As we get into these weekly reviews, I want to constantly remind the reader that I do, in fact, enjoy this show. I like its humor, its grasp of pop culture and even Crane’s ignorance of modern conveniences is only slightly overplayed, but still fun and entertaining. The acting is always excellent and everyone has great chemistry on camera.
Then they go and muck it up.
Every week the writers prove their inability to competently develop a logical timeline of events within the historical chronology. Their internal inconsistency is deplorable.
For example, while walking into a bank to acquire the severed head of the Horseman, Crane cites Jefferson. There are two problems here which I will lay out:
(1) The quote the writers use is from a personal letter of Jefferson’s–not something said in public discourse–which begs one to wonder how Crane could have known what was written in it? Oh, did I forget to mention the letter was written in 1816? Yeah, so 35 years after Crane was buried in the ground in a cave. I mean, don’t the writers even care anymore? It feels like they just did a Google search on ‘quotes+banks+founders’ and came up with this really out of context quote and plugged it in the script without any further thought. And no, they don’t get points for knowing Jefferson was a founding father.
(2) What is more troubling here is that Crane has become something of a two-trick pony. The only things he can do is ignorantly quote a founder (whether it fits his character’s story line or not) and feign resentment towards modern commodities. By having Crane quote every random founder they can, the writers have stripped Crane of any semblance of individualism, of uniqueness. He isn’t a person, he’s a cheap, possibly insane, individual that lacks any luster beyond the initial exotic novelty of the first season. That is it. That is Crane. He has no will of his own, he has no deep or critical thoughts. By combining these two bits into one (Crane resenting banks because ‘founder quote!’), he’s become a bit of a bore. Tom Mison’s incredible acting is the only thing saving his character from a total loss. Save Tom Mison by getting that man a better script (but for the love of Pete, let him keep wearing that jacket).
It is bad enough that the writers and producers (who hold some of the blame) simply can’t be bothered to do any fact-checking or even make a god damned timeline for their own writing use. Instead, it seems, they write like they have a bullet-point list in the office that consists of people, places, and events that they randomly throw darts at to determine what Crane will say next, where he will go next, who he knew. Forget Crane having any real opinions about banks himself; no, instead lets just throw in a Jefferson quote and to hell with character development.
I’m noticing my interest in this show wane with every episode. Why? Because it is missing drama. The writers missed so many awesome opportunities to show these characters’ humanity. Crane is a former professor who traded books for a firelock, crossed a dangerous ocean, just to fight in a bloody war not just with humans but with monsters too. Yet Crane seems to suffer absolutely no side-effects of that war. No PTSD? Really? The dude died. You mean to tell me he seriously awoke to this new and advanced world after 230+ years and is in a state of complete control of his own body? I call total bullshit. In the Revolutionary War, people’s limbs were being blown off by canon balls (seriously, read the pension files and personal letters–heads being completely removed from their necks by round shot fired from canon), wounds festered with foul vermin and parasites (that killed more men than the battle). Did I happen to mention the battles themselves were frakking chaotic? And Crane suffered no trauma at all going through that?
That’s what I’m talking about. It’s a completely missed opportunity. We live in a world where thousands of combat vets are returning (and have returned) from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious mental illnesses and physical effects of combat. We have a serious issue in this country with helping our veterans. Incidentally, if the writers of Sleepy Hollow had done their research, they would have known that these issues aren’t new and that many veterans of the Revolution went unpaid, lived in poverty, lost their houses and farms because they couldn’t pay their past-due taxes that had accrued while out fighting, etc. It was the perfect human bridge to make it a thousand times more relatable to millions of viewers who are possibly going through the same hardships.
So rather than of making a relatable character, where Crane suffers from similar afflictions from battles–you know, also with demons–and giving him some uniqueness and perspective about war and its toll on veterans and the wealthy elite avoiding all of that (which they also did back then), the writers instead opt to have him apprentice under Benjamin Franklin, a person he never could have met during the war because guy was in Paris. France.
dumbest laziest way to write. It indicates to me, in my opinion, that they think you, the viewer, are just too stupid to know any better. Rather than expanding and broadening the awesome potential of the narrative, they’ve worked hard to stunt its growth completely.
