Saturday, January 28, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x4)

Who killed Abigail Mills? On the simplest level, the answer is straightforward: Pandora and The Hidden One both contributed to Abbie's death. The Leftenant also chose to die in a moment of sheer heroism at the end of season three, running headlong into danger and refusing to come back to the land of the living, claiming her time and her mission were over. The last person upon whom we could lay blame for Abbie's death would be Ichabod Crane, her best friend and partner. Right? The question of Ichabod's guilt over many losses is the question at the heart of tonight's episode, "The People vs Ichabod Crane." Ichabod leaves a trail of bodies behind him: Joe Corbin, Abraham von Brunt, Katrina, Henry Parrish, and Abbie have all died under Ichabod's tenor as a Witness and do good'er. Are they all his fault? The narrative certainly does not suggest that; Abraham chose to have his head removed and become the Horseman; Katrina turned evil and threatened to kill Ichabod and Abbie both; Henry was already a vessel of evil working alongside Moloch. Joe is the true tragic figure but there are always losses in the fight against evil. So who is it that really thinks Ichabod is responsible for these people's deaths? Ichabod, of course. The man carries the weight of the world, the universe, the battle of good versus evil, and all the lost souls in that battle on his (arguably handsome) shoulders. Grab some Fire of Joy and let's go!

There are a lot of archetypes we apply to Ichabod Crane: hero, man out of time, father, journeyman. But the one we rarely talk about is soldier. Crane has been a literal solider in the American Revolution and a more metaphorical one in the war against evil. In that regard, he has adopted some of the more striking soldier traits. Ichabod is undaunted in the face of death; he accepts that his demise might occur at any moment and, moreover, that those he love might perish in his long war. Ichabod has a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong and that he is on the side of right and good. Along with these hallmark characteristics is knowledge that there are risks and that sometimes you and others will pay the ultimate price; it this knowledge that Ichabod uses to defend himself against Henry Parrish, his long dead son, and a courtroom of angry 18th century villagers. Ichabod tries to explain that he is a soldier and as such both he and Abbie knew the risks and made their own choices accordingly. Does this mean that Ichabod is responsible because Abbie and others died "on his watch?" After all, Ichabod refused to give into Katrina's desire to redeem their son; Ichabod "stole" Katrina from Abraham; Ichabod did not protect Henry from the supernatural forces and ensorcelled him. And perhaps most damning, if Ichabod hadn't convinced Abbie to believe in the fight against evil and her role in it, maybe she'd be alive, off at Quantico, with the FBI and living it up with Daniel Reynolds. Is a soldier to blame for those that die in his wake if he's just doing his duty? Is he responsible for the lives that are overturned while he's out on his righteous mission? In a court of law, the answer would most likely be no. A soldier is following orders and he cannot be held accountable for what happens while performing his duty. Ichabod, too, is following orders. In the olden days, he did what Washington commanded him to do and in the present he's following that self-same mission. And while it's nice to imagine that in another universe Abbie might be still alive, being her badass self, would she still be Abigail Mills? Our Abbie Mills? Without that title of Witness, without Ichabod by her side, without her pragmatic approach to the fight against evil, without breaking down stereotypes and gender norms and racial assumptions would she still be Abbie Mills? Probably not. Abbie developed as a person because she chose, freely, to fight along side Ichabod Crane. I expect Ichabod to feel guilty over the deaths of those whom he's lost along the way, the same way I suspect soldiers are never fully comfortable with the knowledge that they've killed enemy combatants. But Ichabod soldiers on (if you'll pardon the pun) because that's what he must do. Everyone needs a little bit of hope now and then and it's only through his partner's words--through the eternal soul that is the Incarnate Witness--that he is pulled back from being swallowed up by this guilt. I think in a lot of ways this episode was a memorial to Abbie; a way to question if Ichabod could truly go on without her (and, if we're being meta, if the show can go on without her). The ending spells it out: she's not gone, not really. Abbie Mills may have died, but the things that she gave to Ichabod and to the show--the hope, the wisdom, the kindness, the ability to save our man out of time--they still exist. If only in a slightly smaller scale. I still don't know if I'm all for Molly being the next Witness (I think there are a myriad of problems here) but the essence that a dual TeamWitness brought to Sleepy Hollow is slowly but surely coming back to life.

Miscellaneous Notes on The People vs Ichabod Crane

--"Hello Father." Ah, John Noble. So glad to see him again (and yes, I still call him Walter when I take notes).

--"The world needs me to have more time. This is for the world's benefit." The show isn't exactly subtle in their Dreyfuss-Trump comparison, are they?

--The spider demon was absolutely creepy.

--"These are the times that try men's souls." Well, this episodes is maybe the most literal reading of that line ever.

--Jake is growing on me a bit more as a character but Alex is still so terribly bland. I don't really believe we need either of them in the show except to fawn over Ichabod and give science exposition.

