Sleepy Hollow is set in a world where Washington Irving’s story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, never existed. Instead, in this show, all the people involved in that story are real people, and they were intimately involved in fighting both the Revolutionary War and the Legions of Hell.
Ichabod Crane is an Oxford University professor who joined the King’s Army, becomes a turncoat to the Crown, and joins up as a part of General George Washington’s secret army fighting the legion of demons plaguing America. He dies making that infamous Horseman headless. He wakes up a couple hundred years later, because the Headless Horseman is back in Sleepy Hollow, trying to usher in Armageddon. (This is not a spoiler, it’s in the opening credits.)
So Crane is now a man out of time, but he’s landed in a town where there are enough people who can roll with this particular revelation that he has allies in the new fight. Sleepy Hollow’s town motto could be: We’re Used to the Weird.
Tom Mison is excellent as Crane. He’s a thinking woman’s dreamboat — dreamy without being “dreamy”, active and action-oriented without being an “action hero“, smart and intuitive without being a jerk.
Nicole Beharie is Abbie Mills, a sheriff’s lieutenant who, along with her sister, had a supernatural experience young. She’s trying to be a skeptic, but events pretty much flip her over into being Crane’s partner because she’s also brainy, brave, and clever. Beharie is great, and her chemistry with Mison is off the charts. Frankly, her chemistry with everyone is amazing — it’s easy to see why she was chosen as the female lead.
All the casting is great. Guest stars like Clancy Brown and John Cho — both of whom I love in anything they do — and John Noble recently adding on, and more besides, complement Mison and Beharie, as do Orlando Jones as Abbie’s still alive (for now?) boss, who may be good, may be bad, may be good-bad or bad-good, we aren’t sure yet, and Katia Winter, who’s playing Katrina Van Tassel-Crane, Ichabod’s good-witch wife who’s trapped in Purgatory, but trying to help in any way she can.
We get a nice balance of flashbacks to the Revolutionary era contrasted to the main show going on in present day. My area of historical expertise is the Old West, but to my eye it looks like they’re getting a lot of the historical details right, which adds into the mythology nicely.
Because it appears to be required in anything these days that deals with history, there is also a Masonic connection, but it’s handled in a really cool way, particularly in the latest episode (“The Sin Eater”, 11-4-13). True Blood fans should love this episode’s guest star, too.
This show is also practicing a lot of casting against type, which is awesome, and appears to have a complete commitment to color blind casting, which is doubly awesome.
My biggest complaint is that they’re trying a shorter season for this show — similar to how USA does their seasons. I’d like more of this show, not less, but as with other things, I’ll trust the show runners on this one, because they seem fine with this shorter seasons idea.
All that said, this isn’t actually a 100% perfect show. There are a few scenes where an alert viewer will ask how “new” metal walkways got down into tunnels that are 200 years old and supposedly no one today knows about. Crane has yet to change out of the outfit he was buried in — though it appears he’s broken down and washed it a couple times (the producers are saying that it’s because his clothes are his only tie to the past, so he’s holding onto them, and I can accept that). I’m sure others will find other little niggles, too.
But the show is so much fun — with just enough scares, a twisty but easy to follow/catch up on mythology, nifty back stories, the right blend of humor, action, drama, and romance, and a cast that’s bleeding chemistry out of the screen — that I don’t care. Five minutes into the pilot I was hooked and the show has not let go of me since.
There are hints of other Irving stories intertwining — so far, mostly “Rip Van Winkle” — and I’d expect more from Irving’s oeuvre. (Looking for the source material to do comparisons? It’s The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., which was Washington Irving’s pen name — it has “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, “Rip Van Winkle”, and 32 other short stories from one of America’s best tellers of fairy tales.) But this isn’t a bad author to go to for some good, old time, creepy fun. A part of me hopes a character named Washington Irving or Geoffrey Crayon shows up either in a Revolutionary flashback or present day, because I’d trust these show runners to work that in epically.
And that’s what this show is — epic, exciting, creepy fun. And yeah, a little ludicrous. But so is any show about a real superheroes out in the real world, or people stranded on a weird tropical island with a polar bear. As far as I’m concerned, ludicrous has never been so good. Sleepy Hollow has already been renewed for a second season, so get caught up now. Or the Headless Horseman will get you.