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Sleepy Hollow: Pilot

“So the killer is the First Horseman of the Apocalypse, and the proof is a Bible we found in a cave.”

There is absolutely nothing whatsoever original about Sleepy Hollow. But that is by no means a bad thing.

Taking (very loose) inspiration from Washington Irving's classic short story, the series re-imagines cowardly schoolmaster Ichabod Crane as a heroic spy for George Washington and Rip Van Winkles him into modern day Sleepy Hollow to help solve supernatural mysteries. Thus this wins the award for the most high concept show of the 2013 television season.

Much like their previous series -- a little show you may have heard of called Fringe -- Sleepy Hollow comes across like Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci trying to recreate The X-Files. This time they're doing the creepy, supernatural episodes, rather than the science gone wrong, "There's a conspiracy here, Scully" episodes. So Sleepy Hollow offers us nothing fresh and original, but originality is really an overrated concept. Who needs new ideas when you can have fun with the old ones? And so far, Sleepy Hollow is a great deal of fun. A lot of this is down to the chemistry between Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie. The characters may be somewhat thin at this stage, but both actors overcome that to make Ichabod and Abbie an instantly likeable pairing.

The pilot wastes no time in getting Crane to the age of electric windows and coffee shops on every street. Within the first few minutes our hero goes from fighting a gimp masked redcoat, to nearly getting run over by one of them there new-fangled horseless carriages. Why is it newly arrived time travelers from the past are always getting run over the minute they arrive? It’s like they subconsciously seek out the middle of the nearest road. A road where all vehicles always travel in stealth mode until they are within kissing distance. But I digress.

Once in the 21st century, it doesn’t take this disgraceful traitor revolutionary hero long to find a constantly exasperated female skeptic to compliment his slightly eccentric male believer. Together, this mismatched pairing set off to stop Crane’s foe, the now headless First Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Death to be exact), from being reunited with his noggin and bringing about the end of the world. You see, according to Washington, the American Revolution wasn't simply a way for rich Americans to avoid paying taxes to the crown, but the warm up act for the ultimate battle between good and evil. Honestly, demons, it is well past time you guys tried something new. Apocalypses are sooo 2012.

The writers establish Sleepy Hollow as a town with a long and dark history of strange and unexplained occurrences. In Buffy-speak that means it's probably sitting on a Hellmouth, which would explain why the blurry boss demon reminded me a lot of demon Giles. All this should give Crane and Mills plenty to do when they aren't fighting Headless Horsemen. At the same time, it leaves me worried that the show will quickly settle into the same type of tiresome mystery of the week format that marred much of Fringe's first season.

Ghosts and Ghouls

--When someone sees a guy riding a horse with no head, the last thing they are going to notice is a mark on their hand.

--Les Wiseman's direction wasn't too bad, even if he did keep doing that annoying thing a lot of hack directors do when they slow things down because they think it makes everything more dramatic. It doesn't.

--If the Headless Horseman is going to be the show's signature villain, how often will the show do that thing where a character checks a room, thinks it's empty only for the Horseman to stand up and reveal he was sitting in the chair all along?

--I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Orlando Jones’ police captain will be revealed to be head demon running the show.

--Considering that he hasn't changed or showered since he woke up from being buried alive for over 200 years, I'm surprised no one commented on the fact that Crane must surely stink.

--Not only is Mison the handsomest Ichabod since Depp, he is by far the most brave and heroic. If The Legend of Sleepy Hollow did exist in this reality (which for some bizarre reason it does not) I'm sure he would have more than a few words to say to Irving about how his character is portrayed.

--To ensure there's no awkwardness between him and his new partner, the writers have Crane state quite vocally that he is firmly against slavery.

--Why cast an actor as good as Clancy Brown only to kill him off less than five minutes later?

--If you decide to go for a stroll through the creepy woods near your home town just remember that woods are just trees and trees are just wood. Unless of course they are a symbolic representation of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in which case fucking leg it.

