Saturday, February 20, 2016

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (3x11)

Remember waaaaaay back in season two when a new monster arose like a cliche Frankenstein (or, Franklinstine as Ichabbie called it)? It was named the Kindred and it was rather fearsome. If you don't remember, here's my review of that episode. It has been a long time since the Kindred was brought back to Sleepy Hollow and the stories that involved him--that of the Headless Horseman and Jeremy/Henry Parrish/War Horseman--have been resolved and dismissed by the writers in favor of opening the mythology up to things other than traditional Sleepy Hollow iconography. Introducing (or rather re-introducing) an audience to a character long gone can be tricky. You have to make the audience care that this monster came back and make his reappearance relevant to the current narrative. Does it work in this week's episode, "Kindred Spirits"? Perhaps the emotions behind the episode do, though the plot mechanics are all over the place. We get some pretty heavy handed and clunky exposition from Sophia Foster that is designed to get everyone caught up on the Kindred; this is followed by an equally clunky exposition from Pandora that she summoned the Kindred thus tying him to the current arc, but I'm not sure this Kindred reemergence was warranted from a plot standpoint. However, the emotional story arc about relationships and different dynamics between the many couples and pairings of this show was something worth examining. Grab your dead monkey puzzle plant and let's go!

Relationships, it turns out, are hard. This rather pithy statement of truth speaks to any and all relationships--romantic, familial, one with the self. We are all searching for a connection and, when we do find one, struggle to maintain them. Abbie is struggling in her relationship with the normal world; unable to sleep, unable to eat, unable to work, Abbie is trying to figure out how to live back in a world where time passes, she has friends to talk with, and one where her services are demanded both with the mundane FBI and in the magical cosmic battle. While it's obvious that nm,Abbie does a great job keeping her anger under the surface, it reads that a lot of her emotional arc right now is one of rage. Not at anyone in particular, mind you, but at the situation. According to her, she lost a year of her life and almost her sanity; the enigmatic symbol at the end of the episode suggests there were moments the audience was not privy to, opening up a--forgive me--Pandora-sized box of psychological possibilities. While she managed to survive--because Abbie is a total badass--no one could come out of that unscathed and unaffected by what was done to them. Ichabod, at the same time, is struggling to assure Abbie of their bond and their unwavering connection; in fact, one might even say he's trying a little too hard. Ichabod sits with Abbie when she can't sleep; he wants to go out for an "Early Burr" breakfast; he wants to buy her new plants to bring life back into his and Abbie's home. It doesn't work though. Abbie, as it stands, believes she has to face these many emotions alone. She can't openly discuss her memories, her pain, or her internal struggle because no one else experienced what she did--that unbearable loneliness--so no one can possibly help her work through her many layered feelings. This is a bit of a false assumption on Abbie's part. Abbie is correct that no one was trapped in the Underworld-Catacombs with her, but certainly Ichabod knows what it is to be extremely lonely and feel utterly alone. When he awoke from his 200+ year old nap, it was to a different world. Ichabod had no one who could understand him...except Abbie. Against all odds, The Man Out of Time found the one woman who empathized and helped him with his internal struggle, helping him find his place in the new world. There is no reason why Ichabod can't help Abbie find her place back in this world. At the same time, Ichabod is struggling to rekindle the romance he and Miss Zoe Corinth were embarking upon during the first half of this season. As we discussed in the first episode back, Ichabod became myopic in his search for Abbie; this caused his relationship with Zoe to fall by the wayside. These two were never developed in any truly meaningful way, largely because Ichabod and Abbie are the focal points of the show, as they should be. But it's nice to see Ichabod feeling guilty, to realize that he cares for Abbie so much that everything--and everyone--else was let go to his determent.

There is a narrative throughpoint this season that's all about couples and their various dynamics. I touched on this a bit last week, but this week it became even more apparent with the Kindred and the Kindress (yes, there's some serious eye-rolling here because that plot point is more strange than delightful spaghetti-to-the-wall but her appearance is one that fits the thesis of the season). Do we all have a partner and can monsters love, the show asks? We have the Hidden One and Pandora, an example of an abusive and emotionally depraved relationship. This week, we see Pandora hinting (rather strongly) that she'd like her box back, she'd like her powers back and that without it she feels less herself, less powerful, and less alive. The Hidden One (no, seriously, can we just name him already?) dismisses his "beloved's" complaints and internal hurt for the sake of his own concerns. He needs to be powerful; he needs his army; he needs everything she can provide because at some point in the near future, The Hidden One plans on ruling this puny world. His endgame is all that matters. It's not a relationship of equals, even though Pandora believes it was meant to be. You can't miss the anger in the Hidden One's eyes when Pandora dares to suggest that they rule as one. Contrasted to this relationship is our other monster pair--The Kindred and the Kindress. Theirs is a weird and strange union and I wasn't quite sure what I was watching during their oddly touching (but ultimately creepy) reunion/makeout session, but the show answers its own questions: yes, everyone has a partner and yes, monsters can love. Yes, monsters can be like us, the humans. They want connections and helpmates just like we do. But it's only when the relationship is mutually beneficial does it succeed. The Hidden One and Pandora? Not so successful because it's decideidly not a team effort of two equally placed individuals. The Kindred and Kindress? Successful, until they were blown up. And, of course, Ichabod and Abbie are the most successful of all because without one another, they wouldn't know how to survive this always odd and sometimes cruel world.

Miscellaneous Notes on Kindred Spirits 

--Along with the two aforementioned relationships, we saw another one that has been neglected and under developed and came to an end tonight: Abbie and Daniel. Whatever happened at Quantico was hinted at but never really given any space for us to get invested in it. It seems like the writers realized this and decided to cut their losses with whatever was planned.

--I really like Abbie's curly hair.

--Ichabod is bringing the desert climate to his and Abbie's Mid-Atlantic abode. Bless him.

--"You're my Wilson."

--"Well, that was odd." Ichabod was pretty much speaking for the entire audience with this line. Honestly, I couldn't decide if the Kindred/Kindress were super weird, super funny, or super sweet.

--Speaking of Ichabod, there is something that has been bothering me for awhile but I hesitated to say anything. The writers seem to be toning "Ichabod vs the modern world" down a bit, especially in his reactions to the world around him. I don't know if it's because Ichabod is now mostly assimilated (which takes away some of his considerable charm) or if the writers simply aren't interested in his quips anymore, but I miss them.

--I honestly don't know how to analyze the Betsy and Ichabod flashbacks this week. Yes, part of it was plot driven (the medical supplies) but other than that, the only thing I take away is the same thing as always: Betsy and Ichabod's relationship is not as significant as the writers seem to think it is. There's nothing exciting, fresh, or interesting about their interactions. The writers are relying on the flashback device as if the show can't survive without it, but this isn't true. They very rarely add anything truly important to the plot and Betsy has yet to make any sort of meaningful connection with the audience. Also, in a world where it took several days to ride from colony to colony, am I expected to really believe that Betsy had her finger in every spy-pie Ichabod was involved in?

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