What do you get if you combine Once Upon a Time, Grimm and the Secret Circle? Tedium. The writers of Sleepy Hollow took a great idea - moving the Headless Horseman legend into a modern day Sleepy Hollow - and made it...bloodless. Even last year’s failed American Horror wannabe Park Avenue 666 had more style and a better script. That said, there are a bunch of positive reviews on IMDB that made me wonder if I had seen the same show as everyone else. Or maybe the network paid a bunch of people to write positive reviews. Or it was just silly fun all around and I’m being too earnest. Except I was bored. DO NOT bore me.
We open on a Revolutionary battlefield, where an Ominous Soldier on Horseback appears in the melee. Ichabod Crane engages and discovers that, live the Weebles of old, the horseman wobbles but he won’t fall down. So Crane lops off his head, but not before receiving some sort of injury. Fade to mist. Now we’re in a cave with jars of murky liquid sitting around who knows why but they look creepy and make a fine scene when they shatter. And they shatter because Crane is punching his way through the soil, emerging crusted with dirt and some sort of weird white stuff - was he preserved in salt? Off he lopes through the woods and onto a road, in time to be nearly plowed down by a car. Crane looks vaguely puzzled. You’d think he might go Holy Shit what was that? given that his last mode of transport was a horse.
Meanwhile an older cop and his younger partner run into trouble investigating a potential crime at a creepy old stables with an Ominously Frightened Horse. You’d think the horse would be bucking at his stable door since there’s a Headless Horseman hunkered down in there. If I were a horse I would do more than whicker. So the older cop gets his head cut off, which is a real bummer for his partner, who calls for backup.
Cue for Ichabod Crane to appear out of nowhere for no clear reason and run into the street right in front of a cop car. I guess if you are dirty and scruffy and run into the middle of the street the legitimate police response is to hold you at gunpoint and arrest you. That’s a pretty stiff penalty for jaywalking, don’t you think? But of course maybe he just cut off someone’s head, right? What, he’s not covered in blood and he has no weapon? No problem.
You would think that waking up 250 years in the future would put more of a kink in his brain, but Ichabod Crane is remarkably unflustered by the COMPLETE TRANSFORMATION of the town he lived in, by the changes in noise levels and fashion, by electric lights, skyscrapers, concrete, and motor vehicles. He does ask about the TV screens in the police station (but not the big machines moving by magic along the road or the torchless illumination), the end of slavery and Starbucks (part of a really, really stupid and obvious joke), and he asks when women started wearing trousers, which would have probably been scandalous 250 years ago, but hey, he’s an easy going guy I guess. He doesn’t even flinch getting into a car for the first time or comment on the remarkable lack of horse-drawn carts and manure in the streets. Somehow he has survived all this time in some sort of coma in a cave, and yet all his clothes are intact. It would have been much more interesting if they’d fallen off.
Others have pointed out that most cops don’t let suspects, or people being transported to a mental health facility for pete’s sake, sit in the front seat of a police car. But if he wasn’t in the front seat he wouldn’t have been able to get out of the car at a crucial point to wander around a cemetery, where the plucky female cop decided to check out a new crime scene. Get that - she’s going to a crime scene with a potential, possibly dangerous, mental patient in her care, which, even if she thinks he’s okay because she saw the Horseman, probably won’t go over well with her superior (played by Orlando Jones, like THAT makes any sense).
There is no chemistry between the leads. Nada. Zip. I think he is supposed to help her accept her own psychic/witchy abilities so that they can partner up to fight Evil. She comes to terms with this pretty quickly, like Hey, I was gonna go join the elite at QUANTICO but instead I’m going to say fuck my career because this guy who crawled out of a hole tells me I’m going to have to fight a headless adversary. ‘sall cool. I don’t expect romance - at least they haven’t written the female as a love interest - but where’s the snappy repartee? Where is the initial distrust that must be overcome? Where are the humorous misunderstandings. Anything? Nope, the relationship is completely flaccid.
The headless horseman himself is a disappointment. If you met someone headless in real life it would be terrifying or at least icky, but on screen a head really adds a special something that axes and guns fail to deliver. (The guns, by the way, seem to shoot fireworks - pretty!) The writers should take note of the show’s theme song, “Sympathy for the Devil.” Mindless, mechanical evil is boooooring. There has to be a villain with personality, a Loki or a Moriarty or a Crowley, to earn your guilty admiration. We don’t even have a whole person. When we are finally introduced to the horseman’s skull, it has all the menace of something from a display at your local Halloween store. Actually, strike that because I’m sometimes scared of the displays at the local Halloween store. We also glimpse a demon that looks strangely like a tall, skinny Dobby. I’m not exactly quaking.
It’s a shame this is so very lame, because Tom Mison who plays Ichabod Crane has a British accent (always, always a good thing) and is very pleasant to look at, or he would be if someone gave him access to a shower, a barber and some clean clothes. If I do watch another episode it will be to see if they have the wisdom to dress him in tight jeans. Because I could be persuaded to suspend disbelief.
As for the plot, they are setting up a good coven/bad coven narrative - yawn. Who in the town can you trust, blah blah blah. Something about Revelation (of COURSE) and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Well, I can tell you right now that the Winchester brothers already shut that down, and they did it with flair and sass. Much as I thought the last couple of seasons uneven, I am now really looking forward to the return of Supernatural. I need some proper scaring.