SLEEPY HOLLOW Premiere Recap: “Pilot”

     September 16, 2013


If anyone is rolling in their grave because of Sleepy Hollow, it’s more likely Washington Irving than any headless horseman.  Surprisingly though, Sleepy Hollow‘s pilot was not a bad a way to kick things off for a supernatural show that also integrates (potentially) a police procedural in the way Grimm has done.  While Sleepy Hollow ultimately has more in common with the ill-fated Zero Hour in terms of mythology and epic, world-ending consequences, its biggest problem is its desire to connect in any way to the original tale, to which it bares very little (i.e. no) resemblance.  And yet, it’s actually kind of fun.  Hit the jump for more.

sleepy-hollow-4Sleepy Hollow is a mixed bag.  It comes from Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Star Trek), who are themselves a mixed bag.  It tricks us by featuring two great actors in the pilot, Clancy Brown (Carnivale) and John Cho (another Star Trek alum), but they are promptly slain, leaving two unknowns (Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane and Nicole Beharie as Detective Abbie Mills) here to stay.  Overall, it wasn’t a bad start for a supernatural show, but its re-imagining of the original “Sleepy Hollow” tale is shameful.

The show also feels a lot like Once Upon a Time or the aforementioned Grimm, where the supernatural stuff is spliced in with a decent dose of a humor and a lot of charm, particularly from Mison as Crane.  But the very notion of Crane is problematic.  No longer a meek and nervous school teacher who lived twenty years after the Revolutionary War (according to Irving’s original short story), he is instead a hot, time-traveling warrior Englishman, fighting for America’s freedom.  A close personal friend of magical-Bible-owning George Washington (naturally), it turns out that it was Crane who sliced off the original head in question, instead of being a man so frightened by the idea of this ghost that he possibly died of fright or ran out of town.

Also, the Revolutionary War was not just about American freedom, but about keeping Satan from ending the world.  Of course it was!  Must everything be about the Apocalypse these days?  And if it is going to be, can we at least get the Biblical book right?  It’s “Revelation,” not “Revelations.”  If you’re one of the witnesses who has been chosen to lead and protect all of mankind, Abbie, maybe you should read up on it.

sleepy-hollow-1In any case, Crane did not leave town and abandon his crush to marry his rival (and horseman-for-night), like in the story.  Instead, the busty Katrina (Katia Winter) became his bride, is a witch and is trapped in a netherworld controlled by Satan.  The horseman is not just a mercenary for the British, but one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, which has been put on hold for 250 years while he searches for his head.  Until he finds it, the other horsemen and Hell on Earth will have to wait.  Early American Literature: Maximum Overdrive!

There are a lot of supernatural and fantasy tropes thrown in to the legend of the horseman — he doesn’t like sunlight (like a vampire), cutting off his head disables him (like a zombie) but doesn’t kill him (as he is death itself. He seems to be doing pretty well without a head though, let it be mentioned).  The horseman and Crane are also tied together by blood now, just like Harry Potter and Voldemort.  If an Eye of Sauron turns up next week, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Had Sleepy Hollow just stuck to being a show about a town situated on a hellmouth and humans destined to protect us from it (a la Buffy), that would be one thing.  But the tenuous attempt to tie the story into Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is embarrassing for everyone involved.  While it’s a name that most watching will recognize though, it’s worth noting that the residents of Sleepy Hollow don’t seem that interested in talking about a headless horseman, or indeed even recognizing him as the raison d’etre that anyone even knows of their town.

Despite all of this (and that is a lot to get over), Sleepy Hollow did exhibit a few bits of charm and a decent setup for future episodes that will deal with all of the supernatural beings the show can dream up.  Like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, the hijinks involving these creatures could be endless, or it could go the way of Zero Hour and become so caught up in its ludicrous mythology that it sinks itself.

Episode Rating: B

sleepy-hollow-headless-horsemanMusings and Miscellanea:

— I have to give any show some kind of props for showing a beheading in the first three minutes.

— Let it be said that I have no problem with a sexified Crane but for the fact that he is Crane.  A new character would have been just as effective.

— Orlando Jones!  Where the hell have you been?

— So tired of the goofy guy and straight-laced girl duo, but oh well.

— There weren’t many women in the episode, so Katrina had to show all the cleavage to make up for it I guess.

— This show could still be ok or it could be straight-up terrible, but either way, it’s beneath Clancy Brown.

— That mental ward was very much in a B-Movie style.

— The priest saying that he is prepared to die for his secrets and then getting killed (with a POV camera shot) was unintentionally hilarious.

— “Do you know George Washington?” – Ichabod Crane.