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Monday, February 16, 2015

"Beneath" SLEEPY HOLLOW

Article originally written for Seat42F.



SLEEPY HOLLOW giveth, SLEEPY HOLLOW taketh away. In this week’s episode on FOX, “What Lies Beneath,” Abby (Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod (Tom Milson) venture underground to save some trapped workers and stumble upon secrets buried for hundreds of years. Before they can explore the treasure trove too far, though, they are forced to blow it up to protect others from the monsters guarding it.

“What Lies Beneath” is hella frustrating. First, Ichabod and Abbie find a mystical hologram of Thomas Jefferson (Steven Weber, Wings, Helix, many other things), who tells them that not only did the Founding Fathers know Ichabod was a witness, but their journey has been guided by protectors. There are also unresolved personal issues between Ichabod and Tommy J. But before any of this can be explored, SLEEPY HOLLOW destroys it all, burning interesting plot lines in the process.

Why is it necessary to destroy the lair? Given the choice between human lives and some information, of course Abbie and Ichabod are going to choose lives; it’s a no-stakes, stupid game. But this trove is extremely valuable. This is everything needed to save the world, compiled by what is apparently a well-funded, large organization. There’s no exploration of other ways to protect people from the reavers? Our heroes just give up? Really?

Look, I know it would be hard to realistically keep this library safe and secret. Even if the witnesses and company slayed all of the undead soldiers guarding it, workers have been down in the tunnel, and presumably would need to be down there again since their job is not complete. Someone else would want to know why Ichabod and Abbie are keeping people out, and the duo don’t have the authority to set up road blocks. Were Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) still in charge of the police force, things would be different, but he’s not.

That being said, surely they could figure something out. They could seal the entrance temporarily until they do. They could let their current chief in on their secrets and prove things to her. They could have Katrina (Katia Winter) cast some witchy spell that keeps people away. There are options, people, and blowing everything up is not only inconsistent with the characters, but damn lazy storytelling.

I think part of the reason “What Lies Beneath” rains down such fire is because the writing staff don’t know what to do with all the revelations they toss out this week. How can one adequately explain what the Founding Fathers were thinking and how they kept things secret for multiple centuries. Is the group they created still around? If not, how did they set everything up to unfold so long after their demise? If so, who belongs to it and where have they been this season? What is in the room, exactly, that would benefit them? These are all questions that don’t have clear answers, nor seem poised to get them, and so the show instead looks for an easy out.

This is part of a larger trend SLEEPY HOLLOW is succumbing to. Weak stories that are glossed over in favor of quick narratives that can be wrapped up in an hour constantly drag down what used to be a quality series. I can’t express enough how disappointed I am in this episode and the season in general.

There are some mythology-type events in “What Lies Beneath.” We get a little bit of a peek into how Irving keeps switching sides, though this isn’t really explained in a satisfactory way, to neither Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) nor the audience. Katrina seems to be going to the dark side, having creepy semi-dreams about Henry (John Noble) and it looks like she may switch to her son’s side, which doesn’t exactly line up with everything she’s done before. So these larger arcs are there, but not well developed.

“What Lies Beneath” also introduces us to Calvin Riggs (Sharif Atkins, White Collar), a journalist who is concerned about his brother, one of the men trapped below ground. For some reason, Abbie decides freedom of the press must be upheld, even as she continues to ignore many laws, so he gets involved. But beside that point, Calvin is also under-developed, virtually ignored most of the episode instead of being made part of the hour.

SLEEPY HOLLOW, please get yourself back on track. You’re in danger of cancellation. I hate to see you go out on such a sour note.

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

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