Sleepy Hollow Review: “What Lies Beneath”

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“Are you a…hologram, Mr. Jefferson?” Photo credit:

Here’s my review of Sleepy Hollow season two episode “What Lies Beneath.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.

In my humble opinion (which isn’t worth more than a three-leaf clover), Sleepy Hollow returned to form last night with a genuinely entertaining episode like the ones we used to have in season one. It’s weird though because I can’t figure out why I liked it so much. I thought that pulling back on the serialized stories would hurt the show, make it less compelling to watch each week, but I’m beginning to see that an episodic format with light serialization works wonderfully for Sleepy Hollow.

Or maybe I’m just a sucker for magical presidential holograms.

To be (more) honest, this episode benefited from being a missing person’s search and rescue instead of trying to find a supernatural murderer. The pacing of the story worked in conjunction with the different case focus as well. The audience already knew from the opening scene where the guys were, so subsequently, Crane and Abbie didn’t have to spend too much time tracking them down. More time was devoted to the discovery of new information and putting together a rescue mission. In normal cop shows, this would be reverse, saving the rescue scene for the last few minutes as the good guys charge in with guns blazing. But Sleepy Hollow is a supernatural cop show, so we can focus on something other than investigation and interrogation scenes.

Another thing that has always made Sleepy Hollow fun was its commitment to revisionist history. In past episodes the writers have really gone all out to reach absurd heights when it comes to portraying America’s founding fathers. Remember the season one finale when Crane and Abbie went to George Washington’s Indiana Jones-esque crypt? We all know it’s bogus, but the idea of George Washington enlisting the help of a secret coven of witches and hiding invisible messages in his bible is absolutely hilarious. Ben Franklin’s secret history has been fun to see as well.

But the writer’s have faltered when it comes to other historical figures. Abigail Adams, for example, from a few episodes ago was revealed to have played a vital role in investigating some murders. Sure, that’s something we wouldn’t expect, but it’s also not something that we couldn’t imagine either. It’s plausible. And in this show, we don’t want plausible.

What we want are magical talking holograms of former US presidents. And we got it! The reveal that Thomas Jefferson had got some witches to magic him up a hologram to talk to Crane and Abbie when the time came was brilliant and also super hilarious. Jefferson knew about Crane’s destiny so he built a fancy underground building to house all his fancy occult books inside. Who would have guessed that?

As long as Sleepy Hollow is dealing in the strange and ridiculous, it works. The problems pop up when the pacing slows down too slow that we actually have time to think about what’s going on and we also get bogged down by too many characters.

Speaking of characters, we got a new, possibly recurring, character this week with the introduction of Calvin Riggs. While I thought he was kinda preachy, he seems like an interesting guy with his ideas on journalism and cover-ups and conspiracies (although there was one conversation with Abbie about that that just seemed to draaaag on forever.) What sets him apart from Hawley is that he’s just a normal guy. Hawley was a treasure hunter and functioned in a role similar to Jenny’s, thus making him extraneous. But there aren’t any characters like Calvin right now (unless you count Sheriff Reyes since she’s unaware of the supernatural stuff, but she’s not around often). Calvin’s more like an audience surrogate to experience the storyline from a point-of-view different from our more-informed main characters. It would be nice to see him return a few times if only so we can get a character that functions as something other than “fountain of supernatural or historical knowledge.”

Like I said earlier, one would think that a standalone episode wouldn’t be as interesting as a continuous storyline, but this one was. The elements of the story (the search/rescue mission, the crazy hologram, the new guy) were woven together so that I wasn’t bored or distracted at all. And as always, the creepy demon monsters (“Reavers” they were called this week) were terrifyingly cool too. Maybe the writer’s have escaped their own bit of purgatory and now everything’s getting back to the way it should be. Utterly ridiculous.

Additional Archive Notes

  • I liked the reveal that Irving wasn’t completely evil but actually struggling with a darker self that takes over unexpectedly. But I was disappointed when he admitted that Evil Frank would soon take over full time because the split between the two would be so much more interesting. Can you imagine him in battle constantly going back and forth trying to undo the damage the other did?
  • I didn’t miss Katrina at all this week. It was nice to solve a problem without relying on her magic mumbo jumbo. And she wasn’t all that bad in the final scene. Her broken motherly relationship with Henry is definitely going to be a fun thing to continue to explore. “I killed Moloch for you,” he says.
  • If you were to meet a magical presidential hologram, who would you choose? (American or otherwise) I’d pick Howard Taft.
  • Sleepy Hollow films in Wilmington, NC (although if the show gets renewed for another season, they’re moving production somewhere else) and the first scene with Crane and Abbie looked to be filmed on the USS North Carolina, a retired battleship that now serves as a museum. This was really cool to me since I’ve been there before! (Also, just the idea that Abbie takes Crane on field trips is excellent)
  • Best line of the episode: “We just blew up the author of the Declaration of Independence”

So what did you think? Were you entertained again or is Sleepy Hollow too far gone? Did you like the ridiculous bits with Thomas Jefferson or hate them? Feel free to leave a comment and discuss!


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