Monday, March 2, 2015

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x12)

Hello. My name is Jacquelyn and I anger-watch Once Upon A Time (I won't say hate-watch because against all odds, there was one episode last half of season 4 that stood out as quite good). I thought maybe I should put that out there into the universe. This past season more people have been reading my blog and, more to the point, commenting and I want to make sure that we're all on the same page here. If you're expecting a praise worthy review, you will likely get no enjoyment from my blog. If you still think the sun rises and sets with ONCE, you'll find my reviews frustrating and angry. But, hey, I am frustrated and angry with ONCE, so it fits. This is not to say that you all are not welcome here in my mirror fun house, but be prepared: I stopped loving this show awhile ago. Now I'm only here for the snark. Three months off was not enough; I don't know if any amount of time would be enough. But here we are again--once more unto the breach with the spring premiere, 'Darkness on the Edge of Town.' So where do I stand with this episode? It was...serviceable. Yes, that's the word I am going to use for it. The hard part is that we are so far into the life of this show--four seasons now--that I can not NOT look at any kind of premiere and compare it to ones that came before. Compared to season 4A's premiere 'A Tale of Two Sisters,' this one was better. It was tighter, funnier, more focused on characters I care about, and less bubblegum pink (if TV can have a color, which it can and does). However there were also some straight up stupid and silly things happening and when you compare this weeks episode to ones like, 'Heart of the Truest Believer,' or 'New York City Serenade,' or even the 'Pilot,' we are worlds from where we once were. With that in mind, that in order to watch this show, I have to lower my standards--something I feel disinclined to do since I don't think you should ever have to negotiate your expectations when it comes to media--let's jump head first into this new 11 episode arc. 

Rumplestiltskin's Council of Ladies 

Green magic breath. Because magic handwaving is too mainstream. Sweet mother of God, what is that? Why does Cruella have green magic breath? Who invented that and what were they smoking when they did? Walk me through how this came about in the writers room. They want Cruella to be magical, okay that's understandable. But how do you get from that perfectly fine notion to green magic breath? Can you tell I am bothered by the green magic breath? Other than Cruella's halitosis, the relatively short flashback was essentially answering the question of how the (Drag) Queens of Darkness all met and became bosom buddies. If you guessed Rumple, you're right! Remember, he's the cool kid--he knows everybody. It's something we basically already knew from the end of the last arc so it's not something we need to dwell on for very long. I will say this; I am glad that the writers tied the Dark Curse into this little tet-a-tet-a-tet...a tet. I was worried from the start that Rumple's sudden desire to get a happy ending because he was a villain and needed other villain's help was a pretty big fumble. Rumple has always wanted his power, but the manipulation he played out behind the scenes in the EF of the past was always in service of getting his son back (though you'll never hear him mention his son Baelfire on screen ever again...). Tying back into the Dark Curse (which he gave to Regina who gives it to Mal at some point but Mal told Regina in S1 that she didn't know where it came from....?) was a nice way to remind the audience that Rumple was the puppet master and ultimately feels less "story of the arc" and more "story of the show."

So why these three villains? To be perfectly frank, Rumple doesn't need all three. He really just needs Mal and Cruella but Adam and Eddy have never known when to stop with their shiny toys. There is quite a bit of extemporizing from Rumple about Bald Mountain and how each of the villains posses some ability that will help him get the Dark Curse and long story short, Cruella has bad breath, Mal is a pyromaniac and Ursula has tentacles. Seriously, that's Ursula's power? Rumple needed her because she has long tentacles that can reach far and grab a shiny orb on a pedestal. Oof. Basically Ursula is Moon Moon (internet meme, look it up people). Taking the shiny precious object awakens Gollum. Wait, no. That's the wrong mythos. It awakens the Chernabog. Cause we have demons now; a hellbeast who is probably best known for frightening children of all ages in the movie Fantasia (shock, given the broom and the hat from last arc). Basic rundown that Rumple gives before he leaves the (Drag) Queens of Darkness to their fate (because of course he betrayed them): the Chernabog seeks out the heart with the greatest potential for darkness and eats it. Sure, whatever. What's more important is that this is a bonding exercise for the (Drag) Queens of Darkness. They have to work together to escape being made a tasty snack. I'm sure I'm supposed to have warm fuzzies or something but frankly I find almost nothing about these three to be endearing or powerful or worthy of my time. I can't get over how Jolie-esque they've made Mal; she's a far cry from how ONCE depicted her in season one. Ursula is freaking Moon Moon and she looks like the ultimate fashion victim. She's got the peplum, she's got gauntlets, she's got the crazy hair, she's got the tentacles, she's got the headdress, and she's spilling out of her dress. It's straight up crazy. She looks like a Project Runway reject from the unconventional challenge. Now, Cruella I find I like more than I expected. Victoria Smurfit is playing her as unhinged and it's rather fun because it's mixed in with a faux 1920s flapper "oh daaaaarling" demeanor. But the ultimate problem still remains that we do not need all three of these villains, plus Rumple. Why should I be emotionally invested in these three when they are either farcically bizarre (Ursula); a cheap knockoff of a recent movie (Mal) and delightfully unhinged but obviously going to be under utilized (Cruella) because I think it's pretty clear that Mal will take center stage here. At any rate, they all became best friends and lived happily ever after. Or, you know, not. To sum up: the flashbacks are necessary but becoming increasingly underwhelming and dull.

