When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I enjoyed Washington Irving’s tale in just about any form I could get, from the Disney version that was paired with The Wind in the Willows, to the Wishbone Halloween special edition (yup, I loved that thing).
I even did an eighth grade classic literature project on the short tale (it was a board game, mostly made by my mother – she’s awesome and easily manipulated).
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this. Well, I’m trying to make every dear reader who takes a look at this article know just how much I am invested in anything related to Ichabod Crane. When I heard there was going to be a TV show on one of my favorite childhood subjects, my nostalgia alarm blared and it could probably be heard around the world.
I had high hopes for FOX’s version of Sleepy Hollow, and thankfully, I fully enjoyed the show… even though it has some over-the-top elements (but not quite as many as I was expecting).
Let’s start off with the premise: Sleepy Hollow updates the Revolutionary tale for the modern-day by bringing Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) as an English spy for the Americans in this universe. He starts off at war, and just as he beheads the famed Hessian, he wakes up from a 200+ year coma in the middle of the forest.
Meanwhile, a young deputy named Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) watches as her sheriff partner is killed by the freshly-awoken horseman. From there, the episode follows the fairly straightforward path of “strange man knows a lot about these murders, guilty!… No he’s not guilty, just crazy… No he’s not even crazy, we have proof the paranormal shit’s hitting the fan” route.
There’s nothing new here, really, and I was kind of worried about the level of exposition this show would have based on some early reviews that suggested there was a whole lot to wrap one’s mind around.
I’ll avoid spoilers, but I’m going to disagree. There really isn’t that much back story to keep track of, it’s just that the information present is on such an epic scale that it seems like so much more than it actually is. Vague enough for you? Good.
Also, the exposition may stick out a bit because it isn’t incorporated in the best way. In fact, it derails the plot for a little bit. The pacing of the episode ends up being simultaneously slow and fast. It seems like things are moving quickly, but if you stop and think for a minute you’ll realize that the entire second/third acts are basically info dumps.
Instead of being spread out over the entire episode, the bulk of the back story crops up right in the middle, just in time for Abbie to start “believing.”
Despite the flow of the episode, there’s plenty of effects and violence to keep a less fantasy-inclined viewer enticed. Some of the magic stuff brought up is super cheesy, but mostly in a good way, and it’s balanced nicely by appearances from the Horseman and various other demons (one that moves in a creepy, twitchy fashion while also managing to look ridiculous).
Even with all the fun head-chopping, it comes down to the characters to keep a viewer invested in a show like this. Sleepy Hollow is well on its way to creating some pretty interesting characters.
Abbie’s slow realization about the supernatural is believable and she’s got some fun sarcasm bubbling beneath the surface that should be enjoyable to see pop up now and again when things get particularly over-the-top.
Ichabod’s fish-out-of-water schtick is used sparingly so it doesn’t get annoying, and there’s some spazziness to his character that will make Tumblr fall in love with him.
The other two regulars, Orlando Jones as Abbie’s boss and Katia Winter as Katrina, are less than one-note, but I’m hoping that will change over time.
But, even if those characters remain flat, I think there’s enough supernatural shenanigans, chemistry and personality between the main duo, and horrible decapitations for this show to remain a guilty pleasure for at least one season.
Sleepy Hollow airs Monday nights at 9/8c on FOX