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Sleepy Hollow, Ep. 1.03, “For the Triumph of Evil”: Scary monster, character development can’t save weak third act

Sleepy Hollow, Ep. 1.03, “For the Triumph of Evil”: Scary monster, character development can’t save weak third act

Sleepy Hollow S01E03 promo pic 1

Sleepy Hollow, Season 1, Episode 3: “Blood Moon″
Written by Phillip Iscove and Jose Molina
Directed by John F. Showalter
Airs Mondays at 9:00 PM ET on Fox

“For the Triumph of Evil” brings the weird back to Sleepy Hollow as Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) investigate a series of strange of coincidences that are connected to Abbie and her sister Jennifer Mills (Lyndie Greenwood). Much of the plot happens in various characters’ dreams and involves a spirit known as the Sandman. This episode’s strengths are the visual effects and Phillip Iscove and Jose Molina’s ability to use a “monster of the week” episode to flesh out a character’s backstory while simultaneously adding more mystery to the overall season arc. However, the episodes does have some flaws. There is a jarring tonal shift in the third act of the episode where the story shifts from supernatural investigation and detective work to a low budget Inception rip off. And yet again, all the characters except for Crane and Abbie barely get anything to do.

The main monster in “For the Triumph of Evil” is a scary and interesting twist on the Sandman of European folklore along with some elements the dream spirits Mohawk legends. John F. Showalter has directed his share of Supernatural episodes and utilizes long shots mixed with quick edits to make the Sandman more chilling than last week’s run of the mill witches. The effects department flesh out the character described in Molina’s teleplay making it genuinely terrifying with its hollow eye sockets with sand running out. Molina and Iscove base their portrayal of the Sandman on the “The Sandman” (1816) story by E.T.A. Hoffmann where the titular character collects the eyes of children he drops sand in and feeds them to his children. This primal fear is replaced by guilt and gives Abbie Mills some much needed character development.

This episode deals with Abbie’s past, but it isn’t an origin episode. She reveals the reason why she and her sister Jennifer have a falling out to Crane because it is necessary to solve the case, which affects her personally. “For Triumph of Evil” delves into Abbie’s guilt and its effect on Jennifer, who has lived in various mental institutes for quite a while. Knowing about Abbie’s strained relationship with her sister adds depth to her character and raises the stakes for the coming apocalypse even though this episode’s plot resolves pretty easily. Along with this insertion of back story, Abbie and Crane share some refreshingly normal moments between cases which provide a good counterbalance to the dream rituals and Biblical prophecies.

Sleepy Hollow S01E03 promo pic 3

“For the Triumph of Evil” is an above average supernatural horror mystery with a strong theme of broken relationships until the last fifteen minutes. In these closing moments, Molina and Iscove pull off one of the biggest plot contrivances of the series to wrap up the A-plot. The exploration of the break in Abbie and Jennifer’s relationship is put on the back burner for another “shocking” cliffhanger and showdown with a monster. It seems like the show’s writers are either packing too much information into episode’s endings (“Pilot”) or resolving plots too quickly in a non-organic way (“Blood Moon”, “For the Triumph of Evil”). For Sleepy Hollow to go from being an average to good show, it must not minimize characters or themes in order to resolve a plot. “For the Triumph of Evil” also neglects the peripheral characters again. Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) seems to exist to shrug his shoulders and shake his head at Crane and Abbie’s actions while having no subplots of his own or any kind of character motivation. The other characters who show up are killed off or act as ciphers to further the plot. Jennifer Mills has some potential character, but so far Greenwood lacks the menace to make her truly villainous.

“For the Triumph of Evil” is a slight improvement on last week’s Sleepy Hollow with its scarier monster and improved characterization, but its final moments weaken the episode as a whole. Sleepy Hollow has some moments of surreal brilliance, like the dream sequences and a rousing speech by Ichabod Crane, but these scattered moments aren’t enough to fix its thematic and plotting issues.

– Logan Dalton