Not Our First Monster Bash

Yes the title of my section is a Hook quote. I can occasionally be okay with some of the drivel that passes from his cursed anti-True Love lips. And yes, I will be passing over the Hook and Belle stuff until the end to save myself from a full on rant. Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke: something has been released and is tearing apart the town! Omgosh! This NEVER happens, guys. Except, you know, every season. This portion of the episode was better than the flashback, but there was also a lot of treading water and people rehashing things that we already knew: Regina and Emma are looking for the author; Belle is sad; Hook is angry; Fairies are in a hat; Snow and Charming don't exist until the writers need to remind the audience that they do. Six weeks have passed and life continues as normal. Everything is at a standstill in the town and I think that works with the idea that things are just very human and non-magical right now. Henry goes to school; Mary Margaret teaches (wut); Regina is mayor again and setting stuff on fire (wut). The slow start to the present day action, I think, is supposed to drive home the point that there is nothing happening in town. So thank god Belle found someone to translate a magical language from another realm! No, seriously. She thinks a professor in Oxford translated a magical spell for her. How does this NOT send up red flags in her mind? It's another language from another world that involves magic! And someone magically translated it for her, no questions asked? And she doesn't stop to think that maybe this is Rumple (because of course it's the puppet master). I guess it plays into how the writers think of Belle as being smart only after she's done tons and tons of research but until then she can't see her nose in front of her face or the forest for the trees. I mean, it's not like Belle's ever been perceptive or intuitive, right? What show am I watching again?

So the fairies come forth from the hat to everyone's happiness cause we all love ourselves some fairies. Helpful little plot devices that they are. And guess what else comes forth: Chernabog, naturally. I have no idea how he got into that hat, nor do I really care. I don't think it will ever be explained. Like so much of this show. The interesting thing is that Chernabog doesn't seek out Regina, as one might expect but rather seeks out Emma. She has the heart with the greatest potential for darkness. The writers have never said that love was *always* good (and, in fact, the overwhelming message of love and romance on ONCE is straight up negative from my admittedly biased and bitter perspective). They did once have Rumple say that love is a disease and has killed many and that's true philosophically speaking. As True Love Incarnate, I guess Emma would not only be the ultimate good but the ultimate weapon as well. People kill in the name of their savior all time and religion is a driving force behind so much of the world's conflicts. Sounds like I'm praising the show, doesn't it? Here's the rub: none of it matters. If you actually think Adam and Eddy would allow their original character, the one whose non-traditional fairy tale they are supposed to be telling, to go evil and more to the point, stay evil, then I've got a large bridge to sell you. Emma will be tempted, I'm sure, but full on darkness from their savior who's job it is to bring back the happy endings? Please. Not even remotely possible. What do I think is possible then? Death. No, that's not Emma bashing despite her Pod status. It's her archetype. Savior's die; they are reborn, yes, but first they die. And if you think Emma will be in danger for long, look at how Chernabog was dealt with this episode: quickly and swiftly. He was launched from the roof of a car and evaporated--a hell beast demon gone because of geography. He was nothing more than a way to set up the idea of Evil! Emma. Do I think there is a possibility that Chernabog will return? Sure, of course. There always is on this show (unless you are Neal). But, Chernabog went the way of the Wraith and Marshmallow--dealt with and never seen again.

Meanwhile, on the edge of town...darkness comes. Yes, I know; it was low hanging fruit. Cruella and Ursula and Rumple need to find a way into town so enter the worst plot device I have ever seen on this show--that includes beans, brooms, wishing stars, Pegasus sails, and gauntlets. Do you know what they used? A phone. Ursula called up Regina and asked to be let into the town. Storybrooke is impossible to find and enter unless you make a phone call. Now, I'll be fair, it's not just the phone but it's also the scroll from the Snow Queen which the heroes just happen to have lying around...for...reasons? Of course, I had issues with the magical scroll that transported the Snow Queen into Storybrooke in the first place, so it's not like I was a fan of using it and a silly phone call to get into the town once more (please let us in Regina! We promise to be good! Sweet mercy). However, passing over the silly and stupid phone call, Rumple starts to lay out his plans and I must admit that Bobby did a great job (as he always does) of making Rumple so watchable. Now, I hate what the writers have done to him this past season, turning him into Not! Rumple but Bobby does show that vulnerable side at the edge of town while Cruella points a gun at his head (cause bitch be crazy, yo). Rumple tells Ursula that he wants what they want--a happy ending and what that means is his own business, not theirs. So here it is, my one and only prediction and theory for this show. I think Rumple is going to die, for real, at the end of this season. I think he (and Bobby, to be perfectly honest) want released from this life (or contract for Bobby) and his own dependence on magic. Adam and Eddy have already set up this idea with Ingrid last season who off'd herself as a way to get a happy ending. I think Rumple will die and the final scene for him will be him entering some sort of after life where a 14 year old Baelfire waits for him, just like Ingrid's sisters were waiting for her. As for the (drag) Queens of Darkness, what are their happy endings? I don't care. Their happy endings could be a pizza and I'd find it as emotionally resonating as wanting love and a family at this point.

