Sleepy Hollow was not a show that should have succeeded. I don’t think any TV critic gave it a chance (besides, you know, me). Why? It was a ridiculous premise. Take the old tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman and turn it into a modern day apocalyptic supernatural thriller/historical treasure hunt as a network drama. Only FOX would have ever have given this the time of day. So naturally, it ended up being one of the runaway hits of the season and the very first show to be renewed!
So how was Sleepy Hollow able to succeed when so many thought it would fail? Two reasons mainly. First, as my cleverly worded (okay, maybe really cheesy) title suggests, everything about this show was very headstrong. Headstrong is defined as “determined to have one’s own way; stubbornly and often recklessly willful”. Everything about this show lived up to that trait. The creators of Sleepy Hollow had a vision for how they wanted it to be portrayed and they stuck to their guns.The show was both serious and light-hearted. Funny yet sullen. Cheesy yet scary. It couldn’t have been easy to pull off. The creators never shied away from what they wanted. They embraced that the plot of the show was a bit ridiculous, so when the show had a cheesy visual or plot twist, it never felt out of place. Think how the past couple of Fast & Furious movies and The Expendables have been. They knew that their premises were completely ludicrous and over the top. So they embraced that and just made it crazy, logic defying fun. That’s why the Sleepy Hollow writers were able to do and it was really an accomplishment.
Not only were the writers headstrong, but they made their characters that way as well. Ichabod drove this show obviously. For a man displaced 200 years, he remains remarkably true to himself and his purpose. He is incredibly witty, but stubborn to a fault when it comes to his purpose and being set in his ways. The same thing could be said for Abbie. Here she is a serious no-nonsense type of cop. Yet, her acceptance of who Crane is and what is going on is refreshingly quick. If they had Abbie on a season long journey to acceptance, I would have quickly grown tired of it. Yet, after two episodes she is in. Her acceptance really helped the viewers to accept the plot and it was really well done.
The other factor that fueled Sleepy Hollow’s unlikely success is that it is simply a ton of fun. This is a show about demons, the horsemen of the apocalypse, and Armageddon. Yet, how often did you find yourself smiling or laughing? For me, it was several times an episode. Ichabod and Abbie had great chemistry. Their playful back and forth was a joy to watch. Ichabod’s over the top journey to figuring out how to live in the present was always amusing to watch as well. Not only were the characters fun, but the story was too. There are some great moments of action, and the pacing of the mystery is really well done. Who doesn’t love a good historical mystery/treasure hunt? If you don’t like The Goonies or National Treasure there is just something wrong with you. And that’s the same spirit that Sleepy Hollow’s show runners were able to capture. The viewers journey along with the characters as they unravel the secret history of our country and of ancient prophecy, and it was a joy to watch every single week.
The acting on Sleepy Hollow was very hit or miss for me. The leads were great. Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane was absolutely brilliant. Above all else, he might be the biggest contributing factor to this shows success. He manages to be heart warming, charming, smart, awkward, weird, and VERY funny. Often all in the same episode. Nicole Beharie as Lt. Abbie Mills was also great. I think it took her a little time, but by the end of the season she has fully embraced her character and is leaps and bounds better than she was at the start of the show. The secondary character actors were a different story though. There were a few good ones though. John Noble as the Sin Eater Henry Parrish is fantastic. He does such a great job at coming across so timid and meek, yet incredibly powerful. What he did in the finale was probably the best thing I saw the whole season. John Cho as Andy Brooks is also great. Its such a weird character but he pulls it off. As the traitor/minion of Moloch, he is still torn because of his devotion to Abbie. This leads him to often be in several of the more cheesy moments of the show, but Cho manages to pull it off well.
Who doesn’t pull it off well? Katina Winter as Ichabod’s witch wife Katrina for one. She is really bad. In a show that embraces being over the top, she still manages to overact almost everyone of her scenes. I am cheering for her to end up in Purgatory forever. Maybe even worse than her is Lyndie Greenwood as Abbie’s sister Jenny. Again, just bad levels of over acting, and just bad line delivery in general. We are supposed to like her more and more as the season progressed, yet my loathing just got worse. And finally, and its perhaps my biggest disappointment in this show, I just don’t love Orlando Jones in this role. I don’t think he is a bad actor at all, I just don’t think he is very good in this. Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there and I think that is the case here.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the freshman season of Sleepy Hollow. I liked how the producers stayed true to how they wanted the show to be and it really payed off in the end. There was somewhat of a rough patch in the middle of the season. In these short, 13 episode, season orders, there isn’t a lot of room for error. There was a run of about four episodes that just really fell flat. They got away from the main plot and at the time it felt like they were reaching and chasing down threads. Good on them, they brought back a lot of the seemingly meaningless stuff in the finale to show how it did matter. And while they is great storytelling, when we have no idea that stuff will matter later on, that’s how people lose interest and you lose viewers and the ratings reflected that. But speaking of the finale, man did they finish strong. Not only did they bring back around a lot of plot points from earlier in the season, they did a great job of establishing where the show goes from here in season two. Which I admit, is something I was previously very concerned about. The two part finale had a lot of action and some great mystery. The “twist” at the end was great despite it being somewhat predictable. All-in-all, a great ending to a very good season. I highly recommend it to anyone who is just looking for a funny and enjoyable show with a cool story where you don’t have to think to much.