Monday, September 22, 2014

REVIEW: 'Sleepy Hollow' - Henry Is Ichabod and Abbie's Prisoner as They Go Hunting for a Key in 'This Is War'

FOX's Sleepy Hollow - Episode 2.01 "This Is War"

Ichabod finds himself buried alive in a coffin; Abbie is trapped in purgatory; Katrina has been kidnapped by the Headless Horseman; Captain Frank Irving is behind bars for a murder he did not commit; and Jenny is among the wreckage of a horrific car crash. Now, with Henry's emergence as the Horseman of War, Sleepy Hollow has never been so close to destruction.

Oh, it feels magnificent to be back in the world of Ichabod Crane, Abbie Mills and Sleepy Hollow. After a nine month hiatus, the show returns with an impressive, audacious and epic beginning for another season of crazy twists and turns. It forges ahead proudly and without caution - plot semantics be damned! It succeeds with all of it because of its emotional connection to all of its characters as well as how perfect all the actors are in their various roles.

The first two acts of the premiere are essentially one big tease! "This Is War" doesn't open with Abbie still trapped in purgatory or Crane buried alive in the coffin. It instead begins with Abbie throwing a surprise birthday party. The events then turn into a confrontation with the Headless Horseman and a conversation with Henry who they somehow have captured. Along the way, we learn that both Katrina and Jenny have been killed by the forces of evil and Ichabod and Abbie are both striving for vengeance. That is until it's revealed it's all just a trick designed by Henry and Moloch to help them learn where to find a key from Benjamin Franklin that will break the rules of purgatory. It's highly confusing but in the way that is incredibly satisfying once the reveal occurs. It's even more rewarding upon a second viewing because then you pick up on all the little tidbits that suggest this reality as slightly offbeat and heightened - comparatively speaking to the normal genre-bending narrative the series typical employs.

"This Is War" steps on the gas pedal from its first minute and doesn't let up until it's last. A ton happens and I suppose we could discuss just how easily it was for Ichabod, Abbie and company to escape from their cliffhanger predicaments. Ichabod literally blows himself up out of the ground. I didn't realize he was that mobile within that coffin. The car crash Jenny was in wasn't as life threatening as we initially read it as - all she needed was an injection to feel better. Lastly, Abbie is trapped in purgatory for the entire premiere but she does escape by the end through a plot device introduced at the beginning and which physically dissolves afterwards. I could be a tad upset by just how much the plot contorts in order to get all of these characters back into the action.

And yet, I'm not upset. This hour is exciting. From the elongated sequence at the beginning to Crane getting out of the coffin to Jenny expertly throwing a knife to Crane driving through a building to Crane entering purgatory again to rescue Abbie, it all really just worked for me because of the connections we have to these characters. It's incredibly satisfying watching Abbie know which Crane is real and which is the demon as well as their celebratory fist bump. But this war is far from over. It really is just the beginning. Henry has a new tool at his disposal - and it is badass with a sword on fire! I was worried if the show could continue at the pace and level it established wonderfully in its first season. With "This Is War," my fears have almost all been dissipated. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "This Is War" was written by Mark Goffman and directed by Ken Olin.
  • Henry: "Anything can be tricked into believing a lie." That line just has so much meaning once you realize what's happening to Ichabod and Abbie.
  • I'll admit it FOX sent out two episodes for review before the season began. I started watching "This Is War" and had to check that I started the right episode. I did and then in another minute it all made sense. 
  • Always nice to see John Cho pop up. It wasn't a big part of the episode but he did get that wonderful moment with Abbie where he claims she helps remind him that he is human. That was rewarding.
  • Timothy Busfield is a fine addition as Benjamin Franklin. It was largely an expositional role here though.
  • Just the way John Noble says "Magnificent" at the end of the premiere shows just how good he is at being bad. I'm really looking forward to what the human personification of evil will be up to this season.