Season finale review: ‘Sleepy Hollow’ – ‘The Indispensible Man’/’Bad Blood’

Geoff Berkshire has been doing a fine job covering “Sleepy Hollow” for us all season, and here’s his take on the two-hour season finale. I have a few brief thoughts on that, and the season as a whole, coming up just as soon as I complain about my GPS app…

You may recall I was somewhat ambivalent about “Sleepy Hollow” when it debuted: impressed that the creative team embraced the inherent craziness of the series early and often, but skeptical that they could maintain that level week in and week out.

As it turns out, they could. “Sleepy Hollow” turned out to be a great example of the value of a TV show being unafraid to be about what it’s about. Too often, high-concept shows hedge their bets for a variety of reasons – budget, a lack of imagination, or a fear (from the producers and/or the network) that the audience needs its hand held – and they always suffer as a result. Here we have a show about a time-displaced Revolutionary War hero teaming up with a small town cop to prevent the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. There is no interesting way to tell a sober version of that story, and fortunately, Team “Sleepy Hollow” didn’t try. They presented wacky concept (Native American dream rituals involving scorpions!) after wacky concept (zombie George Washington!), not worrying about alienating the audience or running out of story too quickly.

In that regard, FOX’s decision to stick with 13-episode seasons was a very wise one, even if it means we have to wait about eight months to get resolution to the finale’s many intense cliffhangers. And these were the good kind of cliffhangers, too, in that none of them automatically demands to be undone. There are characters who need to escape various traps (or, in the case of Jenny, survive massive injuries), but the story is going to keep pushing forward regardless, thanks to the very smart – and cuckoo bananas – twist that Henry Parish is in fact the second Horseman, as well as Ichabod and  Katrina’s son Jeremy. As Geoff noted in his review, the move both gives the enemy a more human face and gives John Noble a lot more to do, and seeing him in full evil mode next season should be fun.

And that’s the other thing about “Sleepy Hollow,” which was present in the pilot but which I wasn’t sure could be sustained: it’s fun. It is self-aware and self-deprecating, and like “X-Files,” “Lost” and other strong sci-fi/fantasy series that went to crazy places, it understands that it doesn’t have to constantly take itself seriously in order for the audience to take it seriously. All the jokes about Ichabod’s reaction to 21st Century life (here with rants against cell phone providers and hipsters) were a treat, yet they never undermined the scariness of the monsters, nor the strength of the Ichabod/Abbie relationship(*).

(*) When you have chemistry like this show has between Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, it is very hard to screw it up. And the continued presence of Katrina added a wrinkle to what would otherwise be some relentless sexual tension. I imagine the show will go to a romantic place between the two of them at some point in the run, but nobody tried to force it here in the first season, assuming that two vivid characters of the opposite sex, played by strong and likable actors would make an interesting pairing, with or without constant flirting.

All in all, well played, “Sleepy Hollow.” I was probably too dismissive of the show’s creative prospects in the pilot, in part because I doubted the creative team could sustain the crazier parts that I liked the best, but the series only got better as it went along. It turned out to be one of the big success stories of this TV season, and deservedly so.

What did everybody else think?