Sleepy Hollow 1.01 & 1.02 - An Alternative TakeA tv review article by: Jeffrey Roth
The Rundown: The first two episodes provide some good setup for things to come, build a sense of mystery, and are a good introduction to the world of the show. I would say, be a fan of the action/horror genre before starting, as it's a lot of that, but it's worth checking out.
The premise of Fox's new show Sleepy Hollow is, at first glance, a simple one: A reimagining of the classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman with a new, modern twist. On closer inspection, it tends to be something other than new, though definitely modern. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) has been revived from a century-long slumber to once again defeat his old nemesis, The Headless Horseman, who has also arisen. He must team up with a spunky lieutenant of the Sleepy Hollow Police Department, Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) to defeat this ancient evil.
My first thoughts on starting this show were to wonder how much of the character of the familiar Ichabod Crane, from the original tale, had survived this modern transformation. The answer that I found was 'not much'. While they semi-retain the fact that he was a teacher, they have transformed the once meek and docile Ichabod Crane into a modern action hero. The first we see of him is fighting in the revolutionary war, firing guns at British soldiers, and eventually clashing with a masked horseman whom he subsequently beheads.
So now his teaching background is just that, background, and his primary occupation was soldier and aid to General George Washington. I think a character unwittingly thrust into conflict, especially a cowardly one, could have provided a bit more drama to this story, rather than a 'gung-ho-let's-go-fight-the-nasty-thing' action hero they've turned him into.
Despite the failure to stick to the original material in any way, the show is surprisingly entertaining if you ignore its historical context. If you like sci-fi/fantasy action/horror -- and if you're reading this review, I'd imagine that's the case -- then it's quite a fun watch. The show has a nice setup, introducing us to the main players and their motivations without feeling overly forced. Spunky lieutenant's best friend/father figure/partner (Clancy Brown) was murdered by the resurrected horseman, so now she's out for revenge, and while Ichabod has been revived, he starts off not knowing why or how.
Then there's the whole 'apocalypse' angle, which no action/horror TV show can be without. So the horseman is not just some ghost or demon, he's Death with a capital D; one of the main players in the apocalypse, trying to revive the other three: Famine, War, and… Conquest? I'm not super familiar with the lore, but I was pretty sure the last one was Pestilence. Still, it gives you a sense of the horseman's power, and why he's such a big deal.
The portrayal of the horseman is actually quite awesome; he's ruthless, can't give pointless monologues, and dispatches his targets with one clean swipe of his red-hot axe. He's everything I want in a villain: brutal, uncompromising, with a clear motivation (in case you were wondering, he's trying to find his head). Add all of that to the introduction of an ancient conflict between good and evil, manifesting in two ancient covens of witches that have fought, and apparently are still fighting, over dominion of the small town of Sleepy Hollow.
The second episode goes deeper into this rivalry between good witches and bad witches, and even hints that Ichabod's long lost wife, Katrina, may in fact not only be alive, but was one of those 'good' witches that put him to sleep in the first place. A bad witch is trying to rise from the dead, and some greater evil has revived a traitor (John Cho) to help her kill the descendants of the townspeople who burned her at the stake centuries ago. It's pretty cool and also introduces a place for Ichabod and his spunky lieutenant to formulate their battle plan.
I'm assuming this will serve as the story hub, like the TARDIS or the apartment from Friends. An old plot device, but effective, and how else would they eventually show the characters' vulnerability than when their 'sanctuary' is broken into. As previously stated, you're not going to find a lot of NEW ideas; however, you may find some fun ones.
This episode also delves into some of the humor the show tries to inject before it tries to get at you with the spooky monster/murder business. Watching Ichabod struggle with modern appliances and such is entertaining for a bit, but in this episode they seem to take away a lot of his competence. In the first episode, despite being bewildered, Ichabod is able to call on the skills he had as a soldier, but in the second he just seems to bumble around going 'ooooh, the future is scary.' Even when vanquishing a villain, it just seems thrown together; almost an accident.
Despite trying to get into a routine a little too early, the second episode does expound on Ichabod's centuries-long slumber, and the people who put him there. It also touches at the surface of the spunky lieutenant's haunted past, and we even get a hint that maybe her old partner, while dead, may still be able to help her in spirit.
By the end of these episodes, you have your two protagonists, Ichabod Crane, and Abby Mills, realizing that the events from the Book of Revelations have started to happen, and the Headless Horseman is just the beginning. Also, it sets him up as the main villain of the season, and hints at something darker that has raised and is controlling the apocalyptic Horseman. Despite this, it also seems determined to fit into the 'Monster-of-the-Week' category of TV, only lightly touching on the bigger issues before focusing on the task at hand. It also wouldn't be this kind of show if the main characters weren't some kind of 'chosen ones' to explain why all the weird shit is happening all in one place, and why it's not JUST the horsemen who are after them.
Overall Sleepy Hollow is an enjoyable experience. If they can provide satisfactory resolutions to the mysteries they've set up, and if they work on their pacing, this show could end up being very entertaining. If you don't mind episodic television, I'd give this a shot. If you're looking for episode to episode drama, akin to Mad Men, Dexter, or True Blood I don't think this show will deliver.
Jeffrey Roth, is an award winning animator, all around badass, and is now writing for your amusement. When not wrestling with the mysteries of the universe, he is watching anything and everything and having opinions on it. ALL THE OPINIONS.