September 19, 2013

Sleepy Hollow, episode 1 "Pilot"

I have a horrible habit of really enjoying TV shows that I know going in probably won't last to the end of the season. My Own Worst Enemy. Surface. Invasion. The Event. Flash Forward. Alcatraz. Zero Hour. 666 Park Avenue. Etc, etc. These are mostly nutty, convoluted genre shows with bizarro concepts which, while they may fail to light a fire against the broader joe public, always snag my attention when I'm looking at the fall previews. I've been burned, with most of these shows ending on massive cliffhangers that sneer in the face of closure. It's a burn I've gotten used to, though, and I keep going in, knowing I'll get a good mix of ideas interesting and crazy, sometimes executed well, sometimes not, but most often well enough to entertain.

This year, the top such show on my list was absolutely Sleepy Hollow. It had a nutty trailer that left people kinda staring at it with a tilted head, and I couldn't wait to dive in. Yes, it's co-created by Orci & Kurtzman, a pair of hacks whose names I've come to loathe when attached to summer blockbusters I otherwise wanted to see. But hey, they created Fringe. Sure, they quickly left Fringe in better hands (one of whom was, shockingly, my soul adversary Akiva Goldsman - who knew), but hey, it's Fringe. They earn points for it.

Sure enough, this show is pretty nutty. So nutty that it left me wondering just how I wanted to do this project. I wanted to get a little more in depth than just a review, but whew boy this is not going to be easy to recap. Let's try breaking it down like so...

Act 1

Hudson Valley, New York. 1781.

It's the American Revolution, and we're in the midst of battle, with horses shrieking, and muskets and sabers ripping through men. Ichabod Crane is going through the fallen men, checking their pulses, when he's warned about a figure approaching behind him. It's the Horseman, a mercenary in a red coat on a white steed, his bald head hidden behind a leather executioner's mask. In his hand - branded with the mark of a bow and arrow - is a double-sided battle axe. Crane plugs him with a bullet, but the Horseman just gets back up, seemingly unharmed. They duel, the Horseman's axe knocking away Crane's pistol and slashing open his chest, but crane gets in a powerful swing with his saber and the Horseman drops dead, his severed head rolling away. Ichabod passes out.

In the darkness, a man's voice saying they don't have much time, and a woman pleading with Ichabod to stay with her.

In a cave, jars filled with snakes and frogs line a pit of clay. Ichabod suddenly bursts from the ground, also caked in what's either salt or ice. Jars shatter, their contents slithering away. Ichabod feels his chest, the gash having long since healed over and scarred. He sees stairs and stumbles toward them. Triggering a mechanism, a door rumbles open and he emerges into daylight. The cave he exits is next to an old dam, where he guzzles down water and stumbles through unfamiliar ground.

He comes across something new: a paved road with yellow lines. Looking into the mist at one end, he doesn't see the semi truck coming behind him until it blares past. And there's a car behind it, which swerves to the side and hits some trees. Hearing wings, he sees a bird (a falcon?) set down on a sign facing away from him. The driver gets out of the car with a stinkeye, and Ichabod takes off, running into the mist. As "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones hits the soundtrack, we pan down to the sign: "VILLAGE OF SLEEPY HOLLOW".

We see Sleepy Hollow, which is a small town that's grown to the point of being a suburb sprawling through the woods with the buildings of ye olden days at its heart. In a diner, Sheriff August Corbin and his partner, Lieutenant Abbie Mills, are sharing a meal. She teases him about getting too caught up in the news stories he carefully tears out of the paper. He throws it right back, asking what her reasons are for an upcoming transfer out of town to the FBI. As they leave, Corbin exchanges a tense greeting with Reverend Alfred Knapp. They climb into their car, getting a call to check out the stables on the edge of town, where the horses have been spooked.

At the farmhouse, Abbie goes to find the owner while Sheriff Corbin checks the stables. It doesn't take her long before she finds a car with the door open, a shotgun lying on the ground, and the decapitated body of the homeowner nearby. In the stables, Corbin encounters the Horseman, still dressed as he was back in the day, sans his missing head. The Horseman takes a white steed, decapitating Corbin as he rides off, the neck cauterized by the glowing red edge of the axe. Abbie gets a good look at the Horseman and the symbol branded on his hand as she calls for backup.

