Sleepy Hollow is flailing. After a frustrating, and low-rated, first half of the second season, the writers have taken steps to re-invent the series as much as they can without literally re-inventing it. The characters remain pretty much the same, which is a blessing when it comes to the leads; Ichabod and Abbie are by the show’s strongest element, and, in episodes like this one, their chemistry is quite literally the only reason worth watching. (Although the writers, god bless ‘em, nearly managed to mess that up as well.) But instead of the attempted epic struggle against evil, our heroes are engaged in a more limited, week-to-week fight, something that should be familiar to fans of Supernatural or Buffy or The X-Files. There are still occasional references to a greater fight, but the main focus of this attempt to right the ship seems to be a renewed interest in standalone entries, putting aside the forced serialization of the fall.

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In theory, this isn’t a terrible idea. If this show is every going to sustain itself long term, it needs to figure out a way to stabilize from the mad rush of season one. Those episodes were thrilling, but they often sacrificed character development and narrative logic in favor of big moments, a tactic which has a limited shelf-life. Part of the appeal of S1 was it’s energy, no question, and I was often surprised at just how effective those big moments and plot jumps could be. But with a longer season, and less sense of novelty, attempting to tell smaller stories seems like a sound approach.

And yet the end result has been a hugely mixed bag, in no small part due to the show’s unwillingness to let go of some of its most problematic figures. At least Katrina has shown some minor signs of improvement, but Frank Irving’s storyline continues to be a huge drag on pacing and interest, for no other reason than I guess the creative team wants to keep Orlando Jones around? His scenes in “Kali Yuga” bordered on self-parody, and were utterly irrelevant to the nominal story of the hour to boot. Oh hey, he got released from jail, which is definitely not information that we could’ve received in some other, less time-consuming manner. Oh hey, his wife has some reservations about getting back together with a dude who mysteriously returned from the dead. I suppose going to Katrina for a quick spirit check is logical enough, but that doesn’t make it exciting. And that shot of him not having a reflection is goofy as hell. Did Katrina remove the reflection somehow? (She did look kind of creepy at the end.) Or has he somehow avoided every mirror since coming back? (Wait, did he have a reflection in the dairy case when he stole that milk?)

Thankfully, Irving is a small part of a large episode; less thankfully, the highlight of the hour was Ichabod and Abbie doing karaoke together, and there wasn’t anywhere near enough of that to keep this interesting. Hawley has a past, that past comes to try and turn him into a monster, something something Fort Knox and whatever. Oh right, Kali was involved, or at least a statute of the goddess, and the statue moved around a bit and that was pretty creepy? I don’t even despise Hawley at this point. I just do not care about him, and this attempt to give him some back story didn’t help matters. The villain was another woman who used sexiness to cover for some evil monster teeth, and her and Hawley’s pretense at sharing their lives together after Hawley had a Tragic Past was all so blandly formulaic that I’m already falling asleep in the middle of this sentence.

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To make matters worse, what little time we did get with Abbie and Ichabod was taken up by some forced attempts at conflict that relied way too much on our heroes repeating the events of the past few episodes back to one another, as though they (or we) might have somehow forgotten. The actors do their best, but this kind of squabbling needs to be established with clear, careful storytelling, not a series of haphazard events which are forcibly corralled to suggest some kind of meaning. Thankfully it all worked out okay in the end, and there was just enough of their crime-solving shtick to keep the episode from being a complete wash. But there’s just so much here that’s not working that I’m not even sure if the mess is possible to clean up. The two leads remain as charismatic and charming as ever, but they seem to be stuck in a world that is no longer capable of generating a story that deserves them. That is troubling news indeed.

Stray observations:

  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: Yoga. He’s not big on yoga.
  • He’s also not super keen on being confined in small spaces, but I don’t think that’s really a modern concern.
  • Potential bright spot: Hawley is leaving to hunt the lady monster who tried to turn him into a monster himself. So I guess we won’t be seeing him for a while. Maybe. More time for Irving!

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