Saturday, 1 February 2014
REVIEW - SLEEPY HOLLOW SEASON 1
As promised, February gets off to a sleepy startA bit unusual doing a review on a whole season, as opposed to reviewing episodes weekly, but frankly, trying to do 13-22 reviews trying to convince you to watch something is redundant. So instead, these reviews will look at the whole, not the parts and therefore offer a unique judgment.
When the promo for Sleepy Hollow first came out, I was ecstatic! Really! Promos are meant to get the blood pumping and most are fair when it comes to exciting the viewer, but Sleepy Hollow manages it on a whole new level. Every inch of the trailer I wanted to see – to experience for myself. So it came as no surprise that the wait for September 2013 was a long one. Not quite as long as the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, but a torturous one nonetheless.
Now for those of you who are hearing about Sleepy Hollow for the first time, it is a supernatural horror/mystery centering on the notion that what if the legend of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was actually true. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is a soldier in the Colonial Army in General George Washington’s service and is kills in battle while beheading a suspiciously powerful Hessian Soldier, later known as the Headless Horseman. The two die only to wake up in 2013 in the township of Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod meets Lieutenant Grace Abbigail “Abbie” Mills (Nicole Beharie) and encounters the soldier he decapitated once more, this time resurrected as an immortal assassin. This soldier is actually Death, the first Horsemen and is out to bring about the Apocalypse. Ichabod and Mills stand as the witnesses, warriors tasked with stopping the Horsemen before the end of the world can commence.
The only problem I have with Ichabod Crane is his photographic memory, a characteristic he shares with too many protagonists on television these days: Shawn Spencer, Mike Ross and about half a dozen others. I get that having a perfect memory is a cool superpower to have, but I personally feel that it is a trope that is being misused. Aside from that, Ichabod is an extremely likable guy. He is a guy out of his time and finds the mannerisms and oddities of the future confusing, which provides just enough comic relief. He dresses the part of an eccentric protagonist, opting to stick to his Colonial getup.
Ichabod’s partner, Abbie, I had trouble liking. I still don’t care to be honest. There is no particular reason for this; it’s just one of those things. You just don’t connect with the character and can’t seem to. I am mystified by this as her backstory is actually one of the more original ones we’ve had. It’s fresh so I should like her. I can empathize with her. She’s not trying to avenge/solve the murder of a loved one (cliche), she is trying to maintain her sanity, having witnessed a demonic entity in the woods together with her sister when they were young. Realizing that no one would believe her, she betrayed her sister and acted as though nothing had happened, sparing herself the town’s ridicule and a trip to a psychiatric facility, a fate bestowed upon her sister.
The rest of the cast are all very interesting. Usually, the spotlight is squarely on the stars, rarely supplying supporting characters with character development. We are introduced to Abbie’s superior officer - Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) – who took a position at Sleepy Hollow to escape his family out of guilt for what happened to his daughter. We are led to believe that he wasn’t responsible, but Irving doesn’t see it that way.
One of the best characters I have seen in any series is Henry Parish, a Sin Eater, which is basically the supernatural version of a Father who offers supernatural absolution to sinners. His personality is so earnest and ancillary that I wished he’d become a recurring character – even join the team! Thankfully, my wish was granted and Parish was upgraded to a supporting character.
Other characters include Ichabod’s wife Katrina Crane, who is trapped in purgatory and becomes something of a quest item for Ichabod, as well as a spiritual adviser in times of need, Abby’s substitute father Sheriff August Corbin (Clancy Brown), her sister Jennifer “Jenny” Mills, who also helps weave us into this mystery of Sleepy Hollow.
Moving on to the behind the scenes/writing/technical stuff, one of the things that I found fault with this show is the pace. This isn’t the individual episode pacing, but the story as a whole. At times it feels too slow, as if you’re watching something in slowmo. Thankfully this becomes less and less common as the season progresses. The first episode is almost perfect in design, direction and dialogue; it’s the next few episodes that lags.
One thing that I just have to mention is the special effects on this show. Right now, Once Upon a Time is doing an excellent job of showing us how cheap a green screen shot can look in the background. People tend to look past it because of the story, but I can’t. I hate when they screw up special effects and makes it look so obviously fake, especially when they don’t intend for it to look that way. Either do it properly or don’t do it at all. Sleepy Hollow decided to walk the latter road. The effects in this show are not only well done, but most of the time, it feels like an effect you’d see in a big budget blockbuster. There is the odd fakey looking CG, but that can be forgiven as the budget for this show was well spent on everything else.
I will also praise the appearance and texture of Sleepy Hollow. The township reminds me of Children of the Corn (don’t know why), but the locations presented to us are sublime. As police and doctor dramas rule network television nowadays, we sometimes become too used to cityscapes or hospital interiors/police station. Sleepy Hollow isn’t innocent when it comes to this, but a lot of the scenes take place outdoors/underground tunnels – at night – which manages to create a rather sinister atmosphere, prefect for a horror mystery such as this.
Lastly, I want to talk about the season finale. No spoilers here, but as much as I hate a cliffhanger (I really really hate waiting a year for the resolution), I acknowledge that deep down, I prefer them over the happy endings. It’s a love-hate thing. You feel both at the same time. Therefore, it is important to me that a cliffhanger be brutal. I want to be screaming at the producers for pulling such a crazy ending on me. Sleepy Hollow managed to do this perfectly. I would even rate the Sleepy Hollow Season 1 cliffhanger as one of the greatest I’ve had the displeasure of sitting through.
So, if I had to rate the show as a whole, taking into account everything I just discussed, then 8.4/10 would be my answer.