Getting the call, Officer Andy Brooks squeals his squad car around... only to almost hit the disheveled figure of Ichabod Crane as the man stumbles through a crosswalk. Based on appearance alone, Brooks draws his weapon and arrests the man. Back at the station, Brooks leads Abbie back to a cell where Ichabod is shackled, but she says that isn't the man who killed Sheriff Corbin. As she starts describing the Horseman, Ichabod asks if he carried a broadaxe and had the symbol of a bow on his hand.

Abby: "Who is he? When did you last see him?"

Ichabod: "... WHEN I CUT OFF HIS HEAD."

Abby: "... Who are you?"

*dramatic commercial break music*

* * *

My first thought is, no, there's no way Ichabod would have been able to decapitate the Horseman that easily, with a single swipe of a saber. Especially as they had some distance between them and it was only catching the edge as opposed to deeper near the hilt. Here they go and established the Horseman right up front as Ye Olde Jason Voorhees, complete with the leather hockey mask, and they take him out so quickly in such a flimsy way. No. It doesn't work like that.

But this is just a nitpick.

Otherwise, I really dig this opening. We start out in the chaos of the battlefield, then, without knowing anything more about this universe's Ichabod Crane - aside from the nice, learned touch of him checking for pulses - he's waking up in a cave, wandering through stygian mists until he comes to the unrelenting horror of a semi truck on a paved road. Our hero of the past has been dumped into his first, dreamlike glimpse of the present. Cut to our hero of the present, chumming it up with her mentor/partner, until he's cut down by the sudden emergence of a spectre of the past. As as our act ends, the two threads pull together.

It's not all that nutty (oh, how we'll get to nutty before long), and is a nice way of pulling us into the story with just enough style to it to work, but without going over the top into excessive silliness. When Ichabod awakens, he's just in a pit of clay with animals in jars. They could have gone so much more over the top that I have to give kudos to director Len Wiseman for reining it in. While his signature camera stylization is on display from time to time (there's a swooping camera shot transitioning the police car to the farm; a peephole pov in a door bit coming up later), he mostly keeps it grounded and pretty cleanly constructed. Yes, he has a bad habit of drenching everything in grey, which keeps the visuals from really popping and can lessen distinctions (you can hardly tell the Horseman's red coat is red from time to time), it's also not as overdone to the point of the Underworld films, so I'm mostly fine with it here. And while it's a trick taken directly from Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow film, the decapitation of Corbin only being seen through the blade cutting through the stable door is a nice touch.

Speaking of Burton's film, the performance of the Horseman is very reminiscent of Ray Park's work there. It's a little overly animated in movement, with a little too much flourish to the constantly flipping and whirling axe (and later, guns). I get the idea, that they're compensating for a lack of facial expressiveness, and it isn't so silly as to detract from the show, but I do wish they'd chill it out just a hair.

The other performances are all pretty strong. I'll get into our two leads in a bit, as well as John Cho, but I like the fakeout of bringing in a familiar face in the form of Clancy Brown as the town sheriff, then ripping him away by the end of the first act. Sure, it's a bit of a stretch that Ye Olde Voorhees could stand a chance against the Kurgan, but the lack of Queen on the soundtrack has understandably sapped the timeless barbarian of his power, to fall at the quickening of a lesser timeless barbarian.

And speaking of soundtrack, the Rolling Stones tune is an odd choice. I don't dislike it, but it is unexpected.

Act 2

A grumbling Ichabod is in an interrogation room, trying to wrap his head around the concept of a polygraph machine and the charges he's up against. As they proceed with the questioning, he reveals he was a professor at Merton's College, and was an enlisted British officer until he defected and fought on the side of the Americans, under the direct command of George Washington. After Ichabod beheaded the Horseman, he was taken to triage, where his wife Katrina was a nurse. We flashback to her sobbing over Ichabod as he bleeds out from the gash on his chest. He then blacked out, waking up in the cave. Ichabod is done answering questions and demands to know where he is.

Interrogator: "The question isn't where... but when."


Oh wait, he doesn't pull shades out of his pocket, just a one dollar bill, which fascinates Ichabod with its portrait of Washington... and the Freemason pyramid on the back? He's also stunned to learn over 200 years have passed while he was asleep in the ground.

Meeting with Abbie and Captain Frank Irving, the interrogator tells them Ichabod didn't spike once on the polygraph. The two men brush him off as insane and Captain Irving wants him carted off to the state mental hospital. Abbie points out the bits where the stories add up and asks for time to interrogate Ichabod further, but Captain Irving won't hear of it. He does, however, allow Abbie to be the officer in charge of transporting Ichabod to the hospital.

