Forget Johnny Depp, Sleepy Hollow brings Ichabod Crane and the Four Horsemen firmly into our modern world in this tightly written, fast-paced show. In 13 episodes the writers have weaved an intricate tale, involving historic figures and events, twisting them just enough to fit their needs here in this 21st century tale of good versus evil.
It also features more often than not, a creature of the week, driving the main story. But, as the show has progressed, creatures had gotten creepier and more scary, showing how well the show is learning as it goes.
Ichabod (Tom Mison) is a former professor, turned soldier who turns against the British during the Revolutionary War. He finds himself under George Washington’s command, and after he dies in battle, he is resurrected 250 years later at the same time the Headless Horseman awakes in Sleepy Hollow. You see, they’re connected, bound by a spell cast on the day they both died. Performed by his wife, Katrina, who seems to have had a bad habit of not telling Ichabod everything she should have during their marriage.
Mison gives Ichabod a warmth and vulnerability hidden beneath his old-fashioned dialogue and sensibilities, that comes out of most all when he’s with Abbie. He is quick to trust, moreso than her, but as the show progresses his frustration at his past, his wife and his situation appear, hinting at the depth of his anger and his loss. But, like every good soldier, he fights this supernatural war in season one, in the hope of freeing his wife from Purgatory and destroying the Horseman. Well, one of two isn’t bad, right?
Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) is a cop, almost out the door of her Sleepy Hollow precinct, for greater things at the FBI when Ichabod stumbles into her world. Because of him she is forced to admit childhood visions that link her to the Horsemen and to her estrangement from her sister. She discovers she and Ichabod are both ‘witnesses’ as foretold by the Book of Revelations, prophesised to fight against the forces of evil (AKA the Horsemen and the demon behind them; yes there’s a demon and no, Supernatural has nothing on this guy) for seven years. Nifty timing there right, just enough for a solid run for the show.
The diversity of the cast is outstanding in the current TV landscape. Nicole Beharie is female, African American, and the lead duo on the show. I can only think of Scandal and Olivia Pope as an African American lead on a network show? But no one else. Nicole Beharie gives Abbie warmth, snark, humor, but she is also capable, if not more so than Ichabod, of holding her own against the Horsemen. She is after all a cop, who had been accepted into the FBI, and the show portrays her as an all-around BAMF, quite capable of rescuing Ichabod.
And it runs in the family – her sister Jenny, played by Lyndie Greenwood (upped to series regular for season two) – is as equally capable as Abbie is, without being hampered by the rules of being a cop. In Greenwood’s hands, Jenny begins the series as a tormented, angry character that grows to understand why her sister did the things she did during their childhood. She brings the angst for Abbie’s story, but oh my goodness, in her scenes with Frank Irving (Orland Jones) she shows a vulnerability that is mesmerising. You can see there’s more to her than she’s letting anyone else around her, especially Abbie, see.
Ichabod’s fish-out-of-water storyline provides tons of fodder for humor, from his astonishment at the current day sales tax, to “Treasures from the Amazon” (a package from Amazon) and his heartfelt conversation with an OnStar customer service rep, Yolanda, of her relationship woes. Then there’s his foray into modern day clothes, and goodness, what I would have given for a clothing montage. But sadly, just one pair of skinny jeans. And, then there’s Ichabod trying to correct modern misconceptions of history he’s lived, much to the confusion of everyone else.
The writing is spot on, with serious delivery from Ichabod, and Abbie trying to control her laughter and her curiosity at the things he lets lip. And all credit to the writers and Tom Mison for creating a dialogue and delivery respectively for a character that is, to be honest, longwinded. But such a treat when it’s onscreen.
Rounding out the cast and the story are: Katrina, Ichabod’s wife trapped in Purgatory (Katia Winter), and Henry Parish (John Noble, another regular for season two).
Katrina, to be honest, is a part of the show they could do without in season two. In the first season, she provides the exposition to explain the connections between the demon, the Horsemen and the upcoming Apocalypse, but it is through Ichabod pining in the future for her that we realise the depth of their love. Which is all good and well, but hardly something we need reminding every other episode on the show when she does not much else. Then there’s her habit of holding things back from him as mentioned above. That can’t end well, and in season one it didn’t.
Abbie’s captain is Frank Irving, played by Orlando Jones, who is someone that does not believe in the fourth wall. No, wait he crushed it through his charm, wit and fan engagement on his Twitter and his Tumblr. He live tweets episodes, calls for fanfic and ships… most pairings, I think. He also created the Supernatural/Sleepy Hollow crossover of doom on Twitter, and managed to reserve a place in every fan’s heart for his utter enjoyment of fans and with fans. He even has a page on the Supernatural wiki without ever being on the show.
The short season has worked to the show’s benefit, reducing the filler episodes and ensuring that every episode contributes to the character and story growth. Here’s hoping they remember that for season two.