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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Sleepy Hollow Series 3

Sleepy Hollow
Series 3

Well, here's a review I haven't been looking forward to, and it doesn't help that I'm more than a little groggy as I write this, despite having been up for ages. I was pretty enthusiastic in my praise of Sleepy Hollow's first series, and rather - less enthusiastic in my review of the second series, so it's probably going to come as a surprise to nobody that that particular downward trend is continuing here.

Picking up a short while after the end of series two, Sleepy Hollow's third series sees Abby Mills, now an FBI agent, and Ichabod Crane teaming up once again after Ichabod discovers a mysterious Sumerian tablet depicting the two of them. Handily, evil is once again rising in Sleepy Hollow, as the Pandora of legend arrives in town, releasing evils from her box in order to harvest negative emotions. Before long, Pandora has restored her master, an ancient Sumerian god called the Hidden One, who desires to restore his full power and then wreak havoc upon the world.

So, before we address the elephant in the room, I want to talk about my main problem with this series, which is that it's boring. It was so, so boring, to the point where I often had trouble keeping up with plot threads, not because they weren't clearly explained but because even during important, plot relevant scenes, my attention would be wandering to literally anything else. 

The dream team. Or former dream team.

It just could not keep me interested, as it seemed to run through the same storyline week after week after week (Pandora (possibly with the urging of the Hidden One) summons a monster, the gang discovers that the Founding Fathers or some other figure from American history knew how to defeat the Hidden One, they read a book, get something that belonged to the American Historical Figure Of The Week and kill the monster), with even the overarching plot feeling stale and familiar, probably not least because Pandora's evil plan feels like it was tugged straight out of a Super Sentai series.

(Pandora and the Hidden One never come across as particularly convincing villains, either. Pandora never really does anything, instead just summoning monsters to do her bidding, and the Hidden One arguably does even less, with his inactivity compounded by the fact that he's constantly ranting about his power and authority, making him seem even more ineffectual. Compare and contrast with Moloch, who was scary partly because he was an active participant in the series and partly because, with a few exceptions, you didn't often get a clear view of him - he appeared in visions or mirrors, and he was often blurred or distorted, and he spoke in a strange tongue that made him seem more alien.)

Oh, yeah, Joe Corbin's back.

Which leads me on to another problem with the series, which is that its central conceit has swiftly become annoying. In the first series, the show's preoccupation with a small band of dead slaveowners was - well, actually, still really vexing, but tolerable, since the show made up for it in other ways. As the rest of the show's charm has faded and died, though, the obsession with American history (which is basically just a preoccupation with a slightly larger band of dead slaveowners) became more and more gauche, and more and more difficult to sustain - American history is not tremendously interesting, nor is it especially long, in this instance, since the show is only interested in post-colonial America, and after three series, the writers have been running out of ways to incorporate it into the story for a while now.

Onto the elephant in the room, then, which is the decision - seemingly motivated by Nicole Beharie leaving the show because she was understandably unhappy with their poor treatment of her - to kill off Abby. In all honesty, without Abby it would be better if the series just ended: Beharie's chemistry with Tom Mison and the interactions between Abby and Ichabod were the heart of the series, and it'll be difficult to reproduce that. 

I don't even remember what episode this is from.

Also, Abby's departure is one of a long list of departures, all of which have pushed the series towards seeming like an entirely different show to the first series: Orlando Jones, Katia Winter, Matt Barr, and John Noble (who played Jones, Katrina, Hawley, and Henry) all left at the end of the second series, while Nicole Beharie and Zach Appelman (playing Abby and Joe) left at the end of this one, with the likelihood being high that Lyndie Greenwood won't be returning for a fourth series. A high frequency of cast changes makes a series seem older and more worn than it is, as it strays more and more from its original formula, and that problem has hit Sleepy Hollow like a brick.

A fourth series hasn't been announced yet, but it seems likely that one will, even if, to be quite honest, I hope the series just stops here. I talk a lot about how series should know when to stop instead of pushing on and on endlessly and the point where Sleepy Hollow should have stopped was about halfway through the second series. That's a shame, really, because it had potential to be one of the best shows on television, and it (well, to be honest, the new showrunner it got halfway through series two) just squandered it.

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