifying, case. Her sociopathy manifests in a lot of the usual ways. Euros doesn't understand emotions; she can't tell when she's happy or sad and moreover I'm not sure sure she's capable of feeling those; she thinks that constructs of good and bad are social conditions that don't exist outside the realm of society and the impositions it imposes on the world (to be fair, she's not dead wrong). Likewise, Euros can't tell the difference between screaming and laughing and, while children are prone to fits of jealousy when they feel ostracized or neglected, not all children drown the object of their jealousy in a fit (and then proceed to mock their sibling about it with codes and songs). Euros is Sherlock with the brakes off, then. If Sherlock were to completely cut himself off from his friends and family; if he were to stop detective work as a way to not only get high but because his heart is ultimately in the right place, he'd be a perfect male form of Euros. Sherlock's emotions are his saving grace; they always have been. He clings to anything that makes him feel at least a little bit human and grounded--the cases, the small cadre of people that float around his manic and often downright asshole existence. All of these are designed, subconsciously, to keep him from becoming Euros, a person he can't even remember but who killed his best friend when he was just a lad. These things are Sherlock's identity touchstones; so long as he has them, he can continue to function. Euros does not have touchstones; these developments that occur in childhood never did for the little girl who really only wanted a friend. A foot smarter than the smartest person in the room but equally lonely, Euros never forged any sort of a connection and so acted out, deciding that morals (which she can't really understand) were for the weak and the lower creatures of the Earth. As Euros tells Sherlock in the final game, "I never had a best friend. I had no one;" this fact, surprisingly, bothers her. The lack of morals, the total disregard for human life, and the ability to turn the people around her into mindless sheep doesn't seem to strike her as anything with which to be concerned, but the fact that she never had a friend to play with does. Is Euros's sociopathy not true then? Honestly, it may not matter if Euros is a textbook sociopath or not. She's serving a different narrative purpose; she's Sherlock's foil.

Unsurprisingly, Euros and Moriarty get on like a house on fire (her words, not mine!) Moriarty is Sherlock's literary foil; every bit his equal but living a life of crime instead of solving them. They are the perfect match for each other. The one thing missing from the Holmes/Moriarty antagonistic pairing is the all powerful word that got thrown around quite a bit in this episode: family. John is family, if not blood. Mary, Rosie, Molly, Mrs. Hudson and even Lestrade are. Mycroft is, of course, family; Moriarty is not. Euros, though, is. I said up top that the person Sherlock became, his attempts at a softer high functioning sociopath, all stem from Euros; but the question is why...why would anyone want to become what Euros is? The answer, I think, is pretty simple: to avoid pain. To wit: why do junkies get high? Yes, scientifically it's because drugs are addictive but go deeper, go into the emotional reason why. It's because the thing you're addicted to--the booze, the pills, the gambling, the drugs--are all there to make the pain stop, if only for a little bit. After all, if they worked forever and negated the pain long term, there'd be no need to take another hit. Sherlock feels deeply--it's written on his face in so many instances over the years. A bomb jacket strapped to John, texts from Irene Adler, Mary Watson's death, realizing how much he's hurt Molly by forcing her to confess her love, comforting John after his best friend dissolved into tears confessing to an unseen wife, are all instances where Sherlock has been empathetic. He feels pain; he feels his own and others and it all goes back to not being able to find his little friend, Victor--his Redbeard, his first friend, his childhood best friend, an innocent little boy who was drowned in a well by Sherlock's younger sister. So much pain, so much trauma behind that memory that Sherlock did one of the most human things possible: he wrote himself a different story and became just like the person--or as near as he could--who feels no pain and could easily and clinically pass through the world where morals don't matter and people are irrational and boiled down to clever deductions. Becoming Euros was a way to mask the scars of childhood, to forge ahead and not be overwhelmed by grief. This, by the way, is where John comes in. Like calls to like and in each other they saw their pain refracted. John is always saving Sherlock and Sherlock is always saving John but not just in moments of the big denouement with bad guys at pools or waterfalls, but everyday, in every way, by the simple virtue of easing each other's pain and loneliness and giving each other the one thing Euros never had: a friend. Sometimes all we need in this world is one person who truly loves us or, you know, with whom we can solves crimes. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson found each other and that is the true beauty of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. The cases may mystify and astound but it's the relationship of Holmes and Watson that keeps us coming back. It is, as Mary says in her video post script, all about the legend of those fabulous wonderful, clever and brave Baker Street Boys.

 Miscellaneous Notes on The Final Problem

--Mycroft's umbrella doubles as a saber and a gun. I find this amusing but not at all surprising.

--"This is a family matter." "That's why John stays!"

--Even if her sociopathy could be tempered by family, Euros is without a doubt the scariest villain the show has done.

