Take a 19th century novella about a headless horseman, the Book of Revelation, the American Revolution, and throw in an impending apocalypse, all set in 2013, and you have “Sleepy Hollow”, the tv show! The show follows Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), a resurrected spy from the American Revolution, and Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) of Sleepy Hollow as they try to put together pieces about a mysterious headless horseman and eventually stop the apocalypse. It sounds insane, yes, but somehow doesn’t quite come across that way all the time.
No overreaching here, thank you!
“Sleepy Hollow” is a concept that could go really bad – it’s practically set up to do that. But thus far, the show seems to avoid that because the episodes are purely self-contained. There is no attempt to make some significant statement about the world through narrative or themes. No. Everything that happens in “Sleepy Hollow” is strictly contained to Sleepy Hollow, the village, and the show. In a way, the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it works to its advantage. You can go in for the 43 minutes and become completely engrossed in the events on the screen, but when it’s over, it’s over. You enjoy that time you’ve spent, but the show doesn’t need -or try- to have some lasting impact outside of its allotted time.
An explosion of plotlines
One downfall of the show, however, is how much each episode is crammed with plotlines. The first and second episode hit you with so much information, some of it which could have benefited from being sprinkled in later on, and some of it seems completely irrelevant at the time being. The cramming makes it difficult to keep track of everything and figure out what’s important and what isn’t. In the first episode alone, we have about four deaths, rapidly succeeding each other. I worry about the ability of the writers to keep this up, and that “Sleepy Hollow” might end up getting boring because everything important and exciting was revealed in the first few episodes and nothing’s left.
But wait . . . what about the characters?
Here lies another strength of the show: the characters. Our leads are funny -sometimes unintentionally so- and they have amazing chemistry. Abbie is a no-nonsense kind of person, but this very quality leads her to believe Ichabod because she witnessed everything and nothing else makes sense. And Ichabod is completely bamboozled by his 21st century surroundings, but “Sleepy Hollow” was clever enough to make sure that’s not the central aspect of his story, and includes just the right amount of ‘what is this strange contraption’ moments for him. For the most part, both Abbie and Ichabod are completely focused on the task at hand and tend to not waste time being melodramatic or making a big deal out of things that don’t deserve it. Their chemistry also strengthens the show because their conversations are witty, yet natural, and they rarely feel contrived or forced.
Overall, “Sleepy Hollow” is not as much of a disaster as it might seem upon first glance -far from it. However, the show does still run the risk of heading in that direction; there are certain things that happen which nobody questions when they should (e.g. a corpse gets ressurrected and goes missing and no one seems to notice . . .) and some of the motivation for the characters seems weak. But that is curable, and the writers have displayed an ability to keep the show grounded and realistic despite all the supernatural elements by making sure that -for the most part- the supernatural is the only unbelievable part of the show, and all the characters are forced to wrestle and come to terms with that. If “Sleepy Hollow” continues on its current path -and maybe restricts the overflow of information- it may be just fine in the long run.