10 Reasons You Should Be Watching Sleepy Hollow

By Jay Barish in Daily Lists, TV
Monday, December 9, 2013 at 6:00 am


Fans of gothic TV horror have been undergoing a bit of a Golden Age this season. The Vampire Diaries has spun off a sequel, The Originals; American Horror Story: Coven is constantly finding new ways to creep us out; Dracula is attempting a comeback in the form of the Jonathan Rhys Meyers drama; Grimm continues to deliver Germanic-flavored were-beast crime drama; and The Following is prepping a second season of adventures for its Poe-worshipping cult of serial killers.

But one of the breakout hits of this season has been Sleepy Hollow, the new series on Fox inspired by Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and its many adaptations. Comparisons to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer are to be expected, as the show follows a small group as they deal with the demonic goings-on in their hometown, which is gearing up for an apocalypse. But while comparisons in quality would be premature (and highly debatable), the show is actually highly entertaining, sufficiently creepy and intermittently funny enough to make room for in your TV-watching schedule. With the first season approaching the midway point, and Season 2 greenlit, now's as good a time as any to check it out. Here are ten reasons why you should.

1. This is Not Your Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow


One would think that any TV incarnation of the Washington Irving tale would take plenty of cues from its most prominent and successful incarnation, arguably Tim Burton's high-profile 1999 feature film. And while Burton was once a geek's favorite auteur (before his takes on Mars Attacks, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Planet of the Apes failed to impress), the exaggerated, artificial worlds he presents in his films have grown rather tiresome. Luckily, the show's modern, largely realistic take leaves little room for Burton-style excess.

Make no mistake, the show is occasionally very funny, but it mostly plays things deathly serious. With elements of police procedural, historical drama and modern cinematic horror (more Insidious, less Dark Shadows), the show is dark enough that you welcome the occasional laugh, but you never get the feeling that a crazy-haired puppet master is manipulating the action from above. So if those memories of Burton overkill have been keeping you away, rest assured that this show is 99.9% quirk-free, although it occasionally indulges in Whedonesque whimsy. (Not a bad thing.)

2. Crane, Ichabod Crane


Ichabod Crane may be one of the most interesting characters on television, an intellectual who is also a man of action, as well as a romantic lead. As a man from the 1700s brought back in the present day, Crane is constantly bewildered by modern conveniences such as computers, bottled water and acronyms, but he's still a bit of a bad-ass, having swordfights with Death and charging headfirst into danger. Plus, he somehow also gets all of the funniest lines.

Primarily known for his stage work before now - assuming you kept track of people who did things on the stage - Tom Mison has brought the role of Crane to wondrous life. He had me laughing out loud at his portrayal of a refined British gentleman trying a Red Bull for the first time, or attempting to turn off an accidentally activated adult video chat, or bringing an On*Star operator to tears with a tale of love lost. I keep wanting to compare him to other characters I have seen and enjoyed on TV, and I keep coming up short. He's positively delightful.

3. Buddy Cops Without Benefits


The co-lead in Sleepy Hollow is Lt. Abbie Mills, played by Nicole Beharie, and I will admit that I was skeptical at first - after all, young, beautiful law-enforcement professionals of the female persuasion may be fun to watch, but they don't always check off a win in the "believability" category. However, aside from one episode where she and Crane stripped down to their skivvies to fight a Native American nightmare spirit, the show seems less interested in using Beharie as eye candy and more interested in making her out to be a tough cop who won't take guff from anyone or anything, not even a 250-year old college professor.

And since Crane also has a bewitching witch wife trapped in a limbo dimension whom he talks to occasionally and pines for regularly, the show doesn't even seem interested in forcing any romantic chemistry between its two leads, thereby taking the ticking clock out of their relationship. The easy, joking camaraderie between the two, bound by the knowledge that they are the two people chiefly responsible for preventing the apocalypse, is fun to watch, as they are pretty much the definition of an odd couple.

4. The Biggest of Big Bads


Gifted humans battling the paranormal to save humanity is not a new TV concept by any means. Buffy did it the best, Angel did it almost as good (possibly better), and Supernatural can't seem to stop doing it. But only Sam and Dean from Supernatural ever had the balls to take on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Of course, they also fought angels, God and the Devil, so maybe to them the Horsemen were small potatoes, but as far as Big Bads go, the Four Horsemen are up there.

Fans of Supernatural may find the idea of a tortured pair of haunted and/or resurrected demon hunters familiar, but while Sam and Dean are somewhat used to looming apocalypses by now, Ichabod and Abbie have their hands full with just the one Horseman, Death. It looks like Death may be the focus of the entire season at this point, leaving three Horsemen to pick up the reins in future seasons. Ichabod and Abbie have already had a brush with Pestilence, and the other two are prancing around somewhere, so hopefully the confirmation of a second season means three more years of equine-based evil.

5. Let the Power of Clancy Brown Compel You!


From the moment I found out Clancy Brown was in the pilot of Sleepy Hollow, I was all in. The Kurgan vs. the Horseman? Boo-yah! Then Clancy Brown got his head cut off, like, ten minutes in. Sorry for the spoiler, but I didn't want to sell you all a bill of goods. Luckily, this spoiler has a happy ending! Even though Clancy Brown's character is no longer alive, his spirit lives on through the frequent references to the research he did while he was alive, a brief cameo, and the fact that the main characters have moved into his house.

What's more, the show has provided a regular stream of entertaining guest stars to ease the pain, and to complement the talented cast. John Cho (Star Trek: Into Darkness) has a recurring role as a cop, John Noble (Fringe) turns up in one episode as a Sin Eater and James Frain (Grimm, The Cape) appears as a Freemason. Yes! The show has Freemasons! Didn't I tell you it was awesome?

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