Last night a week ago (sorry it took so long to get this up), I finished watching the first season of “Sleepy Hollow,” and I thought it would be interesting to really sit down and think about what I just saw. There will be spoilers, so consider yourself warned.
Based very, very loosely on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, “Sleepy Hollow” uses very, very loose interpretations of characters from that story for a modern day supernatural thriller which chronicles the beginning of the Apocalypse. Ichabod Crane is now a Revolutionary War soldier as opposed to a superstitious school teacher, and is actually responsible for the Headless Horseman becoming headless. And the Headless Horseman is now Death, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So, it really has nothing to do with the original story except for the names.
That’s not to say that it’s bad. Actually, the show has a certain charm to it, as well as being very plot heavy with little padding. What works?
Well, to start, the short season works very well. With only thirteen episodes this season, the show didn’t rely on much padding or side stories to fill time like other shows do (*cough*”Lost”*cough*). As a result, the show ends up being very fast-paced with huge plot-important revelations every other episode. Actually, I’m a little concerned about this fast plot, as the writers could write themselves into a corner very easily in a short time span. But it does keeps the show focused rather than having the characters pursue every shiny object that crosses their path.
I like that the main villain is not Satan. It would have been so easy to rely on a tried and true (and overused) villain. Instead, the writers have gone with a very specific demon as the villain: Moloch. It was actually somewhat refreshing to see them not fall back on Satan. As a matter of fact, Moloch has a very rich history in ancient mythology, and it would be fascinating to see them bring that in and include it in the overall plot. In addition, I get the impression that the Horsemen are not actually on Moloch’s side, but that they’re more like mercenaries and Moloch is buying them off with promises of love to Death and revenge to War.
The acting is generally good, although occasionally hammy. Tom Mison play Ichabod Crane as a man confused and out of time only when it’s plot convenient or for a joke, but seems perfectly comfortable and well-adjusted the rest of the time. Nicole Beharie does well as Lt. Abby Mills, but I feel she’s somewhat underutilized and is remaining unexplored as a character except for what she saw in the woods as a child. Other than that, she’s almost a generic cop. Captain Frank Irving is much more deeply explored, portrayed excellently by Orlando Jones who shows how torn he is between his job and his family.
Finally, and a bit of a letdown, is Henry Parrish. I know that statement is going to be controversial, but hear me out. When Parrish is introduced, it appears to be as a one-off character played by John Noble, an actor of extraordinary talent. But that’s where the problem comes in. When Parrish began to appear repeatedly, you realize very quickly that something is up. And when Parrish’s true identity is revealed in the season finale, it doesn’t come as much of shock as the audience has now been expecting it. In fact, the whole reveal that he is actually the Cranes’ son felt a little too tidy. We knew that Jeremy was going to play a bigger role and couldn’t have just died. That would have been totally pointless, and one thing the first season of “Sleepy Hollow” has shown is that they use everything they introduce. But having Parrish be Jeremy felt like they were economizing their characters a little too neatly, and it became obvious that Parrish was more than he was letting on when he kept coming back.
And, let’s be honest: The Headless Horseman carrying a machine gun. Good for a laugh, but mostly silly.
So, what do I want to see from the next season? Well, for starters, I would like them to stick to a short season format. Thirteen episode a season seems perfect, and prevents the show from having to rely on padding. Don’t over-extend yourselves, guys. We’ll obviously need to get personifications of the other Horsemen, although Pestilence sort of showed himself (or herself) already. I would like to see more of Moloch’s background and character explored. It seems like there’s so much more that isn’t being said there. Andy Brooks will need to return since his “death” after his transformation felt lame and a waste of his character. They’ll also have to either play up Ichabod Crane being a man out time or give up on it altogether, but they really need to find a mood with his character.
Ultimately, the first season acted as the setup. The second season will be where the show either explores and intrigues or goes off into the realm of the silly and mediocre. In other words, the second season is what’s going to make or break “Sleepy Hollow.” The first season has been interesting, but not without it’s problems, so they either fix these with the second season or risk killing the show. I’ll be watching the second season to find out.