Entertaining Sleepy Hollow summons classic X-Files formula

Sleepy Hollow logo

After a solid pilot episode many television series fail to measure up to the initial promise, dwindling away after a few episodes.  On last night’s fourth episode of Sleepy Hollow, “The Lesser Key of Solomon,” we learn this new series may deserve to be around for the long haul.  From the first scene where we catch up with Tom Mison’s Ichabod Crane in a humorous exchange with an OnStar representative to Hessians interrogating a bartender for information on Lieutenant Mills’s sister who has escaped from a psychiatric ward, we knew we were in for a wild ride even before the titles rolled.

If you haven’t climbed aboard the bandwagon for Sleepy Hollow yet, we reviewed the pilot here at borg.com three weeks ago.  At its core, the series is the unlikely mash-up of two works, Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, and the biblical Book of Revelations.  Here Ichabod Crane takes the role of Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, and the Headless Horseman of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow turns out to be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  The Horseman was beheaded by Ichabod Crane, who is, in turn, felled by the Horseman at the same skirmish, and on Crane’s deathbed his wife–a witch–casts a spell that causes Crane to reappear in the town of Sleepy Hollow in our time.

Boston Tea Party

The preview for “The Lesser Key of Solomon” hinted at a revisit to the Boston Tea Party (apparently actually referred to in contemporary day Boston as “the destruction of the tea”), but the nature of Crane’s involvement revealed the potential of this new spooky-mystery-horror-historical fiction series took us for a ride through several scenes that conjured the best of genre television.  The plot followed Crane and Mills on an investigative path through the supernatural straight out of The X-Files.

Along the way clues revealed a Hessian plot beginning in the American Revolution continuing with a Masonic or Knights Templar story like that of Nicholas Cage’s National Treasure series.  Classic fantasy talismans abound:  a book that is itself a key, a stone box, a sextant created by George Washington to serve as a projector to hide locations on maps.  And the treasure hunt itself was like tracking the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with a ghostly and ghastly climax at a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-inspired Hellmouth.   That’s a lot to cram into an hour of network TV, but it showed how interesting this series can be if it stays on the right track.

Sleepy Hollow Lesser Key of Solomon still

The flow-through plot in the first four episodes is the story of two sisters in foster care who see something strange in the woods when they were children.   One sister, Abbie (played by Nicole Beharie), denied seeing what turned out to be a demon from John Milton’s Paradise Lost named Moloch, and she ended up as a police officer; and the other sister, Jenny (played by Lyndie Greenwood), was accused of being crazy, which set her on a path that led to the psych ward.   Lieutenant Mills comes to terms with her guilt in episode four and the sisters begin to bond again after a lifetime apart.  It’s a believable relationship among a fantastical series of events.

Sleepy Hollow General Washington

Ichabod Crane’s role in the American Revolution is not left to be the bumbling Crane we saw in the classic animated adaptation of Irving’s work.  This new Crane is a crafty spy, an agent of General George Washington himself.  Instead of this playing as silly and unlikely, Sleepy Hollow reveals a hero we simply cannot get enough of.  And it helps that the choice for General Washington may be the best casting for General Washington ever put to film.

Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane at Boston Tea Party

After only four episodes Sleepy Hollow is turning out to be a great television series.  If the series makes it a few years, we’ll likely look back on last night’s episode as a classic hour of television.  Sleepy Hollow airs Monday nights on Fox.

C.J. Bunce

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