Sleepy Hollow: Pilot

FOX gets out in front of the fall launches for the majors by kicking off its season this week. First up, Sleepy Hollow from Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the team behind a boatload of stuff you likely know and probably love. I still cackle, almost 15 years later about a meta episode of Hercules that painted them as overgrown men-children working in their PJs and sleeping in bunk beds. I kind of always liked the idea of them being forever child-like and wondrous. But then I can also get sucked into Transformers on a dime. And that brings us to Sleepy Hollow, a creepy-cool mashup of past and present that refreshingly does not involve vampires. What it does have is a great cast and look and feel.

I love “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and Ichabod Crane/Headless Horseman story and FOX turns it on its ear a bit with a fable set in present-day Sleepy Hollow that combines the Headless Horseman mythology with the idea that he was actually one of the Four Horseman and now he’s returned to put the band back together. We also have two warring witch covens thrown in for good measure. So, it’s a lot to distill. But, to the show’s credit, I never had an “Oh, come ON” moment” where it went too over the top.

Here’s what we have to work with:

Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is fighting on the Hudson in 1791 when he beheads a soldier wearing the colors of the Crown. He wakes up in a cave surrounded by totems of witchcraft and makes his way out to the road to find that the world has gone for 250 years without him. In present-day Sleepy Hollow, Sheriff Corbin (Clancy Brown) and his lieutenant, Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), share a meal and he tries to talk her out of leaving town to begin a stint at Quantico. They’re called to a stable where the horses are spooked and in pretty short order, Corbin finds himself face to face with the Horseman and short of his head (which I have to think was a wink wink to his role as The Kurgan in the original Highlander). Bye, bye, Clancy! Abbie is flipping out and calls for backup.

Back in town, Crane wanders into traffic and is arrested by Officer Andy (John Cho). He passes a polygraph with no trouble despite the far-fetched story he spins of last being among the living on the heels of the Revolutionary War. When Abbie says he’s not the killer, whom she saw but can’t quite admit had no head, Crane spots a kindred soul and realizes she’s just seen what he saw all those years ago. When she’s ordered by Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) to take Crane to a psych hold, she instead drives him to the cave where he woke up and he finds a bible marked at Revelations.

Then over at the church, a reverend Crane spotted earlier, who he remembered from 1791, loses his head and Abbie arrives with Crane and argues with Irving about not driving hims straight to the hospital. Crane is summoned by a large falcon to a gravestone in the church’s cemetery (and I seriously got shades of Eric Draven here), to find that it’s the resting place of  his long-dead wife, Katrina. He’s horrified to see that she was burned for witchcraft.

Abbie takes him on to the hospital and confesses she had her own weird thing in the woods several years prior when she and her sister had some sort of vision of white trees and a demon and blacked out. Crane gets some sleep and is visited by Katrina, who tells him that yes, she was a witch and she’s not dead–her grave holds the Horseman’s head. Oh, and if the Horseman recovers it, he’ll summon the other three horsemen and then it’s game on, apocalypse. She begs him to find her, wherever she’s being held by the opposing coven.

Back at the station, Abbie snoops and finds Corbin’s files on things that go bump and the occult and the town’s history, and realizes her own memories were not wrong and Crane might actually be onto something. She springs him from the hospital and they head to the church to fetch the head. Meanwhile, Andy is is visited by the Horseman and he’s not surprised. He brings him to the church and a gun battle ensues until the sunrise drives him away.

Once the dust settles, Irving gets most of the skinny from Abbie about Corbin’s files. He tells her and Crane to get on it and she confirms she’s not going to Quantico. And Andy is killed by a demon of some sort (beware guest stars, yo). Crane closes the episode by telling Abbie that the bible references two witnesses and that she’s the other one, and according to the bible, they’ll be on a seven-year quest/war (optimistic, aren’t we) to stave off the apocalypse, battling an onslaught of onesie/twosie demons (aka monsters of the week) along the way.

I’m in!

I loved the vibe of the show and that Abbie was so quick to buy into Crane’s story. And I liked that once she checked him on his miscalculations of race and sex then vs. now, they moved along to the topic at hand–finding the Horseman.

I really, really liked the cast. Jones, Cho and Brown are longtime favorites. I was disappointed to see Brown and Cho dispatched so quickly. I like that we might hear Brown in his recordings. Mison and Beharie are new to me, but I like their chemistry And it looks like we have Nikita‘s Lyndie Greenwood coming up as Abbie’s estranged sister.

I have always enjoyed Orci and Kurtzman’s writing and banter. They have a very specific rhythm that’s just easy to watch and listen to. Director Len Wiseman, best known for the Underworld flicks, lent those talents here with a a dark tone and crisp look, and the Saturday matinee monster movie music was a perfect fit — it reminded me of Fright Night (the original). Plus, kudos for getting rights to the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” It has been a LONG time since I took a chance on a FOX show, so I hope this one sticks for them.

Sleepy Hollow airs at 9 pm E/8c Mondays on FOX in the U.S. and Global in Canada.

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s on deck this season.

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