Losing our heads over Fox’s new “Sleepy Hollow”

Sleepy Hollow banner

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

It’s no secret that we at borg.com are big fans of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.  The longtime writing partners have found success reimagining classic stories from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys to Star Trek.  It looks like the two have brought us another hit in a similar vein with Fox’s new spooky drama Sleepy Hollow, which premiered last night.

Featuring a cast of familiar favorites like Clancy Brown (Starship Troopers, The Shawshank Redemption), Orlando Jones (Drumline, Office Space), and John Cho (Star Trek 2009, Hawaii 5-0), along with relative newcomers Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, Sleepy Hollow brings back to life (ahem) Washington Irving’s classic characters of Ichabod Crane and the headless Hessian horseman, now terrorizing modern day Sleepy Hollow, New York (Salisbury, North Carolina).  Mison plays Crane, and in Kurtzman’s and Orci’s hands, Irving’s awkward schoolteacher has become a history professor turned Revolutionary War soldier who shoots and beheads the faceless mercenary in battle, before falling himself.  As the show opens, Crane awakes in a cave, claws his way out of his grave, and finds himself dodging traffic on a 2013 highway. It’s a well done nod to the eerie roadway traversed by Crane in the classic story.

Sleepy Hollow cast photo

Over the next hour, we follow Crane and Sleepy Hollow cop Abbie Mills (Beharie) as they unravel a mystery that begins with the beheading of Mills’s partner, Sheriff August Corbin (Brown, alas) and grows into a centuries-spanning supernatural conspiracy.  Beharie shines as the ambitious lieutenant eager to graduate to the big leagues of the FBI, willing to take risks and defy orders to get to the bottom of a mystery that’s plagued her since childhood.  But the standout performance is undoubtedly Mison’s.  With his worn frock coat and disheveled hair, he just looks the part of a slightly mad time traveler desperately trying to find his feet in an altogether too strange–and ultimately too familiar–new world.

Clancy Brown Sleepy Hollow

The pilot skips ahead a bit, cramming mystical backstory into visions and flashbacks that would have been better paced out and uncovered by our detectives, but it’s a rare misstep in an otherwise very strong pilot.  Predictable deaths are nonetheless well done and enjoyable, even when we know they’re coming.  The autumnal New England village set design and a strong musical score contribute to a great Halloween feel, and it sure didn’t hurt that we watched the pilot on the first real fall evening of the year.

Sleepy Hollow John Cho

Foreshadowing in the pilot (and hints from the end-of-episode preview) promise lots more creepy thrills, with supernatural storylines abounding.  At one point, Crane tells Mills that they are prophesied to be partners for seven years–a little heavy-handed wishful thinking on the part of the production team, perhaps, but worth a laugh.  If episode one is any indication of what Kurtzman and Orci have in store for us, however, Sleepy Hollow may well follow in the footsteps of their other long-running series, including Xena: Warrior Princess and Fringe.  We certainly can’t wait to see what happens next.

Sleepy Hollow airs Mondays at 8p.m. C on Fox.

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