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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sleepy Hollow: “Magnum Opus”

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“Magnum Opus” is the first half of Sleepy Hollow’s fall finale, which is a ridiculous concept that we’re going to pretend matters for storytelling purposes. Because it’s the first half of something, I can’t say for sure how it will look when the plot threads introduced the week tie themselves off next Monday. I can’t say whether or not Irving’s escape from the asylum (or hell, his entire character arc so far this year) will pay off at the end of this, and I can’t say whether or not Katrina will actually get a chance to accomplish something that isn’t immediately taken away from her. I can’t say if Moloch will have a presence on the show again, or if it’s just going to be Henry looking like a spoiled, perturbed child again. And I can’t say if the Headless Horseman will regain his former terrifying impact, or if we’re stuck with the whiny blonde guy who can’t get over losing his fiancee to his best friend. I can say the gorgon looked pretty cool. So there’s that.

But judged in its own light, far too much of this episode is drudge work, and it’s the same sort of drudge work we’ve been dealing with for weeks now. After a few brief threats at relevance earlier in the season, Irving plotline has once again become a drain on tension and screentime, and his few scenes here, as he ducks a roadblock and decides to “fight,” don’t do much to change the course. The whole thing takes up maybe five minutes total, if that, but it’s pretty much dead air. Hearing Irving proclaim once again that he did everything for “his family” doesn’t add any tragedy to his story, because his family is irrelevant to the show. He’s irrelevant to the show, and Orlando Jones’s comically over-serious gravel voice acting isn’t helping matters.

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One of the biggest problems this season has been a frustrating lack of focus, of which Irving is just a small piece. That may seem like an odd criticism to make, given how many episodes have featured Henry working at the heart of things to manipulate the situation to his (and Moloch’s) advantage, but by now, it’s clear that there is no great plan to his scheming. He just summons monsters because this is a show that needs monsters, and the fact that Moloch pops up tonight, fully matured and ready to rock, feels less like the culmination of a building narrative, and more like the writers counted out how many episodes they’d done, and realized they needed to have something showy for the winter hiatus. Last week, Katrina discovered that Moloch was aging quickly. This week, Moloch’s a grown-up. There’s no sense of connective tissue, and no real care or interest in trying to exploit the horror of that process, or in creating suspense overtime.

Speaking of Katrina, did she upset the writers at some point, or is she cursed, or, I dunno, there really ought to be some reason for why this character is as useless as she turned out to be. Her one action this week is contacting Ichabod and Abbie to let them know that Moloch is on Earth, a useful piece of information whose strategic value is immediately undercut by Henry using the connection to eavesdrop and find out what Ichabod and Abbie plan to do next. It works out okay in the end (Henry sends the Horseman to retrieve the magical sword that Ichabod and Abbie are after; our heroes manage to trick the Horseman into fighting the Gorgon guarding the sword), but that’s no thanks to the world’s worst witch. Even the spell she made to deal with Moloch is quickly dispensed with.

The one bright spot of the episode is that it gave us plenty of time to enjoy Abbie and Ichabod solving historical puzzles and facing down monsters. Some of those puzzles made less sense than others (the cave where the magic sword was held seemed to have a hodgepodge of magical properties), and their attempts to “know” themselves as a condition of continuing their battle was an odd way to work in extra character work. Ichabod got some more flashbacks demystifying Abraham, and the episode even went so far as to have the cave show Abraham’s head while the two men were sword-fighting, which robbed a decent sequence of the one element which might have made it truly thrilling. (Admittedly that would’ve robbed us of Abraham’s petulant shouts, but I would’ve been keen on seeing Ichabod facing off against a headless man.) Abbie decided that this latest search was her chance to give meaning to the countless sacrifices of the women who came before her, which is a really cool idea, undone slightly by the fact she didn’t get any flashbacks. I realize Ichabod’s history is an important part of the show, but Abbie could use some more time.

The idea that Moloch has finally arisen, and our heroes have a sword that can finally kill him, is enough to raise moderate expectations for next week, although experience has taught me to temper those expectations. There’s something rotten in the show now, and the it’s hard not to notice the excitement that once made it so unexpectedly vital is slipping away. We’ll have to wait till next week to see how deep the rot goes.

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Stray observations:

  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve This Week: Mostly he’s very pro-technology (especially cell phone technology), but he’s not a fan of the myth that George Washington could not tell a lie.
  • Remember when the Headless Horseman was legitimately frightening? This week, he whines a bit, then is quickly defeated by a sunrise. Later, when he has both Ichabod and Abbie at his mercy, he decides to let them both go because that way they’ll suffer more. The show has no good villains left. Much as I love John Noble (and think he’s still giving a fine performance), Henry is not terrifying. And Moloch’s barely been a presence this season. Without that sense of doom lurking around the corner, this show can’t sustain itself. We need more than the Odd Couple from Hell and a gaggle of easily slain henchmonsters.
  • “Don’t tell me you’re trying to take a selfie with a Gorgon.” -Abbie
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