Towards the end of last year I found my mum watching a new show on TV. I caught a glimpse of a headless dude in period costume rising out of dark waters, and a white gangly monster somewhat reminiscent of the eyeless child-eating freak from Pan’s Labyrinth.
I asked her, “What show is this?”
And she said, “Sleepy Hollow.”
And I made a mental note to check it out.
Since then I’ve watched episodes 1-9…there are four more to go to complete the first season. The start-up has been a general success, and the show has been renewed by Fox for a second season.
Sleepy Hollow is supernatural but not particularly scary. It’s a modern-day reimagining of the 1820 short story, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’ by Washington Irving, which tells of a Headless Horseman spiriting away a man from a settlement in the glen of Sleepy Hollow. The TV show takes place in twenty-first century Sleepy Hollow, with an expanded plot and mythos. Ichabod Crane, our long-haired revolutionary hero, and his archenemy, the Headless Horseman, awaken in the present day after 200 years of bespelled sleep. The Horseman goes on a rampage of decapitation whilst trying to recover his lost head. Ichabod, meanwhile, falls in with our other protagonist, Abbie Mills, a smart police officer who has had her own past encounters with the supernatural. Abbie and Crane set about trying to thwart the supernatural evils that plague their town.
Ichabod soon discovers that his life is linked with the Horseman’s because of their blood mingling and other magicky stuff, so when Ichabod’s witchy wife Katrina put him under a spell to keep him alive, the Horseman also went into suspended animation.
I very much enjoy the gothic feel of the whole show–a haunted town, old churches and buildings, ancient dusty books, tattoos and sects, wailing ghosts and ephemeral monsters, shadows and storms, spells of binding. The opening montage and theme music, with simple shots of the main characters interspersed with spooky shots of Sleepy Hollow transforming throughout the years, is refreshingly straightforward and atmospheric.
The show is held together by strong performances from the two leads, Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie. There are times when the story could have come off as cheesy or over-the-top, but I felt that their acting kept things authentic. The writers throw in a good mix of jokes, most of which spring from Crane trying to adjust to the twenty-first century. Some of these moments are hilarious–for instance, Crane’s first encounter with the Internet and pop up porn ads. Mison and Beharie have great on-screen chemistry and are likeable and engaging. The supporting characters (Capt. Frank Irving, Jenny Mills, Katrina Crane) are equally interesting, with the potential to have expanded, complex personalities and back stories.
The created mythology of the series is already quite large in scope. We’ve got the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, an evil ringleader, an impending apocalypse, and two “witnesses” who are destined to save the earth. It’s all getting very prophetic and end-of-the-world-y, which I’m not sure I like, but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. So far, the adventures have been fun and just scary enough to make you keep the night-light on. There are some pretty kick-ass action scenes too, especially the ones involving the Horseman. I’m looking forward to seeing what the season finale has in store. I’m also on the edge of my seat waiting for Ichabod to have a costume change.