Friday, October 23, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (3x4)

Sisters are doing it for themselves. Or at least in this week's episode, "The Sisters Mills," sisters are doing it for each other as they battle an evil Tooth Fairy. Yeah, that's right; the Tooth Fairy has come to Sleepy Hollow and this is not the fluffy and fairy like creature we know. This creature is terrifying! The monsters this season have been fairly on point in terms of supernatural terror. But, apart from the Ebisu and her soul stealing tendencies, this episode largely focused on Abbie and Jenny Mills and their sisterhood. One of the smartest things this show could ever do was add Jenny as a full time cast member; Jenny's story with Abbie--the story of loss of innocence and being forever hunted and haunted by something evil and supernatural--has gotten a lot of mileage on this little campy show of ours. The show revisits this story often and it's to their credit; when Jenny speaks to the young girl in the hospital (clearly a stand-in for young Abbie and Jenny) and says that she knows how hard it is to open up about something scary, you feel the weight of all that history between the Sisters Mills. You feel the tension, the loss, the pain Abbie and Jenny have experienced through their various trials and tribulations because the show takes the time, each season, to show you. But through it all, the Sisters Mills have each other (and now a delightful chap named Ichabod Crane who works so magnificently well with both of them without it getting sexual or romantic. Imagine that, men and women being friends!). Everyone grab a silver coin to ward off the creepiest Tooth Fairy ever and let's go! 

Even though they've survived car crashes, trips to Purgatory, demons, Henry Parish, and the Apocalypse That Was Not, Abbie and Jenny are not without their troubles and drama. But, what I love most about this relationship, is that their issues are not based on the supernatural goings on. Make no mistake, the otherworldly goings on act as a catalyst and serve as a parallel, but they do not define Abbie and Jenny's talk and fight in this episode. The sisterly tension is 100% gloriously mundane and human. So much of Jenny's life has been dictated by Abbie. The older informing the younger, from the way to view their very absent father; to how to rationalize their traumatizing experience with the demon Moloch when they were children; to locking Jenny away in the psych ward, believing her sister to be crazy and nothing more complex than simply following in the Mills's women footsteps, like their mother. When Abbie learns that Jenny found their father five years ago and kept it from her, and moreover was outraged at the information, I took a step back and questioned Abbie, reminding her (yes the fictional character--that's how good media works; you can talk to the creations) that she and her sister were not speaking. Abbie was trying to live a normal life while Jenny went gallivanting off on missions that Abbie assumed were "no good." In other words, five years ago the Sisters Mills were not even speaking to each other to any extent that Jenny would feel comfortable or willing to tell Abbie anything. Abbie's anger is justified because it is potentially life changing information, but it's a reminder that five years ago the Sisters Mills were worlds apart, metaphorically and literally, from where they are now. Also, there is some revisionist history in Abbie's head regarding Jenny and their father. As I said already, Abbie has dictated most of Jenny's life, including the idea that Jenny hated their father. I'm sure Jenny holds no love for PapaMills but she hated him largely because of Abbie's own hatred for her father. Abbie's attitude informed Jenny's but Abbie believes Jenny's vitriol to be organic and natural. Turns out, not so much. Jenny has no interest in PapaMills, then or now, much to Abbie's shock because Jenny has come to terms with their father's low life tendencies. Their fight was very realistic, and I think fits their characters from Abbie's pragmatic and calm approach to telling Jenny and Jenny's history of running from anything bothersome. But, as Jenny says at the end, no fight is ever going to keep The Sisters Mills apart ever again.

Let's go back a wee bit and talk about our two other ladies this season, Pandora and Betsy Ross. I discussed Pandora quite a bit last week in my analysis while pondering if Pandora was effective as a villain. My verdict after this episode: yes, very. Her endgame is still questionable and I don't know what she wants as a whole, but she does the soft, repressed villain thing quite well. She's menacing but in a totally understated way. We did get a bit of Pandora's back story in this episode, at least in piecemeal and through something that amounts to a fever dream from Abbie. Pandora is old, very old. Like...Assyrian old. Pandora's name might be Greek but as Ichabod points out, Pandora is a universal construct meant to instruct (evil of women, danger of secrets, importance of following the gods, how evil got into the world) but this Pandora sounds like she had her own very hard childhood. Her father beat her until she forgot all language and then sold her as a slave--and if I had to guess, I'd say sex slave and not hard labor slave--but then Pandora remembered language (demonic intervention?) and she fed her father to a lion. So, she's got that going for her. I enjoy my villains complex, like Henry last season, so adding a more human and haunted story to Pandora works in the show's favor to make her more than just an evil for evil's sake villain. Now, what is not working for the show is the white bread she-warrior known as Betsy Ross. I try not to be overly harsh on Sleepy Hollow because it sticks its landing 90% of the time, but this is the one time when I simply need to voice some concern. Sleepy Hollow is defined by its campy nature that is effortlessly delivered by its two leads, Ichabod and Abbie, the man out of time and the woman of color who stands apart in her own time. They make for a wonderful dynamic. However, since season two Sleepy Hollow has felt as though it needs to spice up this dynamic but does so with white and, ultimately, dull characters who only weigh down the narrative. Hawley, for example, was pretty pointless in the end except to add that "sex" element that this show does not require. Katrina was more important to the narrative but so underwhelming and frustrating while failing to connect with the other characters that the show quickly dismissed her. But 'lo here comes another character cut very much from both the Hawley cloth and the Katrina cloth. Betsy's there to add the sex element, with our leading man, Ichabod, in her exposed corset and her tight pants and her flirty nature. But she's also being set up like she's super important to the story, a la Katrina, Ichabod's last lady love, but thus far Betsy has done nothing but be randomly inserted into Ichabod's flashbacks where she feels forced and awkward. There is no reason to have Betsy in these flashbacks. Ichabod could easily have these supernatural moments without her. The show can't let sleeping dogs lie--the sleeping dog in this case being Abbie and Ichabod carrying the story on their own, something they do exceptionally well. Adding white characters to a story that was celebrated for its diverse cast is bothersome, especially when these new characters' own personal narrative is totally lacking and totally disconnected to the current story. In short, time to run Betsy up the flag pole and move on. Was that pun too much? Ah well. It's Sleepy Hollow. I shall pun it up forever.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Sisters Mills

--"I do not need to study history. I lived it!" Ichabod and Abbie as roommates is one of my favorite things ever. It adds something even more wonderful--something more playful--to their dynamic.

--Ichabod interacting with children. My loins cannot handle that.

--Abbie is "the strongest person I [Ichabod] have ever known. In this or any other time."

--Love that Pandora met Abbie with "Hello, sleepyhead." It's the name of the fandom.

--How about some major props for the graphics department this season? 

--Ichabod at the dentist was one of the best "modern things Ichabod hates" in recent memory. That was pure classic Sleepy Hollow.

--"I'm adorable!!"--a drugged up Ichabod Crane. Bless. 

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