‘Sleepy Hollow’ mixes fantasy, cop show

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One of the more unusual new shows of the fall is “Sleepy Hollow,” which turns Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” into a modern-day fantasy adventure mixed with a investigatory procedural.

The Fox pilot opens with Ichabod Crane, a Revolutionary War soldier, fighting the British on a gray battlefield. In short order, a British soldier wielding an ax rides up. Wearing a mask and coming across like Jason Vorhees, the warrior seems impervious to bullets but dies – or does he? – when Crane beheads him.

Cut to today and Crane, who had seemingly succumbed to battle wounds, wakes up in a grave, struggles his way above ground and is nearly run over by a truck when he stumbles upon a nearby road. The road happens to lead to the bustling modern-day village of Sleepy Hollow.

Meanwhile, the battlefield destroyer faced by Crane is now a Headless Horseman marauding through the area around Sleepy Hollow, killing and beheading people, including – dammit – the grizzled sheriff played by Clancy Brown.

Although he is initially considered a lunatic because he maintains he was personally selected by Gen. George Washington to find and kill a mercenary who just might be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Crane (played by Tom Mison) works with deputy Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) to uncover the intentions of the modern-day occultists who brought the Headless Horseman back from the dead.

It turns out there are two competing covens of witches – one good, one eeeevil – who to this day are using magic and murder to put the Horseman into play in the game leading up to the end of the world. The McGuffin? The Horseman’s skull, which he’s seriously seeking.

“Sleepy Hollow” was created by Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci, a couple of the writers behind the recent “Star Trek” movies as well as the cult favorite “Fringe.” John Cho, who plays Sulu in the new “Trek” films, is even around, at least briefly, as Abbie’s confidant.

Mison has a nicely wry and humorous take on Crane, who is written as sarcastic as well as a fish out of water. Beharie is feisty and Orlando Jones is on hand, and dependable, as a police captain.

“Sleepy Hollow” – at least the pilot – was fun, if not overwhelming. There’s no moment where my “must watch this every week” response kicked in.

But … the climactic battle with the Horseman in a cemetery, a glimpse of their ultimate demonic foe – the series Big Bad – and a preview of a parade of demons in the episodes to come have me very nearly convinced that I’ll be checking out “Sleepy Hollow” each week.

Random observations:

Clancy Brown! But he has little more than a single scene, dammit.

The show has a nice ersatz Danny Elfman score. More reserved but still full of playful strings.

The skull in the glass jar made me think of “Futurama.”

The Headless Horseman is nicely done, with good effects and, smartly, no preference for old-timey weapons. Seeing a walking headless guy stalking our heroes with semi-automatic weapons was a pleasant surprise.

 

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