Years Active: 2013-current
Years Reviewed: 2014-15
- Tom Mison
- Nicole Beharie
- Orlando Jones
- Katia Winter
- Lyndie Greenwood
- John Noble
- Jeremy Owens
- Neil Jackson
- Matt Barr
Action, adventure, and dry wit re-unite in a solid sophomore season of genre TV.
Caution: Minor Spoilers for Season Two. And complete Spoilers for Season One.
I was a huge fan of the première season of ‘Sleepy Hollow’. Taking the “man out of time formula” and adapting to a modern-day demon hunt filled with witches, warlocks, and madcap mayhem. With a more breathing room and five extra episodes this season, it struggles with a few too many extra characters and a mid-season lack of focus. However, it’s easily forgiven when the result is just so damn much fun.
Last season saw Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) arriving from the 18th century and partnering up with sheriff deputy Abigail Mills (Nicole Beharie) to fight the rise of master demon Moloch and his four horsemen of the apocalypse, of which, the “Headless Horseman” is the Horseman of Death. Their fight eventually leads to the discovery that Crane’s own son Henry (John Noble) is actually the Horseman of War and in embittered, revenge seeking fashion Henry offers Abby in exchange for his “trapped in purgatory” mother Katrina (Katia Winter) and then buries his father Ichabod alive before escaping.
Now to start Season 2, Abbie’s ex-boss and fellow ally Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) is in an asylum after taking the blame for a police officer murder that his possessed-by-demon daughter committed. So Abbie (after escaping purgatory) and Crane working with Abbie’s recently released from that very same asylum sister Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) must tread carefully on their mission to save the world. And there’s a new sheriff in town and she’s a total by the book hard-ass (Sakina Jaffrey).
With the promotion of “Jenny”/Northwood and “Henry”/Noble to series regulars the focus on our two leads is already being stretched. The addition of local rare artifact black marketeer Nick Hawley (Matt Barr) to our “Scooby Gang” takes even more away from what made Season One so good. Although Hawley is an interesting rogue element and a nice grey area potential love interest for the treading on the dark side Jenny, I found his hit and run appearances more distracting than beneficial.
Most of the first half of the season is spent on their continued fight with Moloch and his agents of the apocalypse, Horseman of War Henry and Headless Horseman of Death, now with head (mostly) intact courtesy of a magical necklace. Before being all “headless” this horseman was once a BFF with the 18th century Ichabod and a suitor for Crane’s eventual wife Katrina. Nothing like bringing lots of personal baggage to a demon fight.
Both horsemen, an estranged son and a scorned lover, hold captive the recently arrived from purgatory Katrina. Oh, BTW, Katrina is a seasoned witch (from Salem, no less). She gets more to do the season, as both a spy for Crane and Abbie from within the “inner circle” and as a mother trying to reconnect to her turned to evil son Henry. For most of the first half her presence is welcomed, much more so than her fleeting and hard to explain presence last season–for someone trapped in purgatory she sure got a lot of visitors;)
However, now that Mr. Headless has a head and is presented as an embittered, spurned lover (albeit, a demonic one), he is much less imposing. Something about a shotgun wielding Headless Horseman and his magical axe of decapitating doom is super cool. With a head and full of angst, not so much. Actor Neil Jackson is fine with the role, it’s just not what I expected, nor wanted.
But, that sharp humor and insider alternate history take on the birth of the US of A remains fully intact. As Crane learns to drive, to surf the web–“I must internet immediately!”, and to adjust to all that a 21st Century offers. Of course, he refuses to modernize his fashion–one’s got to have boundaries. We meet Benjamin Franklin (Timothy Busfield) and Thomas Jefferson (Steven Weber) over the course of the year and get more of those juicy Crane flashbacks showing us how our country was actually formed. Apparently, Ichabod Crane wrote the Declaration of Independence;)
And Crane and “leff-tenant” Mills’ growing bond and partnership continues to drive and unite the series. If all the other characters simply went away the Ichabod/Abbie show would we good enough. Beharie and Mison are wonderful together. Without nary a romantic spark between them, they forge this perilous union and champion on without hesitation. Love their natural, playful rapport–bickering and bantering like an old married couple. Even after that trust is tested over the course of a few episodes you still feel that loyalty.