--According to the sign, Sleepy Hollow has a population of 144,000. That's a lot for a "village." I live in a city and we only have a population of 177,793.

--We had one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on the payroll and we still lost the war. Bloody typical.

Crane: "That building used to be a livery stable."
Abbie: "Well, now it's a Starbucks."
Crane: "That building is also a Starbucks."
Abbie: "Yep."
Crane: "Well, how many are there?"
Abbie: "Per block?"
Crane: "Is there a law?"

Abbie: "I told you to stay in the car."
Crane: "Yet, as you know, I am insane and therefore impervious to simple commands."

Three out of four demon librarians.


  1. OMG, Mark, I had the exact same reaction as you did. Except that I didn't just like Ichabod -- I absolutely fell in love with him immediately. I love Abbie, too. And Orlando Jones absolutely feels villainous, if only because he kept giving Abbie such a freaking hard time that it seemed obvious he had an evil agenda.

    I was also unhappy about getting only five minutes of Clancy Brown, but I think they did that because Brown is so good that he can make us care about him in only five minutes. And since he's the one that compiled all that research, we're hoping that they have him do narration and possibly a flashback or two?

    When someone sees a a guy riding a horse with no head the last thing they are going to notice is a mark on their hand. LOL. Again, I was thinking the same thing. :)

    Great review, Mark.

  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed it too, Billie. But where did that extra 'a' come from? I proof read this thing a dozen times, then had my other half check it (you know him as Paul), then proof read it again and still didn't see it. Honestly, there are times I suspect the internet is alive and inserts minor spelling and grammar errors into everything we write just to mess with us. It is the only rational explanation.

  3. It's gremlins. Has to be.

    I do hope the show innovates, though. They could just be giving us a great pilot with a story that sputters out. Fingers crossed.

  4. I liked it but I' still in my 'reserving judgement' stage. It was a lot of fun and its excellent execution makes up for the somewhat ridiculous concept. I want to hear more about how the Revolutionary War was really a warm up for the ultimate battle between good and evil. I must've missed that day in school.

    It's lucky Ichabod was so forward thinking, huh? (sarcasm). Wouldn't he be just as confused by the fact that their are women in power? Did they address that and missed it?

    Very funny review Mark!

  5. Excellent, hilarious review, Mark!

    I didn't know (or had forgotten) that this was from the Fringe team. That show started slow and silly, and became awesome. I hope this does the same thing.

    Because, although both you and Billie and recommended it, I'm still worried about it sucking. I will watch it, though, which is more than I intended to do two days ago.

  6. I was genuinely surprised at how MUCH I enjoyed this premiere. You're right Mark, there's not much that's truly groundbreaking here. The trick for a show like this is how effectively they blend the various familiar elements they've decided to use. A lot depends on the quality of the writing, as well the quality of the acting performances. Person Of Interest is a great example. Nobody phones it in on that show. Ever. And that elevates what in other circumstances would be pretty simple stories into truly compelling television.

    For Sleepy Hollow, the burden is going to rest on the shoulders of Nicole Beharie and even more so Tom Mison. If the premiere is any indication, then I'm hopeful. Tom Mison was especially engaging as Ichabod. He was funny without being silly, serious without being too melodramatic, and was oozing charisma the whole time. His chemistry with Ms. Beharie was quite good, too. They should be a fun team to watch.

    Whenever you have a guy yanked from the past into the present, you have to do a couple of "man out of time" jokes, and thankfully I feel like they did just enough of this without beating us over the head with it. The Starbucks joke might be a bit corny, but Tom Mison's delivery was pitch-perfect, so it worked. And I really like they way they addressed Abbie's ethnicity. They couldn't NOT comment on it, but they found a way to do it that wasn't preachy or pandering. Beyond the jokes they did do, I'm glad they didn't have Ichabod spend the whole episode marveling at the modern world. He came off as the kind of guy who would think to himself, "Right, stop the demonic harbinger of doom now, figure out how that little device in Abbie's hand lets her talk to people miles away later". I'm sure we'll get more little bits of Ichabod adjusting to modern life during these early episodes, hopefully they'll be as well-handled as the ones we got this week.

