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.

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