[Content note: violence, racism. This post contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Sleepy Hollow.]
I know that everyone here has been SUPER EXCITED to see the new comedy/horror/supernatural/procedural from FOX, "Sleepy Hollow," previewed in this space. Well, I have finally caught up on the first two episodes. And they were definitely episodes! And some characters have names from Washington Irving' books! Also, witchcraft. Awesome, right?
The show follows Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), an 18th century professor at Merton College, Oxford (what) who joined the British army (okay) to fight against the Continentals in the American Revolution (sure). Once in the colonies, he changed sides because tyranny! So he spies for George Washington. He also gets elected to the legislature (which seems very stealthy and spy-ish) and tries to abolish slavery. Also, he cut off the head of a Hessian officer. Also, he married a witch. Then he died. All of which was totally in Washington Irving's Sketch Book, the Director's Cut. (If you have actually read any Washington Irving, then I encourage you not to think about that.)
"So THAT's where I hid the actual Legend of Sleepy Hollow!"
ANYWAY! Crane wakes up in the future, is befuzzled by cars and Starbucks, and gets picked up as a suspect in a murder. We know he didn't do it though, because we saw the Resurrected Headless Hessian Horseman kill Sheriff "Kindly" Clancy Brown. Whooooops! The police hook Crane up to the
Lasso of Truth lie detector. (SPOILER: He's not lying!) More importantly, Captain "Grumpy" Frank Irving (Orlando Jones, who seems to wish he hadn't taken this job) puts him in the charge of Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills.
Abbie, along with her sister, saw something nasty
in the woodshed in the woods years ago. In response to seeing spookystuff, Agent Mulder Abbie went a little wild. Her sister went to a distinctly unhygienic mental institution, where she now passes her time doing Linda Hamilton impressions and talking to supernatural evil. Like you do!
Meanwhile, teenage Abbie was talked out of a life of crime by Sheriff Kindly. If only more troubled teens had an avuncular cop around to eat pie and prompt them into life-changing choices! Now she is an accomplished police lieutenant, who was accepted to Quantico but decided to ditch that in order to solve Sherriff Kindly's murder.
So Abbie and Ichabod crawl around in underground chambers, read waterlogged old Bibles, and dig up the Horseman's head. He calls her "leftenant" a lot, in case you forgot he is
Canadian British. The horseman shows up, police make wisecracks, and people we don't know or care about get murdered. There are doughnut jokes, and Ichabod definitely hates taxes.
Ichabod also discovers his wife's gravestone, helpfully inscribed, "BURNT (whut) FOR WITCHCRAFT, 1782(whut???)." So we finally have gotten to witches! And there are good covens, and bad covens. Also, the good ones worked in secret, because(Ichabod explains) the late 18th century was an Age of Reason(tm), buuuuut witches were still burned (arrrgh) by the hundreds (math is hard) in New York. We even get to see a witch-burning (omg stooooooooop!) in a flashback to Revolutionary times; it's held at night, because apparently public executions are a more effective deterrent when you can only dimly make them out in the dark. (If you have actually read anything about witchcraft trials, then I encourage you to REALLY not think about that.)
Anyway! So the town has a history of good witches fighting bad witches, which is all connected to the Horseman (remember him?) and the Apocalypse somehow. Ichabod's wife, Katrina "Exposition" Crane, helpfully turns up in his dreams to explain all this, and to have awesome hair. Ichabod leads Abbie though the mysterious 18th century tunnels (which look a lot like modern sewers, but I encourage you not to think about that) connecting the police station to its storage building; I guess walking across the street was too mundane?
Between visions and research, Abbie and Ichabod discover that a witch is coming back from the dead. Her name is "Serilda of Abadon," and yes, that does work out to "A Bad One," just in case you were wondering. She's a BAD WITCH! She's also Romani ("gypsy," Ichabod helpfully explains) by the way, and can I tell you how excited I am that the only confirmed bad witch so far is a member of a much-persecuted minority? This is really NEAT! It is also neat that she speaks in (alleged) Greek, for no reason.
So, we have evil witches and good witches in a cosmic showdown, a creepy devil-figure who talks to people in mirrors, a headless Horseman/Death of the Apocalypse, and an astonishing number of spooky underground chambers (did colonial New Yorkers ever get around to building houses, or did they just live in the palatial basements? Wait, never mind. I encourage you not to think about that!)
Also, John Cho is in this.
If you like campy, faux-gothic fun delivered with a slick atmosphere, you might enjoy this. The special effects and spooky atmosphere are pretty cool; it seems to have a decent budget, or else extremely clever tech folks who can make a small budget look big. The dialogue is standard goofy horror schlock, so the jokes are frequent and terribad. Abbie is really the star, and it's fun to watch Beharie play her; she gets most of the "straight" lines and I'm genuinely interested in her character's development. Mison has pretty much nothing to work with, but he delivers that nothing with aplomb; if the writers figure out that he's actually the goofy sidekick, not the star, that would help. I was disappointed that Clancy Brown was murdered at the beginning, but since dead people come back to life at an alarming rate in this series (my count thus far: 4 in the flesh, 2 in dreams), that doesn't seem to be an issue.
So, as long as I overlooked the plot and fact that the writers did their research
reading Wikipedia skimming Wikipedia calling a friend who skimmed Wikipedia once, long ago not at all, this was cheesy, atmosopheric fun. I just had to switch my brain firmly to 'off.'