Confessions of a 'Sleepy Hollow' Cynic

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Confessions of a 'Sleepy Hollow' Cynic

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | January 21, 2014 | Comments ()


I almost feel like there aren’t any safe spaces on the Internet to express my actual feelings about Sleepy Hollow, and to even say anything negative about the gothic fantasy feels almost unnecessarily cruel. Why would anyone pick on Sleepy Hollow? It’s such a harmless diversion, and while it’s certainly not original (it’s yet another re-imagining of a classic literary fairy tale character, all of which have sprung from Once Upon a Time), Tom Mison is so charming, Nicole Beharie is so lovely and talented, and John Noble is a gifted, incredible character actor that to criticise the show seems almost malicious.

And yet, I don’t really like Sleepy Hollow, and I feel like I can’t possibly be alone, as the series has shed nearly 40 percent of its viewership since its debut. Personally, I’d have abandoned the series myself, but for the fact that it was only 12 episodes, and I figured I could muscle through and make the investment to see how it plays out.

So, you can imagine that for me — and others similarly situated — that last night’s two-hour season finale felt like the first season finale of The Killing. I struggled to stay awake, all told, for 13 hours, and I got no payoff, only a cliffhanger that — frustratingly — was compelling enough to bring me back in season two to just see how it all plays out.

That’s cruel (and smart). I am not hooked on Sleepy Hollow, but I am a curious person.

It’s not that the show doesn’t have its moments. It does. The fan service is nice; the inside jokes are fun; the digs at Ichabod’s clothing are amusing; and the chemistry between Mison and Beharie is fantastic. But the show itself is so plodding and slow, and the developments eke out at such a slow rate that the “previously on” scenes by themselves easily bring the audience up to speed on the storylines, which is to say: You can condense the entire plot of the previous episodes into a 45-second chunk and not miss a beat (those scenes have actually been important on occasion when Sleepy Hollow puts me to sleep). The mythology itself is creaky and self-serious, and as much as I like Orlando Jones, his character is no fun at all.

In fact, that’s one of my biggest problems with the series as a whole: It seems to tease the prospect of witty, fast-paced episodes with zippy repartee, clever jokes, and a rich, vibrant mythology, but it rarely delivers on that. Instead, typical of a formulaic network procedural, each episode is a cat-and-mouse game, where the characters follow one lead to another lead to yet another lead, but instead of finding the killer at the end of each episode, they find another clue — a map, or a key, or a passage in a book — that helps fill in the puzzle. Meanwhile, they repeat themselves several times throughout each episode in case the slow guy in the back of the audience still hasn’t caught on. Much of each episode acts as its own “previously on” scene.

It’s a show that I desperately want to like, and one that I know many people really respect and enjoy, and I can appreciate why: Mison and Beharie are great, and the premise is theoretically fun, but the promise of each episode always seems to crumble underneath the slog of the pace, the plodding dialogue, the constant repetition, and the exposition dumps. But I will grant that, after a two-hour season finale that seemed to drag on for eons, the cliffhanger was perfect, and it seemed to offer a lot of promise for its second season, promise that I fear will never come to fruition.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • I like Sleepy Hollow a lot. That finale was a mindblower that I didn't see coming but really should have so kudos to the writers for that. However next season they have got to knock it off with the constant exposition/recaps and heavy handed scoring. Every scene has music to punctuate the dialogue, it is incredibly distracting. The directors must be big fans of Phillip Glass style scoring, me not so much. I'm hoping this is a stylistic tic that will get smoothed out next season and the show runner will have enough faith in his talented cast to carry the emotion in their acting rather than with the ever-present soundtrack.

  • robbermaiden

    I felt the same way at first, but I think the characters have come into their own. For me, shows are nothing without the little details and character chemistry, and this show has many/much. And the twists! Did you SEE this last episode? Lotsa stuff happening. I think Katrina is a bit of a weird, awkward character, although I do like that she gives a reason for the leads to NOT hook up. Don't do it, writers!
    Pure, unadulterated drama. What else do you want from a show? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
    I never watched the Kiling. I think I tried and fell asleep. Maybe I never got into it bc the Mison and his beard and eyes weren't in it.
    I dunno, I've had some wine. I just watched the finale and lovedddd it. YMMV. It's stupid. Doesn't mean it can't be good TV.

