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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Sleepy Hollow Series 2 Second Half.

Sleepy Hollow
Series 2, Second Half.

Coming back after a gratifyingly shorter hiatus than some shows I could mention (I still don't understand or approve of the US preoccupation with Christmas hiatuses), Sleepy Hollow picks up some months after the death of Moloch. While it seems like their troubles might be over, Ichabod and Abbie (now with Katrina joining their team full time) find themselves quickly facing miscellaneous supernatural threats, including a still-active Horseman of Death, a returned-from-the-grave Irving, and a monstrous thief.

I was moderately effusive in my praise of the first half of this series, and I was looking forward to them having a more tighter, focused plot in the second half of the series. I was, perhaps, wrong to do so: The plot of this second half is far, far less focused: With no villain appearing to step into Moloch's shoes, the series instead falls firmly into a monster-of-the-week format, with no real overarching plot, and it more or less ends that way, too - Henry is reintroduced only to die on the outing of his first plan. Katrina spends about two episodes contemplating evil before joining Henry on his evil plan, and then becoming a rather lacklustre villain for the finale (for while she's the catalyst that sets the episode in motion, the episode actually sees her do remarkably little). only to also die.

I do kind of understand why. With a third series not confirmed, and dropped ratings meaning that it's far from a certainty, the writers want to end with all the proverbial loose ends tied up, and you can't really do that if you introduce a new major villain, unless you only have him or her be active for half a series. Having to finish a series without knowing whether it'll be your last series or if you'll be having one, two, five more is not an easy position to be in.

Hello, Potential Series 3 Villain #1.

I'm also definitely not saying that this second half of the second series is terrible. Actually, I really enjoyed it: Ichabod and Abbie's friendship, which is really the centrepiece of the show, remains excellently written, and I can find very little fault in it. The episodic plots are fun, engaging romps, even if they don't tend to impact on a larger narrative. I am still deeply enjoying this series, I'm just also aware that it felt a shade aimless, a bit meandering, like it didn't know what to do with itself.

Another key issue is how badly it used some of its characters: Matt Barr's Hawley is written out in his focus episode and not seen again; Death shows up in the first episode (and not even as the antagonist of it) and then isn't seen again until the finale (where, like Katrina, he doesn't actually do a great deal); Henry, who was a more active villain than his master during the first half of the series, puts into motion approximately one evil plan and then is unceremoniously shot.

Not to be confused with this Founding Father dude (nobody can actually remember
which one is which, don't pretend you can), who explodes.

Katrina might be the worst example of this, though, as with her now fully on the team, the writers seem to have no idea what to do with her. They spend numerous episodes having her slightly tediously be ambivalent about everything, a few having her work with Ichabod and Abbie (and those episodes are a joy), and then towards the end have her suddenly and bafflingly go evil. The reasons for her doing so always seem false, too: A witch from the past riles her up and introduces her to blood magic, then Henry shows up and sweet-talks her a little, and then she is completely evil. As in 'murder my husband and his friend, conquer the world' evil. It's a terrible misuse of a great character, in my opinion.

But again, I do sort of understand it. Katrina's witchy powers mean that suddenly there's a lot less you can do in terms of plot, because you always have the question of 'Why doesn't Katrina just witch it to death' hovering about, especially since her powers are never clearly defined, and no rules are clearly given. It's a problem that the writers clearly hadn't considered when they introduced her - but gosh, if you're going to make her evil, have it be a slower burn and have her actually be a major villain. Katrina could have made a great third Horseman. 

(Still could, in all truth, as death is a fairly impermanent affair in this universe.)

I mean, they've already introduced time travel.

All that having been said, though, Sleepy Hollow is a show I have genuinely deeply enjoyed, and I hope it returns. It's good fun that doesn't take itself too seriously, and there is precious little of that on television right now, so I would firmly suggest that you check it out if you've not already done so. 

The show's preoccupation with American history is still kind of weird and jingoistic, though. I'm sorry, guys, it just - it just is. 

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