REVIEWS / TELEVISION

Sleepy Hollow, Population: 10 million. Modern day retelling, done right.

With television taking a turn for the mythical, the fantastic and the horrific, shows with origins in folklore, horror and fairy tales are practically run of the mill network television staples.

But Sleepy Hollow is not your ordinary retelling of an old classic. It’s a witty, fast-paced and suspenseful depiction of the story of Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and the headless horseman in modern times.

The story starts off with Ichabod in Revolutionary times battling and eventually beheading a masked soldier, only to be injured himself. After he is injured, he passes out which wouldn’t be unusual except for the small fact that he wakes up in a cave, in 2013.  He meets sarcastic cop Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) when he becomes the suspect in the murder of her partner. But he turns out to be the only one with answers.

Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison in Sleepy Hollow.

Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison in Sleepy Hollow. Photo courtesy of Fox.com

Pulling off a retelling of a known story can be tricky, especially as a modern-day drama. But Sleepy Hollow manages to craft the right amount of mythology, mystery and lore with compelling characters without being over the top. Abbie’s first encounters with Crane are just the right combination of skepticism and wonder and Ichabod’s are equal parts confusion and awe. Although it’s only been one episode, the partnership between the two is gradual, slow and believable. The  well-written and clever banter blends perfectly with the odd chemistry between the two leads.

Their stories are strikingly similar but drastically different. Abbie is a fierce police officer with a potential future at the FBI and a strange past. Ichabod is a trained soldier set in his ways. When their lives collide, they are both thrown into a different world then they knew before. Crane must attempt to grasp that it’s been 250 years since he closed his eyes. His wife is gone, life in America is drastically different from what he knew and there is a headless horseman , the man that he killed, who is now killing others. And Abbie must deal with the fact that he actually might be telling the truth . Not to mention that he could be the only person to solve the murder of her former partner, who happened to be investigating strange happenings in the town before he died.

The intense mythology of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and their connection to Abbie and Ichabod is included seamlessly and isn’t forced. Tiny  bits of information and small revelations are dispersed throughout the episode. Unlike most shows based on folklore or fairy tales which blurt out a chunk of important backstory all at once (Such as Once Upon a Time for example.). Abbie’s past,  the information held in Washington’s Bible and the connection between the two main characters are revealed effortlessly.

Not only is the storytelling intriguing  but the characters are a driving force behind this intense pilot. Abbie is full of conviction, determination and sarcasm. Ichabod is her perfect foil, reserved and still stuck in the past. Their banter is effortless but doesn’t ignore who they are. She  makes him fully aware that she thinks he might be insane and he doesn’t hide the fact that he is shocked by a woman, especially a Black woman, being “emancipated” and “wearing trousers.”  Beharie and Mison take two very extraordinary characters and make easy to relate to. You want to know more about Abbie’s past and how it relates to her present. You want to see more of Ichabod Crane and how these two come together. Even the secondary characters leave you wondering who they are. The ironically named Frank Irving (Orlando Jones), is cold and disapproving of Abbie’s ways and Crane’s wife , Katrina (Katia Winter) is mysteriously trapped in a netherworld from which he must get her out.

With its well laid out flashbacks, a perfectly eerie depiction of the Horseman and compelling action, Sleepy Hollow keeps you interested while keeping you guessing. The pilot establishes the right amount of character introduction and plot points and merges it with the perfect dose of mythology, without seeming crammed and messy. It is a unique but well-crafted mixture of dark lore and  modern-day drama, combined with a bit of police procedural. The unique and well told story combined with the fact that the pilot had a record-breaking total of 10.1 million views demonstrates that Sleepy Hollow has the perfect building blocks for a successful run.

Sleepy Hollow airs Monday nights at 9pm Eastern Time on Fox.

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