In case you haven’t heard, “Sleepy Hollow” received some good news after last week’s episode aired: Fox officially renewed the show for a second season.
With that renewal came the word that “Sleepy Hollow” season one will end at 13 episodes, a standard amount in cable but nearly unheard of in network TV. And so what was simply a promising breakout fall series now becomes a high profile test case for whether or not this model can work both creatively and commercially on a major network. (Fox seems to believe it can — they’re also experimenting with shorter orders for “The Following,” which ran 15 episodes in its first season and is expected to have a similar run in season 2.)
On the creative side, I hope the decision means the “Sleepy Hollow” writers have the freedom to keep the story moving at a fast pace — with a minimum of “monster of the week” padding — and pull us deeper into the mythology of the world they’ve created. “The Lesser Key of Solomon” already moves things in that direction, unpacking a whole lot of information while maintaining the giddy loopiness that sets the show apart.
This week, instead of a freaky new monster we got a music teacher (Carsten Norgaard, suitably menacing) who is secretly a Hessian sleeper agent working to bring about the apocalypse by releasing 72 demons from the seventh circle of hell. And he wasn’t even the weirdest thing about the hour. His competition includes a sextant designed by George Washington to hide a projector revealing a map to the location of a buried object necessary for releasing those demons. And the revelation that Ichabod instigated the Boston Tea Party (with the help of Samuel Adams) in part to recover that very object. Also, the Knights Templar get name checked, because of course.
It’s the kind of historical hoo-ha the pilot delivered in abundance but subsequent episodes didn’t really follow through with. Now we know the show’s serious about keeping up with its particular jumble of Biblical hysteria and birth of our nation fantasies, but, you know, not *too* serious. If “Sleepy Hollow” has a secret weapon for getting away with its most outlandish story points it’s that everything comes with a wink. Take the terrific opening sequence this week, with Ichabod earnestly recounting his harrowing past and losing the love of his life before we realize who he’s talking to: the “NorthStar” navigation system operator.
Witty touches aside, the episode also did a solid job of developing the strained relationship between Abbie and her sister Jenny — who has been secretly assisting Abbie’s mentor Sheriff Corbin in his supernatural research for years. After their sisterly squabbling nearly drives Ichabod insane, they team up to kick some Hessian ass and eventually reach a truce (it helps that Abbie is no longer in denial about the demon they saw as children). It feels like there’s a real future for these two on the show after a disappointing start last week. (And now it’s time, I think, to focus on Ichabod a bit more. How well is he adjusting to being time shifted two centuries into the future, really?)
At any rate, after Ichabod, Abbie and Jenny defeat the rather puny Hessian cult and prevent some hokey CGI demons from bursting out of the floor (the less said about that bit, the better), their reward is discovering the name for their awful John Cho-murdering nemesis. It’s called Moloch, and it’s a “god demon of child sacrifice” referenced in Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” Yeah, this should be fun.
Odds and ends:
– Ichabod on the Boston Tea Party: “At the time it was referred to as ‘The Destruction of the Tea.’ You’ve coined a far more festive name.”
– Ichabod’s commanding officer, Colonel Jonathan Brewer, was a real guy.
– Abbie and Jenny’s father died and their mother was institutionalized (though she may still be alive?). Jenny went on to live in seven different foster homes, while Abbie stayed in just one.
– Captain Irving is still pretty much a drag, but he does immediately realize that the headless body the evil music teacher leaves behind at the bar isn’t the work of Headless. Too sloppy.
– We’ve gone two weeks without seeing Ichabod’s beloved, Katrina, though she is referenced this week when Abbie explains Ichabod’s background to Jenny and when Ichabod and Abbie talk Moloch.
– No fun pop song this week. Sad.