In honor of Halloween, this week’s column is about to get spooky. I’ve got a man with no head to talk about, shadowy demons and gruesome murders. They all appear in a little town called Sleepy Hollow, which, in Fox’s new version, is less quaint hamlet and more ground zero for the arrival of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This isn’t your mother’s Washington Irving.
“Sleepy Hollow” is a clever retelling of the classic story because it combines mystery with adventure and adds a good dose of humor. It’s a procedural monster-of-the-week detective story with a larger biblical/historical mythology and lots of buddy cop moments. It owes a lot to “Grimm” which owes a lot to the “X Files.” The success of “Once Upon a Time” has helped as well by bringing audiences into the world of highly re-imagined fictional characters.
In this version of Irving’s classic, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is resurrected in present-day Sleepy Hollow along with his headless nemesis who has been promoted from a cranial challenged murderer to a member of the four man apocalypse team. Crane meets Detective Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) who is on her way out of small town Sleepy Hollow to the big leagues of the FBI. She suspends her plans after she witnesses the headless horseman murder her boss by cutting off his head (naturally). So when she meets Crane, his resurrection/apocalypse story is suddenly not so crazy. It also forces her to revisit an event she’s suppressed all her life. Abbie and her sister Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) saw a demon in the woods when they were teenagers. The events surrounding Crane’s appearance convince her to investigate the mystery, try and repair her damaged relationship with Jennifer and face what is perhaps, her destiny.
The central premise of the series is this: If headless is reunited with his head, his three friends will arrive in Sleepy Hollow along with the end of the world. Paving the way are various demons who inflict horrors on the unsuspecting people of the town. Crane and Mills must fight the monster of the week while solving a larger mystery that dates to the founding fathers. Will they figure it out before the horseman finds his head? More importantly, will Crane ever change out of his 18th-century clothes?
Putting a modern-day twist on Ichabod Crane’s encounter could have been really silly, and “Sleepy Hollow,” as many critics before me have pointed out, is kind of silly. But it works because it has a good blend of charm and emotional story points. For every scene of Ichabod being comically surprised by modern technology (the windows in the car rise and fall by touching a button!) or an overall mythology that feels like a supernatural storytelling mash-up (witches and demons and spirits, oh my!), there is a scene of emotional authenticity that makes everything feel less silly. You care about Abbie and Jenny as they learn to trust one another again. And thanks to Mison’s talents you even care about poor Ichabod’s wife Katrina (Katia Winter), a good witch trapped in purgatory by the chief demon. Will they ever be reunited? Treat yourself and tune in to find out.
Page 2 of 2 - “Sleepy Hollow” is on Mondays at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.