Who: “Sleepy Hollow” currently airs on network TV, specifically on FOX, Mondays at 9:00 PM.
What: “Sleepy Hollow,” part supernatural thriller, part historical fiction, part revisionist fiction, part cop drama. It’s got a little something for everyone.
When: The series premiered on FOX, Monday, September 16, 2013, at 9:00 PM.
Where: The show is set in what is now known to be Sleepy Hollow, New York (formerly North Tarrytown).
Why: Sleepy Hollow – Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, in their colonial times regalia and context, thrust into the present? That premise alone doesn’t fascinate you?
How – as in How Was It?
The pilot/premiere rating scale:
***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING. HOLY SMOKES!
**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing. I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.
*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens. There are things I like, and things I don’t. We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.
** – I will give it three episodes. Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together. No matter how unlikely.
* – Pass on this one, guys. It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.
Sleepy Hollow = ****
Nicole Beharie plays Sleepy Hollow sheriff’s deputy Abbie Mills, who witnesses the murder of her partner and sheriff by the Headless Horseman, an unidentified figure that Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) decapitated (in this show’s backdrop) during his service in the Revolutionary War. How the Horseman is raised from the dead or brought into the present is unclear, but Crane is also pulled into the present, being apparently tied by blood to the Horseman thanks to his wife Katrina, who he comes to learn was a witch – she was even burned at the stake.
Though the search for the sheriff’s killer, monitored by a police captain played by Orlando Jones, is underway, Crane is discovered wandering through the streets of the apparently semi-large city, the proverbial fish 250 years out of his home waters. Brought to the station, Crane is assumed to be insane, but Abbie, who has not informed anyone that the killer was a headless guy on a horse, believes Crane’s story and association to the Horseman and believes he can help her to solve the crime. Disobeying orders to house him in an asylum for an extended stay, Abbie and Crane work together to search for clues and history behind the Horseman’s rise, as she seeks to solve the crime behind her partner and mentor’s death. What they piece together, with the help of some magical artifacts, Abbie’s own personal history of seeing a possible demon as a child, and Crane’s memory, is that the Headless Horseman is, in fact, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Death, to be specific – and that his coming heralds the arrival of the other three. The Horseman seeks reunion with his head to bring about conditions suitable for the arrival of his compatriots, and Crane and Abbie, who was all set to transfer to Quantico to become an FBI agent, realize that their destinies are intertwined with each other, with this faceless horror, and with the town called Sleepy Hollow.
Sleepy Hollow has a highly intriguing premise, pieced together from other films and television shows. Mixing elements of Supernatural, Back to the Future, and the title story itself, Sleepy Hollow presents several intriguing questions:
1.) How did Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman get drawn into the present, and why did it take 250 years, if the Horseman’s head was hidden and buried?
2.) What does the alleged demon that Abbie saw have to do with the Horseman or the other Apocalyptic Horsemen? And how do Abbie and her sister fit into the bigger picture?
3.) Are there other members of the witches’ coven scattered about the town, and what powers do they possess?
4.) What does her former partner’s obsession with town lore and his extensive research on legends of the town, including Abbie and her sister’s encounter, provide for the larger backdrop?
Mison is delicious and instantly charismatic as Ichabod, traditionally characterized as somewhat of a bumbler. In this program, he is quick-witted, quick-thinking, and quick to acclimate to the foreign world that is his future. While his chemistry with Beharie seems somewhat forced, he steals nearly every scene he is in with an earnest line delivery that is neither too glib nor too overwrought with dramatics. Ichabod is the character to watch.
On the other hand, Beharie brings nothing particularly interesting or special to the role of Abbie. She plays her sheriff’s deputy with some sass, some skepticism, and some square-jawed seriousness, but, as the viewer, it’s hard to empathize with her character at the outset when so little is offered. She saw a demon; her sister has been institutionalized; and she wanted to become an FBI agent. She was also close to the sheriff, her mentor. She’s meant to be the focal point of the show, and yet, aside from the burning question of what her and her sister’s encounter has to do with the overall plot, she’s somewhat uninteresting when not much is known about her, since she’s not part of the original Sleepy Hollow story. Because she is the fulcrum character, the anchor to the present, and the mirror of the viewer, the writers are going to have to work somewhat harder to make her a bit more interesting. Since this is just the pilot, the hope is that more of her character will be revealed in the near future.
The supporting characters are a work in progress, since none of them enjoyed as much screen time as Abbie and Ichabod. Also, the Horseman racks up a significant body count in the first episode. It will be interesting to watch how long characters last in this world, particularly after they have encountered either Crane or Abbie.
The production value of this program is very high. The special effects are employed with care and are convincing enough to lend the appropriate amount of thrill and creepiness to the proceedings. The music is also very good. This show, like other shows before it, has the potential of being an enjoyably mysterious, thrilling, and/or scary ride each week.
Still, there are some gnawing concerns given the premise and execution of the pilot episode. The Sleepy Hollow story is fairly short; much of what will be told onscreen will be pure revisionist fiction. How far can it go? Will the writers drive toward a full-on apocalypse? Will it get Biblical? Just what kind of scope will this story have, for if it remains within the confines of its source, it may have a very limited life indeed.
In addition, as previously described, the chemistry between Beharie and Mison is uneasy at best, and it’s not just because their characters are separated by time, gender, and race. There is a distinct quality to the repartee that almost feels as if something is missing; however, this could be owing to the somewhat lacking dialogue. Ichabod was almost too quick with his observations about the present; Abbie was almost not put off enough by his story of time travel. The characters finding themselves allied in their quest against the Horseman and the lore of the town felt rushed and relied on some serious suspension of disbelief. Let’s hope the evolution of their partnership does not suffer from this same quality, or the writers could spin themselves and these characters into banality quickly.
Sleepy Hollow is worth a look, as long as your head is firmly attached to your shoulders. Those who love supernatural stories, cop dramas, historical fiction, or the original Sleepy Hollow legend will probably find the most interest in this show. The progress of the story in the first season, and how the writers choose to develop some of the themes tantalizingly laid bare in the pilot, will be telling to the show’s future. For now, there is intrigue and a great lead-in with Bones in the 8 PM slot.
THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:
Too early to tell. The pilot enjoyed a large audience and was rated pretty highly. The show will likely be picked up for a full season, but series are produced in 13 episode increments, typically. Let’s see how it fares.