Her first real encounter with Ichabod doesn't start well when he asks if she, a black woman, has been emancipated from enslavement, then going on about him being a supporter of the abolitionist movement. She begrudgingly plays along, filling him in on just how much has changed in the last few years. As they drive, we get the now famous because it's a joke we've heard over and over again Starbucks scene from the ads. Anyways, he reads her well and realizes her search for what happened to her partner has hit a wall and she's coming to him because she has no other options. Even though she keeps trying to convince herself the bizarro skews in reality she's encountering are impossible.

As they pass the church, Ichabod locks eyes with Reverend Knapp, remembering a man in the past who looked exactly like him, leaning over his hospital bed and telling Katrina, "We don't have much time."

Ichabod takes Abbie to the cave, where she maps out the clay pit and jars... after showing him how to use a flashlight. He discovers a bible where he was buried, with a marker on the page describing the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Including one on a white horse with a bow in his hand. JUST LIKE THE BRANDING ON THE HAND OF THE YE OLDE VOORHEES. The rider is Death. Ichabod tells of how Washington believed the Revolutionary War wasn't just a decider of the fate between countries, but of every life on the planet Earth, and that he, Ichabod, had been personally tasked with tracking and taking on the mercenary Horseman. She's having a hard time believing any of this, especially as Ichabod lays it on thick that the Horseman will never stop.

Cut to the Horseman, galloping through the woods, the eyes of his steed glowing as red as the blade of his axe.

At the church, Reverend Knapp rushes to the nearby cemetery, with a shovel in hand and a tombstone with the Freemason pyramid right there in closeup, but the horseman arrives and cuts him off. As the headless figure approaches the Reverend, axe raised, Knapp mutters an arcane language and CHAINS RIP OFF THE FENCE AND FLY AT THE HORSEMAN, wrapping his waist and limbs. The Horseman's axe cuts through them like butter, and despite the best efforts of the Reverend's wizardry, the man finds himself cornered.

Knapp: "I'll never tell you where it is. I'm prepared to die."

Hack. The Horseman walks away.

*dramatic commercial break music*

* * *

Yes, they actually went there, making the Horseman a full on force of the Apocalypse - with the fact that he's headless only being a temporary setback - whom Washington was fighting the Revolutionary War against so as to delay the end of the world. I... don't mind this. I mean, I mind it if that really was the only reason for the Revolutionary War, but I can understand if it was something bigger that seeped into the War as events escalated to a point where it determined the state of the world's next few hundred years. If that's the case, though, does this mean the present day is at a point which will again significantly determine future events, and that's why the Horseman is again awake? Is this about the recession and the tea party and the pending production of the 50 Shades of Grey movie?

I'm getting a little ahead of myself. I don't mind this aspect from a narrative standpoint. Yes, it's nutty, but it gives stakes which escalate the story beyond our characters just running around in a constant cat & mouse struggle against Ye Olde Voorhees, which is what I was worried this show would be from the trailers. I like that it's reaching further, thinking bigger, and potentially biting off more than it can chew in an interesting way, as that's what it needs to do in order to sustain itself in the long run. Look at Supernatural, which was initially just a brew of Dukes of Hazzard and The X-Files, but went in a similar End of Days direction of nuttiness, and is still on the air nine years later. Is this a plot twist guaranteed to work? No, but even if it fails, it promises to fail spectacularly.

It also bumps up our main villain, the Horseman, as a literal faceless force of nature, a killing machine which can be impeded but never fully stopped. We'll get into this more, but that at least makes him a neat threat. Other things we'll get into more are the whole secret society clues.

What I'll get into now are the performances of our main leads. Can you tell the producers of this show are fans of Elementary? Because that rendition of Sherlock Holmes was all I could think about during this stretch. His quippy arrogance, the grumbliness of a Youtube puppy, the way he quickly and accurately "reads" Abbie, the constant use of harpsichord and cello music on the score. There's a dash of Mulder there, with his "I know it's crazy, but that doesn't make it any less true", but he's so deeply Johnny Lee Miller's Sherlock that it's a little awkward. It's also awesome, as I like that characterization, it fits well here, and Tom Mison plays it masterfully, making his Ichabod both a scholar and a soldier, but it definitely wears its network-ordained influences on its sleeve, which is a little off-putting given that the influence is so recent and still an active part of the landscape. See also: The Black List v. Hannibal.

