Monday, January 26, 2015

SLEEPY HOLLOW Paints an Inferior Portrait

Article originally written for Seat42F.

The title of this week’s SLEEPY HOLLOW installment on FOX, “Pittura Infamante,” refers to a particular style of painting, which is seen in this episode. An evil killer from the past is trapped in such a portrait, but soon starts trying to get out, killing innocents in the process. It’s up to Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Katrina (Katia Winter) to interrupt their date and stop him.

As far as cases-of-the-week go, “Pittura Infamante” is a good one. It’s tied to Katrina’s past and an old friend, Abigail Adams (Michelle Trachtenberg, Gossip Girl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and it unfolds in such a way to allow a couple of main characters to work through their feelings. It’s a bit exciting, and there are a couple of unexpected twists, as well as a trip inside the painting itself. Though, I still contend that our heroes know way too many famous people.

I worry, though, that FOX is going to ask SLEEPY HOLLOW to make more of this type of episode, given recent comments to the press about how the show has become “too serialized.” I disagree completely, arguing it hasn’t become serialized enough. I’m fine with a rare episode like “Pittura Infamante” because it serves a purpose. But if every week were like this one, I would be highly disappointed, feeling the show is better when it’s concentrating on its larger arcs. If I wanted crime solvers, I’d turn on one of a hundred other programs currently airing.

I don’t mean to use this week’s review as a platform to push my particular viewpoint, but it and the show exemplify a large issue. There is a major schism in the viewing audience. There are certainly a large number of people who enjoy self-contained hours, being able to drop in and out of a series at will, as evidenced by high ratings on such programs as Bones and NCIS. But there are also plenty, especially young people, who consume gripping series in large chunks and want a more intelligent, engaging story. Unfortunately, the financial model currently leans towards the former group, but I feel the future has to be in the latter, and hope there’s some sort of shift in the near future.

Back to SLEEPY HOLLOW specifically, though, this plot does allow Ichabod and Katrina to try to find a way to work together and relate to one another again. I am not a fan of their relationship, hoping it goes away sooner rather than later, but from Ichabod’s perspective, he wants to fix his marriage, and that’s laudable. Katrina needs help adjusting to the present, as Ichabod has, if they are going to be able to work. “Pittura Infamante” shows a path combining the two eras, and it allows them to actually feel on more solid footing than they ever have on the show.

Elsewhere, Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) returns to the police station and is immediately jailed. Abbie (Nicole Beharie) wonders if her friend is back, or if this is another Brooks situation, a dead man controlled by a demon. SLEEPY HOLLOW is keeping its cards close to its chest on this one, as they should, giving us more questions than answers thus far. Either way has some interesting possibilities, and I like that Irving’s family is finally acknowledged again, even though they are of little importance.

Usually, SLEEPY HOLLOW’s biggest strength is in its interactions between Ichabod and Abbie. There is precious little of that this week, but it does show each can stand on their own. They don’t need each other all the time. Not that they should be separated long, but it can work on occasion.

Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) also gets a few scenes, and provides comic relief in “Pittura Infamante.” The corpse she has to dig bullets out of is super gross, but it allows Greenwood to show what she can bring to the table, which sadly has not been demonstrated all that often. Jenny doesn’t have to be central to SLEEPY HOLLOW on a regular basis. But she should appear a bit more if this is how they’re going to use her.

As I said, “Pittura Infamante” is a solid example of a case-of-the-week, and it does tie into some larger stories. Because it luxuriates in some of the characters, exploring new aspects of their personalities and doing it well, I think it’s a good episode. It’s not what I want every week, but for now, it satisfies.

SLEEPY HOLLOW airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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