  • chuckvekert

    This may not seem related, but it is. You may have noticed if you pay any attention to politics that right wing evangelists are among the most fervent supporters of Israel. The reason is that they want Israel to gain back all the territory held by the Jews in ancient times regardless of any rights of the Palestinians that may have accrued in the last two thousand years.

    The reason the Jews must get all their land back is that it is a necessary step before the apocalypse can happen. They want it to happen--starting with the Rapture that will whisk them off to heaven, leaving the rest of us to deal with the Four Horsemen and the rest of the shitstorm.

    So by their way of thinking, Ichabod Crain and friends--especially that witch he is married to--may think they are good guys for trying to save humanity, but actually they are working against the express Word of God. God, these people believe, wants to wrap up the whole experiment. And Ichabod is getting in the way.

    So if you ever wanted to cheer for a headless murderer, this is your chance. God is on your side. Or so some people think.

  • Janine Aiken

    I love "Sleepy Hollow". You REALLY have to suspend your disbelief when you are watching the show, but that's part of the fun. And you DO realize that Orlando Jones is sort of playing the straight man here, right? He's hilarious in real life (his live tweets during the show are icing on an already pretty delicious cake), but he's playing a character. I also don't feel like the story plods along, either. I feel like we haven't had to wait too long for major plot points to pay off. The story is drawn out for maximum effect, but, imo, not to the point where you're screaming "GET ON WITH IT, ALREADY!" at your tv screen. It's a great show if you are looking for pure entertainment. If you want a history a book.

  • annie

    I have a hard time criticizing a show that employs John Cho.

  • Sharra Payne Cantu

    I am with you. I love John Cho. He's so dang cute. And well Tom Mison is freaking beautiful.

    I like that show. It's fun. It's entertaining without taking itself too seriously.

  • annie

    He's cute and so dependable an actor. I spent most of the SH finale marveling at how good Mison's skin is too. I find him too scrawny for my tastes in normal clothes, but in that coat? Whoo!

  • Bodhi

    Its dumb as hell, but I love it. I think its much more interesting than agents of shield, which my husband loves

  • 'Sleepy Hollow' is one of the few shows I bother to make a point to watch every week, along with 'Dracula'(which will probably not share Hollow's fate re: renewal)because while it is completely bananapants ridiculous, it's also a lot of fun. And after the recent spate of Serious Actors Doing Serious Drama On Serious TV Channels, it's kind of nice to see that.

  • kdm

    "’s yet another re-imagining of a classic literary fairy tale character, all of which have sprung from Once Upon a Time..."

    You mean, all of which have sprung from FABLES.

    Sorry. I know that fairy tales were re-imagined long before that series came out, but I'm still bitter about how bad ABC screwed that one up.

  • And even if you want to source it back to retelling of fairy tales on television within the past decade, Grimm premiered the same season as OUAT and SyFy had already had the Tin Man and Alice miniseries before that.

  • kinoumenthe

    I like the show, but it's in the category of those shows where my attention ends up wandering at some point and I find myself checking stuff on the internet while it plays in the corner of the screen, then I come back into it when things heat up and I don't even have any trouble understanding what's going on anyway in spite of my not really listening to the dialogue or even looking at the screen for the past 5 minutes or so.
    (…Well. That's a long sentence.)
    Why do I watch it ? Because it displays potential and could become riveting at some point in the future. It has been known to happen.

  • evica

    I'm ok with the characters, I just don't find the story interesting enough. I don't get it and it doesn't make any sense to me. I tried and tried, but not even Tom Mison made me want to keep watching.

  • Haystacks

    I really wish Orlando Jones was my friend. He seems really fun to hang out with.

  • Janine Aiken

    His live tweets give my life meaning.

  • Scooter

    I LOVE this show! I really thought it was going to be horribly stupid, but I was hooked after watching a re-run of the first episode. I have been telling everyone I know to give it a try. Abby & Ichabod are awesome together and I like the creepy monsters. It certainly is not perfect...but it is better than most other crap on network TV.

