Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Sleepy Hollow Season 2 (FOX)

FOX’s Sleepy Hollow recently wrapped up a disappointing but at times enjoyable second season. Hit the break to find out what I thought of the urban fantasy series starring Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison, Katia Winter, Orlando Jones, John Noble and Lyndie Greenwood.

The first season of Sleepy Hollow was one of my favourite new series of 2013. Mixing funny dialogue, an excellent chemistry between the lead cast and some excellent, bonkers plots that weren’t holding anything back, blending history with fantasy in several great ways over the course of the tightly plotted thirteen episodes runtime. It was compulsively addictive and ended on one of the best cliffhangers that you will quite possibly ever see on television, and given Fox’s habit for cancelling shows that have had excellent first seasons (Almost Human, Firefly) I was really glad to see that the show had earned another one. However, with the extended episode count, problems began to take ahold of Sleepy Hollow, as it adopted a more case-of-the-week based approach than before, sacrificing season-long arcs in favour of telling standalone stories that were often underwhelming (which was mandated by FOX, who never learn). The cast was still good (save for one notable exception), yes, and the start and end of the season was great, but on the whole, it was fairly disappointing especially given the rather weak take on one of the series major characters.

The first season ended with the revelation that Henry (John Noble) was in fact the son of Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Katrina (Katia Winter) and had been manipulating them the whole time and was in league with Moloch and the Headless Horseman. To make things more dramatic, just moments after Katrina had been freed from purgatory, which was the main goal of Season 1, she was given to the Horseman by Henry as part of their deal. And the rest of the team found themselves in complete jeopardy - Abbie (Nicole Beharie) was banished to purgatory, Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) confessed to the murders of the police officer and a priest and was promptly arrested, Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) fell victim to a car crash, and Ichabod was imprisoned, trapped in a wooden box beneath the ground with seemingly no chance of escaping. The biggest question was – how could they possibly resolve this? It seemed like the bad guys had won, but in the best possible way it seemed, Sleepy Hollow answered all of those questions, delivering a really strong premiere that was handled incredibly well.

However, it wasn’t long after that that things started to go downhill. Sleepy Hollow introduced the character Hawley (Matt Barr) in the third episode where he quickly became the most annoying character on the show, not really offering anything to his role. The show also unsuccessfully introduced Captain Irving’s replacement; Reyes (Sakina Jeffrey) who wasn’t fleshed out as well as she could have been, serving as a rather forgettable character. There were also various other standalone characters who failed to impress, such as the Angel Orion (Max Brown). But the biggest culprit of all was Katrina (Katia Winter), who was underwhelming for most of the season. This was partly because the strongest thing that the series had going for it was the chemistry between the two leads, Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison, and when Katrina was finally freed from the Horseman’s captivity, she only broke up that chemistry that had made the show so great, and wasn’t really given enough to do. The show tried to fix that with the final few episodes of the season, which whilst were still pretty good, felt that her arc was underdeveloped with her character making several choices that were out-of-character.

However, that’s not to say there were some good moments as well. The Nicole Beharie/Tom Mison chemistry was excellent as always and John Noble absolutely killed it in the role of Henry, with the revelation concerning his identity at the end of Season 1 gave him plenty to do this year, even though his end was somewhat anti-climatic. 

With this show currently on the bubble, it’s not really certain whether or not we’ll see Season 3 just yet. I was kind of happy to let Sleepy Hollow go after several underwhelming episodes, but the two-part finale arc, which is certainly worth sticking around for if you’re put off by the lack of quality of some of the standalone episodes, really made up for it. The brief time-travel arc was among the best that the show has ever done, making use of a fantastic cliffhanger for the penultimate episode. (Thankfully, there wasn’t one in the finale, as it probably wouldn’t be able to Top Season 1’s). We also got to listen to an incredible violin cover of The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil.

So despite quite a lot of flaws then, Sleepy Hollow Season 2 never really became unwatchable and whilst it lacked the sheer entertainment value of Season 1, I’d still rather watch another season of this than sit through mediocre, generic crime series (looking at you, ABC’s Secrets and Lies). Because when Sleepy Hollow gets it right, it gets it very right indeed.

VERDICT: 7.5/10

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