November 18, 2013

Wide Awake in Sleepy Hollow

By Kiersten Hallie Krum

dont lose your head2

Sleepy Hollow is the water cooler conversation of the fall TV schedule. Forget Scandal (Fitz is a douche) forget The X Factor (everyone else has) and pay no attention to Grimm (they forgot how to run a good show about the time Juliet lost her memory). Sleepy Hollow has the horror, it has the pretty, it has the deep metaphysical mythos, and it even has the funny.

Oh look! A list!

Five reasons why you should be watching Sleepy Hollow.

Ax you

5. Call of Duty: Headless Horseman

He may have lost his head over Ichabod Crane (at this point, who hasn’t?), but this demonic Big Bad doesn’t rely only on his saber to get the job done. Sporting a hack ax with a blade that glows with hell fire, this headless horseman comes complete with assault rifle and a bandolier of shell cartridges for the equally lethal shotgun. Cue Bad Boy theme song. Whatcha gonna do?

In Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman is a member of a secret sect of Hessian soldiers who fought for the British in The War of Independence. Not content to be deeply frightening in life, the now immortal Horseman continues to wreck havock in modern day New York. Add to that the fact that he’s literally one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and this is one scary mofo. And he’s not the only creepy crawly populating the idyllic northeastern village. Sleepy Hollow is populated with all sorts of demonic horrors ready to keep you up and wide awake for hours.

4. Orlando Jones on Tumblr and Twitter

He plays Captain Irving on the show, but Orlando Jones’ real role in the Sleepy Hollow family is as Captain of All ‘Ships. He gets fandom like damn and wow and giddily delights in every single drop of it. He live tweets new episodes with such hilarity it’s a retweet extravaganza. I love when actors love the work they do and still don’t take it so seriously they can’t enjoy the occasional WTFery of it, especially on a show as wild and high-concept as Sleepy Hollow.

3. Abbie and Ichabod aka “the pretty”

abby & ichabod
Yes, he *can* be taught!

Bet you’re thinking “Ah, here’s the romance.”  Alas, while many fans do ship these two lead characters romantically, I am vehemently not one of them. Instead, I’m enjoying their marvelous sex-free partnership. The woman who is a tough, conflicted cop. The man not only out of place but out of time. Each linked to the other by fantastical means.

Ichabod’s relationship with Abbie (Nicole Beharie) is fascinating as it’s something Revolutionary War Ichabod (Tom Mison) could never have experienced without marriage due to social restrictions of the time (and not just the slavery issue). Thus, he delights in her for exactly who she is and what they have to do together. Abbie’s lost her father-like mentor and had her world turned upside down and yet she still greets every new mind-boggling, supernatural experience with feet firmly planted in the solid world. She balances Ichabod’s frequent eloquent infodumps with just the right dash of deadpan summary and interpretation.

Here’s the key – Abbie not only inhabits the traditional man role of the partnership, she owns it. Ichabod does not rescue her and would never think he has to. They are partners; they back one another up. There’s never a moment when Ichabod acts as though his manhood is threatened by it either. In episode two, Blood Moon, Abbie chides him for throwing his gun away (he didn’t know it had more than one shot) and two episodes later in The Lesser Key of Solomon, when her militant-trained sister tosses Ichabod a 9 MM pistol, he silently looks to Abbie for instruction. Immediately in accord, she demonstrates what he must do to chamber the round. When Ichabod is kidnapped by the Freemason’s in episode seven’s Sin Eaters, Abbie goes into full out rescue mode. “That’s not how this is gonna work. I’m a police officer. Let us in, or we call in the damn cavalry.” No apology. No sop to his male pride. She is a bad ass in her own right and they both know it. Hell, Ichabod regularly counts on it.

2. The script

alas por headless
Alas, poor Headless. I knew him

Dear Lawd, but I love the words the writers for Sleepy Hollow put in Tom Mison’s mouth. It’s not enough that “tall, dark, and British” makes “donut hole” sound like a soliloquy, Ichabod’s back story has him Oxford educated (word) and the writers make his sentences long and flowing with a rich vocabulary worthy of his origins, experience, and education. Not to mention, his British pronunciation of “lieutenant,” i.e. “lefttennant,” pleases me greatly.

But Ichabod is also a man from a time when nobility and honor were more than words on a page or ethereal ideas to be subjugated under expediency. These are tangible values in service of which he and others of his time readily offered their lives. It adds a patina of risk and romance to the words he speaks because, even when he’s being pissy or snarky, he subconsciously knows he may have to stand by every one. Not to mention, it is often deeply funny.

