Sleepy Hollow episode 1 review: Pilot

Review Caroline Preece
18 Sep 2013 - 08:31

Sleepy Hollow gets off to a promising, if flawed start. Here's Caroline's review of Fox's new fantasy drama...

This review contains spoilers.

1.1 Pilot

The fall season is finally here, and we start things off quite nicely with Fox’s modern-day take on Sleepy Hollow. This was probably the one of the concepts that received the most attention back in previews time simply because of its remake status, but thankfully, the news is mostly good. Sleepy Hollow blasts through its pilot and our expectations at breakneck speed in this first hour, which shows an ambitious dedication to doing something relatively new with Washington Irving’s concept. All signals point towards a series that will soon veer drastically away from the story we know. 

Ichabod Crane is our primary protagonist, first seen beheading the soon-to-be headless horseman during battle in 1781 before falling himself. Next thing, he wakes up in his own tomb, claws his way out, and realises that he’s travelled forward in time around two hundred and fifty years. Crane is discovered by lieutenant Abbie Mills and, though she doesn’t dare believe he’s anything other than crazy, they both become embroiled in the mystery of the horseman, the apocalypse and a lot more besides.

Firstly, this is not the Tim Burton movie. While that dealt in gothic horror with the grisly images to match, this is a network drama and has chosen its tone accordingly. There’s absolutely no blood or gore, despite the multiple beheadings that go on in this first episode, and there’s a sense that the show, from Star Trek team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, is trying to distance itself from past interpretations as much as possible. Horror might be the trendiest genre on TV right now, but we’re definitely in the fantasy-drama realm. And, though we may start off in familiar territory, the time-travel element can’t help but make things feel a little fresh.

There are several points in this first episode where I was confidently expecting things that didn’t end up happening, and there wasn't just one, but two surprising deaths. In a show’s pilot, that’s either brilliant or incredibly foolish and while it was a disappointment to lose some great actors before things really got going, Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie do a more than adequate job as the two leads. Their dynamic is not unlike that in Elementary, with the sarcastic, uptight British fish-out-of-water paired with a down-to-earth woman with a dark past, and the chemistry between them is promising.

Through I enjoyed how much ground this first episode was able to cover, the pace sometimes came at the price of logic. Abbie and Crane were both a little too eager to accept each other’s stories, with one montage of evidence enough to convince the former that, not only is her new pal telling the truth, but the demon she saw as a child was real, also. It also takes Crane about half an hour to accept, without any kind of mental breakdown, that he has indeed travelled in time, everyone he loves is dead, and the man he beheaded centuries years ago is still plaguing the town in modern day.

But this is a pilot episode, and we all accept that leaps of faith are required to get things moving in a show like Sleepy Hollow. We now have a clear mission statement that has moved beyond finding the guy who controls the horseman – Abbie and Ichabod need to stop the other three horsemen of the apocalypse following into present day Sleepy Hollow, with Abbie’s past experience with whatever evil is behind the matter tying her to Ichabod’s quest whether she likes it or not. It’ll be interesting to see how the pair gets away with solving the mystery when the rest of the town, and the police department, believe Ichabod is deluded.

Sleepy Hollow has given Fox the highest-rated premiere in six years, so we can safely assume that the show will be around at least until Christmas-time. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but good fun and worth a look for anyone with a liking for platonic (for now) male/female crime-solving duos. For people that enjoy this opener, we just have to sit back and wait for the wrinkles to be ironed out of this flawed, but promising new series.

Sleepy Hollow continues on Fox next Monday the 23rd of September.

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