Over the years there have been many iterations of the classic “Sleepy Hollow” tale. From Disney’s iconic portrayal of a scaredy-cat Ichabod Crane to Tim Burton’s ultra-goth representation. Each has had their own charm and quirks that made them endearing in some way. Now Fox is looking to take a stab at the mythos with their modern take on the legend. Does it manage to place it’s own stamp on the story or does is it fail to leave an impression?
“Sleepy Hollow” starts by introducing us to Ichabod Crane, a soldier in George Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War. This isn’t the wimpy sort of Crane we’ve seen before, but he’s also not an ultra-badass. He’s represented as an intelligent and moral man who turned against his English homeland when he felt the King had become too tyrannical.
In the middle of a fateful skirmish between Washington’s men and the Red Coats, Crane is confronted by an unkillable foe. Unphased by bullets, Crane is only able to put him down by cutting off his head. During this struggle Crane is mortally wounded and collapses next to the newly created Headless Horseman. If you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t a faithful adaptation of the old tale.
Crane wakes up hundreds of years later in a dank cave and finds himself in modern America. Miraculously, he seems to take this development all in stride. My major problem with this plot point is that Crane never seems too shaken up about the fact that he’s woken up in a different century where all his loved ones and friends are dead. He just seems to accept these things and continues about his way.
However, when he learns that the Horseman is also alive in this new world, his character is given a sense of purpose and he sets out to learn about what brought them to the future and for what purpose. Of course, the answer to this mystery is what kicks off the overarching premise of the show. Ultimately, it boils down to a grandiose scheme to bring about the apocalypse. We’re also given a small taste of the main baddie who looks like a skinny version of the Lord of Darkness from “Legend”, but comes off as actually being sinister and eerie.
This first episode crams a lot of plot and world-building detail into 45 minutes, but it never feels rushed or overbearing. It manages to suggest that the world and the characters are much more interesting than they initially appear, without giving away too much. We get an idea that there are magical powers, creatures, demons, witches, and forces of good and evil all at play in this world. And while it’s nice to be teased about the stuff that may happen, at this point, I can’t say for certain if “Sleepy Hollow” will deliver on it.
Towards the end of the pilot episode “Sleepy Hollow” was starting to feel pretty reminiscent of shows like “Supernatural.” Not only in terms of story structure, but also in tone. The show seems to be straddling the line between scares and laughs, though, this episode felt a little on the cheesier side.
How does a Headless Horseman armed with a machine gun sound to you? For me, it was a little much to digest and the scene in question turns a somewhat menacing character into a more comedic looking figure. Combining horror and comedy can be a tricky task, with any luck “Sleepy Hollow” will learn how to master the challenge as the series goes on.
As for the cast, their performances are commendable. Some scenes are a little clunky and dry, but I think that’s a result of the dialog rather than anyone’s acting talent. There isn’t a single poor performance in the pilot, but at the same time, there isn’t a remarkable one either. Once again, this is partially due to the material as none of the characters have very strong or interesting personalities. However, with this being a pilot episode, it’s certainly possible that’ll change as the series progresses and the writers find a voice for each character.
One real oddity in this show is that John Cho is in it, but only has a few minutes of screen time and just a handful of lines. It’s strange to see him involved in this at all. I suspect that maybe he was doing someone a favor or simply took the part for the hell of it. I know he’s not a huge star, but he’s also not somebody you get for a background character.
“Sleepy Hollow” shows an immense amount of promise and I look forward to seeing how the mysteries play out. Provided, of course, that they are able to build off of the foundation that the pilot has laid out. I find that as I reflect on this episode and watch it again, it grows on me just a little more. It’s definitely not a strong start, but it shows that there’s a good idea in here somewhere. It’ll be fun to see if they’re able to dig it out and run with it.
“Sleepy Hollow” premieres next Monday on Sept. 16th at 9pm pacific on Fox. Check your local listings for more information.