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Sunday, March 1, 2015

SLEEPY HOLLOW Resides in the Past

Article originally written for Seat42F.

This week’s SLEEPY HOLLOW season (series?) finale on FOX, “Tempus Fugit,” finds Abbie (Nicole Beharie) in 1781. She must convince Ichabod (Tom Mison) to help her take down his evil witch wife, Katrina (Katia Winter), who has come back in time to kill Ichabod, and thus save their son’s life. Ichabod is hesitant to believe Abbie, as one might expect, but Abbie is nothing if not smart and resourceful, so she gets the job done.

“Tempus Fugit” is a very fun episode. Fun is the best word I can use to describe it, as story continuity has been lacking, but we’ll get to that in a moment. This finale, really a stand-alone-ish adventure, basically mirrors the pilot, with Abbie now the one out of time who must seek help from her partner in his element. This role reversal is satisfying for the fans, played well by the two actors with excellent chemistry. Toss in an appearance by Benjamin Franklin (Timothy Busfield), who of course believes everything Abbie says, and have Abbie encounter her ancestor, Grace Dixon (Onira Tares), and one gets almost everything one wants from this episode.

But here’s the thing: the set up of “Tempus Fugit” is lacking. Abbie knows Franklin is much more likely to believe her than Ichabod, so why not go to him in the first place? She may need Ichabod’s help and time is short, but surely it would be easier and quicker to get Ichabod to do what she wants with Franklin’s intervention. That she eventually succeeds in proving herself doesn’t take away from the fact that she wastes valuable time doing so.

This lack of thinking things through extends to the characters, who sometimes act without sufficient motivation. Katrina’s descent into villain is swift and complete. She doesn’t hesitate to kill innocents, such as Colonel Sutton (Marc Menchaca, Homeland). She’s acting without any regard for who she was in the first place. I know she wants to save Henry’s life, but doesn’t she feel bad at all for trying to wipe out the man she supposedly loved? She’s reduced to a very two-dimensional persona, and I don’t like it.

The biggest problem “Tempus Fugit” has by far is the lack of any stakes to care about, making the events of the hour, while entertaining, meaningless. It’s true that if Abbie and Ichabod do not manage to reverse Katrina’s spell, much would have been damaged in the world of SLEEPY HOLLOW. But there can’t be any viewers who seriously believe that’s a possibility, given how the story is presented. From early on in the episode, even before the Headless Horseman (Jeremy Owens) decapitates Ben Franklin, it’s very obvious that whatever happens in this 1781 doesn’t count, and it will all be erased. That basically ruins any tension the installment might build up, providing much simmering frustration as I watch scenes that would otherwise be very good.

Don’t get me wrong; I mostly enjoy “Tempus Fugit.” If nothing else, the pain Ichabod feels when he stabs Katrina to death is real, and Henry (John Noble) returning to escort his mother into the afterlife is very moving. As I’ve said before, the chemistry between Beharie and Mison is absolutely fantastic, and it is well used in this hour. But that’s not enough if the story can’t play out in a cohesive, logical manner. I’d say SLEEPY HOLLOW has Glee syndrome, doing the emotion well, but frequently dropping the ball on its larger arcs, not taking the time to make each new week match up with what has already been established.

If SLEEPY HOLLOW gets a third season, and that’s a big if at this point, we’re in major need of a reset. That is sort of telegraphed when Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) shows up with a “cured” Irving (Orlando Jones) at the end. In this reset, real care needs to be taken to craft a structure for a new serial story that pays homage to the past, but basically begins a new adventure for the Witnesses. If the writers can do this, I’d be happy to see it renewed. If not, “Tempus Fugit” feels like a good place to put the show out of its misery, a decent enough episode capping a very uneven, inconsistent season.

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