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*