It is hard to get excited about Sleepy Hollow when you hear the premise: Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman are transported to modern-day Sleepy Hollow, where Ichabod teams with a local cop to uncover a National Treasure-like mystery in order to stop the apocalypse. It sounds pretty ridiculous. With only the pilot to judge on, I am not prepared to make a final call, but I will admit that I was more engaging and less ridiculous than the logline would suggest.
Ichabod Crane wakes in a cave, 250 years after being wounded during the Revolutionary War. The Headless Horseman has been “resurrected” too, and wastes no time killing the sheriff in his pursuit to get a horse. Ichabod, found wandering in the street, is immediately considered the prime suspect. After an interrogation and polygraph leave the police no closer to an arrest, it is pretty clear that Ichabod is insane and needs to be committed. The sheriff’s partner, Abby, is the only one inclined to believe Ichabod after relatively minor unexplained incident in her childhood eventually turned her sister insane.
Ichabod’s wife, Katrina, burned as a witch in 1792, comes to Ichabod in a dream and lays out the rest of the series’s plot. She was indeed a witch, part of a coven sworn to fight evil. When Ichabod beheaded the horseman, the only way she could save him was to bind him and the Horseman in blood. Ichabod was hidden in a cave for his protection. When someone resurrected the Horseman, Ichabod was part of the deal. Now he and Abby are tasked with protecting the Horseman’s pickled head, and the secrets to something-or-other lie in George Washington’s bible. If he doesn’t get his head, he can’t raise the other three horsemen and bring about the apocalypse. That’s right: the Headless Horseman is Death, the first of the Four Horsemen.
It’s like the more I describe of the show, the more ridiculous it sounds. And yet, after watching it, it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t great, but I have seen a lot worse. The biggest thing the show has going for it is the look. It is very cinematic, atmospheric, and “looks” expensive. Even with the pilot, which is not final and not ready for air, it was just nice to look at. Len Wiseman, of the Underworld franchise, directed the pilot, and I have always found him a solid director.
The other strong point Sleepy Hollow has is that its cast really sells the ridiculous premise. The cast, for their part, is made up of mostly unknowns (or little-knowns): Nicole Beharie, who plays Abby, was in the low-budget thriller Apartment 4E and the recent Jackie Robinson movie 42. British actor Tom Mison, who plays Ichabod, has largely played in UK television shows. They come with no baggage of well-known roles, and frankly don’t have much of a reputation to ruin.
The show is definitely flawed. I am not a fan of time-travel in general, but I especially can’t stand people from the past being dropped unceremoniously into the future (or rather, our present). This always leads to “comical” instances of the time traveler trying to come to grips with their new surroundings - but it is never actually funny. One of the cops actually answers Ichabod’s question of “Where am I?” with “The question isn’t where... but when.” I almost turned the TV off after that douchery.
I will tune in when the season starts (in part for you, dear readers) but I don’t foresee Sleepy Hollow being a runaway hit. If we can move away from the time-travel conceit and make it about a supernatural treasure hunt, I can get behind that.
Sleepy Hollow debuts this fall on Fox.