Miscellaneous Notes on Darkness On the Edge of Town

--So, Hook and Belle. I hated this whole scene. Or, rather, I have a lot of issues with the fact that Belle's heartfelt teary speech was given to Hook of all people. Why? I’m glad Belle was having that conversation but I cannot abide her having it with a man who once beat her, shot her and tried to murder the man she loves. Especially when he’s never given even her any sort of genuine, non snarky apology for actually hurting her. Putting the abused and the abuser in the same room and expecting them to bond when there has been no mea culpa leaves a very sour taste in my mouth. Just because Hook was a victim of Rumple as well does not, under any circumstance, lessen the fact that Belle was once his victim. If anything being Rumple's plaything should make him realize that what he did to Belle was wretched and he owes her 100000 apologies.

--"Many years ago" is Adam and Eddy speak for "we have no idea when this is because we don't actually keep track of the timeline"

--"Because your life is crap." Rumple in his robe with his Ramen. Bless. (I wish I could quit you Rumple, but I don't know if I ever can)

--Mr. Cluck's is a LOST reference, a far superior show in every way, shape, and form.

--So the Author and the Sorcerer are different people who are also on opposite sides of the fence, as it were. My guess? The author is the good guy (and Walt Disney) and the Sorcerer is a bad guy (who created the Dark Curse and is the First Dark One).

--Snow and Charming have a history with Ursula and Cruella. What happened between the foursome? At this moment in time, I kid you not, I think there is a secret baby or something. Why? Because Adam and Eddy love themselves some Star Wars. Also, holy clunky dialogue Batman!
 "no one must know what happened between us in the EF = everyone is going to find out what happened between you in the EF"

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (2x18)

The title of the season two finale, "Tempus Fugit," is apt for several reasons. From an outside viewing perspective, time really has flown since we all sat down many months ago to watch Ichabod claw his way out of a grave (again) and go after Abbie in Purgatory. There have been hits (namely the first half of this season) and misses (namely the second half which was truly just treading water until this finale) but overall I feel like Sleepy Hollow has become comfortable enough in its wheelhouse to continually produce quality TV for another season or two. As for the finale itself? Well, there we are back to the title. Time flies once more as we watch modern Abbie and ye olde Ichabod navigate the American Revolution as strangers instead of as friends, trying to get back to where they belong: with each other, staring into the abyss. Overall impression of the finale, you might ask yourself? It was a fast paced and witty episode that was solely driven by Ichabod and Abbie but could have used some focusing and perhaps a different ending. But, then again, Benjamin Franklin got his head chopped off. One more time this season, with feeling! 

This episode operates under the broad heading of trust. Ichabod is just another soldier in the American Revolution; he has a secret mission but he is not the loveable, out of time man we've come to know and adore over the past two years. He is rigid and formal and errs on the side of distrust as opposed to trust, especially when it comes to one Abigail Mills. It's a unique, and let's face it, totally fun change in fortune for our Captain and his Leftenant. Instead of Abbie suppressing her giggles watching Ichabod try to learn the ways of the 21st century, Ichabod continuously gives Abbie the side eye as she fusses with the 18th century, seemingly out of her element and faced with a level of prejudice that we haven't seen her tackle in her own present day. But here she is, in her trousers and leather, telling Ichabod that she is from the future, that they are friends and partners, and that his wife is a witch who is trying to kill him. Is it any wonder that Ichabod does not jump and down with joy and trust her instantly? Trust between these two is built as slowly as a show can in which the two leads, who have excelled over two seasons at demonstrating a tight knit bond, have only an hour to build trust between themselves once more. It's done the old fashioned way--conversation--and the new fashioned way--a selfie--though the new fashioned way was the more jovial approach. But when it does work, when Ichabod realizes that Abbie is telling him the truth, hair brained and mad cap though it may be, they fall back in line as we've seen them before. Abbie trusts that Ichabod can hold of the Headless Horseman (welcome back Headless. I've missed you) and Ichabod trusts that Abbie (and some supernatural help) can reverse the spell and put the world back in order.