    While the whole conspiracy, good vs. evil, Secret War stuff gives off a National Treasure/DaVinci Code/Assassin's Creed III vibe, as long as it's done well and doesn't feel like they're just making crap up as they go, it has the potential to be lots of fun. Setting it against the backdrop of early American history gives it a familiarity to much of the US audience that makes it easier to get sucked in(insert rant about deficiencies in Social Studies teaching in America here).

    Billie, I'm with you about Clancy Brown's small amount of screen time. He's the kind of actor that can make you invest in a character in a short period of time, and you wouldn't think they'd bring him in just to kill him so fast, so it makes more of an impact when they do. Or at least, it would have if they hadn't put it in the damn trailer(must..not..rant..). And he's got one of the best voices in Hollywood, so I too hope we get to hear more of the recordings he left behind. :)

    My only annoyance with the Big Arc they set up was when they played Mix 'n Match with the Four Horsemen. The White Horse and the Bow are indeed references to the First Horseman from the Book of Revelation, but the First Horseman wasn't Death. He represented Conquest, and in some interpretations he represents the Antichrist. Death is #4, the rider on the Pale Horse, which they also referenced towards the end of the episode, with the whole "and Hell followed with him". If you want to offer your own interpretation of the Bible in your story, that's fine. But can you not do a rewrite on the actual scripture passages? Thanks.

    So overall I thought this was a pretty good start to what could be a very cool show over the next several years(I liked the not-so-subtle hint that this battle with the forces of evil is supposed to last seven sea- I mean, years). Fox has found a couple of lead actors with real breakout potential, especially Tom Mison. Now let's see if the writers give them good enough material to work with.

  7. This didn't suck!

    I, too, am worried that it will devolve into high-concept exhaustive silliness, but for now this is a definite keeper. What a nice surprise.

    "[T]he blurry boss demon reminded me a lot of demon Giles." I wish I hadn't read your review before watching the episode, because that was all I could think of in that scene. :-)

    A few disconnected thoughts:

    Clancy Brown wrote on a map signed by George Washington? What sort of American does that? He couldn't xerox the darn thing and donate the original to the Library of Congress?

    Was New England still burning witches into the 19th century? Really? (I know almost nothing about the period from 1667-1812, which I consider the dullest century-plus ever experienced by humankind.)

    144,000 is a lot for a village. I guess they wanted a small city; more redshirts to kill off in gory religious-themed slaughter.

    Maybe Clancy Brown will come back?

  8. omg Patrick.

    "Right, stop the demonic harbinger of doom now, figure out how that little device in Abbie's hand lets her talk to people miles away later".


  9. I liked it too, Ichabod especially. Although I did like Abbie quite a bit too. I think they rushed the mythology a bit, trying to explain too much too soon. But then again, maybe they had to get the ridiculous stuff out there first, so that we knew what we were getting into.

    Apparently, this was one of the best premiere's Fox has ever had. So I bet we get more than just a few episodes for once.

  10. Oh, and James Frain is going to have a multiple episode arc.

  11. Thanks sunbunny, I was rather proud of that one myself. :)

    Yikes, looking back at the comments page, I really wrote a lot on this one. Guess it's good thing my boss can't see into my cubicle during the day.

  12. The 144,000 thing I suspect was a half-arsed reference to chapter 7 of the book of Revelation, what with the 12 tribes being sealed and whatnot. (Yes, I went to school. What are you looking at? What?) I wonder if it'll have any significance outside of the rather flimsy joke.

    And I am in no way responsible for rogue letter a's popping up in other people's work.

    I think I enjoyed this. It gave me the same sort of vibe I got watching Grimm for the first time. It seemed to do most things right. (Apart from kill off Clancy.) Here's hoping it doesn't degenerate into a huge pile of steaming Under the Dome.

  13. I would like the record to show that, while watching this episode, I had this series of thoughts:

    144,000. Huh. That is big for a village.