--"Maybe he went to the mall and got lost. Again."

--"I would die a thousand deaths if it meant she lived but one hour more."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x3)

There is something hysterically meta about the fictional female President of the United States almost getting her head lopped off by a mythical headless horseman on the same day that, here in the real world, a terrifying, misogynist, and racist man was sworn in as the 45th President. I'm not entirely sure Sleepy Hollow didn't plan "Heads of State" that way. Meta commentary on the state of the union aside, this week's episode actually felt more like a proper bout of Sleepy Hollow weirdness than what we've been served the past two weeks. Several important icons and motifs of the show reared their much missed heads to say hello: Headless is here with his glowing axe; Molly is drawing the four trees associated with the demon and main antagonist of season one and two, Moloch; Jenny's sass is tempered by her heart and Ichabod found his funny once more. The camera trick of season one by which we enter a scene upside down even made an appearance! Sleepy Hollow's main goal in season four has nothing to do with plot; it needs to prove to me (and, okay, all the viewers) that it can carry on, be the same show, without Abigail Mills. Stumbling in the dark, maybe the show is slowly finding its way toward the light. Even if sunlight gives you cancer. Let's go!

There are many good things about this episode, but the one that sticks out the most is that this week had a strong case. Sleepy Hollow has always towed the line between case-of-the-week and mythology building arcs. The case of the weeks were, in the past, met with applause because they were fun, well thought out, and combined history with the supernatural. The past two cases-of-the-week fell drearily flat because it lacked all those important aspects. However, in this case of the week (which doubles as the start of a long arc given Dreyfus's role) we have a lot of classic Sleepy Hollow hallmarks: an important historical figure, a secret otherworldly history of an American story we thought we all knew; a totally bananas, larger than life figure giving cryptic hints about the story at large and, most importantly, Ichabod playing a crucial role both in exposition and heroism to save the day. That, by the way, is the second best part of this episode. Ichabod has always been the center of the story; his knowledge in history and the supernatural provides the audience with much needed context while developing his character as a sacrificer for the greater good with a noble heart. In the past two weeks, the show has had--almost understandably--to take a step back from Ichabod, a character we already know, to introduce and flesh out the newbies with whom we have previously been unacquainted. However, focusing on the other characters means that the main narrative of the cases of the week and the larger arc were seriously lacking in any sort of meaning or thrust. I have no idea what Dreyfus wants (though I suspect he's telling the truth about selling his soul to the devil), but for the first time all season, I'm actually really interested in finding out. The story of what this evil billionaire mogul (again with the meta commentary!) feels like it belongs in the Sleepy Hollow world; Ichabod didn't just fight against monsters; he fought against injustice and attempts to tear down liberty. An egotistical manic who claims to be fighting for the rights of the people--but is really just fighting for himself--fits right into Ichabod's overall storyline. Speaking of acceptable storylines, it was nice to see Diana have a very natural and normal reaction to learning her daughter is the next Witness. After taking demons, witches, headless horsemen and time travel all in stride, it's the safety of her daughter that breaks this particular camel's back. Diana doesn't quite feel like a real person yet--she's still too new and raw, but moments like her telling Ichabod "no more you!" even when the latter promises that Molly's safety will be held in the highest regard, help us understand her more. She's tough but she has a weakness, a rather big one. Molly might be Diana's fatal flaw, her harmatia, but because that flaw is one that speaks to human emotion and connection, she's instantly a little bit more compelling. She has no role in the supernatural world and thus Diana can feel quite disconnected from the larger, and arguably more important, narrative but her true purpose is that of a protector. I wouldn't be surprised if she does the heavy lifting of Witnesshood for Molly given the latter's prepubescent stage. It's an interesting way to keep the integrity of the show--two Witnesses--while making Ichabod the lead choir boy. All of this is to say that the show might be finding a fair footing. It's up to the writers to keep from stumbling once more.

Miscellaneous Notes on Heads of State

--"I could not in good conscience stand by while a nation was oppressed by tyranny." Ichabod had a lot of great patriotic quotes that I half expect to see on placards in future protests.

--Jake very clearly has a crush on Jenny. I hesitate to comment on this but Jenny did just lose Joe. To thrust her right into another pairing feels cheap.

--Ichabod has a "proclivity toward obscure donut toppings." That and his boots apparently make him a hipster.

--"Just admit it! You're a time traveler!" Well, at least that particular cat is out of that particular bag.

--One thing that was missing, however, from this episode was that Ichabod failed to explain that the Headless Horseman isn't just the Horseman of Death from the Apocalypse but is also his former best friend who fought for the hand of Ichabod's late wife. Abraham and Katrina were important facets of this show, just like Moloch and Abbie.

