Loosely, very loosely, based on Washington Irving‘s short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, FOX’s new series casts Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane (re-imagined as a Revolutionary War soldier rather than a superstitious schoolmaster) who in the opening scene beheads a dark figure who also manages to strike down Crane on the battlefield, becoming (as the Pilot tells us) forever linked by blood. More than two centuries later, Crane and the Headless Horseman both awake in modern times where their battle will begin again in Sleepy Hollow.
Found wandering the streets in a strange new world of horseless carriages and cellphones by one of the Sheriff’s deputies (John Cho), Ichabod is jailed as the Sheriff (Clancy Brown) and his partner Abbie (Nicole Beharie) run across the other figure from a forgotten time in an encounter which one of them won’t survive. Ordered to lock Ichabod up in the looney bin, Abbie becomes curious about his story (and the truth behind the headless figure who decapitated her boss), eventually causing the officer to put her future career plans in jeopardy and trust the man who believes he was a soldier for George Washington.
Using a Smallville-like set-up allowing for various baddies of the week, the Pilot informs us that the town of Sleepy Hollow is a dark place where things very much go bump in the night. Aside from the risen Horseman (who apparently is Death from the Book of Revelations), the town is also home to covens of witches and various other creatures determined to bring the rest of the Horsemen to Earth and cause the end of the world. Despite the trappings of Irving’s story (much of which is ignored or largely changed) Sleepy Hollow sets up to be very much a monster of the week style of show whose effects and acting are going to have to carry it until the writing drastically improves.
Based on the Pilot, Sleepy Hollow feels very much like a show whose talent in front of the camera (especially with Brown’s guest-role) is better than that of its writers’ room. The supporting cast also includes Katia Winter as Ichabod’s dead wife who can communicate from beyond the grave and is the witch partly responsible for his current predicament and Orlando Jones as the Captain of the larger police force that works hand-in-hand with the Sheriff’s Department. Apparently the dead witch and the officer whose jurisdiction is only loosely defined in relation to the town will help the unlikely pair of Ichabod and Abbie hunt down monsters, fight evil, stop the apparently invincible Horesman (whose only weakness so far appears to be sunlight), and, you know, save the world. There’s enough here for me to come back, but the show has to decide whether to embrace its ridiculous premise (which creates several unintentionally funny scenes) or go far darker than what we glimpse in the Pilot for me to stick around for any length of time.