Nicole Beharie is also great as Abbie, especially when she goes along with Ichabod's culture shock before dropping truth bombs on him. The "emancipated slave" conversation is something which could have been painfully bad (especially given that Orci & Kurtzman are responsible for co-writing the first two horribly racist Transformers films under Michael Bay), but it's actually quite well done. She says that yes, she is a black woman, but she's also a cop in a day and age where the mindset of Ichabod's world is history, and then moves on. It acknowledges a culture clash which would realistically arise in the situation, but then resolves it and it's no longer an issue, with Ichabod then more concerned about why women are wearing trousers. Even then, she tell him to move on and he does, showing a character willing to cope and evolve with his surroundings instead of clinging to the ways of the past.

I also like the idea of Abbie being three days away from a retirement which hasn't already killed her yet. On the one hand, she wants to believe Ichabod, but isn't high enough in the pecking order of her precinct to have full control over the situation. On the other, she's already shutting down as she prepares for the impending move, and is debating if she wants to fully invest herself in something she's going to have to walk away from pretty soon. Instead of making her the token Scully skeptic to Ichabod's Mulder, she's shown pretty quickly to have an open mind, but has realistic reasons behind her hesitations, and I like the way it steadily dawns on her that she's actually in the situation she's in. The way her discussion with Ichabod goes from her humoring him to actually taking his culture clash into consideration. The way she enters the cave and instantly starts recording notes about the "awakening pit". The details may not make sense, but she's noting them and paying attention. "Impossible" keeps coming up, but she doesn't use that to blind herself like her superior is apparently doing.

And speaking of her superior: Frank Irving. I see what you did there.

Oh, and as I take a quick peek at Irving's Wikipedia page (nope, his name isn't actually Francis), I see he was also the author of Rip Van Winkle. THIS MAKES A LOT MORE SENSE NOW.

I should note that while we did read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow way way way back in junior high, I haven't read it again since, and I've never read Rip Van Winkle. I think I'll save both for the end of the season, but feel free to fill me in on any direct references.

And before we move on, yes the Reverend IS A WIZARD WHOSE INCANTATIONS CAUSE CHAINS TO COME ALIVE. That's added to the list of things I did not expect to see going into this show. Let's see if the list here can top the one I had for the gloriously nutty Zero Hour.

Also, yes, I know a lot of the "dude from the past is boggled at the present day" jokes are pretty cliched (Starbucks!), but the thing about cliches is there's always going to be someone experiencing them for the first time, so as long as they're done well, I don't care. And most of the stuff here is done well. Yes, even the Starbucks scene. And Ichabod discovering how to operate the window of the car. And his aghastment at learning what a polygraph machine is. Though why Abbie describes the flashlight as "like a gun" is a bit weird. They did have lanterns back in the day with directional lenses. I'm more surprised he never once asks about electricity.

Act 3

Abbie and Ichabod arrive at the church, which is an active crimescene crawling with cops. She tells him to stay in the car, his protests thwarted by him not yet knowing how to open the door. She confronts Captain Irving, pointing out the same cauterized wounds, and that Ichabod couldn't be involved in the killings as he was in her custody the whole time. Irving instead tears into her for putting her faith in a loon, and angers more when he sees Ichabod slip out of the car and into the graveyard. Abbie is then confronted by Brooks, who asks if she realizes the risk of putting so much trust in such an impossible source.

Ichabod is again following the bird (seriously, is it a falcon of some sort? They never say in the episode and I know jack all about identifying birds). Abbie meets him in the cemetery as he uncovers the grave - with the pyramid on its head, the one the Reverend was approaching - of Katrina, his wife, which says she was burned as a witch the year after he disappeared. He flashes to her in the triage tent, saying there's something she hasn't told him. In the present, Abbie has a mini-meltdown, unable to both process everything she's learned and to figure out how to even begin presenting it to people who have every reason to believe it less than she does. Ichabod is crushed, especially when he learns she'll be leaving in a few days. She's glad to be going because this isn't something she can go through... again. Ichabod pounces on that word, but she won't explain.