Compounding this exercise in trust building (free falls not included) is that trusting Abbie means, ipso facto, not trusting Katrina. Remember, Ichabod doesn't know that his wife is a witch and certainly not that she's from the future and evil and desiring to kill him. The moment when Ichabod realizes that this Katrina is not the woman he married is quite heart breaking and I love that Abbie is there to comfort him with kind words about how the woman he married really was a good woman that loved him. I do ship Ichabbie, but I ship it in all the ways you can ship this pair--friends, romance, Team Witnesses. Katrina is less a hindrance to Ichabbie and more of a foil to what Ichabbie stands for, which is trust and shared interests, passions and goals. I would have been perfectly fine for Ichabod and Katrina to renew their love for one another (even if I think Ichabod becomes quite dull around Katrina). The problem very quickly became that Katrina was never written as being able to adapt the same way as Ichabod, and I've touched on this quite a bit in previous reviews. Katrina is simply unable to move into the world of modern day Sleepy Hollow as Ichabod did. Now, that could be because unlike Ichabod, Katrina did not have a helpmate but it's also because she quite simply did not want to. Instead, she cut herself off, focused on remaining insular and opposed to entering the world. The one time she did try, the murder mystery dinner party (still the worst episode of the season), all she did was lament that she was forced into modern day surroundings. Yet contrast this to Abbie who is also out of her time in this finale, yet finds a way to make it her own. She uses knowledge of the future but she also uses her own impressive personal skills--like kicking the crap out of a soldier who is threatening her, thus eschewing Ichabod's own attempt at heroism. Abbie doesn't need to be rescued; she's not a wilting flower like Katrina and when the going got tough, Abbie got tougher. She really is very admirable. Which brings us back to Karina and the inevitable end which I suspected was coming, though I don't think it will stick. Self defense is the best way to put it, I suppose, or an accident. I don't think Ichabod intended to kill Katrina. The knife was there, it was a tussle, Katrina was trying to kill Abbie. I will say this, though, the emotional upheaval it should have wrought was not played out to its fullest extent, which is a shame. I have no doubt that Sleepy Hollow will milk the murder of Katrina and Ichabod's own guilt for all they are worth next season, but until then I am left hanging and likely to be detached from this emotional moment by the time it returns next season (if, indeed, it does at all). I will say, though, that I doubt Katrina is done. Is she dead? Yes. But do I think we've seen the last of her? Heavens no. I sincerely hope that Sleepy Hollow gets renewed and that the writers have learned from this second half of this season. When Sleepy Hollow gets it right, in all its campy goodness, it shines.

Miscellaneous Notes on Tempus Fugit

--Ok, the hard question. Was Katrina killed for Ichabbie? While watching with my friends, one of them pointed out that this felt very "Neal" to them. I disagree. First, Katrina never had the narrative pull that she should have had. She was uninteresting until she went evil; she was exasperatingly useless at times, a damsel in distress whose sole contribution (magic) was shaky at best and down right unreliable most of the time. Is there an unbelievable chemistry between Ichabod and Abbie? Yes. And it does not exist between Katrina and Ichabod. Every conversation between Katrina and Ichabod felt soapy and melodramatic. It was never light. You'd never have a moment of them snapping a selfie, for instance. Everything with those two is doom and gloom and magic. Yes, there is doom and gloom and magic with Abbie and Ichabod, but the writers also take care to show Ichabbie as playful and friendly. You'd never know that Katrina and Ichabod were agreeably married by the way they acted half the time. It reeked of a forced, unromantic marriage but the narrative was written that this was a love story of the ages. The disconnect between what is playing out on screen and the way it was written and conceived only fueled the need to do something "other" with Katrina, which resulted in her evil turn here the past few episodes, and then ultimately her death. So, no, Katrina was not killed for Ichabbie in the same manner that Neal was killed for Captain Swan on ONCE, but rather because Katrina doesn't fit in the world and her inclusion weighed down the entire show.

--I love how many call backs there were to the Pilot in this episode. The reference to the many Starbucks, the look on Abbie's face when she had to ride in a carriage for the first time. Adorable.

--"That's what we do."
"Yes. We. We seek out the impossible."

--They decapitated Benjamin Franklin. I actually yelled "OMG."

--Ichabod with the cell phone was pure Sleepy Hollow joy. Utterly classic and adorable.

--"What would you prefer?"

--I will never not love an Ichabbie hug. 


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (2x17)

Remember that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the kind of good, but sometimes evil, witch Willow did a spell in Latin and it turned a lot of girls in Slayers so that Buffy could take down the First? I have no idea why I'm bringing that up (hint: sarcasm). In the penultimate episode of this season, 'Awakening,' everything feel derivative and rather underwhelming, except for the last 10 minutes which made the rest of the episode pale in comparison. On the one hand, I am frustrated with the show's treatment of Henry this half of the season when they sold him as deliciously evil last half. I am cringing at the resolution of the Frank drama and how easily it was handled. Irving's emotional death at the end of last half basically meant nothing and the narrative impact his resurrection and tainted soul should have had never amounted to much. But, on the other hand, Abbie traveled to ye old Sleepy Hollow, so I'm sort of okay with all this because that idea is quite meaty. A black, tough as nails, independent woman in the middle of colonial America? Yeah, that will be fun. 