And don’t give me that stupid, tiresome line about how I shouldn’t concern myself with history because the show is fiction. Like this person:
— Molly (@Pink_birrd) September 30, 2014
That’s an excuse. It presumes that there are no consequences to just screwing with history on television. But that isn’t true. As I’ve laid out in this linked article, people are more influenced by television than the classroom, meaning that several hundreds, perhaps thousands, of poor blokes out there who watched the past two weeks of Sleepy Hollow will think that Franklin was in America throughout the whole war, or that he did his kite experiment during the Revolution. And if they’ve followed the show from the start, they’ll likely think the Boston Tea Party happened during the war, or that the Constitution was framed prior to 1781 (because Crane acts like he knows of it), or that Hessians were bad people (in fact they were average soldiers, many thousands remained here after the war ended and settled, and started families), or any of the countless other historical problems that plague this show. The writers are making people more ignorant at the end of their program than when they started watching it. And, sorry, no, I’m not nitpicking, like this person believes:
This represents the most narrowed understanding of my meaning. If I were nitpicking, I’d be calling attention to the horrible wardrobe choices, wholly inaccurate for the period (like the fact that Hessian soldiers did not wear red coats like the British).
No, the writer’s have doomed themselves by making all of these grossly historical facts part of the damn plot. I’ve got no problem with fiction, but if you’re going to add history, it is so damn easy to get it right. So easy. Instead they muck it up and their plot along with it.
Crane didn’t simply take part in the tea party, he took part in the tea party because it furthered the plot. He wasn’t made Franklin’s apprentice because he was a lone man trying to build up a reputation as a printer, but because it had something to do with the show’s vastly inaccurate storyline. Do you see my point? The history of the show is part of the very fabric of the show. That the writers are too careless to get the history right–the very history that sets the stage for the plot (that important thing that keeps the story moving and all)-says a lot; it suggests to me that maybe they don’t care.
And let’s not forget that these are completely avoidable mistakes. There is no reason to make these glaring errors; there are so many damn ways to do it right and make the story a thousand times more interesting in the process. But they can’t be bothered. Like I said in my review last week, the writers can fix this. Why does Crane need to know Franklin? There is no reason to make them acquaintances to have the same plot point. None. Have a flashback with Franklin, by himself, prior to the war, doing his experiment–hell, maybe Crane found a book of Franklin’s, or maybe (you know, because character development) he knew of Franklin’s book while studying at Oxford as a student in the 1760’s (Franklin’s electricity experiments were published in the 1750’s). Or maybe the Hessian device found at the dockyard in Boston was discovered by the Sons of Liberty (rather than the Virginia militia, which is just weird) and they whisked it away into their protection until Washington took command of the army during the siege of Boston and gave it to him then. There are literally hundreds of ways to write good fiction that doesn’t destroy historical integrity. HUNDREDS. OF. WAYS.
The only reason that the plotline and the history could have been destroyed so badly is if the writers purposefully set out to do so; that means they just don’t give any fraks about it.
What bothers me more is that instead of recognizing this issue, they flat out refuse to acknowledge it. Last night, I called Orlando Jones on it, and here is how the conversation went:
.@tomverenna That’s what the history books WANT you to believe.
— Orlando Jones (@TheOrlandoJones) September 30, 2014
Don’t get me wrong, Orlando Jones is awesome; love that guy in everything he does. But c’mon. Worst of all, dozens of people favorited the tweet like it was somehow profound or meaningful. No, guy. Franklin was in France. There is no question about it. In fact the only people raising any issue with the facts are the producers and writers of the show. Scratch that, no. They aren’t questioning it, they are steamrolling over it. Need I remind everyone that it is they who are claiming to have done research–THEY are claiming they want to get the history right. But they aren’t even trying. It’s downright irresponsible writing. I really hope they fix this.
Here’s a start: hire a historical consultant. If you have them, either fire them (because the consulting they are doing sucks) or (if they don’t suck, and you’re just ignoring them) start listening to them. It can only help you.
Note to the writers of Sleepy Hollow:
Look, I come down hard on you here, and maybe it isn’t really entirely your fault. I’m sure it is partly the producers, partly those whose hands are in the money, partly the executives, and so on. It isn’t *just* you guys/gals. But the show starts with you. And if things start incorrectly under your keystrokes, then that means the show never had a shot at getting it right. So please, for the love of Pete, work harder to check your historical sources. There are lots of fun things you can do using history without having to change it. History really is stranger (and more exciting) than fiction. Take it from a guy who studies it.