--"My strength is replenished and I am ready for battle once more." Ichabod tackling IKEA furniture after downing Chinese from carton boxes is exactly the sort of Ichabod I expect from this show. I've missed this version of Ichabod.

Monday, January 16, 2017

In Which I Review Sherlock (4x3)

Now that is how you do an episode of Sherlock. Not since the unbelievably well executed season two finale has an episode of Sherlock resonated so powerfully and so satisfactorily as to be near pitch perfect. If you were to distill down in bullet point form what makes a great episode of Sherlock you would undoubtedly find every single one of those points in the season--and quite possibly series--finale, "The Final Problem." There is so much to pick apart and discuss in this week's installment; from John and Sherlock's relationship to the Holmess' family dynamic (so all the kids are absolutely nuts, right?) to the ideas of morality and whether or not a human being can live without them and still call themselves human and, maybe most importantly, whether or not sociopathy--true sociopathy--can be overturned by the simple act of having a best friend. Sherlock has never been a perfect TV show; it's often too self-indulgent with freeze frames and weird special effects meant to awe instead of move the story along. It gets too caught up in giving the rabid fan bases something to quickly reblog, retweet or turn into a smutty fanfic and it has problems of the average, run of the TV mill sort like hints of misogyny and some overt queer baiting. None of this is dismissed with a spectacular episode, which this unquestionably was, and it's always worth pulling back to examine all the messages that lay behind a rollicking good time but, honestly, problems of ego and privilege aside, didn't you just enjoy the ever loving hell out of this show from start to finish? I know I did. One last time, then. It's only elementary. Let's go!

I love when I'm right. In last week's blog, I predicted that Euros's importance wasn't so much as a threat to national security or some sort of big case-of-the-week (though both of those are equally true), but rather that her existence has been such a closely guarded secret because it was she who made Sherlock who he is. His attempts at cold indifference, at friendlessness, at emotional detachment, and even at sociopathy all stem from the secret sister he locked away in his mind palace and forgot all about. Families. Sometimes they really do suck. Euros herself is an extraordinarily interesting, if extremely terrifying, case. Her sociopathy manifests in a lot of the usual ways. Euros doesn't understand emotions; she can't tell when she's happy or sad and moreover I'm not sure sure she's capable of feeling those; she thinks that constructs of good and bad are social conditions that don't exist outside the realm of society and the impositions it imposes on the world (to be fair, she's not dead wrong). Likewise, Euros can't tell the difference between screaming and laughing and, while children are prone to fits of jealousy when they feel ostracized or neglected, not all children drown the object of their jealousy in a fit (and then proceed to mock their sibling about it with codes and songs). Euros is Sherlock with the brakes off, then. If Sherlock were to completely cut himself off from his friends and family; if he were to stop detective work as a way to not only get high but because his heart is ultimately in the right place, he'd be a perfect male form of Euros. Sherlock's emotions are his saving grace; they always have been. He clings to anything that makes him feel at least a little bit human and grounded--the cases, the small cadre of people that float around his manic and often downright asshole existence. All of these are designed, subconsciously, to keep him from becoming Euros, a person he can't even remember but who killed his best friend when he was just a lad. These things are Sherlock's identity touchstones; so long as he has them, he can continue to function. Euros does not have touchstones; these developments that occur in childhood never did for the little girl who really only wanted a friend. A foot smarter than the smartest person in the room but equally lonely, Euros never forged any sort of a connection and so acted out, deciding that morals (which she can't really understand) were for the weak and the lower creatures of the Earth. As Euros tells Sherlock in the final game, "I never had a best friend. I had no one;" this fact, surprisingly, bothers her. The lack of morals, the total disregard for human life, and the ability to turn the people around her into mindless sheep doesn't seem to strike her as anything with which to be concerned, but the fact that she never had a friend to play with does. Is Euros's sociopathy not true then? Honestly, it may not matter if Euros is a textbook sociopath or not. She's serving a different narrative purpose; she's Sherlock's foil.

