Although FOX’s SLEEPY HOLLOW does a shorter season than most broadcast network series, it is billing this week’s “Magnum Opus” and next week’s episode as a big, splashy, two-part, mid-season finale. Strange, since it will only broadcast a few hours when it returns next year, but welcome, because it’s a gripping tale with much action.
In “Magnum Opus,” Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Abbie (Nicole Beharie) search for a mythical sword that can kill Moloch. Unbeknownst to them, Henry (John Noble) is fully aware of Katrina’s (Katia Winter) “secret” communications with the pair, so he knows of their plan and sends Abraham (Neil Jackson) to stop them. Funnily enough, our heroes need their foe’s help, as the sword is guarded by a Gorgon who can turn them into stone with a look, and did such to Abbie’s ancestor. Since Abraham doesn’t actually have a head (though he increasingly is seen with one due to various spells and enchantments), he is immune to the creature’s primary weapon.
The finding of the sword and the battle to get it is a fun, exciting one. The Gorgon is a scary, cool creature, and the sword room is reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a great film. The fight scenes are well choreographed, and the script plays out pretty clever in how it unfolds the story. This installment pumps the adrenaline and gives SLEEPY HOLLOW fans the adventure element they crave.
It’s also an intriguing personal story. Ichabod talks of how his true self, which he must come to terms with, has been shaped by Abraham. We get flashbacks of the two as friends, Abraham goading Ichabod into traveling to America. Katrina drives them apart, but the two have rich, deep history that begs to be explored further. I am not crazy about the climax of this, when Ichabod proclaims he wants redemption for Abraham, who is not at all receptive, but the backstory leading up to this moment is terrific and something I hope SLEEPY HOLLOW repeats.
The problem with this part of “Magnum Opus,” though, is that it doesn’t quite make sense. Ichabod is painted as a noble patriot who fought for his country. Yet, we see he is an adult in England, so America is a short-term home for him at the start of the Revolution. He truly is a traitor to the crown, not a colonist defending the land he’s grown up on. I’m not saying he shouldn’t fight for the United States, but his motivations are not explored, and on the face of it, seem shaky.
Abraham, on the other hand, remains loyal to his homeland. This is a position that actually makes more sense for the characters as they are presented. Which is why it bothers me that he is painted as a villain for not wanting to turn his back on England. He also has justifiable jealousy at Katrina having chosen Ichabod over him, but that should be a separate thing, not combined with the fight for freedom.
I’m not even sure why Ichabod wanted to be American because he clearly detests many of the founding fathers. We’ve seen his distaste for Benjamin Franklin, though the man provides a much-needed clue in “Magnum Opus” in a brilliant twist of historical fact, and he calls Washington a known liar. He didn’t like the leaders of the movement, so why was Ichabod fighting for them?
Those issues aside, which are glaring and in need of addressing, this is a solid hour. Henry’s conniving plan is well thought out, and Irving’s (Orlando Jones) determination to fight for the side of right, rather than hide out, is a way to satisfactorily serve an underused core character. It keeps me engaged throughout the installment, and builds anticipation greatly for next week’s finale.
SLEEPY HOLLOW airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.