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Sleepy Hollow: “For the Triumph of Evil” (2013).

“The last thing we need around here is another episode of [the] Twilight Zone,” says Washington Irving at the beginning of last week’s small disaster of a Sleepy Hollow episode. Actually, The Twilight Zone, with its subtle, smart teleplays, would have been a good thing. Instead we got a microwaved cultural-poaching episode straight out of The X-Files.

Structurally, “For the Triumph of Evil” looks more like a Grimm episode: two mysterious deaths, a quick rummage through the archives, then Monroe/Crane goes, “I remember a story my parents / a soldier told me…” But what we get here is more like one of those “ethnic” X-Files episodes centering on Amish / Jewish / Chinese / Mexican / Navajo legend, or some facsimile thereof.

Mind you, the episode started out well; who doesn’t love bursting eyeballs? But as we were introduced to the Morphsuit-wearing monster, I started wondering how exactly the Sandman would fit in with the Redcoats vs colonials theme. Does the Sandman — obviously not Gaiman’s Morpheus — just happen to be homicidal? Which universe is he supposed to be from? The writers show us how the Sandman works in that milieu with just about the least straightforward answer I could imagine: he’s actually a Mohawk dream demon. Of course.

The Mohawk shaman they conveniently find is refreshingly cynical — “Geronimotors” was a nice touch — but very quickly we find our duo in exoticized territory: Furs hanging from the ceiling! Scorpions! Funny-looking juice! Fauxhawk hokum aside, the entire sequence seems to be more of an excuse to show Mills and Crane with their tops off. Not that I’m complaining.

The episode ends with a standoff in the interrogation room of Abbie’s past / fantasy, and finally, this part of the episode felt right, with its notes of atonement. But we’re also supposed to believe that such ageless malevolence, out to kill one of the Witnesses, could be dispelled so easily by Mills’ acknowledgement that she had done her sister wrong. Even fellow dream traveler Freddy Krueger wasn’t defeated so quickly.

I think this episode illustrates one of Sleepy Hollow‘s problems: that they don’t quite have a coherent universe fleshed out just yet. Perhaps it’s the pitfalls of having both time travel and the supernatural in the same show. It’s one thing to have demons of the week appear, but it complicates matters to give the demons have 18th-century analogues as well. Remember as well that not only do the writers weave in flashbacks to the Mills sisters’ past, they introduce these, and resolve them, inside dreams. I like complex television, but this seemed to be a case of (once again) doing too much in 40-odd minutes.

Random observations:

  • What happened to the writing team? Were they abducted by aliens? (I wouldn’t be surprised if aliens popped in at some point.) Why all the needless flashbacks? What happened to the humor? (Crane’s bit with the remote controller was merely okay, but better than the energy drink scene.) What happened to the witty banter? And what happened to John Cho and Clancy Brown?
  • Speaking of Gaiman and the Sandman, wouldn’t the Corinthian be a great demon to come around visiting?
  • I like Crane’s awfully sharp overcoat, but I have no doubt that thing smells worse than Borat’s blazer. Note to writers: a scene where Mills takes Crane to the Gap is surely called for.
  • And I also wish the writers would have the guts to truly portray Crane as being a little more anachronistic, rather than have him appear as some weird liberal fantasy: he actually uses the term “Native Americans,” for crying out loud. (“Icky,” by the way, is earliest traced to 1935, a little too late for Ichabod.)

 

 

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