Pilot Review: SLEEPY HOLLOW

There’s been no shortage of bugnuts*, high-concept shows in recent years, most of which take themselves too seriously and turn into dreary slogs that beg to be put out of their misery. Under the Dome is one of those shows. Sleepy Hollow, at least judging by the pilot, is not.

*(Hey, remember Zero Hour? Anyone? No? Okay.)

The answers are in Washington’s Bible!

-Katrina

If you’re a fan of fantastical treasure hunts like the Dan Brown novels or National Treasure, you’ll find a lot to like about Hollow. It’s a fun, self-assured, and completely insane romp, with a couple of well-defined leads and an apocalyptic mythology that manages not to pull focus from what you came here to see: the Headless Horseman wielding an assault rifle in modern-day New York. (That is what you came to see, right?)

This incarnation of Ichabod Crane is played by English actor Tom Mison, who I described as “bargain bin Lee Pace” before watching the show–turns out he brings a great energy and wit to the role, which is fortunately not overwritten to be too expository or with too much “wheee 21st century, what is this strange device??” nonsense. He basically accepts where he is right away, and to the show’s credit, most of the other characters don’t waste much time by dismissing him. By the end of the pilot, everyone’s mostly on board with the fact that something is happening, if not sold on Crane’s origins.

Crane wakes up in a cave, the last thing he remembers being a stay in triage during the Revolutionary War. He wanders into the hamlet of Sleepy Hollow and is quickly picked up by the police, who have just dealt with the loss of one of their own: Clancy Brown (picking up a quick paycheck), decapitated by…well, you know who.

Crane gets quizzed by officer Abbie Mills (Nichole Beharie), the only one who doesn’t want to immediately toss him in a padded cell, and when she returns him to the cave where he woke up the plot engine kicks into gear: the Horseman is one of the Four Horsemen, and there’s some witchcraft involved to get Crane to this place and time but very very bad things are about to come to Sleepy Hollow.

The series is created in the mold of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with what appears to be a “supernatural horror of the week” to be defeated by our intrepid heroes, and an ongoing serialized mystery about the impending end of the world to hopefully build momentum. It’s not afraid to be completely silly (like with its use of “Sympathy for the Devil” in the credits, or — again — the Horseman FIRING A MACHINE GUN AT COPS), but it moves so fast, and is so confident in what it wants to do and be, it’s hard not to be charmed by it.

If it continues to have fun with history, builds a strong camaraderie between Crane and Abbie, and the plot at least makes a little bit of sense, I’ll keep checking it out. Not just because there’s nothing else on on Monday nights. It’s up to producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who typically score high marks on concept but falter in execution.

Grade: B-

Extra Thoughts:

  • So John Cho also appeared in the pilot, and became the second “name” actor to be unceremoniously dispatched before it was over. I’m not too clear on what his role was, but he appeared to be in league with the phantom devil creature, who I guess for now is the show’s “Big Bad.”
  • Nice bit of physical comedy with Crane being unable to figure out how to exit the squad car, and the “Starbucks on every block” bit seemed like an easy punchline but a lesser show would have pushed the fish-out-of-water stuff even more. Again, Sleepy Hollow is refreshingly to-the-point.
  • Orlando Jones plays the stock character of “boss/obstacle to the heroes,” and I’d like that role to be fleshed out, thanks.
  • Oh yeah, Crane’s wife Katrina (Katia Winter) is a witch! Who was burned for being a witch but her grave was a fake and she can communicate with him through mirrors or something. She’s classified as a “lead,” so hopefully that’ll be making a lot more sense soon.
  • HORSEMAN WITH A MACHINE GUN. That is all.
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