Unsurprisingly, Euros and Moriarty get on like a house on fire (her words, not mine!) Moriarty is Sherlock's literary foil; every bit his equal but living a life of crime instead of solving them. They are the perfect match for each other. The one thing missing from the Holmes/Moriarty antagonistic pairing is the all powerful word that got thrown around quite a bit in this episode: family. John is family, if not blood. Mary, Rosie, Molly, Mrs. Hudson and even Lestrade are. Mycroft is, of course, family; Moriarty is not. Euros, though, is. I said up top that the person Sherlock became, his attempts at a softer high functioning sociopath, all stem from Euros; but the question is why...why would anyone want to become what Euros is? The answer, I think, is pretty simple: to avoid pain. To wit: why do junkies get high? Yes, scientifically it's because drugs are addictive but go deeper, go into the emotional reason why. It's because the thing you're addicted to--the booze, the pills, the gambling, the drugs--are all there to make the pain stop, if only for a little bit. After all, if they worked forever and negated the pain long term, there'd be no need to take another hit. Sherlock feels deeply--it's written on his face in so many instances over the years. A bomb jacket strapped to John, texts from Irene Adler, Mary Watson's death, realizing how much he's hurt Molly by forcing her to confess her love, comforting John after his best friend dissolved into tears confessing to an unseen wife, are all instances where Sherlock has been empathetic. He feels pain; he feels his own and others and it all goes back to not being able to find his little friend, Victor--his Redbeard, his first friend, his childhood best friend, an innocent little boy who was drowned in a well by Sherlock's younger sister. So much pain, so much trauma behind that memory that Sherlock did one of the most human things possible: he wrote himself a different story and became just like the person--or as near as he could--who feels no pain and could easily and clinically pass through the world where morals don't matter and people are irrational and boiled down to clever deductions. Becoming Euros was a way to mask the scars of childhood, to forge ahead and not be overwhelmed by grief. This, by the way, is where John comes in. Like calls to like and in each other they saw their pain refracted. John is always saving Sherlock and Sherlock is always saving John but not just in moments of the big denouement with bad guys at pools or waterfalls, but everyday, in every way, by the simple virtue of easing each other's pain and loneliness and giving each other the one thing Euros never had: a friend. Sometimes all we need in this world is one person who truly loves us or, you know, with whom we can solves crimes. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson found each other and that is the true beauty of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. The cases may mystify and astound but it's the relationship of Holmes and Watson that keeps us coming back. It is, as Mary says in her video post script, all about the legend of those fabulous wonderful, clever and brave Baker Street Boys.

 Miscellaneous Notes on The Final Problem

--Mycroft's umbrella doubles as a saber and a gun. I find this amusing but not at all surprising.

--"This is a family matter." "That's why John stays!"

--Even if her sociopathy could be tempered by family, Euros is without a doubt the scariest villain the show has done.

--So many good shocking moments in this episode that there were times I forgot to breath. Just to name a few: no glass on Euros's cell; Euros killing all three men--guilty and innocent--in the hangman's noose to see how it felt; Molly almost not saying "I love you" back; the plane and little girl not being "real," and Sherlock almost killing his brother.

--Moriarty goes by "Big G" now because he's "relatable that way."

--In a fabulous call back to the first episode of season one, Lestrade tells a fellow detective that Sherlock isn't a great man, "he's better than that; he's a good one."

--The final clip sees Sherlock and John running out of "Rathbone House" which is a loving tribute to Basil Rathbone who played Sherlock Holmes fourteen times over half a dozen years.

--"When all else fails there are two men sitting, arguing, in a scruffy flat like they've always been there and always will....Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x2)

What made Abbie Mills such a great Witness? Was it her total acceptance of the sudden bizarre turn of events in her life? No, not really. In fact, Abbie remained skeptical for a good part of the first season. Was it because she was "touched" as a young girl by Moloch? No; helpful, maybe, but ultimately her Witnesshood was something deeper and more meaningful. Abbie made such a great Witness because she was not only the supernatural second half of Ichabod, but because she was his emotional, intellectual, and mature equal. Abbie was a bit of a revelation on network TV; a woman of color who was simply not the helpmate of the white male protagonist, but instead, every part his equal. While staring down at the black abyss of nevermore, Abbie stood shoulder to shoulder with a man out of time, looked demons and Purgatory in the eye and did not blink. Abbie was tough, practical, no-nonsense, and even when all felt lost, Abbie kept going. Should the next Witness be a copycat of Abbie Mills? No, absolutely not. That's an insult to Abbie's memory and the audience's patience; but while there is something to be said about subverting the audience's expectations, does anyone really believe that a thirteen year old teenager is really ready to fight the forces of evil and potentially the Apocalypse? Is that what we want this show to become? From a pairing that shouted equality--professionally, personally, and supernaturally--to one that has a centuries old man and a child running around the United States Capital looking for things that go bump in the night? I'm not sure "In Plain Sight" fixed any of the missteps of last week; it might have made them worse. Grab your witch stone and let's go! 

