Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (1x4)

I have a Masters in religion and occasionally it comes in handy. As a pseudo-scholar of religion, it's nice when I can do something more than say "well if you look at the Greek...." This weeks episode of Sleepy Hollow, "The Lesser Key of Solomon," went slightly overboard with the religious texts and ideas. There were secret orders, demons, rituals, black magic, religious figures, and quite frankly a lot of really wrong ideas. I gotta get on my soap box here for a minute. 
History lesson the first:
King Solomon is traditionally thought to have ruled around 970-931 BCE in the united Monarch of Israel. The Israelites were a semi-monotheistic farming culture. King Solomon is today remembered for his wisdom--namely the legend of the baby and the two mothers. He is regarded as the first builder of the Temple at Jerusalem (before Babylon though it would look really pretty on fire) and for being a (mostly) righteous and pious man. As the years passed, legends and apocryphal texts sprung up around Solomon and his abilities: genies, demons, angels, magic, the so-called "Seal" of Solomon, ect are all part of the extra stories that now surround King Solomon. The reasons for all the miscellanous legends of Solomon is another story for another day (short version: Greeks. Always blame the Greeks) but I think it's important to understand that most of these are later day tales and Solomon's appearance in the Hebrew Bible isn't anything as heroic and magical. 
History lesson the second:
Judaism in the time of Solomon did not have a concept of Hell. This is where Sleepy Hollows really went off the rails for me last night (you'll see why in the review proper) but Hell as we in our modern Judeo-Christian world understand it was not an actual thing. The concept of Hell really follows in the wake of the Greeks and the Hellenistic time period, after the conquests of Alexander the Great (334-323 BCE), which did have a concept of an afterlife and Hades (again, topic for another day). What we can talk about is Gehenna, which is just a place for the "shades" of the dead to rest. However Gehenna is not Hell (despite the New Testament often using the two almost interchangeably)
So what are we seeing in Sleepy Hollow this week? A romanticization of apocryphal texts and legends that have very little historicity. In other words, something very Hollywood. I can shrug it off, but I'd prefer you all to not be ignorant. 

Guess how this episode began? If you said dream sequence, then you're wrong! Sorry, that was mean of me. It did begin with a rather grainy unfocused flashback of the 1773 Boston Tea Party. Ichabod, in his super spy capacity, has--with the help of Sam Addams-- devised a distraction for the British Redcoats while he sneaks aboard a ship to steal an elaborately decorative crate. The flashback ends with Ichabod' voice over giving a very rousing speech about true love and how it can make the mundane a marvel...to the OnStar lady. Comedic gold right there. Seriously, let's make Sleepy Hollow a comedy where Ichabod just tries to navigate our world and does really funny things. 

The episode essentially picks up right where last week ended, Jenny has escaped from the psych ward and now Abbie is racing against the clock. She wants to find her sister before the SWAT team does--which makes no sense. Why is Jenny such a wanted individual? Her crimes were not homicidal and she was declared unfit. Why would an entire SWAT team be needed to bring her in? She's not exactly dangerous, or at least no one has any reason to believe so. For whatever reason, Abbie manages to get a head start on finding her sister, who has headed to a bar to pick up her bag of necessities which holds guns and newspaper clippings. Underpinning all this is some sort of German secret order who are determined to find Jenny before Abbie. Everything but the kitchen sink was thrown at the wall in this weeks episode.

The twists and turns of finding Jenny yield a few interesting tidbits. Abbie finally lays out what happened to her parents: dad took off, mom went crazy and was locked up which caused young Jenny and Abbie to be shipped off to foster care. If you believe any of this then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. There is no way that this is the real story. Maybe it's what Abbie believes but there is more, got to be. There was no reason to dance around this issue for 3 episodes if the story could be told in about 10 seconds of exposition. Another tidbit we learned was that before Jenny was put into the institution, she traveled quite a bit, including "to someplace called Somalia." (I think I might be slightly infatuated with Ichabod). Finally, after a lay over at Jenny's old foster house, they catch up with the rogue sister at a most unexpected place.

