Sleepy Hollow Review: FOX Jumps In The Wacky Fantasy Genre

A little popularity breeds a genre move, and FOX is getting into the game with Sleepy Hollow. With similarities to several shows that are turning in solid enough numbers on both broadcast and cable networks, Sleepy Hollow takes fantasy and alt-history to a new level, mixing its headless horseman in with the Bible and the Revolutionary War.

We meet Ichabod (Tom Mison) on the battlefield in the Revolutionary War, and we’re just in time to see him come up against a masked giant who seems somewhat indestructible. Not one to give up, Ichabod whacks his head off, just before succumbing to his own wounds. Suddenly, Ichabod wakes in a cave in the present day, and we’re off to the races.

Meanwhile, Detective Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) is having coffee with the Sheriff (Clancy Brown… who just can’t catch a break), when a strange call comes in. Investigating suspected horse thievery, the Sheriff is quickly cut down. Before you know what’s happened, Ichabod is arrested, largely for being suspicious in general terms, and when he tells his story, Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) decides he’s going to be sent to the looney bin on a three-day psych eval, apparently because the police consultant said that could happen.

That makes for a boring show though, so we soon learn that Abbie has had her own run-in with the supernatural, and she breaks Ichabod out, because he seems to be the only one who might have any idea what’s going on, even if he is crazy.

Building off things like Once Upon a Time, Grimm, and to a certain extent other movers, like Haven, makes a show tricky to analyze. If you aren’t part of this conversation, you aren’t about to be now. If you are, you’re all over this anyway.

Sleepy Hollow has a little more going on though. Sure, Death is riding around lopping off heads wherever he can, and priests are casting spells… so, we’re pissing off religious folk from any number of angles, but Tom Mison is deceptively captivating in the role. It’s an effort that might have succumbed to the goofiness surrounding it, but the Ichabod we actually get is, so far, a character worth watching. The chemistry between our dynamic duo isn’t really there yet, and it isn’t clear that it ever will be, but it doesn’t matter. Mison is too fun, and sells “fish out of time” too well.

The problem the show has is that it doesn’t seem absolutely committed to any particular level of crazy. At times it is almost screwball, with a demon having a small parlay with guest star John Cho, and at other times it takes us into General Washington’s command tent to watch him send Ichabod (not a real person himself, don’t forget) after Death as though we were watching something on the History channel. Not that things exactly become serious, but we are speaking and “looking” as though we were quite serious.

For some, this is going to seem a brilliant combination. For others, it may strike as a little “You got your Scooby-Doo in my Masterpiece Theater.”

Wherever viewers may land on that score, they aren’t left with a terribly comfortable feeling at the end of the first episode, and that may show up in the weeks following, as people are forced to choose what to invest in. It’s yet another installment of the pilot theory that gives very little idea where the show is going, or what it will look like if it ever makes it past a dozen episodes. In this case, that hits home harder than with most series, because really, what the hell happens now?

Problems aside, it’s undeniably fun, and if the basic theory doesn’t keep you away, I think you’re about to find a new favorite. If the show can really capitalize on Mison’s abilities without getting lost in its own gimmick, this one should find an audience, and be able to hold onto them. 

 

[toggles behavior=”toggle”]
[toggle title=”Official Synopsis and Info”]Welcome to SLEEPY HOLLOW, the thrilling new mystery-adventure drama from co-creators/executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (the “Star Trek” and “Transformers” franchises, “Fringe”).

In this modern-day twist on Washington Irving’s classic, ICHABOD CRANE (Tom Mison, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod quickly realizes that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and only one of the many formidable foes that Ichabod must face to protect not only Sleepy Hollow, but the world.

As Ichabod finds himself in 2013’s Sleepy Hollow, he discovers a town he no longer recognizes and grapples to understand. Teaming up with Detective ABBIE MILLS (Nicole Beharie, “42,” “The Good Wife,” “Shame”), a young cop who has her own supernatural experiences, the two embark on a mission to stop the evil that has awoken along with Ichabod and that now is seeping into this once-sleepy town.

Clues from the past enlighten mysteries in the present, as each episode features a flashback to Ichabod’s life in 1776. Ripe with untold stories from American history and cloaked in mythology, the divide between present and past becomes dangerously blurred. Lives are in the balance, including that of Ichabod’s late wife, KATRINA (Katia Winter, “Dexter”), who is trapped in a mysterious netherworld. In his pursuit to save her, Ichabod uncovers secrets about her, leaving him with countless questions. Not everyone believes Ichabod’s tales of 1776 and supernatural evils, especially the new head of Abbie’s police precinct, Captain FRANK IRVING (Orlando Jones, “The Chicago 8,” “Drumline”).

When faced with bizarre events he can’t explain, Capt. Irving reluctantly turns to Ichabod and Abbie to investigate. Ichabod’s extensive first-hand knowledge of our country’s hidden history, coupled with Abbie’s superior profiling and modern threat assessment skills, make them a formidable duo. The complex pasts of the pair, from Ichabod’s inclusion in the powerful and secretive Freemasons Society to Abbie’s childhood visions, will help them solve the intricate puzzles of Sleepy Hollow in order to protect its – and the world’s – future. As history repeats itself, the oddly-linked pair will draw on the real stories and secrets this nation was founded on in their quest to stop an increasingly vicious cycle of evil.[/toggle]
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Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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