Sleepy Hollow Review: “The Art of War”

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Here’s my review of Sleepy Hollow season three episode “The Art of War.” 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.

You can’t say that the plot isn’t moving forward on Sleepy Hollow. It might not be moving at the crazy blink-or-you’ll-miss-it speed of the past, but the Pandora’s evil plan is still brewing, and it’s finally revealed to be in service to a different threat. Along with that, Jenny’s story is developing, Crane gets to struggle with some sort of existential crisis, there are seemingly unstoppable monsters, and all of our separate story threads are finally weaving themselves together to reveal one big interconnected blanket. But for some reason, this episode felt unsatisfying. It lacked the tone-setting camera work from last week’s episode and things occasionally felt a bit forced and cheesy.

The thing that jumped out at me the most was the forced exposition dialogue. Particularly, the scene where the Mills Sisters talk about Jenny’s condition in the Archives and what they’re going to do about it. “You always tried so hard to compartmentalize your life because… you’re a control freak,” Jenny says to Abbie in response to her sister’s worries. It’s dialogue like this that people should avoid using. The biggest rule of writing is always “show, don’t tell.” Jenny’s line just gives us a summary of Abbie’s character, even though Abbie’s actions should already show us that she’s a very controlling character. (Which frankly, I don’t even actually see as a big character trait that she’s shown in prior episodes) And what makes the line worse is that both characters should already know this. It would being like going up to a close family member and saying to their face something like “you always take out the trash on Wednesdays.” You’re both aware, so why say it at all? This simply is a lazy technique at conveying information.

Another thing is that when the insane pacing of the storyline slows down, the audience has too much time to think. And that’s when it’s easier to notice problems in the plot. The scene where Crane and Joe go try to take down the Beserkers with mistletoe is a good example. I remember thinking during that scene “Will no one notice two guys with crossbows casually stalking around a junkyard? A crossbow isn’t a very effective weapon if you want to take multiple shots? Where did they get mistletoe from anyway? And how long has Crane been driving that ugly two-toned truck??” These are not the things I should have been focusing on during that scene, but the action wasn’t as compelling as it should have been. All in all, things seemed very contrived in this episode. More so than usual.

But I don’t hate this episode for the bits of lazy writing because there were good moments too. I enjoyed the brief flashback to Daniel Boone. It was a nice change of pace from Betsy “why is she wearing a corset?” Ross for once. In addition, the flashback was very helpful in a broad, general sense. There was no magic spell Crane suddenly remembered from Boone or a randomly specific necessary object (like Paul Revere’s dentistry bag from a few episodes ago). It was simply a demonstration of a good battle technique that helped them defeat the Beserkers. This is probably the most effective way to use the flashbacks, so I hope they’ll continue this trend in future episodes.

Additionally, the reveal that Pandora hasn’t been the real Big Bad all along was effective. Now I’m interested to see what this new player’s game is. (He’s pretty obviously Anubis, Lord of the Dead, right?) With Jenny in his clutches, he seems like a more formidable foe than Pandora ever was. I’m definitely sticking around to see how this all plays out. This wasn’t the season’s best episode, but the story finally seems like it has a direction.

Additional Archive Notes

  • Every time I see mention of Beserkers, I think about Teen Wolf. Those Beserkers were a much more imposing foe than Pandora’s were. (These Beserkers actually reminded me of a sort of half-hearted attempt at a Unas from Stargate SG-1.) I would have liked more mythology for them though.
  • Oh Sophie is an FBI agent in disguise! This really gives me more questions than answers though.
  • I could have used a few more episodes of development before Joe kissed Jenny, but I guess time is short when you’re possessed by an evil stone.
  • No but seriously, where did that ugly truck come from? Has that appeared before? Was that the only thing Crane could afford?
  • “But clearly her condition is worsening.” YOU THINK? See, this is the kind of pointless dialogue we don’t need.
  • I really liked that Betsy Ross wasn’t in this episode.
  • Apparently next week is the Fall Finale (already?!) and then we’re on break for a bit. When the show returns, it’ll be airing on Fridays.

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


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