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Monday, September 30, 2013

Sleepy Hollow "Blood Moon" and "Sandman" Review

On paper, at least, "Sleepy Hollow" purports to borrow from Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." But other than the names Ichabod Crane, Katrina, Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman, the Fox TV series has turned to very different sources of inspiration.

In fact, it's more like a mix of "The X-Files" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." It has borrowed the dynamic of Mulder and Scully, right down to the fact that Ichabod is a believer while Abbie is a skeptic. This mostly works, largely due to the chemistry between actors Tom Mison and Nichole Beharie. The only hesitation I have is that Abbie appears a little too willing to dismiss obviously supernatural events, not the least of which is the existence of a headless villain. Even Scully would have had a hard time finding a logical explanation for that one.

He likes my novels. Really.
But "Buffy" is obviously very present here too. It's probably not a coincidence that "Sleepy Hollow"'s second episode concerns witches, the same subject that Buffy tackled after her initial two-part series premiere. It's a way to signal to the audience, "Look, we're not just going to focus on one supernatural creature here. Anything goes." For Buffy, the witch episode was a sign the show wouldn't be about just vampires every week. In "Blood Moon," Sleepy Hollow drops the Headless Horseman (presumably only temporarily) and features other things that go bump in the night.

Overall, the episode continues to demonstrate all the qualities that made the pilot so enjoyable. There are strong action pieces, including a fiery battle in an underground tunnel, and some devilishly fun humor. The highlight of the show is easily Ichabod, whose rant about excessive taxation on donuts is just as enjoyable as his penchant for throwing away the gun after only one shot ("There were more?" he asks Abbie when she calls him on it). We only get glimpses of Ichabod's adjustment to modern society (a brief scene in the shower is priceless), but what we do get is consistently amusing. The writing for the character is also strong, as he uses old-fashioned language, like calling the "tax" a "levy" and generally using slightly outdated words like "Leftenant."

But it's clear the show doesn't want to leave Abbie behind either. Her scene with the late sheriff gives us a nice window into why she's sticking around Sleepy Hollow -- so that she can finally confront a traumatic childhood incident.

My new favorite Yoga posture
As for the evil witch herself, she's... fine. I have nothing against burnt witches who return from the grave, but it's hard to follow the Headless Horseman, who is a bad-ass among villains and, I'll say it again, the best figure in American Gothic fiction. The witch is serviceable enough, but she suffers in comparison. That's not to say that I'm complaining about old Headless' absence in episode two. If this show is going to work, he needs to be a powerful presence, and nothing detracts from that like over familiarity. "Sleepy Hollow" is right to keep him reserved for just the right moment.
I look awesome in this shawl. 

Fortunately, the next episode, "Sandman," brings us a more creative, and definitely more interesting, villain than just a crispy critter witch.  Faceless with hollow eye sockets, the Sandman visits those that have "turned their backs on their neighbors." The villain forces Abbie to come to grips with her tragic past while trying to atone for her sins against her sister.
This episode loses some of its humor and replaces it with horror. The Sandman is an echo of Freddie Krueger without the taste for sweaters, but he's still frightening as hell. Watching him flit around a farmer's house had me squirming in my chair. 
This brings me to another similarity to "Buffy" and "X-Files" -- dead characters don't stay dead. Two of the major characters offed in the pilot -- Sheriff August Corbin and John Cho's Andy Dunn -- show back up again in episode two. Cho's Dunn is particularly interesting because it's clear he's a reluctant villain. His resurrection, complete with snapped neck, is also deliciously creepy. 

But it's the final sequence, in which Abbie and Ichabod travel to a dreamworld to confront the Sandman, where the show kicks things up a notch. The first two episodes were all about action, but how they defeat the Sandman is decidedly more satisfying. It brings the show to a holistic conclusion in which it serves for a metaphor about fear. Indeed, the finale is definitively more "Buffy-esque" than any episode yet, relating a real-world monster to a more internal struggle.

And that's a good thing. So far, Sleepy Hollow has proven to be my favorite new show of the season, striking the right balance between horror, humor and great characters. I'm excited to see what happens next.


  1. I'm enjoying the series so far, I liked your post, it is kind of X-files and BtVS. I've been kind of going with "Supernatural meets Sherlock" lol the Sandman episode was very good.

  2. Thanks, Pamela! I really liked "Sandman" too. Series is definitely off to a promising start. I just hope Fox doesn't cancel it.