Thursday, October 1, 2015

REVIEW: 'Sleepy Hollow' - Ichabod and Abbie Team Up to Battle a New Enemy in Sleepy Hollow in 'I, Witness'

FOX's Sleepy Hollow - Episode 3.01 "I, Witness"

With old enemies gone, Abbie and Crane are seemingly moving on with their lives. However, the discovery of a mysterious tablet shows that there may be a new dark prophecy surrounding our Witnesses. The two team together, with the help of an old amulet, and continue their epic takedown of the forces of evil.

The second season of Sleepy Hollow was such a colossal disaster. The characters and the narrative lost the spark that made the show so captivating in its first year. It elongated its stories in order to accommodate an increased episode order. But the actual character stories had very little substance to them. All of the characters did the same things over and over again until things could reach conflict in the big finale episodes. There was nothing propelling the show forward anymore. It was hard to understand why any of the characters did anything. It got to the point where the show had to pull a story out of nowhere in order to conclude its season. It was clunky and without any emotion or meaning. The show was simply lost.

Sleepy Hollow returns tonight for its third season with the same amount of episodes to work with in 18 but a new showrunner in Clifton Campbell. There's also been a considerable amount of cast turnover. Katrina and Henry were killed in the second season finale. They are not back. But neither is Orlando Jones as Captain Irving who is written out with the explanation that he and his family vanished one night. Meanwhile, Zach Appelman will be back as Joe Corbin but he doesn't pop up in this premiere. And lastly, Shannyn Sossamon, Lance Gross and Nikki Reed are new additions. All of this changes give the feeling that the new creative team has a story they want to be telling. Sossamon debuts as Pandora, the new face of evil for the season. Reed also makes her first appearance as historical figure Betsy Ross, who is much different than any history book would say. The new presence does help the show move forward and forgot all the mistakes made last season.

Though there's still a lot of work Sleepy Hollow needed to do in this episode in order to win back the trust of the audience. This episode isn't perfect. But it is a good enough first step to regain the spark that was apparent in the early days of the show. It basically sets out to tell its own story and ignore the call to action from the end of the second season. After Katrina and Henry's death, the team of Ichabod, Abbie, Jenny and Irving were united as a team to continue facing supernatural threats whenever they appear. This episode opens with a major time job. Irving has disappeared. Abbie has gone to Quantico and is a fast rising star in the FBI. Jenny can't hold onto most jobs as nothing uses her skills as well as stealing special artifacts from around the world. And lastly, Ichabod has gone his own way to find himself in this new world that is radically different than how he envisioned. He separates himself from the rest of the team in order to deal with the deaths of his beloved family members. It's an awkward character beat. But it happens in order for this episode to feature the rousing sequence of bringing the team together again.

In all of this time, Sleepy Hollow has been relatively peaceful. The Headless Horseman is still out there able to strike at any moment. But the team has been able to go their separate ways to find themselves. That also means they have to learn they are much better when they are a part of the team. It's something the audience already knows but the characters have to remember in this first episode back. They are a little rusty in dealing with supernatural threats. But Ichabod believes they still have a mission to complete. Moloch was just the first of seven tribulations. If that's the case, the show still realistically has a lot of story left it can handle. But first it has to make this second tribulation worthwhile. If not, the show will never be able to do the rest.

The show definitely needed a new approach to its big bad for the season. Pandora could be seen as a Katrina stand-in though. The story the show might have done with her if she wasn't so connected to Ichabod. Pandora represents something different and that is very mysterious. It's not abundantly clear what her purpose is yet. She has been traveling for a long time apparently and has finally arrived in Sleepy Hollow. She has met Ichabod and Abbie. But more importantly, she's ready to start terrorizing the city for her big master plan. She unleashes a yaoguai in order to capture fear. She's been given the powers of the Horseman of Death. And now, she's using her vast skills in order to make her plans a reality. Those plans are just shrouded in mystery. It's an enticing prospect for the character. But there's still so much reluctance on embracing her considering how poorly the show handled its characters last season. It's a good thing that the show gets rid of the Horseman right away. This new evil has to act differently. And yet, the yaoguai very much felt like a creature that could have also popped up last season. Still I remain hopeful that these changes are going to make a better overall narrative this year.

Some more thoughts:
  • "I, Witness" was written by Albert Kim and directed by Peter Weller.
  • I'm not so sure about Nikki Reed as Betsy Reed. Her one big exchange with Ichabod in the past didn't do enough to establish her as a character worth caring about. She and Ichabod had some sort of relationship. But Reed's delivery of the lines kinda felt flat. Plus, there's no way she's going to spend all of her time in the past, right?
  • Perhaps now that Abbie is in federal law enforcement she'll need to deal with the consequences that come from being a Witness and having that job. She tries to juggle both in this premiere. She notes that there is more evil in this world than demons. But the procedure of her FBI life doesn't seem all that special or unique. She is much better when she's battling the yaoguai with Jenny and Ichabod.
  • Ichabod being outraged by the world's disrespect to the past isn't anything new. His disapproval of the colonial-themed restaurant wasn't as inspired as some of his other run-ins with modern day society.
  • Jenny was pretty sentimental about the objects she got from August Corbin in her box. I wonder if any of them will be important later on in the year? 
  • Ichabod seems to have a new admirer in FBI lab tech, Dani. 
  • Ichabod noting the size of Benjamin Franklin's head at Colonial Times: "At least they got something right."