Here's a hard question: what do you want out of Sleepy Hollow? I've always been up front that this show could be as nutty as it wanted--and it often went full on straight-jacket crazy--so long as the core of the show remained the same. Take out the actual characters for a moment, forget Ichabod and Abbie and everything they've done, and the core of Sleep Hollow was really the story of two lost souls who found each other and then managed to find their way through a dark and weird world. Ichabod was the man out of time, a fish out of water; Abbie could neither escape her past nor find her future. But when the two souls met an alliance that went beyond our mortal ken was formed and together each person found what they were searching for. As cliche as it sounds, they found a home together. To be sure, there are some romantic underpinnings to this kind of narrative but it need not be; indeed Sleepy Hollow never went over that particular precipice. Romantic or not, it does not erase the deep loving bond between the two Witnesses. Can anyone imagine Ichabod having that with Molly? Does anyone want him to? There's something a little unsettling--a little squicky--about the loving and platonic romance of Ichabod and Abbie being overtaken by Ichabod and Molly. I know the show won't suddenly turn Ichabod and Molly into some sort of love story--in fact, I can see the show keeping Ichabod and Molly at arms length to drive home the idea that Molly might be the next Witness but she's not Abbie--but even if you take out the core of the two Witnesses and the sort of partnership they are supposed to have, is Molly really capable of stopping whatever evildoer is coming? She's got homework to do and boys (or girls) to flirt with. She can't fire a gun or a crossbow or read Latin or, hell, even stay out late to research big-bads. What use is Molly as a Witness? While I was not thrilled with the idea of Diana being the new Witness, Molly as a Witness is more ridiculous than some of the hair-brained plots Sleepy Hollow has trotted out in the past. So, once again, I ask: what do you want out of Sleepy Hollow?

Miscellaneous Notes on In Plain Sight

--Ichabod, while trying to find the new Witness in a prophetic dream, still calls out for Abbie.

--The three Witches were the very definition of cliche bad women--tight leather clothing and all.

--I can't get any sort of read on Alex and Jake except that one's a skeptic and one's a believer. Those characteristics don't make for very compelling characters.

--Speaking of unreadable, whatever Malcolm Dreyfus is up to is so undeveloped that I'm choosing to refrain from any real commentary. Also, I keep wanting to refer to him as Daniel Faraday.

--"How do you know so much about witches?" "I was married to one."

--Our Ichabod Crane, "the one and only!"

--I did have a moment of sheer joy at seeing the Headless Horseman. No idea how he's there in Washington, but whatever.

--"She's not Abbie." No. No, she's not.

Monday, January 9, 2017

In Which I Review Sherlock (4x2)

Ah, now that's a bit more like it. Last week I complained that the season four premiere was decidedly lacking in the interesting case department but this week's episode "The Lying Detective" had a bit more of that meaty mystery that is a hallmark of any Sherlock Holmes story. The fact that the case of the week was bolstered by some deep, emotional, and character moments from Sherlock and John only made this episode that much sweeter. The show still has a tendency to get a bit too self indulgent in its direction and the way it presents a story, but I simply cannot deny that my jaw dropped several times while watching this week. The biggest question I have--apart from the obvious questions about Sherrinford's (or Euors? I'll use that name throughout since that is the name she used to John) existence and what exactly Sherlock's secret sister wants--is about Sherlock's inner psyche. It has been an often repeated phrase that Sherlock is a high functioning sociopath but the question that lingers after an episode like this one is, was Sherlock ever a sociopath or just an ordinary--if brilliant--man who simply hid all his fears and insecurities behind an ice wall of indifference? The answer to me is pretty clear; it's not okay, but it is what it is. Grab your deer hat (after all, it's Sherlock Holmes and he wears the damn hat) and let's go!

While sitting in front of Greg Lestrade, John Watson reminds the cop that "not that long ago, Sherlock shot Charles Magnussen in the head. We always saw it coming; we thought it was fun." Sherlock is not exactly opposed to violence; he's always willing to do what is necessary to solve the case and close the book on a criminal, though I think Sherlock likes the satisfaction of sending a criminal to jail and getting to take some measure of credit for stopping the evil doer more. So what made Charles Magnussen different? What made him worthy of that bullet in a head? It wasn't just that Sherlock himself was in danger or even the fact that Sherlock wouldn't be able to put Magnussen behind bars (how do you prove that someone has an elaborate mind palace with information on every powerful person in the world at their disposal?) No, there was another factor. Well, two if we're being honest: The Watsons. John and Mary were at the forefront of Sherlock's mind when he made the decision to kill Magnussen on his back porch. If ever it seems like John Watson is in danger, Sherlock steps up and does the unthinkable. This is nothing new; in fact, I'm pretty sure I said the exact same thing in my season three finale over a year ago. The bond between the two and the deep--if quiet--affection Sherlock feels for John has never been kept a secret or at arms length. That same connection between Holmes and Watson is under enormous strain with Mary's death; John places blame for his wife's death on Sherlock's shoulders and, despite being drug into Sherlock's insanity, John cares very little for his former friend's state of being and life. And what does Sherlock do when he feels that bond beginning to break? He fixes it; he saves it. With just a little bit of prompting from Mary-beyond-the-grave, Sherlock saves John Watson, gives him something to do and reminds John that while Mary is gone, life is not over. The game is still on. But to bring us back to the original premise, does this mean that Sherlock is actually a sociopath, high functioning or otherwise? After all, one of the traits of sociopathy is a reckless disregard for safety and Sherlock did beg a serial killer to kill him after he downed a shocking amount of drugs. He also exhibits anti-social tendencies and keeps most people at an arm's length, up to and including his older brother Mycroft, his parents, and Irene Adler, someone who got so under his skin that he can only refer to her as "the Woman." But, that's the rub, isn't it? People get under Sherlock's skin; he's not immune to his feelings toward them. He does love Irene; he does love his parents; I suspect he does love Mycroft and there is absolutely no question that Sherlock Holmes loves John Watson. So if Sherlock isn't a sociopath, if he genuinely cares for people and his reckless regard for safety has more to do with protecting those he loves (and because he's an addict who needs a rush, never leave that factor out!) then what kind of person are we really left with? Let's talk about Euros.