They both need sleep, so she takes him to the mental hospital, where he has his own private cell for the night. Ichabod is drained and starting to doubt himself, so Abbie explains the "again". In high school, she and her sister Jenny were passing through the woods. They came across four white trees, lined up in a row. At their base was a shadowy... thing, they couldn't tell if it was a man or an animal. They blacked out and were found soon after on the side of the road. Their claims were dismissed as crazy, and while Abby let it go, Jenny clung to it and has shuffled around the mental health care system. Visiting hours are over, so Abbie and Ichabod share momentary, meaningful farewells.

That night, Abbie sneaks into Sheriff Corbin's office, where she eventually uncovers the key to a filing cabinet filled with notes and articles Corbin gathered, detailing witches and the occult history of Sleepy Hollow, specifically a pair of covens which integrated into the populace; one good, one evil. There's also a revolutionary era map marked with dozens of cases, an article about Abbie and Jenny's encounter, and reports of a farmer from 1882 who saw the exact same thing on the exact same spot. The trees are believe to represent the Four Horsemen. In his recordings, he says he wants to tell Abbie what he's found, he just doesn't know how.

With the exception of the folded map which is tucked in her belt, Abbie locks everything else back in the cabinet just as she's interrupted by Captain Irving. She says she was just looking through old files, trying to help, and he tells her to go home and rest. Off his suspicious look

*dramatic commercial break music*

* * *

Two additional big twists come to light in this act. The first is that Abbie isn't entirely clean of history with the occult of the region. The four trees are a neat image, one that'll likely be recurring quite often (it will again in the next act), and I like the blurry glimpses we see of the "demon" at their roots. It'll also be interesting seeing how certain revelations affect Abbie's views on her sister now that she knows they weren't crazy as children.

Our second big twist is a bit more blatant, and that's the Sheriff's magical filing cabinet of spoilers. Abbie reads enough to corroborate everything Ichabod has told her, and she leaves with a handy map marking down specific sites and phenomena which is likely to form our "plot of the week" structure. My problem with this is, instead of our heroes going out and making discoveries of their own, they're essentially retreading stuff which has already been uncovered without them. It's a blatant mission statement television writing device, with a handy checklist to carry us from story to story to story, and suggests we will indeed be getting a bit more of an episodic layout than initially expected. Again, Supernatural has pulled off something similar in the past. However... Supernatural has already pulled off something similar in the past. It's not doing much to set this show apart from the herd.

I'm willing to go with it for one reason: Clancy Brown. I was wondering why they cast him in a one-off roll, and it seems quite likely now that he actually will be popping up from time to time as a voice on a recorder speaking from the past. If you're going to get an actor who becomes little more than a voice after his initial appearance, it's hard to go wrong with Clancy Brown.

And this seems like a good time to say a bit about Orlando Jones. I like Jones, always have since his 7-Up era of fame. The character here is just too thin and way too by-the-numbers "hard-nosed captain who's not helping". There's of course every reason for him to be an obstructionist (SECRET COVEN SOCIETIES), but it still comes off forced and dry. This is cliches being cliched, but done poorly. I wish they'd get into him a little more deeply, maybe give more of a personal reason for why he wants Abbie to back down. I'm not saying relationship, but the trauma of having witnessed her friend and partner's decapitation has been brushed over pretty quickly, and concern over her mental state (especially given revelations about her sister, which is likely to be on her file) isn't being explored as much as it could be.

Act 4

Ichabod comes to in his cell, the "falcon" perched at the foot of his bed. It passes through the mirror over his sink, which opens into the forest. Katrina is there, and Ichabod is now in the forest with her. She says the grave bearing her name actually houses the Horseman's skull, which was guarded over by a member of her coven (Reverend Knapp). "... Then you are a witch." Yes, but her order is tasked with safeguarding the world from the evil within Sleepy Hollow. When the injured Ichabod beheaded the Horseman, their blood pooled together, creating an unbreakable link between them. In order to seal the Horseman away, Katrina was forced to cast a spell on both, leaving the Horseman asleep in a casket at the base of the river, Ichabod in the clay of his cave. The reason Ichabod is awake is because someone broke the spell over the Horseman. That same someone is the force keeping Katrina locked in this plane, and it's quickly approaching. Ichabod has to keep the Horseman from retrieving the skull as that will make him whole and set about the awakening of the other three. The Horseman is vulnerable to sunlight... because. The answers are in Washington's Bible. Ichabod is the First Witness!

