Sleepy Hollow (2013) – Created by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Phillip Iscove, and Len Wiseman – Episodes 1 and 2, “Pilot” and “Blood Moon” – Starring Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones, Katia Winter, John Cho, and Clancy Brown.
The main strength and weakness of SLEEPY HOLLOW is exactly the same thing: the show feels like it’s written by stoned high school kids at 3 in the morning.
I get it. Not the stoned part, but I get being a high school kid staying up late with his pals and getting to that point in the night when you become convinced that everything you say is hilarious, when you are quite convinced that in your tired, riotous mind, you are thisclose to uncovering the secret of the universe. I get it. What separates me from Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci is that no one gives me millions to turn my late night madness into a network television show.
Two episodes in and I’m hooked. If nothing else, SLEEPY HOLLOW is not going to go quietly into that cold night of television cancellation. Orci, Kurtzman, Phillip Iscove, and Len Wiseman (better known as Mr. Kate Beckinsale) toss everything and the kitchen sink at your television screen, and the result is something half-mad, half-brilliant, and half-terrible. (You get three halves when it’s that late and you’re that tired.) When this slapdash approach works, such as when the Headless Horseman picks up an automatic rifle and begins blowing a cop car away, HOLLOW has me smiling from ear to ear. When it doesn’t, like Ichabod Crane leads Lieutenant Abbie Mills through a secret passage from the 18th century that contains witch’s bones, Revolutionary War gunpowder, a metal staircase, and whatever other plot device a particular episode is going to need, I can’t help but roll my eyes.
One assumes that our fearless producers have an idea where everything is going, but HOLLOW feels like a show without a particular plan except to never let any moment go past without some darker secret or mysterious backstory being churned up. The show feels both headless and rudderless, as if we’re passengers on a boat that can’t steer and where the driver doesn’t know where he’s going except forward.
It’s a show that feels like there’s little thought given to how any new revelation fits into the larger scheme. It’s a show that’s going to doing lots of stupid things along the way, but what I love is that it’s going to do this in an effort to please you.
HOLLOW is a bit like pro wrestling in a way. One week you’re a face, the next you’re a heel, and the audience (usually) just goes along with it because wrestling.
SLEEPY HOLLOW loves to pull this switch. Andy Dunn (John Cho) is a good guy, and then he’s a bad guy, and then he’s an agent of Satan, and then Satan kills him by snapping his neck, and then his corpse is standing up and he comes back to life, and then he’s stealing a cop car, and then he’s working with a witch, and then … you want more? All that happened in two episodes.
Everyone in SLEEPY HOLLOW has layers; ironically, the least complicated character on the show is Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), who was a Brit loyalist during the Revolutionary War, then a traitor, than a secret agent for George Washington, then beheaded the soon-to-be Headless Horseman (who is actually one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), then died, then was reborn in 2013, and is visited in his dreams by his dead wife.
Who’s a witch.
But a good one.
Our lead is Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), who’s a good cop in a decent-sized town who is about to go to Quantico to be Clarice Starling, except that when Clancy Brown gets killed, she decides to stick around in Sleepy Hollow and address the issue of having seen a witch or demon or Satan when she was a kid. And she’s got a sister, who went crazy.
Beharie and Mison are fantastic together, and their chemistry is what carries the show between it’s ridiculous set pieces. When stories like SLEEPY HOLLOW happen, I want the characters to get past the weirdness of the set-up and just get on with the show. If I run into Ichabod Crane come back to life, I can be expected to freak out for a few days. But on a TV show, just get on with it. It’s a little annoying that in the second episode, there’s still some doubt in Abbie, but the show doesn’t push too hard at it, so hopefully we’re past it now.
You can totally judge the importance of any character on this show by how complicated their backstory becomes. And it’s great. And it’s awful. And that’s what happens to your 3 AM hilarity. You wake up. Some things are still funny. Some things aren’t. But it really doesn’t matter because it’s time for breakfast. Just like it really doesn’t matter if everything in SLEEPY HOLLOW makes sense three episodes later. This is a show designed to give you an hour of good times once a week. For all of its blather about a big, dramatic backstory with a war of witches and General Washington and Headless Horseman and the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, SLEEPY HOLLOW isn’t designed to be LOST or Twin Peaks where super fans obsess over every little detail. This is a show designed to give a Headless Horseman an automatic rifle and let him blow things up.
There’s enough serious stuff on TV. Right now, I’m loving SLEEPY HOLLOW’s approach.
And it’s not even 3 AM and I’m not even stoned.
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