Monday, September 30, 2013

REVIEW: 'Sleepy Hollow' Battles the Sandman and is Stung by Scorpions in 'For the Triumph of Evil'

FOX's Sleepy Hollow - Episode 1.03 For the Triumph of Evil

Another soldier in the army of evil, the Sandman, seeps into the dreams of Sleepy Hollow residents. By infiltrating their minds at night, he tortures them to the brink - all because they, at one time, turned a blind eye to justice. When the Sandman seemingly sets his sights on Abbie, she is forced to begin to face her past. With Ichabod by her side, and her life at stake, the duo must try to defeat the Sandman and continue their fight against evil.

I loved the pilot for Sleepy Hollow. I completely bought into the creepy craziness. And loved the two leading characters and the odd couple chemistry they have together. Episode two, "Blood Moon," faltered a bit for me. It worked hard to set up the show's structure on a week-to-week basis. Basically every week Ichabod and Crane will be tracking down a different supernatural being as they try to bring havoc to the town of Sleepy Hollow. The monster-of-the-week plotting is perfectly fine for this show. But in the second hour, the case of the witch was simply too simple and bogged down by the mechanics used to set it up. I would rather just watch more of Ichabod reacting to 21st century technology. That is completely amusing and often the biggest delight in each episode.

The plot of the third hour "For the Triumph of Evil" basically boiled down to those same issues. The Sandman was a creepy villain. I have to give props to the show in that their creatures are some of the scariest things on TV this year. But it was also kinda predictable on how Abbie would defeat this creature once it was revealed that he preyed on the people who turned their backs to the truth. The first half of this hour is pure set up of this creature and it's painfully routine and structured.

Additionally, the plot being reduced down to a myth or story that Ichabod had heard about in the 18th century is a well that the show has gone down in both "Blood Moon" and "For the Triumph of Evil." That will get very tiring very quickly if the show continues to do that. It's fine at the moment but it is the thing I'm most worried about moving forward as the series' embraces this monster-of-the-week structure.

Things do start to kick into high gear once Abbie and Ichabod head to the dream world and start their battle against the Sandman. Ichabod's reasoning to get the local used cars salesman / only big Native American guy in town to help them was very sound and smart. The set pieces of the dream world were the best of the episode. When the show fully commits to just being as crazy as it can be, it is often very great. Trying to over-explain and rationalize things bogs down these episodes. It's simple growing pains as the series tries to hit its stride.

The story revolving around Abbie's sister is the clear serialized arc of these first few episodes. It is interesting albeit not as entertaining or exciting as the crazy, supernatural stuff also going on. There's no way that Jenny is going to last for a long time on this series. But right now, she's an intriguing side plot and when the show does shine more focus on it - like it did tonight - it does offer something compelling. I honestly have no clue what this show is ultimately building towards. But I actually like that a lot. It's mysterious in the way that draws you in and makes you keep watching. And that's just exciting to see unfold.

Some more thoughts:
  • Ichabod reacts to modern objects: Fast forward button on the remote, energy drinks and the destruction of the Native American culture.
  • I love the opening title sequence. It perfectly encapsulates the series as a whole. But Ichabod's opening narrative before each episode - a common trope as of late - is better than most but is still pretty perfunctory.
  • And the production design continues to be amazing - even on the more condensed budget.
  • Captain Frank: "Last thing we need is another episode of The Twilight Zone." I don't entirely trust the captain. He needs to figure more into the larger mythology otherwise it's just a waste of that character.
  • The show had to use the song "Mr. Sandman" tonight. Just because.