Sleepy Hollow: “Pilot” (2013).

Fox’s new TV series Sleepy Hollow works nicely as something to satisfy my horror-fantasy cravings, and after seeing the extended preview I knew I was going to have to catch the pilot. Not sure what to make of it yet, as it’s only been one episode.

Best part: Sleepy Hollow is admirably nutty fun — as much fun as a headless guy wielding a broad axe and looking for his head would be — and part of the humor comes from the fact that the show is presenting this all with a straight face.

This episode did suffer from one major, series-killing thing: Revealing everything all at once, and too soon. Or, at least we think it has. But we get a good chunk of the “mythology” set up way too early: good and bad witches, a battle between good and evil, four horsemen wandering about, people bound together by fate, all in place before the penultimate commercial break.

You also have to wonder how they’re going to sustain the narrative in terms of the stand-alone Scooby-Doo episodes. Grimm did this well — they were cops, after all, and so they were assigned to different cases which just happened to involve Wessen all the time — but in a small town like Sleepy Hollow it’s hard to see how they’ll be dealing with unexplained deaths all the time. (This is how theories about Jessica Fletcher being the real murderer on Murder, She Wrote come about.) Will the new crime-fighting duo be investigating cold cases from  instead, with the Headless Horseman and Mirror Demon making appearances every now and then?

Sleepy Hollow could take some cues from Supernatural, for instance, where the monster-of-the-week episodes churned along for some time before the mythology plot elements started creeping in. Same thing with Grimm: part of the pleasure of watching the show was also watching Nick trying to piece what little he knew together. (Unfortunately this relied a little too much on Nick being particularly incurious, especially for a cop.)

More random notes:

  • I’d like to see more tension between Crane and Lt. Mills — that little smile they give each other in the last scene was way too quickly earned. Conflict between the two main protagonists is a good, fertile thing for writers, and when one character just happens to have woken up from a 250-year nap, you’d think there would be a little distrust between the two. Instead, she’s already bought the whole entwined-by-destiny line completely, even passing up a promotion to Quantico.
  • On the other hand, that scene with the four birch trees worked quite well, establishing Lt. Mills’ susceptibility, as it were, but it was altogether too brief.
  • In every cop show I’ve ever seen, people suspected of being cop killers get the full press, complete with some accidental slapping around during interrogation. This was surely the friendliest police force in the history of television.
  • The line about the Starbucks was priceless, but surely they could play Crane’s disorientation in the modern world better (see Captain America finding himself in Times Square for an example). Crane was already dutifully wearing a seatbelt in the police cruiser, for crying out loud. If it were me, I’d be freaking out the first time I hear a voice on the radio. (Note to self: rewatch the pilot of Life on Mars to see how the protagonist dealt with the unexpected time shift.)
  • To have the great Clancy Brown essentially live on for the rest of the series as a disembodied voice on tape is just criminal. And he gets decapitated in the first three minutes — at least the Kurgan made it to the end of Highlander! If his head came back though, that would be a different story.
  • Doesn’t look like John Cho will be coming back either. If his head came back though, that would be a different story.
  • The pale naked demon was nice and creepy. I want to see more Guillermo del Toro-type monsters later.
  • While Crane is obviously the main character, I love the fact that the audience surrogate is an African American woman. She’s not the sidekick, and she’s not the token black person in a position of power.
  • The writers / producers come with impressive pedigrees, and if Sleepy Hollow lives for a second or third season, I fully expect a Fringe-like twist that plunges the duo into 1763. Now that would be very interesting, as the writers will have to take cues from Octavia Butler’s Kindred.
  • The wife and I totally cracked up once the Horseman got his hands on a machine gun. But how would he even know how to work it?
  • One thing that really bothered the wife: big demonic conspiracy aside, Sleepy Hollow‘s universe is still, supposedly, the one we live in — except that it’s one where Washington Irving never existed.

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