Secret siblings are tricky. They reek of soap opera type theatrics and as if the writers simply couldn't think of a new storyline so they invent a totally new person to "spice" things up. In the Doyle canon, there is another Holmes brother but as far as I remember, he never shows up in the narrative. There's flexibility here, in other words, because another Holmes sibling is canon compliant but with enough room for Gatiss and Moffat to invent the character as they see fit. Who else thinks Euros is smarter than Sherlock and colder than Mycroft? I did not expect the woman on the bus, Faith, and John's new therapist all to be the same person, let alone be Sherlock's secret sister. Hats off to the writers for that, but the most important part of this reveal is not the twist but rather trying to puzzle out what sort of relationship Euros has with both Mycroft and Sherlock. We've gotten a sense that Mycroft stays in touch with Euros (side note but is Sherrinford some sort of code word or the name of a hospital?) and makes sure that his sister isn't making any sort of trouble but Sherlock is the more troubling Holmes brother in this scenario. We've been getting flashes of two young kids on a beach, playing like children are wont to do. I had thought that maybe these kids were Rosie and another kid, a flashforward instead of flashback, but upon a closer look, the bloodhound dog is a dead giveaway that it's Sherlock's flashback to his childhood. Sherlock has never discussed a sister or any sort of trauma about another sibling so my prediction is that Sherlock has blocked out this sister; the memory of her is so powerful and so tragic (whatever happened between them) that his mind has stored her in the deep recesses of his mind palace, a corner of his paradise that even Sherlock does not know exists. It this early childhood trauma of Euros that has made Sherlock, at least in part, who he is. So much of who we are and how we react to the world and the people in it comes from our childhood and what happened to us there. What if Sherlock's antisocial tendencies and his cold and cockish behavior stem from an unconscious and unremembered trauma involving his sister? It's like Sherlock told John at the end of this episode, "I have this idea that, from time to time, we might just be human." Sherlock Holmes: human being; I never doubted it.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Lying Detective 

--Our serial killer/villain of the week sums up Sherlock's state of mind and being pretty well, "once you open your heart, you can't close it again."

--Also, how about some major props to Toby Jones for his work as Culverton Smith! I talked very little about the case of the week, but it was strong and interesting and very tense.

--"You're suicidal. You're allowed chips."

--Mrs. Hudson jumping out of the Aston Martin was not a thing I expected but it was a thing I simply loved.

--I need to put on my feminist hat for a moment and state that the writing for Molly this year is pretty sad. Is her only role to be a nursemaid and babysitter?

--Euros means "east wind" which is also Doyle-canon compliant; in the final Sherlock Holmes novel, the detective speaks of an east wind coming to destroy England before it is rebuilt. Doyle was speaking of World War One but it takes on a different flavor now that it has been latched on to Sherlock's sister.

--Anyone wonder if we'll see Irene Adler in next week's episode?

--The JohnLock hug was completely different than the first one they shared on the day of John's wedding. This one felt...more raw and completely visceral. I can't deny that I was crying throughout that whole scene.

--Next week is the finale of season four. Several years ago, both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman stated they were on for a fifth season but, since then, both actors have become mega stars in Hollywood and it's hard to know whether or not they can keep taking time off shooting big and expensive movies for a BBC drama. See you next week!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x1)

Don't worry; I'm just as surprised as you are to find myself writing a review for this show once again. Eight months ago I wrote what I believed was my final review for Sleepy Hollow. With Abbie dead and the concept of the show changing from what had been working delightfully well for three years, I was convinced that Fox would not renew the show after fan backlash for said changes and the final word on Sleepy Hollow was Crane alone in the world looking for another partner to replace the one he lost. Turns out, I was wrong. I also said back then that if the show did return I most likely would not be returning with it. I was convinced that Sleepy Hollow without Leftenant Abigail Mills wasn't really Sleepy Hollow and any attempt to say otherwise would be heartily laughed at. Never underestimate the power of a TV network to think they can alter the viewers minds through sheer will and determination. Let's get real: this isn't Sleepy Hollow. Yeah, Ichabod--and even Jenny--are here and they talk about all that came before, but the show has been altered--rebooted and retooled--to become a new show, a different show. The season four premiere sets it all up in the title; welcome to "Columbia." So, diving head first (are head jokes still acceptable puns for this show?) into this new uncharted territory, how did it fair? Let's go!

