I have to admit, I have a bias. No, not against genre television. That’s what this site is all about and I usually keep an open eye for anything in that realm. No, I’m talking about Fox. They don’t exactly embrace the sci-fi/fantasy genre very well. Think Alcatraz, Human Target, Dollhouse, Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, and a long host of others that will only cause more pain if they’re remotely mentioned (yes, one of those starts with an F).
Given that bad track record, I’m not exactly one that will jump on a new science fiction show from Fox out of the gate. It has to be a proven winner. Lucky for Fox, they got that proven winner after three weeks with Sleepy Hollow, so much so that the show got the very first renewal of this young season. So you know what that means. Time of catch up on Hulu! My Sunday evening was dominated watching the Pilot, “Blood Moon,” and “For the Triumph of Evil,” the three episodes that have so far aired.
To give a bit of background, the town is the mystical Sleepy Hollow, New York, which has ties to the Revolutionary war period of U.S. history. Strange crap has been going on in this town of 144,000 for years, which easily makes you wonder as stuff happens why anyone would move there. I guess you go where the job is. It’s all based loosely (and I mean very loosely) on Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” so that naturally means there has to be an Ichabod Crane. Except he’s awoken roughly 250 years later from his grave and looks very good for a man that age, although I wonder why the first thing he didn’t do was take a shower. Whatever woke him also left his period clothing intact. He crosses paths with Abbie (Nicole Beharie), a young woman in the sheriff’s department that just saw her boss and mentor beheaded by a dude with no head. The same headless horseman that lost his head to Ichabod some 250 years ago before they both collapsed and supposedly died.
The Pilot was intense, threw everything at us and had so many convoluted story lines that I couldn’t have been the only one heading to the book shelf to get a refresher on biblical end of days. It had me going “WTF?” over things like a cameo by supernatural hunter George Washington (makes sense I guess, since Abe Lincoln was the vampire hunter, right?), a bad ass headless horseman roaming the streets for multiple witnesses to see yet it not causing a public panic, and an Ichabod Crane in ancient garb (really, he didn’t change after coming out of the ground?) that took his transition to the new world rather calmly and didn’t trigger an all out panic button with officials after he soundly passed a polygraph test. Yeah it got him a trip to the mental hospital, but that so far seems to be where they send all the witnesses to keep an eye on them. Somebody knows something. After all that though, the Pilot weirdly came together and came off as plausible. And entertaining. Go figure.
The witch Katrina, aka Ichabod’s long lost wife, was the twist tie that pulled it all these bizarre events together. Without her, I’m not sure how many would have hung around for episode two. What am I saying, Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane is all we need to come back for more. He’s very easy on the eyes. Anyway, all this crazy s*** is happening because of Katrina’s handiwork, and now she’s trapped in between worlds. Her kooky magic pushed off the inevitable end of days about 250 years. This is just all part of a story where early American folklore, biblical armageddon, and tales of ancient witchcraft collide, resulting in something surprisingly fun.
Pilots are usually great since they’re devices for studios itching for a pickup, but the wheels usually fall off the wagon in episode two. Not here. Yes, the pace is a little slower in “Blood Moon” and we don’t suffer from an overload of mysticism, but it still remains plausible and interesting. It also cleared up any confusion we might have over how serialized the show may get. There’s the overall arc, aka preventing the appearance of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Supernatural was able to avoid that until season five), but there will be contained weekly stories too, aka the supernatural freak of the week.
The part that had me rolling my eyes in episode two was the caves underneath the police station. Really? Ichabod knew exactly where they were by going down to the basement and knocking out a wall? No one discovered those before and all the implements, including the ancient box of gun powder? I started having flashes of Beauty and The Beast last season, and not in a good way. However, the old room of artifacts, which was a war room back in the days of the Revolutionary war, did work for me. It’s nice that was established to be home base by episode three. These two really need a nice home base.
What I really loved about the second episode though was evil John Cho! He always plays the lovable goofy guy or he had some moments as Sulu in the latest Star Trek, but evil? It suits him perfectly. That neck snap was a really cool effect. I’m stunned I’ve never seen that on any show before. He’s going to do the bidding of the baddies, and I’m fully on board with him being their puppet. I also was intrigued that it wasn’t just Ichabod seeing a dead loved one from the great beyond. Abbie’s vision of having a conversation with her late mentor the sheriff, who kept all sorts of records about the strange happenings in the town through the years, added a nice personal twist to her story and can only expand the mystic nature of the plot even more.
Episode three, “For The Triumph of Evil,” was the weakest of the bunch. I’m thrilled we didn’t waste any time getting to the crazy sister though, who seems a lot more sane than Abbie. I was also thrilled to see it was Sonya from Nikita! Way to get that new role so fast Lyndie Greenwood! Still, bringing up the old story of the Sandman to wrestle some past guilt off of Abbie didn’t work so well for me. The special effects of the Sandman were awesome, but the story fell a flat and had too easy a conclusion. Although, we did get a shirtless Tom Mison, so it’s not like it was a wasted hour. Yes, this show already knows where to work it’s assets.
What valuable lessons can we take away from the three episodes so far? For one, Tom Mison is a gorgeous man with a British accent who easily provides the requirement of eye candy for these sort of shows. But it’s not just that. Ichabod is a well developed character and very charismatic. He’s quick witted, very smart, knows how to spot clues, will believe just about anything he sees and while he’s experiencing some fish out of water moments in this new time period, he’s strangely catching on quickly without a major freak out.
Ichabod and Abbie do actually have some chemistry together, but there’s plenty of room for that partnership to develop. There’s already been some clunky moments, like the talk about exes. I just don’t picture a dude from the late 1700‘s bringing that stuff up with a black woman so quickly. He does have manners. I’m hoping Abbie will lighten up as they ease into this crazy venture more. I don’t think Abbie believes that she’s one of the two witnesses that will stop the apocalypse, but having that childhood incident with a demon in the past gives her that Fox Mulder type drive when handling these sort of cases.
I also love what’s gone into the production of this show so far. The special effects are some of the best I’ve seen in genre television recently and it doesn’t feel like I’m watching anything low budget. It’s nice to see a great director/producer in Ken Olin add his name to this show because he brings some real talent. I’d also like to give a shoutout to director John Showalter (behind the camera for the third episode), who’s already done some great things with Supernatural (and is director of that show’s season premiere on Tuesday). Creators Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are entertainment giants right now, but they usually deliver a mixed bag and not always good. So far, this is following more the path of Fringe and not Hawaii Five-0.
Most importantly with Sleepy Hollow there’s potential and a season two. Granted these are only 13 episode seasons, which tells us there is a serialized plot to be followed, but so far I’m not drowning in it. I do shamefully admit to mocking the mere premise of this show during pilot season, dismissing it as a failure before it even made it to air. I like it when shows get smart and prove me to be an idiot. Sadly, I’m often too right so Sleepy Hollow becomes this season’s pleasant surprise for me.
Congrats on securing season two so fast and this show has earned a spot on my DVR season pass. Just remember the history of your predecessors Sleepy Hollow and try make it through that seven years that the story has promised. Fox really needs the hit.