Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sleepy Hollow Review: "Blood Moon" and "For the Triumph of Evil" - 99 Problems but a Witch Ain't One

Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison have great chemistry in "Sleepy Hollow"

The biggest question I asked when reviewing the pilot for Sleepy Hollow was could the show maintain the level of crazy while also remaining coherent?  After two more episodes, I feel confident that there’s a weekly model that will work for this show.  The following episodes manage to smartly blend mythology discussion with fairly straightforward Monster of the Week stories.  There is also more character building for the two leads but, overall, it feels very much like an early season episode of Supernatural or Fringe.

The most enjoyable part of Sleepy Hollow, by far, has been the chemistry between leads Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie.  Mison plays the “fish out of water” character intelligently, marveling at high taxes and choking on Red Bull while largely adapting to his new surroundings.  After a brief scene to open “Blood Moon” in which we see Crane with post-it notes everywhere in his hotel room explaining how to use the various equipment (shower, hair dryer, coffee maker, etc.), it seems as though he’s accepting his new surroundings very quickly.  Perhaps it’s his belief in magic that has allowed him to so readily adapt to 21st century Massachusetts, but it does seem a bit sudden.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  I can only take so many ubiquitous Starbucks jokes or cracks about tariffs on baked goods.  Crane’s spit-take of his first energy drink is a far more effective joke and lands much better because it’s the only such comment made in “For the Triumph of Evil.”  Nobody has yet explained, however, why he’s still wearing the same clothes in which he was buried for 250 years.  Beharie’s Abbie makes a great foil for Crane.  She’s far more grounded in reality than Ichabod but isn’t a Scully-esque skeptic.  She’s entirely willing to jump on board with the crazy when weird stuff starts going down.

It’s this character dynamic that makes the show so watchable.  When Crane comes up with a cockamamie idea about a dream demon based on a legend he learned from Mohawk Indian spies during the war, Abbie goes right along, drinking the crazy glowing tea and suffering the scorpion sting with her partner.  The dynamic plays very much like Olivia and the combination of Peter and Walter in the early episodes of Fringe and it’s making the show worth watching, even without the plot.

Unfortunately, not all of the characters are working so well.  Orlando Jones is still being wasted as the police captain while Katia Winter, as Crane’s wife Katrina, is relegated to fleeting dream sequences.  The last two episodes have introduced Abbie’s sister Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood), though, which is allowing them to expand the mythology by bringing Abbie into the story.

On the mythology front, the Four Horsemen have largely been set aside for a more personal story, which I like.  “For the Triumph of Evil,” in particular, delves into Abbie’s and Jenny’s disappearance as kids.  Apparently, they thought they had fallen asleep, but were actually missing for four days.  Drawing the Monster-of-the-Week into the larger mythology is a fantastic idea and brings extra weight to the proceedings, even if I didn’t find the Dream Demon as compelling a foe as the Resurrected Witch. 

The hardest part of building a blended procedural and serialized genre show is keeping the weekly procedure elements interesting so that the audience doesn’t tune out while waiting for the mythology to be spooled out.  That’s what made The X-Files so effective.  It’s also what made Fringe struggle mightily before they finally abandoned most of their procedural elements for a straight serialized story.  Even the best genre shows can struggle finding this balance.  Just go look at the episode list for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The mythology episodes are almost universally great, while the Monster-of-the-Week stories are a decidedly mixed bag.

So far, I’d rate Sleepy Hollow’s procedural elements as “okay.”  They haven’t exactly been engaging, but neither have they made me want to change the channel.  So long as those elements can remain above average and the mythology pieces come fast enough, I think the show will do just fine.

A couple of spare thoughts –

The idea that there is a whole network of underground tunnels beneath the city that contain the entire collected works of the monster hunting brigade is pretty far-fetched  But there always has to be something around to explain the wacky stuff going on.  If this is the Giles or Walter Bishop of the show that’ll be okay.

Either Sleepy Hollow has 144,000 people (as shown in the pilot), or it’s a “small town.”  Not both.  As somebody who grew up in a city of roughly 150,000 people, I almost took offense.

Dear director: You get to use the cheeky upside-down, flipping camera angle once.  That was it.

I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing Sleepy Hollow weekly, but there seems to be enough content here to let me come back every couple of episodes.

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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