Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New TV! Sleepy Hollow and Gotham

This fall I've made a pact with myself (that will last a total of one day, because "myself" has become a super unreliable person these days, so I warn you now) that I would watch new shows the night they premiere. That isn't helped by the fact that the shows I needed to watch last night — Gotham and  Sleepy Hollow — ran from 8 to 10pm, and my daughter wouldn't go to bed until 9, and then kept coming downstairs asking for a bagel/apple/banana/water/hot chocolate/milk/wrath of her mother until 9:45. But I soldiered on and watched them! And watching these shows back to back was a little unsettling, since Gotham is set in the dark, seedy underbelly of Gotham City, where otherworldly villains plot to run the town while ruining the lives of its residents and they kill Bruce Wayne's parents, leading the future Commissioner Gordon to declare war on all of them... and Sleepy Hollow is set in the dark, seedy underbelly of Sleepy Hollow, where otherworldly villains try to break through a barrier from purgatory into our world to destroy the world and everyone in it, and Ichabod Crane and Abigail Mills declare war on all of them. The first time the "leff-tenant" said, "This is war," I thought, wait, didn't someone already say that? Oh right, that was over on Gotham.

Bottom line: I thought Gotham was great, but Sleepy Hollow was excellent.

You've probably already read what Gotham is about: it's basically the Batman version of Smallville, where we're going to see Catwoman and Penguin and the Riddler and Bruce Wayne before they become villains/dark heroes, and the final episode of the series will no doubt see Batman suit up for the first time (if Fox lets the show get that far). There's nothing subtle about the show — Penguin's mentor-turned-enemy is named Fish (played by Jada Pinkett-Smith, who I really liked in the role), so we know that will end badly; little Ivy's dad is the most poisonous father you could imagine; the Riddler is named E. Nigma (no, really) and works at the police station — but that's okay, because this stuff was never meant to be subtle. The acting is quite good, and where the cops are usually the dull side of comics, I thought the casting of Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue as the good cop/bad cop detectives is a stroke of genius, because I was as interested in them as all of the creepy characters running around. The most fun to watch is Robin Lord Taylor (also the best name of any of the actors), who plays the Penguin. When Fish Mooney figures out he betrayed her, she beats his legs, and in the next scene you see him doing the creepy penguin waddle that we assume will never go away. (The little prosthetic they put on the actor's nose to make it oh-so-subtly pointy is well done, too.) I thought he was wonderful. As is the boy who plays Bruce Wayne himself. Casting kids is a dicey business. As we saw on Lost, they grow up quickly, so you have to be careful that the storyline moves along at the same pace as the child's aging. But there's also the worry that the kid won't be effective. Henry on Once Upon a Time was cute in the beginning, and just became stilted and whiny a season or two later. But this kid seems mature, as if he's playing younger than he is (which is good) and has that glowering look of hatred in his eyes that runs so deep, you just know he'll eventually be donning black spandex and beating the crap out of bad guys in a low, growly voice.

Over on Sleepy Hollow, we open with what this series does best: show what a fish out of water Ichabod Crane still is in our 21st century. We think he's still in the pine box, calling out for the lieutenant out of fear for himself and her, but in fact he's in a dark room because she's about to surprise him with a birthday cupcake. And poof, we're one year after the incident, and I guess the escape was going to be too boring and since we KNOW they're going to make it, maybe this is a clever way to do it? (The writers want you to be confused at this point, and it works.) The scene is glorious, from the fact that Abbie went with a red white and blue motif on the cupcake (ha!) to his astonishment and bafflement at our weird traditions. "Why does your era celebrate terror with dessert?" he asks after she has left him in a dark and stormy room and then suddenly flipped on a light switch and yelled surprise at him. When she explains the tradition, he says in his stilted "I'm trying to be cool" way, "I shall consider myself punk'd." LOL!

Ichabod: So what, you just stare at it?
Abbie: You blow it out, you make a wish.
Ichabod: A wish.
Abbie: Another... modern tradition.
Ichabod: And here I thought science had won over superstition in modern America. Fine. I wish...
Abbie: Not out loud...
Ichabod: Is there no end to this birthday madness?!