It is revealed that Jenny had a relationship with Corbin, the sheriff who died in the series opener. All this time Abbie thought she was Corbin's special project, but it turns out that the kind hearted Sheriff had an equally soft spot for her sister. While Abbie was recruited into the police force, Jenny was given tasks that pertained to Corbin's fascination with the occult. Sent out on missions to find rare objects and answers, Jenny has been fighting the dark coven for much longer than Abbie. Eventually Corbin sent Jenny to Sleepy Hollow (and then she went into a mental ward?); the night before he was killed by the Horseman, Corbin came to see Jenny and revealed that he was scared that "Death" was following him. Corbin then entrusted a sexton to Jenny, for safe keeping.

The sexton--a tool used at sea for traveling-- is no ordinary sexton. Naturally. Instead, Ichabod remembers that the magical chest he was sent after back in 1773 was decorated with the same markings as the sexton. Using his knowledge of how spies and their fancy technology work, Ichabod deduces that the sexton is really a ye olde projector and when you put light up to it, it reveals a map. And on the map is an X. And the X is where you will our team will find the chest.

And then the Hessians arrive. Hessians were German mercenaries, so why we're still calling them by this name is beyond me. But the Hessian leader who has been trailing Jenny all episode, reveals that it is not the chest itself but rather what is inside the chest: "a doorway to the 7th circle of Hell where 72 souls wait." Got all that? Good because let's get more complicated. Jenny, being an expert on the occult, recognizes that the item to which the Hessian refers is in fact the Lesser Key of Solomon, a book of black magic written by King Solomon that has the ability to conjure demons. It was found by the Knights Templar (of course it was, gotta get them in here somehow) and then lost for many years.The Hessians are after it for one reason: to summon Moloch, the horned demon who has been trailing Abbie and Jenny and appearing in mirrors.
These Hessians are the servants of Moloch. Moloch has been controlling the Horseman and is responsible for summoning him. Again, I have issues here and it all goes back to making the Headless Horseman DEATH. Death is not a servant that can be controlled or fought. It is not a foe, it is a reality of life. I suppose theologically we can say that God controls it, but for some horned demon to be able to control DEATH seems really far fetched. Did no one die prior to this? Did DEATH take a holiday? And why would a demon who is super powerful need DEATH when he can obviously kill people himself (he killed Sulu Brooks in the jail cell by making his head snap back).

RECAP: the sexton is a map that shows an X where you'll find a chest that holds a book written by Solomon that summons demons from Hell that has been lost for many years after the Knights Templar found it. And Hessians want it because it's will somehow help Moloch rise.

The Hessians manage to take the Sexton but lucky for us, Ichabod has a photographic memory and is able to relocate the X on the sexton-map and the trio of Jenny, Abbie, and Ichabod head off to fight the Hessians. The chest is in a church and when they arrive the ritual to summon the demons has already begun. Demons are literally crawling out of some tar soup but Abbie manages to stop it by throwing the book into the flaming tar pit of tar soup. I'm not even sure why this works, but at this point I'm going to go with it. The final moments of the episode give us an answer to what is I'm sure a burning question: who is Moloch. Ichabod recalls a passage from Milton that Moloch is a demon of child sacrifice and apparently he's holding Katrina hostage. (Go with it. Just...go with it)

Miscellaneous Notes from The Lesser Key of Solomon

--I'm slowly coming around to the idea of Icabbie. They are rather cute together. I love how he calls her Lieutenant.

--The sister heart to heart was nice. I wonder how much more of Miss Jenny we will see.

--Week three without any sign of the Horseman. Come on, Sleepy Hollow. Get it together and give us something to hold on to. This episode was better than the past two--despite your kitchen sink approach--but you need to bring back the Headless Horseman soon.

--The string of murders that revolved around the episode that I didn't touch on were creepy.

--I remain torn about Ichabod's clothing. On the one hand, he should never take off that coat. But how much longer can he wear the same clothes, which technically are now 200+ years old?

--Thus far, I'm getting a lot of Fringe moments from this show. Ichabod is very Peter/Walter Bishop combined into one. Abbie is a lot like Olivia and Jenny is giving me Fauxlivia memories.

--Sleepy Hollow has been renewed for a second season already and apparently John Noble (Walter Bishop of Fringe) will be appearing sometime soon.

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