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Sleepy Hollow Review: Not Your Parents' Fairy Tale

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There were no frills when it came to naming the premiere episode of Sleepy Hollow, as the series pilot thrust us right into the heart of a story we thought we knew... but our expectations quickly needed adjusting because there was little about this program that harkened back to the fairy tale we thought so familiar.

In this version of Sleepy Hollow, nobody had heard of the fairy tale and Ichabod Crane wasn't a mousy school teacher.

He was a professor at Oxford who had come to America to fight on behalf of the British army, but fell in love with the idea of what America represented and decided to switch sides. He became a valuable ally to George Washington himself and was on a special mission at his bequest to take out the fellow who became the headless horseman. Not just an ordinary fellow, he was death himself!

Sleepy Hollow Premiere Photo

From the moment Ichabod awakens in a cave surrounded by what appear to be voodoo-like elements and stumbles onto a paved road with cars whizzing by, you know this isn't your parents' Ichabod Crane. For one, Tom Mison isn't hard on the eyes. Additionally, while he's definitely surprised at his surroundings, he seems to take it in all in stride, as if his past has been just crazy enough that he can believe something strange has happened and he'll patiently wait to discover his fate.

The casting of Mison was equally matched in that of Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills, a deputy on her way out Sleepy Hollow and on her way to the FBI Academy - until she sees her friend and sheriff beheaded by a headless horseman. She, too, has a past that allows her to easily accept the unimaginable without pushing her too far off course.

The chemistry between Crane and Abbie was immediate and their banter believable. I don't think just any man could have had the discussion with Abbie about the emancipation of the slaves and gotten away with it, but Abbie instinctively trusted his sincerity and it strengthened their bond from the onset. 

I also really enjoyed that the other characters suspended their disbelief of a man popping back up in the 21st century with barely giving it a second thought. Once Crane passed the lie detector test, the brass instinctively wanted to send him to the loony bin, but they also welcomed him to the present by telling him he won the war and showing him a dollar bill. There was a part of them fighting the idea that he was crazy, too. It only took another beheading and the discovery of the blinking, canned skull for all skepticism to slip away and for them to partner Abbie and Crane to look into whatever the hell was happening in their once peaceful town.

The addition of Crane's wife, Katrina, being caught in some middle world of magic, fighting on her husband's behalf and leading the way for he and Abbie to discover clues she left behind as the mystery continues (while she also hopes for her own salvation) takes away any worry on our part of a romantic entanglement between Crane and Abbie. They make great friends and allies; it's nice to know we won't have that undercurrent ruining every episode as we move deeper into the mystery of the apocalypse. 

Oh! I failed to mention that, didn't I? Okay, maybe I just haven't gotten to that new development in our modern day Sleepy Hollow saga. Our headless horseman (who looked a lot like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises before his head was lopped off) is one of the four horseman of the apocalypse. No matter what happens to this one, there will be three more, and they won't just be chasing Ichabod Crane around, but hoping to bring down humanity and end the world. How's that for a neat twist on the old tale?

Top it off with a bit from Revelation that suggests Crane and Abbie are the two witnesses who were brought together for a seven-year period of tribulation to fight the forces of hell. Their battle is supposed to ordain the fate of the world on Judgment Day. The good news is that they must have a plan to keep the show on the air for seven seasons (c'mon ratings!) and a nice outline to get there. There were plenty of scares, a healthy helping of humor and fictionalized historical references to play with making the story feel more compelling. 

For me, it was a solid win. The casting, writing and set design are all above par. Taking a chance by killing off some of the more familiar faces in the first episode (Harold goes to hell!) always impresses me. It means that pretty much anything can go and we need to hold on to our seats because it's going to be a rough ride. Bring it on!

Random thoughts:

  • The Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil is a perfect accompaniment for Sleepy Hollow.
  • I enjoyed Ichabod's questions about Starbucks and wondering whether there was a law requiring so many of them. Of course, he wouldn't have been able to look at at a city street and said, "that used to be a livery stable," because things would have been unrecognizable to him.
  • Did you catch the irony of the street sign that was cut in half during the sword fight in the cemetery being one that showed horse crossing? It ended up as a headless horseman.
  • Since the first horseman to visit was death himself, we can assume the other three will be war, famine and conquest. I wonder what will make them different opponents from death and whether they, too, will be headless. If Brooks was right, war is next up.

What were your thoughts on the premiere and did the show win a permanent slot on your DVR or is it a wait and see? Grade the opener now:

 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (249 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

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Doug. he stole the shotgun and ak from the deputy that tried to kidnap abbie. as for him being able to use it he is death so it probably was magic.

Marissa

I loved the pilot. It was so good I can't wait for the rest of the season I feel like it can only get better. This is a great show everything about it is so good like the storyline is amazing and the characters are great and the way Ichabod and Abbie are together are great I love them together they go perfect with each other. I can't wait for the next episode and the rest of the season.

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I rarely like modern shows, preferring to just enjoy the classic television past, but this show really impressed me with the ease and skill with which it all unfolded. It was quite impressive. And of course you gotta love the Stones being along for the ride. So here's hoping for a good long run of a very cool new show.

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The last time a show really reeled me in from a pilot episode was Fringe and Arrow. This one did the same and it told a complete story yet left so much hanging to create a great season for more shows. This is my favorite NEW SHOW OF THE SEASON!!

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Loved it! Great story line, great cast, great writing! Please make more episodes..

Blu

I thought it was rather incredible for a pilot. Most pilots suffer from pilotitus trying to cram the entire plot summary and lay down the premise in forty something minutes. As far as pilots go, it was remarkably well done. The chemistry between the leads was a definite highlight. They worked well together and that will make all the difference because you can do many things to mask imperfections along the way, but you can't fake chemistry. I could have watched an entire episode of Ichabod trying to adjust to time jump. The reviewer was correct, not everyone could pull off lines about emancipation of slaves and things of that nature without it rubbing the wrong way, but with Mison it worked. Abby is a strong leading femalewithout the usual characteristics that fall under that trope and it's a breath of fresh air. There were tiny little things to work through, but overall it was thoroughly enjoyable and I'm sold.

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Absolutely loved it! Looking forward to more! Great job guys!

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@Disappointed Ichabod definitely said trousers, not pants.

Phxcowbot

surprisingly good show - great plot reveals that were well-timed and brought to life by the actors with full credibility in an incredible fantasy world,
good start to a promising show - hope they can keep it up. On the other hand, this may be a perfect one-season show. The producers could really knock it out of the park if they worked on the ending starting now

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How Does a headless horseman buy a semi-automatic shotgun or acquire an AK-47 and know how to load it let alone shoot it, if he can't see ???? Just a thought ????

Sleepy Hollow Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Police Detective: Do you admit to cutting off his head, yes or no?
Ichabod: Nooo. First I shot him, then he rose back up. Cutting off his head seemed the next logical step.

Abbie: Who is he? When's the last time you saw him?
Ichabod: When I cut off his head.

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