    Maybe it has something to do with 12x12.

    Does 12x12 = 144? I think that's right.

    Maybe not. Wow. Mrs. Curtis would be so upset that I've forgotten all the math I learned in 3rd grade.

    Am I getting dumber, or do I just need more sleep?

    I should check. My computer has a calculator.

    Ach. Why bother. The computer is all the way over there.

    In other words, Paul: Me first! Me first!

  14. Josie - Today I needed a calculator to find out how old Sophie Turner is because apparently basic subtraction is somehow beyond me now. Our elementary school math teachers would indeed be very disappointed with us.

  15. JD, from what I read this was Fox's strongest fall drama premiere in six years, and even managed to build on its Bones lead-in. Getting started early on in the fall season roll-out probably didn't hurt either, more available viewers to try it out before their normal show choices came back. I just hope that Fox's annual coverage of the Major League Baseball playoffs doesn't screw up the airing schedule for this one too much.

  16. While I really enjoyed this first episode I wasn't quite as "wowed" as I expected to be based on all the hype building up to it... I think I'm still on a "wait and see" basis. It could be a lot of fun and really good... or they could screw it up big time. At least we're guaranteed some good acting while we make up our minds, both the leads were fabulous! Not too sure about ghostly witchy Katrina though...

    Plus, if they're supposed to be paired for 7 years (seasons), what happens when the fight's over? Or if he is tied somehow to the Horseman, what happens if the Horseman is defeated/sealed away/killed? In both those situations what happens to Ichabod? Does he just go "poof"? ;o)

  17. "This didn't suck!"

    My reaction exactly. I expected it to be unspeakably horrible and it was decent. I do wish they'd hired Clancy Brown as a lead instead of a throwaway. Oh well.

    "Was New England still burning witches into the 19th century?"

    No. In fact, witches were never burnt in America. The "witches" at Salem were hanged, except for one poor sucker who wouldn't confess and was crushed to death by having rocks piled on him.

  18. I liked it, but I'm hoping they clear out some of the mess. It feels as though it is trying to do too much too soon. Having said that, I am intrigued enough to watch next week, so here we go.

    Hilarious review, Mark. I laughed out loud more than once, but the crowning comment was We had one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on the payroll and we still lost the war. Bloody typical. Hilarious.

  19. Thanks, TheShadowKnows!

    I'll add "crushed to death by rocks for a misunderstood witchcraft situation" to my list of Bad Ways to Die.

  20. Just saw an article talking about the very impressive boost Sleepy Hollow's premiere got from the DVR ratings, to the point where they're now going all the way back to 2001 and comparing it to the premiere of 24. I take these ratings with a grain of salt since I don't think either the networks or the advertisers have figured out how they should be weighted, but it's definitely a good sign. The other number I'd love to see is how many people have watched the episode online(Fox.com, Hulu, whatever). DVR users would've set the recording ahead of time, but the web viewing would be more of the folks who initially passed, then were convinced by people like us saying, "Hey that Sleepy Hollow show is actually pretty good!"

  21. Thanks to Hulu, we can now revisit Sleepy Hollow before the premiere next month. It was fun to read the review and the comments knowing now what we didn't know then.

    Even though this show grew to be my favorite new show of 2013, the pilot is still uncertain. Very, very glad I stuck with it.

  22. Okay, I've been convinced to give this one a shot. One of the advantages of coming late to the series, is that I can brush aside many of the concerns expressed here about whether things will fall apart as they go along. I already know the show stays cuckoo bananas --- at least through the first season --- and that that's a good thing!

    I have to concur wholeheartedly with the "great deal of fun" assessment. This was a solid pilot, with engaging characters and some kooky but intriguing mythology. I like that the show takes its characters and their emotions seriously, and can be extremely creepy at times --- I thought the blurry, satyr-like devil was really unnerving, and am glad I didn't see the "demon Giles" reference until later. But it also seems to recognize its ridiculous qualities and has fun with them. Loved the use of "Sympathy for the Devil"!


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