The new supernatural drama Sleepy Hollow had its series premiere on FOX last night. I was excited to watch the pilot, because it looked like the series would take an interesting approach to a classic story. The show was definitely fun, and it had an appealing spookiness that made me even more excited about Halloween and pumpkin-flavored things than I already was. The problem was that it isn’t just a contemporary twist on Washington Irving’s story. It’s also a cop drama and a revisionist history. Oh, and there’s also a biblical element and a storyline about witches. And the show introduces all of these ideas in the first episode. It got so complicated that I’m worried the show will lose its fun amidst all the crazy concepts.
The overall idea of the show is that Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), after beheading the man who will become the headless horseman and dying himself in the American Revolution, wakes up in present-day Sleepy Hollow. He then teams up with police officer Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) against the horseman, who has also been resurrected. That’s a fairly simple and entertaining concept, but then we find out that the horseman is actually one of the biblical four horsemen of the apocalypse, and that George Washington, for whom Ichabod was a spy, knew about the world ending. We learn that, during their deaths, Ichabod’s blood literally mixed with the horseman’s, thereby connecting them. There’s also a demon creature and a witches’ coven. Oh, and Abbie also has a past trauma that connects her to the legend. Much of this is explained by a vision Ichabod has of his wife Katrina (who doesn’t even end up with him in the original story), who’s dressed in sexy period garb and serves as an eyeroll-worthy device for exposition.
It feels like the show is trying to throw as many concepts as possible at us to see what sticks. But there was such an overload of concepts in the first episode that I’m worried the show will just make my head explode in later episodes. It’s iffy enough that it comes at this classic story from so many scattered angles, but to introduce all those angles in one sitting, rather than letting the concept unfold organically over multiple episodes and even multiple seasons, is just too overwhelming. I think to sustain the entertainment, the show really needs to slow down and leave some things a mystery.
Even though I felt like I had a million ideas flying at my face, I did enjoy the dynamic between the two leads. First of all, it’s refreshing to see a male-female onscreen team where the woman can actually hold her own and act as a partner rather than someone who’s dragged along to be a pretty damsel in distress. I just hope the show doesn’t ruin this partnership by introducing a romance, at least not too quickly. Why can’t a man and a woman ever work together on a TV show without falling in love or at least getting distracted by sexual tension? Ichabod and Abbie’s witty banter is particularly promising. The bit about historical landmarks being turned into Starbucks shops — practically on every corner — was fun. And there’s always the potential for humor in Ichabod’s “fish out of water” situation.
I think this show has the potential to attract a devoted fan base, as long as it slows down and lets the complex story play out naturally. It’s a TV series, not a movie. There’s plenty of time to allow the mysteries to explain themselves.
(Image: Crave Online)