Sleepy Hollow Recap S01E05: "John Doe"

Amidst the visions, demons, and impromptu history lessons I've lost sight of one of the show's greatest qualities. Since Sleepy Hollow revels in absurdity it's easy to overlook something as simple as the interactions between characters. The show's premise is so outlandish and out of touch with reality that relationships between characters didn't necessarily seem important. However, the formula to any engaging story crucially depends on the people propelling the plot. The reason for this week's episode high mark wasn't the monster or the story but the developing relationship arcs and their ability to provide normalcy in such a foreign television landscape.

The writers have demonstrated a lot of humility each episode. Over the course of an episode there are several lines where the show seems to be making fun of itself or, at the very least, rolling its eyes at its ridiculousness. This laissez-faire attitude provides a lot of advantages and escape routes for the ending of each episode. For instance, tonight's conclusion was the equivalent of a story ending with a character waking up from a dream signaling everything the viewer just witnessed was a dream.

Generally, those type of endings receive not only criticism but a visceral hatred for the writer's laziness. "Sleepy Hollow" is able to elude such a negative reaction because the show is built to entertain fantasy not engage reality. This is the first show I've ever enjoyed where I can say missing the final ten minutes may be a good decision but will have no impact on my viewership. I'll always be back the next week because the first fifty minutes are entertaining as hell.

So where do the characters fit into this demented amazing fifty minute / predictable ten minute formula?

Ichobad & Abbie: This relationship's foundation is trust. After a rocky start these two have clicked and believe they are the two witnesses bound to protect the world. Tonight exemplified Abbie's faith in Ichobad when she escorted Crane and Thomas to the lost village of Roanoke. Abbie's past has allowed her to believe the unbelievable and in doing so, she's able to use Ichobad's knowledge to defeat the second horseman, Pestilence.

The trust and comfort built between the two lead to hilarious conversations. Since both characters feel completely alone, Abbie witnessed the death of friend/Sheriff Corbin and Crane is from the 18th century the two need each other to blow off steam. Tonight was filled with great lines, especially when she moved Crane into Corbin's cabin, "You and I have very different definitions of old." Also, got a couple laughs from watching Crane pull out a bath pouf from a shopping bag and their bickering about sarcasm.

After being saved by Abbie, Crane notes as the episode ends that the two need to prepare for their next over-the-top fantasy affair. This recognition of absurdity gives the show room to breathe by demonstrating its formulaic story lines.

Note: If the writers incorporate some type of love story between these two disregard all credit I gave to them over the past couple of weeks.

Captain Irving: The captain's relationship between Crane and Abbie revolves around skepticism. Irving delivered the brunt of the laughing at self / eye rolling lines in tonight's episode. In the beginning of the episode he basically played the narrator to the story by sarcastically repeating everything that occurred. For example, something along the lines of: "Oh, great. A guy from the 18th century is going to speak in middle English to an unidentified child about an unrecognizable disease that causes black veins to appear. Oh, the kid is from Roanoke. What's that? Not Roanoke, Virginia? Of course not. Roanoke, North Carolina, a village that just randomly disappeared one day. Yeah, this seems reasonable." You get the point.

The captain does play an important role in the conclusion of most episodes. Due to his position of authority, Abbie's strange requests are met because the captain has no idea what else to do.

Detective Luke Morales: How bad is Abbie's ex? In a show dealing with the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the destruction of mankind he is the person everyone should be rooting against.

Morales did some research of his own and realized that Crane is not a current faculty member at Oxford.

"John Doe" was exactly what it set out to be: entertaining.

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Watch "John Doe" and other episodes of Sleepy Hollow on Amazon Instant Video.
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Notes & Quotes

  • This week's history lesson: The lost colony of Roanoke is actually in Sleepy Hollow after a little girl named Virginia led them there away from Pestilence.
  • This week's "Welcome to the 21st Century" moment: Crane vs. Impenetrable Barriers, a.k.a. plastic.
  • "You look good for 200."
  • "I did say perhaps, Leftenant."
  • "They have come."
  • "Jefferson had an affinity for puns and Adams kept a journal full of limericks."
Comment 1
George Prax's picture

To tell you the truth I wasn't as entertained this week as I was the first four episodes, but I mostly agree with what you're saying. It's about how the show handles its own absurdity and the characters its established. I'm really enjoying this show and Fox is going about it the perfect way. 7.5 out of 10 for me, more for the "it was all a dream" ending which I didn't think was that well handled.