Do you remember what made Ichabod so special in those opening moments of season one? It was the basic yet fun "fish out of water" theme that the show ran with for several seasons. This sort of story works because the audience is in on the joke; someone not being able to work something as everyday as a shower is automatically hilarious to a viewer who encounters these mundane objects on a daily basis. Ichabod, a man from the eighteenth century, finds himself in the twenty-first, driving in a car with a black cop wondering why there is a Starbucks on every corner. Also, just wondering what a Starbucks is. It was this man-out-of-time feel that made Ichabod so delightfully cute and captivating. In one breath, Ichabod Crane could explain the metaphysical ramifications of a demon's plot and in the next breath declare that he must "internet immediately" while having no idea how to even turn on the computer. The show itself has gone to impressive lengths to reboot itself this year--a new partner, a new city, a new mythos. But the one thing it cannot reboot and retool is Ichabod's charming wonderment at the world around him; after three seasons, the gig is up. He knows how to turn on a coffee pot; he knows how to drive; he knows how to use a computer to research. His quirks are still present with greatly diminished returns; they are a gentle and fond remembrance of something long since passed. If it is next to impossible--and I would argue just impossible--to recapture Ichabod's initial charm then isn't Sleepy Hollow, the show, in danger of becoming another run of the mill supernatural procedural? Fox already has another one of those--it's called "Lucifer" and its biggest saving grace is that the titular character has that same fish out of water feel while bringing his own (literally) devilish charm to a police/civilian partnership. At any rate, this humdrum feel was exactly what I was waiting for while watching the season four opener. After all, go back and reread my season three reviews; those feelings were already starting to creep in.

So with all that in mind, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that the season premiere managed to create a decent amount of intrigue and mystery. We have billionaire moguls who are interested in the Dark Arts, a search for a new Witness, a child who is suddenly rendered mute, and what appears to be prophetic drawings of our leading man. All of that makes for an interesting narrative set up; there's plenty to unpack and expand upon and delve into. Sleepy Hollow is usually at its best when it throws spaghetti at the wall and sees what sticks. This includes everything from demons to witches to apocalypses to monsters of the week to uncovering "real" American history to huge sweeps of mythology; it's all goofy and weird but somehow endearing and charming. The narrative being laid out has all of those vital Sleepy Hollow elements, so why did it all feel so...hollow (unintentional pun is unintentional). This is the bad news; there was something so bland about this episode. Ichabod was neither witty nor charming (though Tom Mison did his very best to make Ichabod the character we've known for three years); Diana has the same "tough but emotionally troubled cop" as Abbie (which is only slightly infuriating) but with the added element of being a struggling mother which overall feels like a pointless character point and only serving the narrative; and the chemistry that Ichabod had almost instantly with his Sleepy Hollow compatriots was sorely lacking with his Columbian ones. Every effort was made to help the audience feel at home with this new rebooted series; they even constructed a highly improbably secret vault for Ichabod and Diana to play in, just like Mr. Crane and his Leftenant. If this had been the episode that premiered four years ago, I don't know that I'd be as enamored. Sleepy Hollow, in its original form, was not only a quirky supernatural police procedural with fantastic characters but was meaningful and oddly subversive with its strong, black, independent woman taking point in a fight against evil, carrying her weight just as much as her white male counterpart, with a pragmatic eye and no nonsense attitude. Everything that comes after that must find a way to walk outside the long shadow that Abbie Mills cast and I just don't think that Diana Thomas cuts it. For example, gauge your response to Diana throughout the entire episode versus your singular reaction to seeing Jenny Mills wielding a machine gun, saving Ichabod's life. That is what this show is (was?). Diana and her D.C. friends are place holders for what was and could be again if the writers went in a more natural (read: Mills) direction. Maybe it will feel more natural as we roll on and learn more about Diana and the other lab rats, but I can't shake the feeling that Sleepy Hollow died with Abbie Mills. This is Columbia and it's just not as good.

Miscellaneous Notes on Columbia 

--Things that are evil, according to Ichabod Crane: "demons, the apocalypse, the ongoing success of real housewives. You know...evil."

--This episode felt weighted by the past and the idea that while the past is beautiful the future is even better. Many conversations beat this idea into our heads; it's a bit heavy handed.

--President Abraham Lincoln was killed by a demon.

--"Everything is about Hamilton these days." I agree, random guy in Washington D.C. I agree.

--Presenting Jenny Mills: "soldier, scholar, gentlewoman, and all around bad ass."

