8.0

Sleepy Hollow Review: “This Is War”

(Episode 2.01)

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<i>Sleepy Hollow</i> Review: &#8220;This Is War&#8221;

One year later (we think), and Nicole Beharie/Abbie Mills still has the face of an angel.

It’s Ichabod’s 251st birthday (again, so we think) and what better way to celebrate than with the return of the Horseman? For all of three minutes, it felt like Sleepy Hollow’s “This Is War” was giving us that typical season premiere introduction—little jokes about cupcakes, and candles, and adorable stuff like that. But then the real fun begins. Abbie gets a call, and they rush off to the home of a professor who has already been taken out by the Horseman.

(I love that everything I just wrote did not, technically, happen—at least not in the way that they appeared to happen. Because this show is excellent.)

Now, even though Abbie and Ichabod are functioning under an illusion (more on that in a moment), we do learn some important information in these opening scenes. Throwback Ichabod was Benjamin Franklin’s apprentice and, apparently, the fellow who invented electricity was kind of a douche. He also enjoyed a good “air bath.” Do with that information what you will. When Ichabod comes across some of the professor’s documents, he recognizes the ghenna key, AKA the key to purgatory. It’s the only other way (other than the trusty ol’ swap method) of getting a person out of the in-between. But they need more information, and decide to have an awkward chat with Henry, Ichabod’s son.

That first shot of Henry was perfect—didn’t you get all kinds of Hannibal Lechter feels from his homey little prison? I half-expected him to flick out his tongue, but that would have been a bit much. He does, however, gleefully take the plant they brought for him. That plant had been doing all kinds of magical, wonky things in the professor’s office—we should have known then that something was up. As he places it with his other flora, he says something about how anyone can be tricked into believing a lie. BOOM.

Suddenly, Abbie and Ichabod realize they can’t remember how they captured Henry. And that’s because they didn’t. Henry breaks out of his faux chains. Abbie’s in purgatory. A year has not passed. All kinds of WTF-ery.

Turns out Moloch is pulling together his demon army (because demon armies are SO fun), for a full-on war/takeover. Abbie is trying to stop him from purgatory (along with the help of Brooks—gotta love Brooks), while Ichabod busts out of his shallow grave, Kill Bill style (well, okay, not quite as cool as Beatrix Kiddo, but still fun).

One of Sleepy Hollow’s best attributes has always been the comic relief. With all of this drama, and weirdness, and demon armies, there have to be some laughs (like naked Benjamin Franklin). And if you didn’t laugh at Ichabod trying to record his final moments for Abbie on the smartphone, before getting that horrifying “Memory Full” message, you must be Internet sensation-turned-movie star, Grumpy Cat. Nice to meet you. But that scene was hilarious.

Ichabod is able to rescue Jenny (I knew she was still alive!), who has become integral to this particular battle, since she’s the only one who knows where Franklin’s drawings are, which will lead them to the ghenna key. But she also needs Ichabod, who was forced to memorize Franklin’s self-aggrandizing alphabet. Being so arrogant, he’s buried the key with himself—or with a replica of himself, a statue. Once they find it, Abbie figures out how to communicate with Ichabod from purgatory, and Ichabod enters the realm to save her. But, of course, it’s a little tricky with all of these fake Ichabods running about. (Luckily, she knows the real Ichabod wouldn’t dare call her anything but “Leftenant”—another great moment).

Now look, I love when Abbie and Ichabod get all emotional, and refuse to abandon each other to the darkness. But in Moloch’s lair, that tender moment did feel a wee bit out of place—almost like a season finale moment, rather than one fit for a premiere. Or perhaps it was a sort of emotional climax that I wasn’t quite ready for. I’m also going to do the unthinkable, and argue that Abbie looked too damn good in those purgatory scenes. I love her eyeliner, but there should have been some major smearing, or at least a dirt smudge on her forehead for authenticity (see Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Ichabod and Abbie make a narrow escape out of the world between worlds, and the key is destroyed. But we know evil never sleeps. Henry is now linked to the second horseman, and will continue to do Moloch’s bidding… when he should really just sit down with his estranged Daddy and talk it out. Emma Watson just gave a great speech about how men need to be given permission to express their emotions, otherwise they end up with all kinds of crazy emotional issues, and demon armies and stuff (okay, she mainly just said the first part). It’s silly, but I can’t help but hope for a tender father/son moment at some point during the show’s run.

Now, sometimes I get so caught up in this show, it’s difficult for me to determine whether or not it’s truly good material, or if I’m just so into it, I’ve lost my proper TV critic faculties. But upon watching this episode a second time, I realized it is good. So much of this episode’s strength stems from those opening scenes, that play on the notion of reality versus illusion. When you revisit the opening, all of the small moments are suddenly made bigger, once the illusion is revealed. The writers played with the viewer’s own memories and understanding—so as to mimic Henry’s deceit—and it made the experience of the episode all the more powerful. Sleepy Hollow did not take any of the usual, predictable, easy routes with this premiere. ‘Preciate that.

Stray Observations:

Please note that Abbie had the Stevie Wonder version of “Happy Birthday” playing in the background during Ichabod’s surprise party. Obviously.

“Is there no end to this birthday madness?”—Ichabod

Loved when Henry quotes Jesus: “I bring not piece, but a sword.” Nothing like a Son of God complex.

Those scenes with headless Abraham and Katrina felt a little out of place, but I’m not complaining (mainly because of that one scene with Headless Horseman’s abs… awkward how much I was into that).

I really missed those fist bumps.

Favorite Quote of the Episode: I’ve done a lot of sinning, I hope you choke on every one of them.—Jenny Mills

Shannon M. Houston is Assistant TV Editor at Paste, and a New York-based freelance writer with probably more babies than you. You can follow her on Twitter.

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