Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Sleepy Hollow, season 1 (2013-2014) ****

TV-14, 13 45-min. episodes
Creators: Phillip Iscove, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Len Wiseman

Directors: Paul A. Edwards, Ken Olin, Douglas Aarniokoski, Ernest R. Dickerson, Liz Friedlander, John F. Showalter, J. Miller Tobin, Len Wiseman, Adam Kane, Romeo Tirone

Writers: Phillip Iscove, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Len Wiseman, Mark Goffman, Heather V. Regnier, Chitra Elizabeth Sampath, Melissa Blake, Damian Kindler, Jose Molina, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, David McMillan

Starring: Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones, Katia Winter, Lyndie Greenwood, Nicholas Gonzales, John Cho, D.J. Mifflin, Clancy Brown, Richard Cetrone, John Noble

Guest starring: Jahnee Wallace, Joelle Vick, Jill Marie Jones, Amandla Stenberg, Michael Roark, Derek Mears, Jeremy Owens, David Fonteno, Marti Matulis, Onira Tares, Patrick Gorman, Jackson Beals, Louis Herthum, Erin Cahill, James Frain, Neil Jackson

“Sleepy Hollow” should not by any rights work as a television series. It involves the resurrection of Ichabod Crane, from the fantasy horror book by Washington Irving “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” in modern times. His nemesis from that book, the Headless Horseman has appeared in modern day upstate New York, in the city of Sleepy Hollow back to his old habits of cutting off people’s heads. Soon after Ichabod Crane appears, still in his Revolutionary War apparel, to assist the police in this strange case that has something to do with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Riiiiight. Yet somehow, against every sane impulse, the show’s creators make this out of left field premise work. Part of that success may be due to two of its creators, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who were some of the minds that made “Lost” work for television and who were able to reboot the “Star Trek” franchise by rewriting everything that had come before while simultaneously staying true to everything that had come before in a time traveling plot that would boggle the mind if it weren’t so damn entertaining. Another reason they might have pulled this off is that another of the creators is Len Wiseman, who was able to build a newfound interest in the classic horror monsters of werewolves and vampires by setting them at war with each other in the “Underworld” film franchise.

Crane is teamed up with a female detective who shared a supernatural experience with her sister when she was a young girl. Her teaming with Crane was hardly coincidence, since that experience has a great deal to do with the growing darkness surrounding Sleepy Hollow and the events that Crane himself helped to set in motion during his days as a British turncoat who joined to cause of the Americans, becoming a close confidant to General Washington. Yes, there are great deals of historical references mixed up in all this horror fantasy being hurdled around the Hollow.

Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie have a surprising chemistry as the two leads. It helps that the story doesn’t even hint at the notion of a romance between the two. In fact, one of the four primary leads is Crane’s dead wife, who unbeknownst to Crane, was a witch set with the task of protecting the world against the very threats that are coming to fruition in the modern day Sleepy Hollow. She appears to Crane in visions as a prisoner of the demon Moloch, who is responsible to the Four Horsemen plot being wrought on the world. Orlando Jones, the comedian from “Mad TV”, is also surprisingly effective in the very serious role of Beharie’s superior officer.

The creators understand the fact that their premise stretches the bounds of plausibility, and they wisely are willing to crack wise about it within the show’s setting. They cull an unusual amount of humor from a plot so heavy with notions of demons and evil and the whole end of the world thing. Without the humor, I would imagine this show being some sort of CW vehicle for a bunch of brainless hard bodies looking smolderingly into the camera as the wind blows their hair around in darkly lit hallways. Poking fun at the fact that Crane looks like a LARPer whose seen one war reenactment too many works much better.

For those who do follow the series, the season finale turned out to be one of those barn burners where everything comes crashing down and its difficult to imagine just how the characters are going to begin to pick up the pieces when season 2 begins. The worst part about that is the fact that season 1 is the very first show of 2014 to wrap up from the fall 2013 line up. This means the wait for season 2 will be even longer than most. Be assured, my DVR will be set for its fall premiere, but I do hope they order more episodes next year.

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