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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I´m not sure about this yet. I kind of enjoyed the pilot and think that the actors did a good job, but it was all just a little bit less than I had hoped for. That said, everything it needs to really hook me is already there, the show has just to amp things up a little bit to suck me completely in. I will gladly accept the last scene with John Cho as a promise that Sleepy Hollow will eventually get where I want it to. Oh, and please give us a proper main title sequence with a great theme. The power of a good intro is something the networks have been ignoring for too long...

I didn't think Ichabod time traveled, I thought he was protected from death to awaken whenever Headless guy was awoken by the bad coven. The wife however has the power to reach him through time. Also, I'm a bit disappointed with the deaths and hope we get some flashbacks with the actors.

Another dull high concept pilot of a show that will be cancelled after 1 season

There's no "time travel" in this show... Crane and the Horseman were in stasis or whatever you might call it all that time. And when Crane's wife appears to him, it's her spirit, NOT her from the past.

"how the pair gets away with solving the mystery when the rest of the
town, and the police department, believe Ichabod is deluded."

Actually, I'd be more concerned with how many of the higher ups in town might be part of the evil coven.

thoroughly enjoyed it, was shocked that Orlando Jones made it to the end of the episode seeing as the rest of the guest stars bit the big one. I did enjoy watching the Kurgan getting beheaded gagain

So so concept...bad writing.....it will probably be a hit..... American network TV pablum.

Gave me a few scares. Good Show. Like the Historical TWIST. 7/10.

A quick Google would have revealed the original author is Washington Irving, not Irvine. And good to see him briefly name checked in the pilot (from memory the Captain was referred to as Captain Irving? I liked the pilot, although as you point out, it did race through the initial concept at breakneck speed. Potential to be a new X-Files or Haven if executed well.

Well there can be only one...

I really enjoyed the episode. It requires the same suspension of disbelief that most re-make shows do to believe that people who live in a town called Sleepy Hollow would not find the irony in a headless horseman or a man called Ichabod Crane. I did think at first that the story may exist in that world and the surprise was that it was more than a myth/story from history but guess not. I think that the weakest part of the episode was when the horseman decided to stop using his axe in favour of a shotgun and an assault rifle, I think the whole "unstoppable killer" image works better when they use a weapon that is not the best possible option for killing their victims. The same way they walk slowly rather than run after their prey.

I found it easier to accept that Crane believed he was in the future easier than Abbie did, since the evidence was all around him It may be true that he should have had a meltdown, and maybe he still will once it all sinks in, but so far he has been able to keep busy. Abbie did believe him a little too easily for realism's sake, but then there are some requirements for a tv show that have to be met in order for it not to become a snooze fest.

PS did anyone catch the bit where Crane said the Revelations passage mentioned a 7 year battle against evil? 7 years? That's a bit ambitious isn't it? What happened to the old "5 year mission" that most pilots talk about in their "this is what the rest of the series is going to be about" speech that is required in all pilots?

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