Oh Ichabod. How I have MISSED you!!

For the first 15 minutes, they continue to play out this present-day/we've already been saved scenario: if we assume this show is in the present, and several months have passed in our time, those same months have passed in theirs as well.  They presumably got out of the coffin/purgatory back in January/February at some point and have been having adventures, and we're joining them in September, where they will inevitably flash back to show us what happened in the past. Throughout this first 15 minutes I enjoyed the action immensely, as they broke into an office and battled the Headless Horseman, etc., but I kept wondering how exactly they got out of their fixes. They go to see the Sin Eater Henry (Ichabod Junior) and he makes a comment about how even though he's using artificial sunlight on his plants, they don't seem to know the difference and will believe what they're told. And I thought, "Hold on... wait a..." and immediately after, we discover this was all an elaborate trick, they're still in purgatory/coffin, and they've been punk'd for reals. Amazing.

Of course, there's a key and they get out of the coffin and purgatory and manage to keep Moloch in but he's raising an army of evil dead and Jenny's still alive and Headless Horseman Abraham has Katrina and he's being skeezy with her and Henry apologizes to Moloch but Moloch has other plans and introduces Headless Horseman #2 — WAR — and Henry gets to control him like one of the guys controlling the robots in Real Steel (now I just want to see two Headless Horsemen playing Rock 'Em Sock 'Em) and Abbie declares war on everything.

So, the usual awesomeness.

But there are so many other highlights throughout, usually by the brilliant Tom Mison, who plays Ichabod with such arrogant charm and yet complete bafflement that I can't imagine anyone else pulling off this role.


  • Benjamin Franklin is played by Timothy Busfield, who is always amazing in any role. The first time we see him, he's entirely in the nude, and Ichabod shows his disgust with an exaggerated eye roll, making the scene even more hilarious. We see instantly why Ichabod didn't like him, but as Abbie points out, they're pretty much equal when it comes to arrogance. 
  • How many more times he seems to have said "Leff-tenant," especially now that it's been established as the key part of a viewing drinking game (and that that would be her one way of figuring out the fake Ichabod was indeed a fake!) 
  • Ichabod's surprise that Harvard (a university that was established before the American Revolution, as were most of the Ivy League schools) still exists.
  • Aside from the cupcake moment, my favourite scene is Ichabod, about to blow up the coffin and possibly killing himself in the process, deciding to use this newfangled technology in his pocket and leave one last message for his dear friend Abbie on his camera phone: "If I die, Lieutenant, I want you to know that I never stopped fighting... [phone suddenly says MEMORY FULL] ... AND none of that recorded." HAHAHAHA! 
Sleepy Hollow had an excellent return, and Gotham a promising premiere. Here's hoping the rest of this week's premieres are as much fun! 


Ron Kaplan said...

So for the first time I'm realizing that Catwoman is older than Batman. That doesn't come across in any of the previous iterations. Makes for an interesting "cougar" dynamic, in retrospect.

kluu said...

Yeah it is a change. In Batman Year One she is around 19 to Batman's 25ish age. But if she is 14 or 15 to his 10 or 11 it isn't much to make a difference once they are grown.

I also presume that the little red haired girl is to become Poison Ivy but her name is Ivy soemthing not Pamela Isley like in the comics.

I wasn't sure but was Jim Gordon's finance's last name, Cain? This sems a mix of two other character names who become Batgirl inthe future. Barbara Gordon, Jim's daughter and Cassandra Cain. I'm not sure of the relation of Cassandra Cain to Jim gordon's wife but either way, Batgirl doesn't show up till Batman is around 29 so they will probably have Barbara Cain get pregnant by Jim gordon pretty soon in the show.

Fred said...

We are going to watch Gotham this evening, so I have nothing to say on that. But we watched Sleepy Hollow, and it was a great season starter, pulling our intrepid three heroes back together, with a nod to Abbie's friend and former sheriff.

I had always wondered what the headless horseman did when he got home after one of his forays. Now I know.

