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Every series that’s trying to be complex or challenging is in some ways asking the audience to go along for the ride. Such as, we have a really intentse long-term story here and we’d appreciate it of you’ll come along for the ride every week for the next, you know, two or three months. Or, more likely, there’s an element the audience just has to accept or there’s no entry.
Like when Lost introduced the polar bear on a tropical island, etc. Those are your opt-in or opt-out moments (and for me, the polar bear was unabashedly an opt-in moment). In Fox’s new Sleepy Hollow, not only does Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) pop up in the modern day town of Sleepy Hollow, but hot on his tail is the Headless Horseman. At the very least, that’s a time-travel issue, yes? And thus it become a fish out of water story when Crane (already reimagined as less the cowering thing of the past and now a buff, handsome Revolutionary War fighter) arrives in present times, startled by an overabundance of Starbucks outlets.
But that, people, is what makes Sleepy Hollow worth watching. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s got some scares and some action and plenty of secrets to unveil. Now, the caveat here is that who the hell knows how the show will evolve going forward. But the less dense mythology aspects giving way to more ridiculous “just go with it” moments would do wonders for the series.
Sleepy Hollow was created by Fringe and Star Trek’s Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, so you absolutely know that some kind of paranormal backstory is in place. And that’s fine, too. But what makes Sleepy Hollow immediately likable is Mison’s Ichabod Crane, who is confused about the modern world moments, and the relationship he shares with Sleepy Hollow police officer Abbie (Nicole Beharie) who at least believes enough of the existing evidence suggesting the craziness Crane’s spewing might be true. (Part of that willingness stems from her own secrets and past.) Her superior (played by Orlando Jones) is right to think that Crane is really just a nutcase and things will settle down soon enough.
That Headless Horseman is coming back for something important (think about it). And he’s extremely dangerous. This is where Kurtzman and Orci put in more complex mythology and, once you’ve come up with this kind of premise, there has to be more to it, so no fault there. It’s just that all the chills and gore are, at this point, less appealing than the fish out of water story and the human relationship between Crane and Abbie. There so much to mine about waking up and asking a detective if he knows George Washington.
Oh, and about that. Sleepy Hollow’s biggest reach is that not enough characters in it are properly freaked out about their current situations. You’d think that more time would be spent on the “how the hell did I get here” stuff and the “what is this car thing we’re in” moments. Everybody buys in a little too quickly on that.
But again, somewhere about the middle point of tonight’s premiere, when things get ever-more outrageous, they also get ever-more fun. So your opt in moment just may be that you need to stop thinking and go with it. You need to allow yourself to have more fun. There’s a place for Breaking Bad in the TV world and there’s a place for made-up and mashed-up stories that you just need to succumb to and be entertained by.
Am I worried about future episodes – sure. That’s true about pretty much all of the new fall shows that seem to show promise. But I liked enough of the crazy-ass elements of Sleepy Hollow to give it a relatively long leash.
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