--So many good shocking moments in this episode that there were times I forgot to breath. Just to name a few: no glass on Euros's cell; Euros killing all three men--guilty and innocent--in the hangman's noose to see how it felt; Molly almost not saying "I love you" back; the plane and little girl not being "real," and Sherlock almost killing his brother.

--Moriarty goes by "Big G" now because he's "relatable that way."

--In a fabulous call back to the first episode of season one, Lestrade tells a fellow detective that Sherlock isn't a great man, "he's better than that; he's a good one."

--The final clip sees Sherlock and John running out of "Rathbone House" which is a loving tribute to Basil Rathbone who played Sherlock Holmes fourteen times over half a dozen years.

--"When all else fails there are two men sitting, arguing, in a scruffy flat like they've always been there and always will....Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x2)

What made Abbie Mills such a great Witness? Was it her total acceptance of the sudden bizarre turn of events in her life? No, not really. In fact, Abbie remained skeptical for a good part of the first season. Was it because she was "touched" as a young girl by Moloch? No; helpful, maybe, but ultimately her Witnesshood was something deeper and more meaningful. Abbie made such a great Witness because she was not only the supernatural second half of Ichabod, but because she was his emotional, intellectual, and mature equal. Abbie was a bit of a revelation on network TV; a woman of color who was simply not the helpmate of the white male protagonist, but instead, every part his equal. While staring down at the black abyss of nevermore, Abbie stood shoulder to shoulder with a man out of time, looked demons and Purgatory in the eye and did not blink. Abbie was tough, practical, no-nonsense, and even when all felt lost, Abbie kept going. Should the next Witness be a copycat of Abbie Mills? No, absolutely not. That's an insult to Abbie's memory and the audience's patience; but while there is something to be said about subverting the audience's expectations, does anyone really believe that a thirteen year old teenager is really ready to fight the forces of evil and potentially the Apocalypse? Is that what we want this show to become? From a pairing that shouted equality--professionally, personally, and supernaturally--to one that has a centuries old man and a child running around the United States Capital looking for things that go bump in the night? I'm not sure "In Plain Sight" fixed any of the missteps of last week; it might have made them worse. Grab your witch stone and let's go! 

Here's a hard question: what do you want out of Sleepy Hollow? I've always been up front that this show could be as nutty as it wanted--and it often went full on straight-jacket crazy--so long as the core of the show remained the same. Take out the actual characters for a moment, forget Ichabod and Abbie and everything they've done, and the core of Sleep Hollow was really the story of two lost souls who found each other and then managed to find their way through a dark and weird world. Ichabod was the man out of time, a fish out of water; Abbie could neither escape her past nor find her future. But when the two souls met an alliance that went beyond our mortal ken was formed and together each person found what they were searching for. As cliche as it sounds, they found a home together. To be sure, there are some romantic underpinnings to this kind of narrative but it need not be; indeed Sleepy Hollow never went over that particular precipice. Romantic or not, it does not erase the deep loving bond between the two Witnesses. Can anyone imagine Ichabod having that with Molly? Does anyone want him to? There's something a little unsettling--a little squicky--about the loving and platonic romance of Ichabod and Abbie being overtaken by Ichabod and Molly. I know the show won't suddenly turn Ichabod and Molly into some sort of love story--in fact, I can see the show keeping Ichabod and Molly at arms length to drive home the idea that Molly might be the next Witness but she's not Abbie--but even if you take out the core of the two Witnesses and the sort of partnership they are supposed to have, is Molly really capable of stopping whatever evildoer is coming? She's got homework to do and boys (or girls) to flirt with. She can't fire a gun or a crossbow or read Latin or, hell, even stay out late to research big-bads. What use is Molly as a Witness? While I was not thrilled with the idea of Diana being the new Witness, Molly as a Witness is more ridiculous than some of the hair-brained plots Sleepy Hollow has trotted out in the past. So, once again, I ask: what do you want out of Sleepy Hollow?

Miscellaneous Notes on In Plain Sight

--Ichabod, while trying to find the new Witness in a prophetic dream, still calls out for Abbie.

--The three Witches were the very definition of cliche bad women--tight leather clothing and all.

--I can't get any sort of read on Alex and Jake except that one's a skeptic and one's a believer. Those characteristics don't make for very compelling characters.

--Speaking of unreadable, whatever Malcolm Dreyfus is up to is so undeveloped that I'm choosing to refrain from any real commentary. Also, I keep wanting to refer to him as Daniel Faraday.

--"How do you know so much about witches?" "I was married to one."

--Our Ichabod Crane, "the one and only!"

--I did have a moment of sheer joy at seeing the Headless Horseman. No idea how he's there in Washington, but whatever.

--"She's not Abbie." No. No, she's not.