Sleepy Hollow Season 2, Episode 1 'This Is War' Review: The Absurd FOX Show Doesn't Miss A Beat On Its Triumphant Return
Sleepy Hollow returned to Fox last night and to say it hit the ground running is an understatement. The show's feet barely touched the surface as it raced forward; its internal gear shift locked permanently into overdrive.
Sleepy Hollow will never be considered one of the great shows of this Golden Age Of Television. Its main character, despite being transported 250 years into the future, features none of the 'difficult man' symptoms that have defined such titans as Walter, Tony and Don. The weekly stories regularly feature a Headless, supernaturally possessed redcoat wielding an automatic rifle. And yet, more than any of those 'serious' dramas, Sleepy Hollow is still one of the best shows on television. 'This Is War', the season 2 opener, perfectly encapsulates the reason why: relentless energy.
The show never, ever slows down. Even its rare quiet moments have this sense of impending doom upon them. Like a shark, Sleepy Hollow thinks that if it ever stops it will die; or, at least we'll finally see that maybe there isn't much there at all.
The first ten minutes of 'This Is War' will have you scratching your head. Did we miss something? Suddenly, it's Battlestar Galactica again with the 'one year' jump. Any serious fan of television can smell a fake-out, but isn't jumping ahead precisely something this show would do? It has lovingly suckered us into following these characters, quite literally, into Hell; at that point, anything is fair game. Of course it's all an illusion, cunningly crafted by Jeremy (John Noble, who can make even the silliest dialogue sound amazing) in an attempt to get Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Abbie (Nicole Beharie) to reveal the location of this week's supernatural MacGuffin, the Gehenna key. In reality, Ichabod is buried alive in a coffin and Abbie is stuck in Purgatory.
It is a foregone conclusion that the two will be reunited by the end of the episode. We never once truly fear that Ichabod is going to run out of oxygen, or that Moloch is going to capture Abbie and raise the demon army. The joy of Sleepy Hollow is in watching everyone figure out how to get out of a situation. Ichabod's solution, it must be said, certainly does not lack for style. It's in keeping with the show's MO: we may dig ourselves into a hole, but we're sure as hell going to blow our way out of it. Fist bump: LEVEL TWO (Abbie will show that later).
We could easily criticize the writers for creating easy, convenient solutions, many of which revolve around items like the key. This week we learn that Crane just so happened to be an apprentice to Ben Franklin (the great Timothy Busfield), who just so happened to be part of the grand battle, who just so happened to be working on the same specific problem, the Gehenna key, that Ichabod and Abbie are currently facing. Thank god for Ichabod Crane; I highly doubt we would even have the Republic without him. Are the writers making it up as they go along? Very likely. But it all comes back to the energy- they're diverting our attention to the chemistry and creature effects so we don't notice them throwing darts at the wall.
Despite the Apocalyptic overtones of the show nobody is taking any of this seriously, which is a breath of fresh air in this post-Dark Knight world. Ichabod has his share of 'aaw shucks' timetraveler moments such as when he has no idea how to reverse a car, let alone drive one. And his utter consternation at the amount of memory a phone possesses is a complaint we can certainly all relate to. These small bits flesh out the characters, a necessary move because they are constantly awash in plot point after plot point and also relieve the tension. Sleepy Hollow is less of a show, and more of a ride. Rollercoasters don't need three dimensional characters and Chekovian stories to be enjoyable, and neither does this.
'This Is War' is less of a season 2 opener and more of a simple continuation of the season 1 finale. When we rewatch this many years from now, it will scarcely seem like anything changed. The point of the episode was getting the band back together (most of it, at least). Now that we quickly, and decisively, got that out of the way, we can focus on the bigger story: John Noble and the Flaming Sword Of Awesomeness.
Some shows fall off from first to second season. If 'This Is War' is any indication, I doubt if Sleepy Hollow will suffer any of the sophomore slump. War is coming, and I can't wait to enlist.
Background Noise is GameNGuide's TV column.