There is a lot to talk about this episode, but I really want to focus on a few things, specifically the lines that have been drawn in the concrete as opposed to the sand and the trope of people out of time. First, how can Katrina and Ichabod ever go back to being loving husband and wife after this? Katrina was very easily persuaded to ring the bell (lord, this show) and create a coven of witches with Henry. I guess I can't blame her but I don't think her desire stems only from wanting to be with her son. I think she's selfish. Katrina has been set up as someone who demands much and is guided by her emotional feelings instead of any rational action. The two are not mutually linked, but in Katrina's case, most of her demands are met with " you must do this for me, for us." It's never about other people so much as it is about Katrina herself. So when Henry shows up telling Katrina that they can start a new family together, son and mother, she leaps not because a mother would do anything for their child, but because she wants it. Katrina is a woman out of time and she's made minimal effort to adapt to her current situation where she is the odd woman out--barely a witch, not a witness, a sham of a mother and wife. Katrina wants it all and Henry offers it, hands open and full. For Katrina there is a liberation in finally taking what she has always wanted, something I find deeply ironic since in the 21st century she is allowed to be open and declarative about her choices whereas in the past to which she so eagerly wants to return, she was silenced either by virtue of gender or Wiccan practices. The insults Katrina hurls at Ichabod are hurtful and nasty. Katrina considers herself above Ichabod, his better not his equal. He has no place in her new family and therefore whatever happens to him, happens. Katrina is a bitch, but we all knew that. No, I think there is more here than just her selfish nature. I think Katrina is jealous. Ichabod has adapted quite well. Yes, he says and does odd things, but he, for the most part, he has learned how to navigate this brave new world in a way Katrina can not. But the main reason for this was Abbie, always Abbie. And Katrina knows just how to strike at Ichabod where it will really hurt: take away Abbie.

This episode operates under a lot of near misses. Ichabod almost manages to kill Henry with a pistol but is stopped. Katrina almost manages to incinerate Abbie but the Leftenant escapes. Abbie almost manages to set the bomb off but is stopped by Henry. It's a good writing technique that leaves you hanging on the edge of your seat because once it doesn't happen you don't expect it to happen again. When Katrina blew up Abbie's car, the line in the concrete was sealed up tight. Words Ichabod and Katrina might be able to get past with time, but hurting the other half of Team Witness? I think not. Of course, Abbie is much smarter than your average bear and got away before the boom, but that should only have told me that something seriously big was going to happen in the following act. And, indeed, it did. First, can we talk about Ichabbie working together to take down Henry just as Satanic Son and Mama are about to ring the bell (seriously, this show...)? It was wonderful. They talked it out, clearly, logically, no magic, just teamwork. It was very sad that it was Abbie who killed Henry but I fear that Ichabod would have hesitated ever so slightly because that's what he does. Katrina is raw emotion, Abbie is pragmatic to a fault, and Ichabod straddles the two, each momentous moment being carefully weighed. Henry's death was wonderfully acted by Noble (naturally) but man, what a let down. The writers really underused him this season. They had John Noble and they butchered him this season; he was kept out of commission for half the arc, then killed two episodes after he reemerged. It's a shame because there was another option--a human Henry who wanted forgiveness. I would have liked to see that, but alas, 'twas not meant to be. Which brings us back to Katrina and her rage at the death of her son and how it causes her to invoke a new spell, the Traveler spell. Her goal? Go back in time and prevent herself from saving Ichabod in the hospital after his fight with the Horseman.

Guess who goes along for the ride? Welcome to the American Revolution, Abbie.

Miscellaneous Notes on Awakening  

--Doctor Who shout out right at the start. Should have guessed we'd have time travel based on that.

--So are all those people witches now? Semi-witches?

--Frank Irving is back! I guess? I found this portion of the plot to be very frustrating and poorly written. Do better by Frank and Jenny, writers.

--Ichabod with flamingos. Life is good.

--If Sleepy Hollow wants extra praise next week during the season finale, they will not only embark on a mythology heavy episode, they will explore gender and race in the American colonial period. Having Abbie--a black woman of the 21st century--in the land where slavery was commonplace? Very good jumping off point for discussing race relations in America.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (2x16)

Just when you think it can't get any stranger, Thomas Jefferson appears. Well, not Jefferson exactly, more like a "witchcrafted generated spirit of a man who died 200 years ago." The point being that whatever he may be, Jefferson and Ichabod had a nice little heart to heart in this weeks episode, "What Lies Beneath." I always say that I don't mind monster-of-the week if it's done right, so let me put my money where my mouth is. This is doing it right. Yes, there was a case of the week, but instead of being a sort of obvious filler, it added to the overall mythos of the show. It was a high stakes, fast paced, witty, and somehow charming hour of TV. That's how you do monster of the week and not move away from what made an audience love your show in the first place. Abbie and Ichabod have been destined to be Witnesses for as long as this shindig has been up and operational. There are records and helpful hints and pages upon pages that could lead Team Witnesses in the right direction! To bad they blew it all up in order to save some humans that were being eaten alive. But hey, Witnesses gonna do what they gotta do. That's what makes them heroes. 

