I’m not ashamed to admit that tuning into Sleepy Hollow after the nine months since its first season finale was daunting. The show has moved fast since the very beginning—tossing out references to demonic purgatory, magical cults, and encrypted patriotic bibles with such casual aplomb that it’s surprisingly similar to the way “hang out” sitcoms like Friends or New Girl approach exposition. Only in this case, it’s not setting up a classic debacle like going on two dates at the same time or trying to figure out why Ross owns a monkey in New York City but, instead, following the fight against the coming apocalypse led by a 250-year old ex-British Revolutionary War soldier named Ichabod Crane as he’s being buried alive by his sin-eating son while his partner is trapped in another dimension in place of Ichabod’s (good) witch of a wife who is being held captive by the headless horsemen that is actively trying to seduce her. And there’s a naked Benjamin Franklin.
So when last night’s episode picked up without any clear resolve to the previous episode’s events and casually mentioned that it was now a year later, I pretty much rolled with it (although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit my fear that maybe FOX was pulling another Firefly fiasco, simply airing the episodes out of order just because). The psych-out fake beginnings are generally pretty obnoxious. They build tension while simultaneously deflating all the real tension that the show had previously earned. They also dampen whatever events happen before things are sorted out because the viewers are left wondering whether or not they should be confused or if they’re even watching the correct episode. And with a show like Sleepy Hollow that puts more overarching mythos and plot in an episode than some procedurals have all season, it’s easy to be left scratching your head.
But after such a strong first season, Sleepy Hollow should have our trust. The dream like beginning does a nice job of wrapping up without dragging on longer than it must, and it ultimately provides an interesting use: to allow the sin eater to learn the location (or rather how to learn the location) of a key that will unlock purgatory, allowing for either an endless demon parade to get through and begin reigning terror, or, if Ichabod can get his hands on it first, help his partner escape her imprisonment.
The key involved is obviously the key that Benjamin Franklin famously flew from his kite while discovering electricity since everything in our nation’s history was actually just a happy accident in the war on objective evil (which might involve the British but definitely involves Germany and Hell). The flashback isn’t clear on how the experiment influenced his theories on electricity (he’s too busy using the “fire of heaven” to supercharge the key).
Fortunately, that disparity between fact and fiction doesn’t really matter when it comes to Sleepy Hollow. The show excels at reveling in the absurd so much so that it went from seeming like a fluke—in a I-can’t-believe-they’re-pulling-this-off-and-John-Cho-looks-like-he-has-a-neck-vagina—to being an asset that a lot of shows could learn from. Too often, shows (and viewers) get so bent out of shape over supplying a good mythology for the show that they become obsessed with it and lose sight of their characters. Sleepy Hollow doesn’t keep its mythology in the shadows like a Hollywood movie monster where direct light will only spoil appearances. Sleepy Hollow continues to have its cake and eat it too, because it knows that the answers on these shows are always ridiculous (was there anyway the smoke monster could ever be anything but?) so instead it focuses on the real point: having fun. And in that respect, Sleepy Hollow continues to excel.
- No John Irving in the episode. I was so surprised at how little he was actually referred to that I had to look it up and make sure that Orlando Jones was still on the show. (He is). Then I remembered that the episode picked up exactly zero seconds since the previous one, so it makes sense that nothing new has occurred on his end. He’s probably sleeping.
- I’m not really sure how Ichabod exploded his way out of the coffin. Where did he even get the gunpowder? And how did it blow up six feet of earth but not his face from six inches away? Or am I over thinking this? No? Good.
- Seriously, the only thing better than having Benjamin Franklin on the show is having Ichabod Crane hate Benjamin Franklin.
- The attention to small details is always impressive, like Ichabod’s traditional pronunciation of “lieutenant” as “left-tenant.” And fortunately that demon that was impersonating him happened to have an American accent (I guess?) because otherwise things would’ve gotten bleak!
- Cisco’s Time Travel for Dummies: A Surprise Party – celebrating terror with dessert.
- Also, it’s probably important to note that Ichabod Crane seems to have leveled up from man-out-of-time confused to a grandmother with an iphone that still insists that she doesn’t need an iphone when it comes to techno-savvy.