Better than the cupcake/birthday surprise, was last year's correction of what Paul Revere said on his midnight ride. Ichabod stunned a group of school children by the ignorance of their museum guide. I look forward to more such corrections of American Colonial history by the writers.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Gordon's finace is Keen, not Cain, and The Riddler was always Edward Nigma (including in the Carrey movie.) As someone else pointed out, the little girl called herself Ivy, it really could be Pamela.

You didn't mention how much Alfred looks like the Third Doctor?

Rebecca T. said...

I enjoyed both of them, though I want to watch them again and since I no longer have DVR and they're on Fox... I'm guessing that rewatch will have to wait their requisite 30 days for online viewing.

BUT! I thought they both were interesting. I definitely see Gotham as more Gordon's origin story than Batman's and I love the actor. I think he does a great job in the part.

HOWEVER. I thoroughly dislike this iteration of Alfred. Bordering on hate. We shall see how it goes, but it was not doing it for me yesterday.

Switching to Sleepy Hollow - The thing I love about Crane is that, even though they continue to highlight his "fish-out-of-water" self, it never feels cheap or contrived or there purely for laughs (even if it is). There is something so genuine about the way he plays it that you completely buy into it.

Dusk said...

I also love the guy who plays Penguin.

Gotham may struggle to create real stakes because the villains they are focused on promoting are all advertised to *become* great baddies in the future, so what happened with Penguin last night lacked some tension and I was more interested in seeing how he got out of it. This problem could extend to the good guys as well and already does to Barbra Kean unless they make a major break from future Batman plots. In most of the scenes though I felt more tension from Fish Moony because in spite of the very stupid name she actually seems dangerous and a bit of a wild card because so far she is an OC so we don't know what her endgame is exactly.

Have you seen any of SHIELD?

Page48 said...

Yes, Harvard IS still there and there's a guy toiling away in a basement lab who looks a lot like Ichabod's sin-eating son.

Nikki Stafford said...

Colleen: You didn't mention how much Alfred looks like the Third Doctor?

I KNOW, it was so weird, right? It's like they're related or something. LOL! It's funny, because yesterday when I was emailing friends about it, I kept talking about Sean Pertwee, and how much he looked and spoke like his dad, and realized I hadn't said a word here about it. I thought he was fantastic.

JS said...

I LOVED Sleepy Hollow, and how unapologetic it was in its campiness. Watching Crane in the coffin first try to punch his way out brought me back to a certain reanimated vampire slayer....

Austin 'Teebore' Gorton said...

As a series, I think Gotham has rough hoe to row, in that it's a prequel to nothing specific (so any ability to jump ahead and watch the "realized" versions of these characters is impossible, because they only exist in a kind of cultural zeitgeist informed by a variety of different stories across multiple mediums of storytelling) yet the circumstances of how this all turns out are still so well known that the characters feel even more stuck in narrative stasis than usual for a prequel.

But I thought the first episode was pretty good as an episode of TV. Jada Pinkett Smith is probably the best of the villains (which is good, since her character is wholly original) and I thought the kid playing Bruce did a fantastic job, to the point that I'm even more bummed we'll never get to see him as Batman. The Bullock/Gordon relationship has a strong foundation, and hopefully the winking at the audience will get toned down in later episodes.

I think they really dropped the ball in having Penguin come out of the river, kill a fisherman, and eat a sandwich instead of a raw fish, though. :)

Sleepy Hollow was great. Love that show. Naked Timothy Busfield Ben Franklin might just be my new favorite TV character this season.

Austin 'Teebore' Gorton said...

...and where the cops are usually the dull side of comics...

Agree to disagree there. Gotham Central, which Gotham is loosely echoing (and would have done better to just adapt outright) is one of the best comic series of the last 15 years, and it's entirely built around the GCPD, with Batman looming in the background and rarely making much in the way of direct appearances.

Even outside of that series, Gordon, Montoya, Allen, Bullock etc. account for some great moments in the regular Batman books and make for consistently entertaining supporting characters.

@Colleen/redeem147:Gordon's finace is Keen, not Cain

And like E. Nigma, that's straight from the comics as well.

Her implied relationship with Montoya is not, but the character and her relationship with Gordon is.

JavaChick said...

Have both of these recorded, but have not yet watched; waiting for my husband to watch with me.