He whirls around to find the blurred man-beast thing (it has ram horns), which lashes at him just as Ichabod awakens in his cell. Orderlies have him pinned to the bed and a doctor is just about to administer a sedative. Abbie is at the door, telling the doctor to stand down. She hands the doctor a court order and leaves with Ichabod, telling him to hurry because it won't take them long to figure out the order is bunk. As they drive away, they fill each other in on their respective discoveries, Ichabod recognizing the map as one personally made and used by George Washington. Abbie finally accepts the reality of her situation.

Abbie calls Brooks, telling him to meet her at the church with backup. He begrudgingly agrees, but as he returns home, he finds his apartment door kicked in and his weapons locker torn open. Rising from a chair is the Horseman, his red coat laden with holstered guns of all sizes and belts of ammunition.

Brooks: "I know where it is."

*dramatic commercial break music*

* * *

So on top of everything that's going on, Ichabod now also has to save his wife from some space between the dimensions, and that she's the one who's been using the "falcon" as a kind of animal form spirit guide to help him. And, yes, she's a witch, but she's a good witch, not a bad witch. And that all the bad guys are in collusion with the blurred demon figure thingie. I don't mind all of this, as the lack of grief on Ichabod's part regarding the loss of his wife now makes sense given that she'll continue to play into events, and he has something personal to save beyond just the mere rest of the world, which more deeply invests him emotionally. I think this is a bit much to dump on us all at once in an episode already spilling over with such a wild melange of concepts and idea, but I'll run with it.

And, okay, Ichabod and the Horseman are linked because their blood pooled on the battlefield. Remember, kids, if you ever do the "blood brothers/sister/siblings" exchange with a friend, that means you'll only live as long as they do. My Girl is a lie.

We've got one more stretch before I get into Brooks, but I like how well our leads are working together. Ichabod and Abbie are at the point now where they take what the other learns at face value, pooling their information and driving forward, which is always a good state to have our heroes in leading up to the climax. Too many shows would drag out their tension, making an entire series *cough*X-Files*cough* of it, whereas I much prefer getting through it quick and moving on. There's also a refreshing lack of "will they/won't they" to the relationship here (please, please, please don't go there down the road), instead making them true partners on a quest against outside forces. The two are perfectly cast, their chemistry is great, and I'm invested in them for the long haul.

Act 5

Ichabod and Abbie are at the cemetery, digging up Katrina's grave, where they find an elaborately sealed jar containing the mummified head of the Horseman. It's eyes open, and the Horseman appears, unloading his guns into the surrounding tombstones. Abbie runs for cover, Ichabod hides in the grave, only getting a chance to flee when Abbie empties a clip in the Horseman. While Ichabod and the Horseman tussle, Abbie is met by Brooks, who says he called in backup, but then knocks her out with the butt of his gun. While she's in a daze, he tries shoving her in his car, telling her he wished it didn't have to be this way but that the Horseman is pure death. She comes to enough to partially bite off his thumb (great subtle CG effect), then take his gun, forcing him to cuff himself to the car.

Ichabod finally flees with the head, the Horseman on his tail. As it bends in the road to retrieve an assault rifle, other cops arrive at the scene, now taking in the supernatural sight. The rising sun starts searing the Horseman, so he opens fire on the cops (just messing up their car; they're fine which is good as they're momentary comic relief) and rides off into the morning mists. As they take stock of the situation, Irving and Abby share a smile, having survived a night to remember.

At the station, Captain Irving is pissed and still wrapping his head around the situation, but the cops back up Abbie's claims, and Brooks has given them a full confession, with the demand he'll only speak to our two leads. So Irving has no real choice but to let them run with their now official investigation. Abbie even decides to call off her transfer to the FBI so she can stay and see this through.

Pulling Abbie aside, Ichabod points out that Katrina called him the First Witness. The Book of Revelations speaks of two Witnesses, who go through "a seven-year 'Period of Tribulation' to defend humanity from the forces of Hell. Their battle is prophesied to ordain the fate of the world... on Judgment Day." Ichabod believes Abbie is the other Witness, and this seven-year period refers to them. Brooks said something about a war that's coming, now it's time to find out what he meant.

Cut to Brooks in his cell, as the blurry man-beast demon thingie... Y'know what, I'm just going to call him Baddie Blur from now on... as Baddie Blur jerkily lurches into the cell, telling Brooks he's failed, then snaps the man's head back between his shoulder blades with the flick of a hand. As Ichabod and Abbie walk in, they see Baddie Blur walk into the mirror, shuffling deeper into the forest dimension.

