If you had told me at the beginning of the Fall season that, Sleepy Hollow, a show shepherded by the not so creative trio of Len Wisemen, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman, would become a not so guilty pleasure and one of the best new shows of the season; I’d have laughed at you for a good couple of minutes. Sure the trailer was pretty good. It doesn’t change the fact the whole show is patently absurd, the Headless Horsemen is really Death, dueling covens of witches, a titanic battle between Good vs Evil in which George Washington’s Bible is the key! This is the same season that had Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD coming Marvel AND the Whedon name teaming up like Batman and Superman (OK wrong company), how could that go so so wrong and Sleepy Hollow go so right? A bit of luck, good acting from leads Tom Mison and Nicole Beherie, and situating character at the heart of everything. A trip of alchemistic chemicals Agents of SHIELD never seems to have all at once. Sleepy Hollow wasn’t great banana crazy all the time but 11/13 episodes isn’t too bad.
The end to season 1 in a two hour, two episode, finale had some clunky inauthentic drama between Crane and Mills in the first episode, “Indispensable Man”, but those final 10 minutes! War isn’t coming too Sleepy Hollow, he’s been there all along. In the form of Henry Parish, who by the way is Jeremy Crane! As it turns out young Jeremy was only mostly dead when Katrina’s coven hexed him. Left in a state of not so suspended animation, he became filled with rage at how his parents and god had forsaken him. Making him, like Abraham Van Brunt, the perfect tool for Moloch and so he became the second Horsemen: War.
John Nobel as the timid, small, quiet, Sin Eater Henry Parish, brought some real grounding to what is a totally batshit show. His quiet stammer as he was slowly drawn into this war(pun?) laid a layer of realism to this series that it’s two leads could not bring. Ripping away the curtain and revealing that Nobel is likely the big bad for next season and just evil guy monologuing for the final 10 minutes was even better. On the page, Parishs lines read like bad pulp, but Nobel executes them with such sociopathy and contempt for his parents that works. The final 10 minutes became well done melodrama, Crane and Katrina forced to do boring reactions shots notwithstanding. It was trashy but with a sense of class. This certainly pays off casting someone like Nobel.
Not everything in tonight’s finale worked for me. Starting with how the “Previously On” kind of spoiled the late game reveals for both episodes. Those are a hard thing to do well but brining up a character (well more like the idea) of Jeremy Crane just had me waiting for him to come up out of the ground, well I was half right there. The previously on didn’t show me the bomb, or let me see that 2+2=4 it just vaguely alluded to something.
The penultimate episode the “Indespensible Man” which, yes, was about George Washington coming back from the dead (ZOMBIE GEORGE WASHINGTON) and drawing a map to purgatory. That’s the kind of crazy dumbness this show gets off on, but it is normally mixed with logical and believable character drama, the latter this episode lacked. The sudden apprehension by Abbie that Icabod will turn on her felt a little forced. Like the “Previously On” referencing Jeremy it was a subject I’d thought they sufficiently squashed only for it to turn up again. Both issues here have the underlying problem of the sheer amount of ground Sleepy Hollow traversed in season 1, turning plot elements that were mostly taken care of to the wayside because our leads and the people around them, emotional journey is what mattered (and George Washington’s Bible of course). Making the interpersonal drama of potential betrayal, come off as inauthentic and purely a manifestation for the sake of plot.
The prophecy itself that a witness would turn on one another was a nice touch. Once both or even one new about it, they were both trapped by it. Unable to unknown it, the prophecy was always in the back of their mind controlling their actions. You could argue that Henry manipulated them into fulfilling it, that it wasn’t a legitimate one, but the two witnesses still clung to it hook line and sinker, making it real enough. Abbie plunged head first into being left in purgatory trying to use it as meaning for all the terribleness that’s happened to her. She has to fight Moloch in his territory Freddy Kruger style and be trapped there for the betterment of humanity. It’ll be interesting to see if the show pivots on Jenny Mills prophesied killing of her sister. In her attempts to be away from her and not kill her, she has turned herself into quiet the killing machine.
There’s no good place to put this so here it is: I don’t really care about Captain Frank Irving or his family, even if he is played by Orlando Jones. Last week’s episode was a nice pay off to some pain inducing foundational work. This show just has bigger fish to fry than getting the former spokesperson for 7-Up and Alien hunter off a murder charge.
Sleepy Hollow had all the makings of a solid B-Move that would defiantly have been directed by Len Wisemen. For all of its judeo-Christian mythology, demons, mumbo jumbo, and George Washington’s Bible, they got it right and turned B grade pulp into an A-. By focusing on the thing audiences watch TV for: characters (the cool SFX are a plus). Tom Mison and Nicole Beherie are fantastic as Crane and Mills, without them none of this would have worked nearly as well. No matter how dumb it all is (looking at you Zombie George Washington), they are at the heart of it all so I put up with it. This isn’t the type of show that’ll win a lot of awards outside of special effects but it still executes all the things quality dramas should.