FOX is trying its hand at contemporizing the classic Sleepy Hollow tale by bringing it from 1781 to 2013, adding flashing lights, and calling it original. Although the show has made obvious updates to the story, with one episode down, there’s a certain sense of hollowness to the plot itself.
The 13-episode arc worked well for last season’s pinch-hitter, The Following, but after a mediocre introduction, lackluster character development, and a familiar storyline, Sleepy Hollow might not be able to keep the attention of fans for that long. Despite bringing in the highest ratings the network has experienced for a fall-premiere in the last six years, with the official start of the broadcast season coming next week, the series isn’t safe just yet.
Sleepy Hollow operates on similar premise to what anyone who is familiar with the short story (or, has seen the 1999 Johnny Depp film), may have expected. The Headless Horseman has been summoned by someone who hopes to annihilate good and bring about the apocalypse. Of course, the horseman is the harbinger of death i.e. a supernatural version of the modern-day serial killer. This theme is reiterated several times within the first hour. I understand that repetition is key, but I don’t think anyone missed the blatantly obvious message paraded in front of them the first couple of times around.
The twist from the original story that is meant to keep you interested? Back when Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) met the horseman on the battlefield and took off his head, he was fatally wounded in the fight, and through some cloudy witch-sense their blood was thus intertwined, and they are now connected. Crane wakes up 250 years later with no memory of his lengthy rest in peace, and the Headless Horseman is hard at work leaving headless bodies all around the town of Sleepy Hollow.
Protagonists have been less believable before and still somehow managed to capture audience’s attention. It seems unlikely that aside from his classic good looks, Crane will be attracting anything except swoons. The character does manage to get across some of his dynamic personality traits in the first episode, but somehow still seems to come across as flat.
In order to solve the mystery of the Headless Horseman, Crane must now become partners with newly-appointed Sheriff Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie). Abbie, naturally, had her own supernatural episode years earlier which made her predisposed to believing Crane’s explanation for what was occurring. Enough so that she predictably gave up her future career as a federal agent to stay around the small town she calls home and help put the horseman to rest, once and for all. Everyone else, on the other hand, is convinced that Crane is a sociopath – and probably has mixed feelings about Abbie’s mental state at this point.
Even so, not only are there obvious differences in Ichabod and Abbie’s backstories that might make it difficult for them to relate, the entire pairing seems orchestrated and inorganic. It’s understandable that the network would try to capitalize on the success of other male-female dynamics – Bones’ Booth and Brennan, for example. Yet, even fan favorites have gone through initial hesitation periods.
By the end of episode one, it was clear that these two were committed to solving the case together as a cohesive unit, and stopping whatever supernatural element was now invading this small town. I just wish I had left the episode with the same emotional investment.
One thing that Sleepy Hollow does seem to have going for it was the creepy factor. If you’re looking for something with a little less fluff, and a little more thriller, Sleepy Hollow might pique your interest. Otherwise, it doesn’t necessarily have a lot to offer. The mythology was heavy-handed, and even though the writers clearly took creative liberties with historical fact which is fine, they almost went too far outside of the realm of what audiences are comfortable with to be welcomed.
It’s hard to judge the future of the series based on what we’ve seen thus far, but with networks quick to give their new shows the ax – it’ll be interesting to see how Sleepy Hollow stands up to actual competition.
Were you impressed by this initial offering, or did you walk away pondering your other Monday night options? Let us know in the comment section below!