Clancy Brown: "And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, 'Come and see.' "

Baddie Blur slowly turns to look at them, suddenly whipping back, shattering the mirror and leaving them looking at nothing but broken glass.

Clancy Brown: "Then behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."

And off the dramatic looks of Ichabod and Abbie, cue up Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" as we cut to the title card:


* * *

So not only is there an apocalypse coming, but a looming war, making me wonder again just how far into the political climate they're willing to go. Is this an international war, a civil one, a new uprising, a new revolution to echo the period from which Ichabod came? I guess we'll have to see. It's awfully ambitious, vastly more so than the "let's follow a map to our plot each week" they've already set up, but again, they're playing the long game up front, even specifically voicing the seven years they'll need to sell proper syndication numbers. Even if the show spectacularly fails in its attempts to live up to that promise, through either cancellation or poor handling, I'll give it point for trying and making such a bold claim. So we'll see.

I'm also curious just how far they're going to take the secret societies of the coven. We've already seen them make use of the Illuminati/Mason symbol of the broken pyramid with the all-seeing eye, but how far will that take it into uncovering the "hidden" meaning behind America's creation? Looking around, Washington Irving was a little young to be a peer of the Founding Fathers (he was 9 when Ben Franklin died, 16 at the death of Washington), so he can't easily be tied in with conspiracy theories. And from a period where Freemasons openly acknowledged their affiliation, there's no mention of Irving being a part of the organization. That said, he had a fascination with Washington, his last works of writing being a 5-volume biography of the President, so having our first elected leader be a character in the story is no more of a stretch than the addition of Rip Van Winkle.

So that's my main question for the show: how far will they go? Getting into conspiracy theories will set a fire under historical nitpickers (despite the show having people walking around without heads, chain-whipping wizards, and Baddie Blur), and setting up a looming war is always a hot button topic as someone will always be pissed to find their beliefs tied to the side of the antagonists. My advice (because I totally know they're reading this, especially the receptive Bob Orci) would be to just go for it. Push, piss people off, be bold and tell as big of a story you want to tell. It'll most likely fail, but will at least do so in a memorable way, and if it succeeds, hey, you did it, here's a cookie and all my moneys for the Blu-Ray set.

But that's all still a long way off. First, we need to see what's up in the town of Sleepy Hollow itself, following the damned convenient points on that damned convenient map as they try to locate the Hellmouth and keep the other three white trees from springing a rider from their roots. I have no clue what direction they'll go with this, if they'll be following a chain of historical clues or taking on the "wizard of the week", on sides both good and bad. Our stage has been set, so we have to wait until next week before we see them settle onto the path they intend to follow.

And I'm in. I really like the cast. Wiseman establishes a nice look for the show. The Horseman - who has upped himself from Ye Olde Voorhees to the Voorheesinator by episode's end - is a formidable force constantly thwacking at our heroes' napes. There's tons of mysteries to explore. Tons of nuttiness to revel in. Tons of further oddball direction they can roll towards.

I can't say it's a good episode, but it's very definitely an entertaining one, and handled with much more skill than I expected going in. So yeah, episode 1 is a recommend.

Oh, John Cho. Haven't really talked about him yet. Yeah, I was wondering why, like Clancy Brown, they got a pretty decent name actor in a largely supporting role (how is easy, given it's the same writers/producers as his pair of summer blockbusters), and it turns out to be for the same reason: to get our attention so we'll listen as they get the ball rolling. Brooks* is done and gone now, but thanks to Cho, he's left an impression and some cryptic questions in his wake.

Though there's one question I'd like an answer to right now... could they really not afford to license Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around"? I know it's been used a ton in movies and TV the last few year, but when Clancy Brown started reciting the same verses quoted by the song, I expected the scratchy recording to be followed by that great guitar strum. No, we instead get a reprise of Rolling Stones. Which is just... I don't get it.

[* IMDB lists John Cho's character as "Andy Dunn", and it was only near the end of this piece I caught the revised name "Brooks" in the episode. Bless you "search and replace".]


Abby's sister Jenny will show up again, especially now that Abbie knows her past experience is real.

More wizards and witches.

Season 1 ends with the Horseman getting back his head. By then, the series will have established itself and will no longer need the classic iconography.

At some point, Ichabod will have to drive a car, and will do so horribly.