    It was actually just this morning that I realized Nicole Beharie was in Shame and dated Michael Fassbender for a while. I knew I had seen her somewhere.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    It is horribly stupid. It just works despite that.

  • John W

    I still watch it and enjoy but man do I absolutely hate hate hate all the stops and pauses of television shows these days. God how I wish we would go back to good ol days when they ran shows in one continuously run.

  • I like it for all the reasons you say it should be likeable, and I let the rest go. I would be fine if they got rid of Katrina, partly because she's a boring distraction and I see no chemistry between them at all, but also because I hate the way he says her name all the damned time when she doesn't really appear to be that important to the story and rescuing her lacks a sense of urgency. I really like Jenny, and *her* chemistry with Irving is good, but not too much. Also, she got locked up for insisting she saw demons, which is exactly what would happen, and I appreciate the show for saying so. Their little nod to her going Sarah Connor in that space was both satisfying and useful. Yep, the show is sort of slow, but sometimes, I don't want to be tense through every scene. Sometimes, I just want to watch the pretty, read Orlando Jones' tweets, and marvel that I get a wide variety of people in one show and no one has mentioned it even once, because that's how their world is.

  • I'm with you, Dustin. It look alright, but I have no interest in catching it. Same as with Agents of SHIELD. On paper, these are shows that should be right up my alley. And yet, I find I don't have the time to care about them at all.

    They feel so vanilla and contrived and "look at us being cute and clever" as opposed to actually being cute and clever that I just tune them out.

  • I like the show, in a "Fun, harmless distraction" kind of way. It does have some really impressive monsters and special effects, and Abby and Ichabod have some great chemistry but, like you said, it just draaaaags sometimes. I could only watch one hour of the finale because I couldn't take any more of the same, though it is fun in parts. But sometimes I just don't care, specially about any characters who aren't Abby or Ichabod. Katrina? Blurgh. The cop? Bluuurgh. The sister? Uuuugh. And the mystery just lost all its charm when it kept dragging on and on. How can they possibly keep it going longer, for a second season?

    And here's a confession: I really don't think I'd watch it at all if Tom Mison weren't so goddamn beautiful.

  • Quorren

    Sleepy Hollow is a delight. I fear you may be dead inside.

  • iamuhura

    I unabashedly love this show. It's a great not too serious diversion, doesn't take itself too seriously, and honestly isn't any worse than 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters'. Everyone is attractive and interesting, the writing explores various relationships between the characters in an organic way, and again - the world is ridiculous and they all admit it freely. Also, at this point I'm willing to take almost anything with more women, women of color, and people of color on my television set.

  • Quorren

    It's so refreshing to have strong female characters that aren't a bit concerned about finding a man or making babies since they have the apocalypse to stop and all.

  • It's like how I feel like I should like the Mindy Project because I should support things created by and starring a woman, but the show is almost entirely about Mindy's love life and body issues (lady probs, amirite?). I am not convinced Mindy is actually a doctor--let alone a good doctor--to anyone with how poorly fleshed out her character is. Abbie would side-eye the hell out of Mindy if they ever met, and it would give me such life.

  • iamuhura

    I really love Abbie and Jenny's storyline. Family is hard, man. Broken families and betrayal and working your way back to something strong and loving and supportive? Brilliant television, and very rarely seen with poc/woc.

    Also, man Abbie is practically swimming in hot dudes who want to bang but she's all WHATEVS UGH GUYS I'M BUSY AND SHIT.

  • robbermaiden

    That part where she was like "Come back to me" to Abbie?? Ok so I cry at everything, but tears were happening. Anything with sister stuff always gets to me.

  • Janine Aiken

    LOL! Right? Abbie's like "I'm saving the world, here. Simmer down".

  • F'mal DeHyde

    See that look on her face in the header photo? She does it *constantly.* I thought it was adorable for the first three or four episodes but now I kind of want to slap her.

  • BWeaves

    So, when I rent the DVD, I should just watch all the previews and skip the actual episodes?

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