Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sleepy Hollow-Pilot

I understand that there's a need to make statement television nowadays, I mean there's a lot of competition out there.  Between network, cable and streaming services starting their own shows, the audience is besieged with new, amazing, best-on-television shows to watch.  Sometimes shows actually earn that moniker and sometimes the producers throw that phrase in their advertising to fool people, but either way, chances are you're hearing that, currently, there are at least 5 "best shows on television", which at the very least is grammatically inaccurate.  I'll spare you the anxiety and say, right now, Sleepy Hollow probably isn't the best show on television.  And you know what, that's alright, because it might also be the most fun pilot episode  I've seen in quite a while.
I doubt that when Washington Irving was writing his short story, "The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow" he even remotely could have imagined the mileage that Hollywood would get out of it.  I mean, I doubt anyone could have imagined a world without cholera and illuminated by light bulbs, much less television, but you get the gist.  I like to think that it was probably written as some dare:

Drunk At a Party: (slurring)You know what'd be the dumbest villain ever, a headless man.  I mean, he's headless, what's he gonna do?!
Drunk-ish Washington Irving: I don't know, but what if you gave him a horse?
Drunk At a Party: You mean, like gave him a horse head?  Like a backwards centaur?
Drunk-ish Washington Irving: No, like had the headless guy, riding a horse
Drunk At a Party: So he's still headless, just on a horse?
Drunk-ish Washington Irving:: Yeah!
Drunk At a Party: That's still dumb.  No one could make that a thing
Drunk-ish Washington Irving: I bet I could make it a thing
Drunk At a Party: I'll bet you the colt of my best horse, you can't make it a thing

And Washington Irving really needed that horse, so, here we are.  The Headless Horseman has had enough reincarnations to ensconce himself well and truly into the cultural quilt of America, and now, even if you don't think Washington Irving you at least vaguely recall Johnny Depp.  Then again, I'm not sure there's a situation where one doesn't vaguely recall Johnny Depp.
But I'm well off course now, so back to the premiere of Fox's newest version of the tale, Sleepy Hollow.  The pilot begins with a cinematic Revolutionary War battle, introducing us to Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and the Headless Horseman.  Things don't go so well for Ichabod, and before he knows it, well, his cursed body is climbing out of some cavern in the rural New York town of Sleepy Hollow.  Still dressed like an 18th century vagabond (everyone in the 18th century was dressed as a vagabond though, it's what comes from homespun fabric) he wanders in to the road, only to be nearly killed by a truck that is going far too fast on a two-lane back road. BAM! Ichabod's in the 21st Century! A man out of time.  Cliche, but hey, he's attractive, he's British, and the more he speaks, he sounds like Walter Bishop, so I'm on board.
In another part of town, a Sheriff goes into a darkened barn to investigate some noises while his partner waits outside. Hint: this never ends well for the Sheriff. Before you can say "let them eat cake" his head rolls out the door and what is very clearly a headless man in a Redcoat uniform rides out, stops outside the barn door just long enough to give the Sheriff's partner, Abbie Mills, the heebie jeebees the way only a headless man can, and rides off into the night.  So begins a pretty jam-packed hour. 
Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) is determined to find out whose broad axe it was that decapitated her father-figure partner, while Ichabod is determined to figure out just what was that battery-operated horse on wheels that nearly ran him over.  Unfortunately, Mr. Crane doesn't get far.  In true, I'm-from-a-different-century fashion, he stands out like a sore thumb, and since Abbie Mills has just sent out the call for backup, Mr. Crane is taken in to custody for being near enough to the decapitation location to make him a plausible suspect.
While Abbie is busy explaining to her bosses, "listen this isn't the guy I saw", Ichabod reveals that he may know who killed her partner, and thus begins the teaming up of our two major characters.  After another death, this time a priest gets detached from his neck via the same cauterizing broad axe, it's clear that Crane isn't their man, but he may hold the secret to finding him.
Produced by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci, it's unsurprising that there are a lot of aspects of Sleepy Hollow that are similar to their other Fox show, the cult hit Fringe.  Ichabod, like Walter Bishop, is a man who seems crazy enough to be committed, yet sane enough to have the best lines.  Abbie Mills is a strong female police figure, who was supposed to be leaving small-town Sleepy Hollow for the FBI bright lights of Quantico, VA.  While she's no Olivia Dunham (yet) there is mythology laid out that links her and Ichabod, in a similar manner to the way Peter and Olivia were predestined to meet.
However, there's also Ichabod's dead-ish wife Katrina, who exists in a realm that Ichabod can apparently reach in dreams.  Katrina also happens to be the witch that put the spell on Ichabod that allowed him to wake up in the 21st Century.  Series mythology also covered in the pilot includes 2 witch covens, good and evil, George Washington's Bible, the 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse, and the fact that when Ichabod and the Headless Horseman met and killed each other all those years ago, their blood combined, forming a link, a la Harry and Voldemort, so when the Headless Horseman awoke to complete his task, Ichabod also awoke in the cave.  It also implies that, should H.H. die, Ichabod would do the same.  Oh, also, Ichabod and Abbie are supposed to work together for 7 years to prevent the destruction of the world.
Phew! Yes, it was an exhausting hour that threw everything at the viewer but the kitchen sink, although I was prepared to dodge a faucet if necessary.  However, it was a lot of fun.  Even if some of the fun was pointing out the absolute ridiculous.  The fact that Abbie describes the man on the horse she saw as "in a red coat...with a brand on his hand" instead of "freaking headless!" was a particular source of joy for me.  As was the appearance of some weird creature at the end of the episode, and the horse's glowing red eyes.  I mean how else would you know it's a demon horse, though?! Duh!
All in all, it was packed with everything that will keep me coming back for more.  The goal of the season, perhaps even the series, is laid out and it looks like it will be crime-solving, apocalypse-dodging good times.  I'd best describe it as Elementary+Fringe+Harry Potter+The Crucible, and really, isn't that about as original as you can ask for from network television right now?

Overall 3.5 out of 5 for the pilot episode

P.S.-Congratulations to the casting agents for bringing another British man to the screen.  His IMDB proves that EVERY attractive Brit has done at least ONE Austen adaptation.

Spoiler P..P.S:
Oh no, John Cho! was the only phrase that I kept saying in the last 5 minutes


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