It is clear that show runner Mark Goffman (most probably under pressure from FOX) is pushing towards a more traditional procedural format. Sometimes it works, but most often it’s the on the rails serial elements that keep us most engaged. Every time they go off to fight some random demon/ghost/tormented spirit it seems like a departure from their overarching fight against Moloch and his allies. At least, they attempt to connect the dots of these “random” encounters to the overall plot, mostly surrounding the always scheming Henry.
Highlights this season include the exciting première episode that lays the foundation for the entire season, the perfunctory rescue Katrina episode “The Kindred”, “Deliverance” where Headless and Crane/Abbie both attempt to save Katrina from eminent doom, in “Heartless” a deadly succubus ravages Sleepy Hollow putting Hawley in her cross-hairs, a big all-encompassing Headless/Crane showdown in the gorgon pit of “Magnum Opus”, the pinnacle mid-season finale putting Henry’s ultimate loyalties to test at the end of the world, “Paradise Lost” offers up a crazy demon-hunting angel vs. Headless battle, then in “Spellcaster” an evil warlock pushes Katrina’s buttons and perfectly sets-up the final three episodes that unload shifting allegiances, zombified Revolutionary War guards, Thomas Jefferson(!), and Abbie/Katrina going back to 1781 in a time-bending alternate-reality season finale. And one can’t forget Ben Franklin’s decapitation! Great stuff.
If this show is renewed (an uncertain fate) FOX has indicated it wants more procedural episodes. I think that’s a mistake, serial shows have surged lately because they demand commitment and loyalty. In a world where every episode is but a smart phone tap away, it’s hard to justify trading season long Big Bads for “Monster of the Week”. Alas, if it gets renewal I’ll take what I can get.
Another stellar showcase for the period detail design work in the costuming, props, and sets (either practical or digital). The direction and production quality is picture perfect. The writing trips up at times, but ‘Sleepy Hollow’ is still more intelligent, funny, and cool than most anything on TV right now.
Tom Mison remains the ideal “Ichabod Crane”, able to properly enunciate and awkwardly dispense 21st Century slang while convincing as an intelligent, bad ass 18th Century warrior. Nicole Beharie compliments Mison well with “Abbie’s” more shoot from the hip style. One of the best TV partnerships, definitely the most fun.
John Noble is awesome, as usual. It is unfortunate that he is mostly absent for the back half, but Henry gets a few moments to shine. Lyndie Greeenwood is OK as “Jenny”, a kinda one-note tag along who makes less impact this season as just another one of the gang–she was more compelling last season as the wild, might be nutso asylum patient. And Orlando Jones does a good job in his mostly confined to brief appearances season. Hopefully, Jones gets more to do next season (if we get a next season), his raw intensity adds some legitimacy to all the madness.
Katia Winter as “Katrina Crane” never really found her footing, in either season. Not really her fault, the writers never seemed to know what to do with her character–is she a helpless victim in need of rescuing, a powerful ally, or a potential bad-ass magic yielding threat?
Special note to the wrap-up at the end of the season finale. It provides the perfect conclusion to the series if not renewed. Allowing for bigger things to come without teasing us with any of those spiteful and absolutely hated cliffhangers. “Friends don’t let friends watch cliffhanger finales!”
Some of the sheen has worn off from the exceptional Season One of ‘Sleepy Hollow’. But what remains is still damn cool and damn fun. Witty, exciting “Monster of the Week” entertainment. And easily Recommended.
p.s. Just announced, we will get an 18-episode third season. Woo-hoo! A new showrunner, though. We’ll see.
Ken Olin, director
John R. Leonetti, director