On the one hand, let's be real, a lot of this is ridiculous. A secret underground chamber built by Thomas Jefferson to house undead secret warriors from George Washington? And inside the secret chamber is a magic box that houses a hologram of Thomas Jefferson who can not only be really helpful to you, but can also philosophize like a living Jefferson? Yeah, that's just silly. Except that is what I expect from Sleepy Hollow each week. Silly nonsense that is so cleverly acted that it doesn't matter that it's very spaghetti-to-the-wall style of writing. What sells this episode is that Abbie and Ichabod are really working together once more like a well oiled machine. Neither of them has to step up and play savior, because it's when they are together that they are strongest. It's a rather positive message and adding to that is the fact that their destines have been intertwined for a very long time. They were always meant to be Witnesses and always meant to be Witnesses together. There is a very heavy handed "we are soldiers" theme to this episode that begins with Ichabod and Abbie walking along a naval pier. The field trips are cute, but also feel like they are trying to tell the audience what the moral message of the day is before they go and demonstrate it. I don't need both. I would have gotten the soldiers in combat theme just from the way Abbie and Ichabod set aside the mission to save innocents from a dangerous enemy; or even from the photographer/brother/flirt who had obviously seen combat and knew how to read a situation. The big question at the end of this episode is whether or not Abbie and Ichabod made the right choice. If you had the chance to learn as much as possible about what is coming in a war for all of mankind but you had to let two people die, could you do it? I don't know if I could walk away from that much knowledge that would, in the end, save the world. But I'm not the hero in this little journey; Ichabbie are. This review is becoming rather brief, but that's not because this was a lackluster episode, far from it. To really wrap it up, everything is in order here. We have Ichabod and Abbie being heroes. We have a scary monster. We have some sort of Founding Father who played an integral role in the war against evil. We have a side story that seems somewhat random but will probably factor in later. And Henry payed a visit which is the whipped cream on this sundae of ours. Only two episodes left!

Miscellaneous Notes on What Lies Beneath

--Alright, Frank and Jenny. This felt very much like the writers needed to answer the big Frank question so they did it with a big ol' plot device and rapid explanation while utilizing their secondary characters and making us pity both of them. Basically, Frank's soul is tainted and Evil! Frank can surface at any time so before Evil! Frank takes over completely, he wants to send his wife and kid away from Sleepy Hollow. Who wants to place money on Frank dying again in the season finale?


--"Jefferson unfriended me."

--"We just blew up the author of the Declaration of Independence."

--Not nearly enough Henry, but just enough Katrina. I'll settle.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (2x15)

Sweet heaven and stars above, thank the Lord... John Noble is back as Henry Parish. Henry (or Jeremy if you prefer) is like the whipped cream on the ice cream sundae. Now, lately, with Henry gone and the episodes becoming far more procedural than normal, the ice cream sundae has felt quite melted, but perhaps this weeks episode, "Spellcaster," is trying to rectify that situation. Or not; I 'm really not positive. All I know was that during the A plot portion of this weeks episode, I kept waiting for Henry to come back on screen because while I love and adore Ichabod and Abbie, Henry is still the whipped cream. This weeks episode seems more transitional than anything else, as if it was setting up something bigger to come. Once more we have a malevolent force that threatens to do something evil and is stopped by the combined Team Witnesses forces; Katrina demonstrates how useless she is (and maybe secretly evil) and I continue to wonder if this half of the season has a point or not. 

I'm having a hard time reviewing this episode because so much of it was plot heavy and that does not a good review make. There was an actual 10 min--and maybe longer--plot exposition given by Katrina in order to set up this weeks big bad. Solomon Kent is his name and blood magic is his game. Basic rundown: he started the Salem Witch Trials because he accidentally killed the woman he loved. It happens, I guess. Katrina's grandmother was witness to this whole event and passed down the lessons of Salem to her daughter who talked to Katrina and so on and so forth. Solomon seems like your average monster of the week: capable of evil, cool effects, minimal background, gone by episode end. I don't mind monster of the week if it's done right. Right now, it's a fine line with Sleepy Hollow. The main characters are getting a few juicy things--like Ichabod and Abbie having their bond tested and then rectified and whatever is going on with Frank Irving--but the actual villains are becoming so one note. Where is the Horseman? You really can't keep him away from the show this long because what is Sleepy Hollow without the Headless Horseman? But the even bigger problem is the lack of obvious endgame. Like I said, I don't mind monster of the week, but there needs to be some sort of overarching storyline that connects it all together. So far, the theme seems to be trying to readjust to life after the Apocalypse That Never Happened. Ichabod and Katrina are moving on with their relationship; Abbie keeps on keeping on; Ichabod looking at houses. Abbie is right that Team Witnesses isn't a 9 to 5 job, a driving motif throughout the entire second half of this season, but outside of that, where is the external threat? The internal threats are plenty: identity, loss, fear, insecurity. But where is our Moloch-like figure? Is it supposed to be Jeremy/Henry now? If so, he's rather late coming back into the game. What about the angel? Is he only going to play a part at the very end, if not at all? I doubt it is this last option given that his sigil has been seen since he departed and screams Chekov's Gun. I'm getting nervous that Sleepy Hollow is going down a path that I don't want to follow. There better be some connection soon or I fear for the longevity of this show.