--Ichabod on Abbie to Diana: "She helped me find my feet as I helped her find hers. She was the best." These two lines sum up what I took almost three paragraphs to make clear.

Monday, January 2, 2017

In Which I Review Sherlock (4x1)

The boys are back in town. After a year away, Sherlock and John (along with Mary, naturally) get back down to business. Much like with the other BBC imported phenomenon, Doctor Who, having a year away can be either a plus or a negative with a TV show. For the former, it's easy to pick back up on Christmas. Take the Doctor, some space travel, some conflict, add some heart and schmaltz and you've got a fairly standard Doctor Who episode. I think Sherlock's harder; there are more layers of plot to remind the audience of and the overall premise of the brilliant detective and his best friend/sidekick naturally involves a big labyrinthine case that has to be carefully constructed and expertly executed. This is likely why "The Six Thatchers" didn't quite work and gel for me. Yes, just seeing Sherlock and John is a big help, but this episode missed that decidedly delicious element that should always be present in a Sherlock Holmes story: an interesting case. This mixed bag of an episode leaves me feeling a bit underwhelmed and struggling to parse this particular episode. Grab your trusty bloodhound and let's go!

I don't mean to sound overly harsh, but did anyone else find this episode to be a titch boring? At least when you compare it to episodes of Sherlock from season one and two, this season four opener felt like it was missing a good case to sink our teeth (and for Sherlock to sink his teeth) into. It's not that the case of the smashed up Margaret Thatcher busts didn't have promise; it's something that is right up Sherlock's alley being both banal to us mere mortals and fascinating to Sherlock and him alone. But unlike in the past when Sherlock went out on the trail, hunting down various clues and astounding all lookers-on of his deductive prowess, Sherlock more or less sat in his apartment with various other potentially more interesting clients and waited for Lestrade to bring him news of more broken busts before managing to get a big break in the case and then switching tracks instantly. Even the lead-in case of the son who died in his car had significantly more promise than the case Sherlock settled on. The broken busts don't matter or have any serious weight and moreover, the criminal who was shattering all the plaster doesn't matter except in his relation to Mary Watson who, I suppose, is the real case of the week. Mary is, by and large, a fascinating character ever since it was revealed she was a mercenary agent who is as smart as Sherlock and ten times more deadly. My issue is more that the question of Mary was solved in season three; John did not care what her past was, he cared what their future could be. That, really, should have been the end of that. Her past is mostly explained but left in the shadows where she'd wish it to be. We, the audience, are more than capable of filling in some blanks (Mary did bad things and she did them well). It's as if the writers couldn't help but bring the mystery back to the forefront and tried to give it some unneeded heft. Mary, canonically, has to die but to make her death the entire point of a case and to neglect an essential part of any Doyle story feels cheap to both Mary and the Sherlock/John twosome.

The argument the episode is really trying to make, complete with a tortured fairy tale that is retold at least three times, is about predestination and whether or not any of us can really outrun our own personal destiny. Mary was a covert agent who fled her previous life and tried to set up a normal, everyday, ordinary one. To expect her to never run into problems about her past life would be absurd. There's almost an understood "of course" when the Thatcher-criminal turns out to be one of Mary's former cohorts. Her significant half, John, is an adrenaline junkie who missed the war so much he found solving crimes with Sherlock a suitable substitute; of course he ends up having some sort of emotional (maybe physical?) affair. The idea of living a second life, sneaking around, daring to be caught is John Watson's modus operandi to a "T" in his attempts to add some needed spice to his life. And then there's Sherlock who keeps escaping death. From his fake-out fall on the rooftop two years ago to his short-lived exile to his junkie habits, Sherlock has managed to survive when others would have died. He's the famous merchant in Baghdad, trying to outrun the specter of death. Does it catch up to him? Death catches the merchant and it catches Mary so it would follow that it can catch Sherlock too. Sherlock's final case, the most important case of his life, the case that matters more than Moriarty and Magnussen, that case that Sherlock really would die for is given to him by an unexpected client: Mary, from beyond the grave. Save John Watson. No matter what happens, save John. Mary and Sherlock lived/live their life with both ends burning but if any single one of them is destined to survive, it must be John who needs to find adrenaline in the ordinary. If I was in a betting mood, I would suggest that everyone get ready to say goodbye to our favorite consulting detective. This time for good.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Six Thatchers 

--This episode's "previously on" brought up the other Holmes brother. Anyone want to bet we'll meet him before the season is out?

--Toby the bloodhound is super cute.

--So am I the only one who wishes there was a bit more focus on the cases and the teamwork it takes to solve them?

--Mary's real name is Rosamund, the name she and John give to their new baby.

--Sherlock attempting to explain logic to a baby is precious: "if you want to keep the rattle, do not throw the rattle."

--You know what? I think Moriarty really is that boring--I think he left the "Miss Me" message just to mess with Sherlock.