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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Sleepy Hollow Series 2 First Half.

First things first, Kamen Rider Drive reviews that would usually go live on Tuesdays are now going up on Mondays. Find this week's one here.

Second things second, a friend of mine has just penned an article for the Huffington Post. Go read that.

Third things third, and most importantly of the three, a grand jury in Missouri chose not to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown yesterday. Here is a petition for President Obama and the US Attorney General to arrest and prosecute Darren Wilson under federal charges.  I urge as strongly as possible that you set your hand to it, so to speak.

Now, onto the review.

Sleepy Hollow
Series 2, First Half.

I think Sleepy Hollow was amongst my big round-up of American TV shows that I did earlier in the year when they were all ending. That was before I was doing six posts a week, back when I was doing, like, three, so you can rather see why I might not have been too eager to give each one an individual post. 

My opinions could roughly be summed up as: Good fun, hitting greatness at times, even though it got off to a very slow start. 

Sleepy Hollow is the story of Lieutenant Abigail Mills, a sheriff's deputy in the town of Sleepy Hollow, and Ichabod Crane, a man from the American War of Independence who has been sleeping for hundreds of years. As Ichabod awakens, he and Abbie come to realise that they are Witnesses, tasked with preventing the apocalypse, a task made more difficult by the rise of the headless Horseman of Death. 

At the close of the last series, their ally Henry had been revealed as Ichabod's son and the Horseman of War, Abbie was stuck in the dimension of Purgatory, Ichabod had been bound and left in a coffin, and his wife Katrina had been kidnapped by the horsemen. Things were looking fairly bad.

That all gets resolved pretty quickly, save Katrina's abduction. This is one thing that does kind of annoy me about cliffhangers and their resolutions.

What are they looking at?

In many ways, Series 2 of Sleepy Hollow is more of the same. An episodic apocalyptic-threat-of-the-week format in which the solution is invariably something to do with the Founding Fathers, and humour is derived from the contrast between Ichabod's fish-out-of-water nature and Abbie's straightforward, pragmatic modernity. It's a simple format, it usually works, that's all fine.

They made some changes. The first is the addition of Nick Hawley, played by Matt Barr, as a supernatural arms dealer and a potential love interest for Abbie. He doesn't really change things up much, but he does present some conflict for Ichabod and Abbie.

The second is the evolving villain camp situation. In the first series, the touch of the villains was fairly light: Demonic entity Moloch was a kind of distant, blurry villain who would dispatch supernatural threats to do his bidding, while Death was a more personal villain who only showed up infrequently. In this series, though, we spend a lot of time with the villains: Henry takes the reigns as a central antagonist, functionally acting as Moloch's representative, while Death is humanised and becomes practically a main character, appearing in almost every episode as Henry's angry, shouty, attempting-to-romance-Katrina-y subordinate. 

-Barry Jones music plays quietly in the background.-

It's a much more interesting dynamic, all told. In fact, while I deeply enjoy Ichabod, Abbie and the rest of Team Not Have Everyone Die, I found the more fractious dynamic of the villains (and Katrina) a lot more fun to watch, and I'll be fascinated to see how that develops once they add more Horsemen to the mix.

Still, one of the key issues with Sleepy Hollow is starting to show now, and that it's formulaic nature. A supernatural threat appears, either conveniently timed with or prompting some manner of personal crisis for Ichabod and Abbie. By looking over various books, they discover that there is an item or spell (usually involving an item) that can neutralise said supernatural threat. They neutralise said supernatural threat, and learn something about themselves in the process. Somewhere, Henry smiles evilly and starts on his next plan.

It's not a bad formula, but it gets old, fast, when there's not much variation. Where are the stories that tie wholly into the arc plot? Even the Autumn finale revolved around finding a magical item and facing a one-episode supernatural threat, even if the greater purpose is to smite the main villain with it. Where are the stories where the villains properly strike back with just outright violence, rather than with an elaborate plan of some variety? There is so much variety that could be strained out of this premise, and it feels like it's being wasted. 

On the bright side, Doll!War.

My other key issue with Sleepy Hollow is the enthusiasm with which it treats the American War of Independence. As I've probably noted on this blog before, it was a historical event of remarkably little importance even at the time, and one which marked one of many stepping stones in the ongoing genocide of a native people. It seems strange and a little uncomfortable for the show to frame it as a battle for the fate of the world, when all it really was was a battle for whiny rich white English people not to have to fulfil the social contract they signed when they chose to depart to the colonies. 


The acting is pretty uniformly strong, though, the soundtrack is good enough that I'm annoyed that I can't buy it anywhere, and the showrunners clearly know how to appeal to their fans. It's nice too to see a series that actually has a decent spread of representation, with multiple prominent female characters and many prominent non-white characters.

All in all, I would give it my recommendation, just - maybe don't marathon it. It's an 'enjoy in short bursts' kind of show. 

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