So is Katrina evil? I think it's more like what Ichabod says at the end of this episode: all of us are a hair's breath away from light and dark. Each of the main characters on this show stand somewhere near that line. Ichabod is firmly in the middle. He fights for "good" but he can have his moments of violence and selfish resolve. Abbie is further from the line and more on the side of good because of her traumatic childhood experience with evil. Katrina, it would seem, is also firmly in the middle with Ichabod, but leaning over to touch the darkness. I think we're going to see Katrina go full on evil witch before the season is done. Katrina likes her powers; she likes the feelings they give her. Just watch her face when she's floating flowers and throwing rocks--she enjoys being a witch and praising the generations of witches from the Van Tassel family. One little threatening push and she is over that line. Frank Irving is basically on Team Evil for some reason. Not sure what to make of him right now. And then there is Henry. For weeks he has been moping and contemplative and wondering about his own humanity or lack there of, but after witnessing some violent outbursts, he remembers: he is a wolf. And that means he gets to feast on the sheep of the field. I really hope this means Henry is making a comeback into the narrative proper. He has been absent for far too long. However, I am disappointed that the writers answer to "what happened to Henry?" is simply: he got more evil. He sacrificed and killed Moloch but still considered Moloch to be his father. It's like he didn't learn anything or maybe doesn't remember anything that suddenly came to him when he realized that Moloch did not care for him. It's remedial. Instead of evolution toward anti-hero status, he falls back into villainy. But it's still John Noble, and I'm still thrilled to see him.

Miscellaneous Notes on Spellcaster

--Mini muffins!

--Nice period depiction of the Salem Witch Trials, but the town wasn't cut off from civilization in some woods. I've been there.

--"Fathers are never what they are cracked up to be."

--"You are walking the wrong path." Bring on evil Katrina, I say. Make her more interesting.

--Weird and creepy blood demons are weird and creepy. 

--"We make our own lightening. " *mic drop*

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (2x14)

Alright, Sleepy Hollow. This was a much needed step in a better direction. It might be a small step, but I'll take it. After last week's incredibly lackluster and dull affair in which Abbie was shunted to one side and Katrina took up the part of Ichabod's partner, I was starting to worry that the show had forgotten what made it a success in the first place. Make no mistake that it was not the mythology nor the plot nor the campy goodness; it has always been the electric chemistry of Abbie and Ichabod. Not only did the show make an effort to bring that back to the forefront, but in a nice turn of events it had Ichabbie actually talk about their bond and how it was being tested and what it means for them. That was the positive part of this weeks episode, "Kali Yuga." The rest? Well, problematic and a bit too campy in some areas. But then Ichabod and Abbie sang "Proud Mary" so we're all good. Onward!

I hate to be that girl, but I don't particularly care about Hawley. His development since we met the man has been rather one note and one dimensional. He is basically a modern twenty first century Ichabod, a rogue thrill seeker. This is why he rubs Ichabod the wrong way at first. His secondary purpose seems to have been to come between the Mills women as a potential love interest to both, though since the first half of the season ended, Hawley has not been as persistent towards Abbie as he once was. The writers might have been clued in that the fandom was reacting rather negatively toward this and so they thrust Hawley and Jenny back together and let them do the dance of "will they, won't they" except that--as usual--I don't have amnesia, so I can remember when Hawley was blowing Jenny off. In short, getting a sudden expositional back story into Nick Hawley's life isn't exactly something I was yearning for because his character has only ever served minor a minor purpose. Would you believe that he had a rough childhood? I know, shocking. Ichabod had a hard father; Abbie and Jenny were haunted by a demon and Katrina is...well, Katrina. So when it turns out that Hawley was raised by his godmother who was a treasure hunter and attracted to the dark arts, I was not surprised. Quick aside but, man, was Carmilla annoying. The actress was trying to chew through the scenes but came across as some sort of seductress who was trying to get it on with her stand-in-son. Maybe that's part of the consequence of being dead and selling your soul to Kali, Hindu goddess of death and regeneration, but I could do without the sexual undertones. As is the norm on this show, the plot was about a million different things at once, but mainly Creepy Carmilla wanted a statue so that she could...what, exactly? Turn Nicky into an undead Vitala along with her other undead man army? I mean, she set up this entire con plot just for that? Oh and we got some lessons on Fort Knox and the Knox Family. Go with it. It's the plot that we don't really care about because there was some delicious Ichabbie happening.

See, this is what I like about Sleepy Hollow. It's like the writers knew what the criticism of last weeks episode would be and chose to address it in the following week. Abbie and Ichabod are having a rough go of it as late. They used to be a well oiled machine; the perfect partners in spite of the fact that one of them is over 200 years old and has a tendency to wax poetically about simpler times when there was no running water. Maybe their bond was easier "back then." Katrina was locked away in Purgatory; Molcoh was the big bad that they knew instead of random big bads popping up every other week. And, first and foremost, they talked about everything. If there was a decision to be made, they made it together. Now there are decisions on both sides that only one person made. Abbie chose to keep Orion's sigil just in case she ever needed him and Ichabod chose to let Abraham go even though Abbie disagreed. As Ichabod says, their bond is being sorely tested. What unites Abbie and Ichabod? It's not love--well, not romantic love. It's friendship, but one that was born out of a common cause to stop the monsters. If that cause is potentially no longer there, given that there is no BIG BAD right now, then what holds them together? It's a friendship that needs to be redefined. They aren't just friends when the demons come knocking at the door; they need to be partners in all things, even when they disagree. Which means sometimes, you gotta put down your hair, do a few shots of whiskey, and sing "Proud Mary" in front of a crowd of strangers. More karaoke, please! Can you imagine Katrina doing this? The answer is no. There's a reason Katrina is absent from both of these moments in the bar--this is not her world, she does not belong. Ichabod made this new world his, thanks to Abbie, but Katrina can't do that. She's stuck in the life she wanted, not the one she got. And I must say after her little seance with Frank tonight, I am even more suspicious that she's got some sort of ulterior motive. Those were some sneaky looks she was giving the Irvings.

