So, to recap: we have Ichabod Crane, a Georgian Oxford professor who joined the American Revolutionaries and was killed on the battlefield in 1781 and resurrected in the present, just in time for the underground supernatural war that’s been raging for the last two and a half centuries to come to a head; Lieutenant Abbie Mills, a police officer who is haunted by the experience of seeing a demonic presence when she was a teenager that caused her to frequently doubt her sanity; Abbie’s sister Jenny, a former mercenary who was incarcerated in a mental asylum due to refusing to believe said presence was her imagination, as well as violent outbursts caused by periodic demonic possession; and Katrina, Ichabod’s white witch wife who was banished to purgatory by her own coven and tormented by a Golem manifestation of their dead son’s freakishly terrifying doll.
Still with me? Excellent.
When we last left Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod was bound in a coffin and buried alive by Henry, the friendly neighbourhood sin eater who it transpired is not only Ichabod and Katrina’s evidently-not-dead son Jeremy but also the Apocalyptic Horseman of War; Abbie is trapped in purgatory and hunted by the tormented souls that populate it; Jenny is unconscious in a car wreck after an ambush by the Headless Horseman; and, having just escaped purgatory, Katrina has now been kidnapped and remains at the Horseman’s mercy.
Oh, and the Headless Horseman is Ichabod’s friend Abraham given superhuman strength and undead immortality by the Shadow Warriors, a black magic cult within the ranks of the Hessian mercenaries, and is also the Apocalyptic Horseman of Death. And the demon lord Moloch is manipulating events to bring all Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to Sleepy Hollow in an attempt to kickstart the End of Days. And Ichabod and Abbie are the Witnesses prophesised in the Book of Revelation tasked with averting it. Get it? Got it? Good.
There are no two ways about it: Sleepy Hollow is truly, utterly and unapologetically mental, and it knows it. However, its genius is that it strikes the perfect balance of absurdity and solemnity that took Supernatural years to perfect, comporting itself with just enough decorum that you’re able to take it seriously despite being fully aware of how completely bonkers it is.
We’re eased into the new season with a standard plot consisting of the hunt for another object of power, this time a key that can sidestep purgatory’s one-in-one-out rule and with which Moloch intends to open a gateway after raising a demon army to march on the mortal world.
Of course, this is not just any key, but the very same one that Benjamin Franklin famously hung on a kite flown in a thunderstorm, because very little happens in 21st century Sleepy Hollow that doesn’t tie back to Colonial America in some convoluted and historically significant manner. And it just so happens that Ichabod has personal knowledge of the man that could aide in locating it.
The show’s humour is still peppered in at appropriate junctures, with details such as Ichabod’s distaste of Benjamin Franklin’s self-aggrandising arrogance and Abbie expanding on the celebratory fist bump to Ichabod’s bemusement. Also, Ichabod’s escape from burial is so implausible you just have to go with it, and the episode climax hinges on a wonderful “which is the real you” moment that gives a nod to fans by acknowledging one of the most frequently commented upon aspects of Ichabod’s speech.
Despite the evident desire to jump right back into things, the episode does slightly lose its focus. The opening segment goes on a little too long to come off as being quite as clever as it thinks it is; Katrina remains lumbered with the role of damsel in distress, along with no explanation given as to why she’s not breaking out her witchy powers now that she’s freed from her half-life limbo prison; and the rules for surviving purgatory are inelegantly crowbarred into dialogue, bluntly signposting their imminent importance. Also, not even a passing mention of Captain Irving and the fallout of his daughter’s demonic possession? Disappointing.
Aside from such relatively minor issues, the expansion of the core cast via Lyndie Greenwood (Jenny) and John Noble (Henry) being upgraded to series regulars hopefully means that the plots will become more streamlined and less one-shot, while the end of the episode promises some spectacular action to come. A strong but imperfect restart, This Is War continues Sleepy Hollow in the exactly same manner it left off, leaving plenty of room for development and improvement.
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