Strannik said...

First of all, holy crap was that a bloody long post.

I get that this blog is called a "Journal of Obsessive Completist" (emphasis on "Obsessive Completist"). And yes, my reviews tend to be long, rambling affairs. But this was still too long. And what made it seem even longer was the < Recap Act [#] + Review Act [#] * 5 > structure. I'm just not convinced any of those acts requires quite that much elaboration.

I just think it would work better if you do more of Showcase-style < recap+review > structure. Or with Cleolinda's recap/review hybrid.

(And now I'm trying to imagine what would happen if you used this structure on Short-Lived Showcase. Brr.)

All that aside - I do think that Sleepy Hollow works better than, say, Zero Hour, or 666 Park Avenue for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. The leads are engaging and share great chemistry, the show treats its ridiculous plot elements with just the right balance of seriousness and silliness... and it's just a generally entertaining show. Entertaining enough to make me overlook the fact the the writers twist Book of Revelation in a very weird direction, or historical inaccuracies, or plot elements that don't make sense if you think about them for too long. Even if Sleepy Hollow gets cancelled in a few episodes, at least it will be an entertaining ride.

Can you tell the producers of this show are fans of Elementary? Because that rendition of Sherlock Holmes was all I could think about during this stretch. His quippy arrogance, the grumbliness of a Youtube puppy, the way he quickly and accurately "reads" Abbie, the constant use of harpsichord and cello music on the score.

That didn't occur to me at all, but now that you say it, I guess I can see it.

Looking around, Washington Irving was a little young to be a peer of the Founding Fathers (he was 9 when Ben Franklin died, 16 at the death of Washington), so he can't easily be tied in with conspiracy theories.

I got the impression that Washington Irving didn't exist in SH-verse. And even if I'm wrong, I think it would be better to establish he doesn't exist. Otherwise, we'd have way too many questions the show doesn't need to get bogged down in.

I'm also curious just how far they're going to take the secret societies of the coven. We've already seen them make use of the Illuminati/Mason symbol of the broken pyramid with the all-seeing eye, but how far will that take it into uncovering the "hidden" meaning behind America's creation?

If the show actually lasts, I hope they'll delve into American myths and popular culture in general. Native American spirits, folk figures like Paul Banyan and John Henry, real people that have become myths like Buffalo Bill and Johnny Appleseed. Or, heck, delve into dime novel archetypes - cowboys, young inventors exploring the frontier, that sort of thing.

NoelCT said...

First of all, holy crap was that a bloody long post. [...] But this was still too long.

And what made it seem even longer was the < Recap Act [#] + Review Act [#] * 5 > structure. [...] I just think it would work better if you do more of Showcase-style < recap+review > structure. Or with Cleolinda's recap/review hybrid.

First of all, mine is the same length as Cleo's recaps. The act breaks were intentional, to not only focus my commentary, but also leave points where people could easily leave and come back. As for jumping from synopsis to review, back and forth, that's far easier for me than meshing it all together in such an expanded format. I tried that with my 50 Shades reviews, it drove me insane. I'd rather set the stage first, then discuss, instead of trying a running commentary as things play out.

That said, I probably will shorten it to something more akin to the Showcase. This was an experiment on my part, and while I'm largely satisfied with the results, it was a hell of a lot of typing. Also, I feel there was enough craziness going on in the episode to justify exploring it to such lengths.

(And now I'm trying to imagine what would happen if you used this structure on Short-Lived Showcase. Brr.)

Different project, different intent.

...twist Book of Revelation in a very weird direction, or historical inaccuracies, or plot elements that don't make sense if you think about them for too long.

I never understood the demand for absolute historical accuracy in works of fiction. Specifically works of fantastical fiction. It's a fantasy. Let them have fun with it. All I care is whether or not the story is good. :)

I got the impression that Washington Irving didn't exist in SH-verse. And even if I'm wrong, I think it would be better to establish he doesn't exist. Otherwise, we'd have way too many questions the show doesn't need to get bogged down in.

Yeah, if he was, you'd have somebody mention his work by now. And wondering if Captain Irving was a descendant.

If the show actually lasts, I hope they'll delve into American myths and popular culture in general. Native American spirits, folk figures like Paul Banyan and John Henry, real people that have become myths like Buffalo Bill and Johnny Appleseed.

Yes! I really like this idea, of a story which brings to life all the figure of American colonial mythology. :D