Miscellaneous Notes on Kali Yuga

--Both Tom Mison and Nicole Behrie have excellent singing voices.

--"Perhaps I should have done the one about being all about that bass." Sweet mercy, yes.

--There were a hilarious amount of "Sons of Liberty" name drops this episode. It amuses me since the History channel is currently airing "Sons of Liberty" staring Michael Raymond-James (Nealfire)

--Love the teamwork moves of Abbie and Ichabod taking down one Vitala at a time

--Bye-bye Hawley. I'm sure he'll be back, but one can hope not.

--Um. Ending? What?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (2x13)

There is, I believe, a basic paradigm to what makes a good episode of Sleepy Hollow. You take the dynamic, unstoppable force that is Ichabod and Abbie and you add some sort of mythic monster-of-the-week. Throw in a few witty lines from Ichabod, a dash of philosophy about the nature of good and evil and basically you've got a campy, fun, and enjoyable hour of TV. So what happens when Sleepy Hollow decides to break the mold and shatter the paradigm? As one might expect, you get a rather lackluster, boring, episode. I'm not normally harsh on Sleepy Hollow because in general I expect to simply be entertained and have a little myth building but I don't anticipate life-altering TV. The fact is that Ichabod and Abbie make this show what it is and having them apart for more than small segments is a hindrance, especially when it is being replaced by Ichabod and Katrina, a character that often proves frustratingly opaque and useless. Ask yourself with regards to this weeks episode, "Pittura Infamante," who was the real hero of the hour: Ichabod, Katrina or Abbie? Katrina did very little with the exception of strutting around in a little black dress while Abbie came in guns literally blazing and stopped a demon. Katrina said some Latin; Abbie looked a not-so-dead friend in the eye and told him she didn't trust him. Added to this is the strange case of the not so legendary, not so mythic, magically mundane (a contradiction, I know) case of a serial killer. All in all, this was not Sleepy Hollow's best work of season two and my review shall be brief. 

 I hope this doesn't sound like I'm advocating for adultery, but Katrina and Ichabod together bore me, greatly. Why is it that the moment his wife enters the room, Ichabod seems to dull down considerably? Compare the one on one conversations between Ichabod and Abbie with Ichabod and Katrina. Worlds apart. One is a bit more free, and the other is almost tortuously soapy. Katrina was in this episode only to be an exposition machine who could give helpful clues about the nature of Abigail Adams (played by the scarily underused Michelle Trachtenberg) and lament that her old life was gone. It's not that I don't have sympathy for Katrina, but rather that we did this already. We watched Ichabod come to terms (and to be fair, is still coming to terms) with life in modern America. But whereas Katrina moans and gives speeches that always seem hushed and whispered, Ichabod had Abbie to help. And that made a world of difference. We watched Ichabod and Abbie relate to each other by figuring out the world of Sleepy Hollow together. For Katrina and Ichabod, there is just no sparkle--romantic or otherwise. It feels strongly like the writers don't quite know what to do with Katrina. They don't want to kill her, but they can't go the next somewhat logical step and dissolve Katrina and Ichabod at the least and make her super duper evil and the most. Honestly, watching Ichabod have to go up against an Evil Katrina might make for more interesting television than "date night meets murder mystery theater." And speaking of dull white women, Abigail This appearance of the famous lady has been heavily promoted by the show but the actual portrayal left a lot to be desired. She had a few spoken lines, either praising Katrina or trying to solve a mystery by providing Katrina with helpful clues like some deus ex machina of the past. As for the monster of the week, the only truly good thing I have to say is that the effects of the blood and the painter rising from the blood were well done and quite scary. That's honestly about all. There was nothing mythic about it; it was a typical serial killer case that utilized magic in the end to end the killings. This isn't to say that the bloom has gone off the rose; even the very best TV shows will have a filler episode or two. But Sleepy Hollow needs to remember its founding paradigm of what makes it a watchable show.

Oh and bring back John Noble.

Miscellaneous Notes on Pittura Infamante

--Can we trust Frank Irving? Abbie doesn't think so. I'm glad they didn't drag out the question of when everyone would discover that Frank was...back, for lack of a better word.

--Double ew to Jenny pulling bullets out of a body.

--"How can one be both business and casual?" Ichabod Crane, always asking the important questions.

--I love that Abbie saved the day. Role reversals...I do enjoy them.