RogerBW's Blog

Sleepy Hollow season 2 17 March 2015

2014-2015: Ichabod Crane, survivor from the American Revolutionary War, continues to fight in the modern day against the imminent Apocalypse.

The first season of Sleepy Hollow seemed quite contradictory to me: I assumed it couldn't possibly be any good and watched in the hope of finding something to mock, but it turned out to be remarkably engrossing at first. But when the early monster-of-the-week episodes shifted into the bigger plot and dodgy eschatology, it lost me. (It's nothing to do with the Washington Irving short story except for some coincidence of names.)

I gave it another shot this latest season, and for me at least it worked rather better. The blending between big arc elements and small stories that can be completed in an episode seemed to have been more effectively executed, and the bigger stories were more compelling.

It's still a very open world: magical procedures, and creatures, and whatever else is needed can be invented every week, which would normally confound dramatic tension. But even in the monster-of-the-week episodes the monster is introduced quickly as an understandable quantity, for which a remedy will be available even if it isn't yet known, and so we can get on with the more conventional detective work and action.

Because yes, this is really a police procedural at heart: in a typical episode, there is a supernatural problem, innocent people get involved, and the team deals with it. Since the ground rules have been laid out, we know there won't be a sudden "oh I know a spell that can sort this out" moment – though there probably will be an echo of supernatural events around the American Revolution. The problem of the week may be related to the ongoing plot, may have been provoked by one of the recurring villains, or may be entirely unrelated, though even in the latter case there'll be some scenes dealing with the big plot.

Of the principals, Tom Mison has the more challenging role: he's portraying Ichabod as a man out of time who's largely adjusted to the modern world, but who still maintains some of the attitudes of his own era. There's a surprising nuance to his performance, which is rather more thoughtful than one might have expected. Nicole Beharie has a simpler character to portray, as a modern policewoman coping with the arrival of the supernatural in her life, though Lieutenant Abigail Mills has gradually accreted a troubled past which also gives her plenty to work with. While both of them do decent jobs alone, their scenes together are the real prize for me, with what's clearly a very intense and trusting personal relationship that isn't, for a welcome change, being shown as turning into a sexual one.

The real stand-out in the supporting cast is Orlando Jones as Captain Frank Irving; he moves convincingly from a destroyed man after the end of season 1 (locked up in a lunatic asylum having confessed to murders actually committed by his possessed daughter), to a tool of the Ungodly, to someone who may or may not have been redeemed. Jones doesn't use any of his comic talent here, but rather does a fine job of portraying a man haunted by memories of his deeds. (People who've built comedic careers often turn out to be rather good straight actors too; Alan Davies in Jonathan Creek is another example.)

Unusually for American television seasons, this one actually has an ending: the good guys are all back together, the bad guys are dealt with, the big problem is still out there but not an immediate threat. If the series is cancelled at this point, it will have been a satisfactory conclusion. (I gather that renewal is still uncertain, with ratings having dropped significantly from season one.)

(Update in late March: it has been renewed.)

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