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TV Reviews

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama, Comedy, Crime, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Cast
Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills; Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane; Orlando Jones as Captain Frank Irving; Katia Winter as Katrina Crane
Channel
Fox
Reviewer
Paul Asay
Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow

Forget those high-prestige dramas filled with their conflicted antiheroes and layers of subtext. Enough of those pretentious cable series with their hoity-toity serial arcs. No, the folks at Fox have decided what the viewing public really wants is a headless horseman with an assault rifle.

Sharknado, meet Sleepy Hollow.

Fox's drama (and I use the term loosely) is perhaps the craziest show on television this side of History Channel's Ancient Aliens. It makes Supernatural look like a gritty docudrama and Once Upon a Time read like a history lesson. It's about demonic beasties, ageless ninja priests and how George Washington helped stave off the end of the world.

And we haven't even seen the second episode yet.

You may bemoan the fact that Fox based this campy actioner on a work of classic American literature, but let's be honest: It's not like Washington Irving was going for hard-core realism when he penned "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." We're talking about a Headless Horseman here. How does the dude see?

So really, Fox doesn't take nearly as many liberties with Irving's story as it does with the book of Revelation.

Let me explain. Or try to.

In 1781, Revolutionary War soldier Ichabod Crane faces off against a masked Redcoat with dead-gray eyes and a bow-like scar on his hand. Ichabod manages to slice off the Redcoat's head, but not before Ichabod's chest gets hacked open. The two fall on the field of battle, apparently dead.

But the Redcoat actually can't be killed. He's one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, see, and the Revolutionary War wasn't just about American independence, it was a war (Ichabod says) to decide the fate of "every man, woman and child on Earth." Why is Ichabod still talking, you ask? Because his blood mingled with the Horseman's blood on the killing fields, of course, and through some spells cast by his wife and her coven cronies.

Fast-forward 232 years or so, and both of these guys pop out of the grave, looking not the least bit worm-eaten. The Horseman is ready to reclaim his severed head and, perhaps, kickstart the end of the world. Ichabod has the opposite goal: keeping Mr. Horseman from getting (ahem) reconnected with his aforementioned noggin, preventing the end of the world and, if possible, saving his wife (who's now a bird) from some sort of a postmortem imprisonment in a grim-looking forest.

Ichabod has a little help, thanks to a roll-with-the-punches law enforcer by the name of Abbie Mills. Oh, at first she found the whole concept a little incredulous. But her recently beheaded partner had been hiding a whole series of mysterious, unsolved murder cases that he believed might be connected to some ancient warring covens … so Abbie decides to just go with it.

Do I now really need to say that Sleepy Hollow has scads of problems?

You've got the spiritual issues, with Ichabod believing that he and Abbie are the "two witnesses" mentioned in Revelation—warriors tasked with battling demons for seven years (or at least the length of a semi-successful television series). The Headless Horseman is Death, and if he ever gets his head back he'll call his three apocalyptic riders to join the party. (I know that Revelation can be a tricky book to interpret, but I don't think John saw anything quite like this.)

Then you've got the matter of these battling covens that are still, apparently, going at it. One's staffed with "good" witches, the other with evil. Some seem to be holdovers from the good ol' days, others are new recruits.

On top of this spiritual hoo-ha, Fox has ladled on other issues. Scripts are fraught with profanity … and violence. Blood flies. Body parts are lopped off. Multiple people in each episode can be expected to die through various grisly means, including getting shot, stabbed, broken and having their heads excised with the Horseman's superheated cauterizing ax. (Really.)

So forget about all those missing heads. This whole show seems to survive without a brain. Or a conscience, for that matter.

Episode Reviews

"Pilot"

The Horseman slices through Ichabod's chest, leaving a bloody wound. Ichabod cuts off the Horseman's head, and he falls to the ground. We see the bloody neck stump. Then we continue to see the Headless Horseman's grotesque injury throughout the show as he goes on to behead several other victims. (We typically see their headless torsos slumped on the ground, and in one murder, we see the beheading from the perspective of the victim—complete with the camera falling to the ground sideways.) The Horseman shoots at his quarry with a shotgun and automatic rifle. And he himself is shot repeatedly. (Bullets don't seem to have any effect.)

A woman bites a man's thumb, nearly severing it. A demon snaps someone's head backwards, breaking the neck. People hit and fight. Ichabod's sideswiped by a car.

The "good" coven has been tasked with keeping the Horseman's undead head hidden. And a member of the coven, who also is (or pretends to be) a priest, is apparently ageless. Ichabod is kept alive through witchcraft—and part of the magic is said to be imbued in George Washington's Bible, which Ichabod was buried with. We see a demonic creature.

Characters say "d‑‑n" four or five times, "h‑‑‑" a half-dozen times. God's name is misused six or seven times.

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