The writers clearly enjoy playing with Ichabod’s snobbery with regard to colonial history and some of the more senseless luxuries of the modern world. For instance, he’s quick to point out that Abbie’s knowledge of history relies on recorded history. “It appears little of what actually transpired found its way into your textbooks.” Even as Ichabod adapts to his changed circumstance, his outrage over modern day taxes on baked goods, the apocryphal history of Paul Revere’s ride, and the utterly foreign idea of his words being “eternally recorded” in a voice mail message offer endless fish-out-of-water fun. Abbie and Captain Irving winding him up about Thomas Jefferson’s slave ownership and secret second family of mixed-race children was pure script gold.

For your listening pleasure, here are two Soundcloud clips of the Ichabod’s best riffs to date. In the first (and personal favorite), he gives poetic romantic advice to the automobile assistance agent and in the second leaves Abbie that first, irritated voice mail message.

The script is complex, witty, emotional, and often quite funny. That’s a high bar to aim for and one it achieves every week. I also dig the overall snarky sense of humor hard. In the pilot episode, no one less that Clancy Brown, aka The Kurgan from Highlander, played Abbie’s boss and mentor who, in the cold open of the show, got his head chopped off! Those are my kind of people.

On a logistic note, the story is unbelievably complex and yet ruthlessly well-plotted and controlled no doubt due to the fact that Sleepy Hollow only has 13 episodes in season one. This leaves  no room for the dreaded “filler” episodes that drag a show through the sagging middle of its traditionally 22-episode run. Items mentioned in throwaway comments in one episode pay off two, three, sometimes four episodes later. Sure there are some purists whose heads are imploding with the loosey goosey way the show plays with American history.  As revolutionary as it was, I’m not a fan of colonial history; I’ve never been able to make it past the wigs and fashion. Yes, I am that shallow. But add a little metaphysical behind-the-scenes hocus pocus to the events and I’m game.

1. The story

Ready? Here we go:

Ichabod’s opening voice over:

headlless bandolier
ARGH! Why can’t I see?

“In 1781, I died on the battlefield, but I was saved by a mysterious spell cast upon me by my beloved wife, Katrina. Now I’ve been awakened 250 years later in a land I no longer recognize and fate led me to Miss Abigail Mills, a young police lieutenant investigating baffling mysteries. We are now bearing witness to strange events and dark forces that I would not believe had I not seen with my own eyes. They foretell that our realm is in danger and the apocalypse may be upon us. Our destinies are entwined. We’re on the battleground where the armies of good and evil will wage war for the fate of mankind…Sleepy Hollow.”

When Ichabod Crane, British nobleman turned revolutionary warrior, cut the head off of a ruthless Hessian mercenary on the battlefield right after said mercenary dealt him a killing blow, their blood mingled as they died, linking them in an eternal bond. Katrina’s spell ensured that should the Horseman ever be revived, Ichabod too would awaken from death to again defeat him. Cue 21st century Sleepy Hollow, NY where the Headless Horseman just woke up.

Abbie and Ichabod are the two witnesses prophesized about in the Book of Revelations who will see and combat the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of which our Headless is the Horseman of Death. The return of the horseman was instigated by a demon named Morloch who has also released other nightmarish things into Sleepy Hollow in advance of The Four Horsemen’s inevitable return. Meanwhile, Abbie is dealing with her own past interaction with Morloch as a young  teenager, an experience that irrevocably colored and influenced her life and coincidentally prepared her to be Ichabod’s perfect partner in the battle against evil.

How could you not love a show like that?! There are even secret passages! In New York! It’s National Treasure meets The Da Vinci Code with demons and witches and sin eaters. Oh my!

Sleepy Hollow airs on Mondays at 9 PM EST on the Fox Channel.

Follow Lady Smut where we like to lose our heads over all kinds of things.

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  • Post authorC. Margery Kempe

    My other home is in upstate NY so we have a lot of Ichabod Crane and Sleepy Hollow locations and business names. I don’t know if it’s showing over here, but it sounds worth checking on as Dracula is getting sillier and AHS:Coven goes crazy (although I’m liking it a bit more as it does).

    Reply to C. Margery Kempe
  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    For me the Alpha and Omega of Sleepy Hallow is that tall drink of water Tom Mison. All I hear from the other characters is waawaawaaa -like the adults in Charlie Brown’s universe.

    Meanwhile, I’m just now zooming through Lost Girl and it’s all about Dyson, Dyson, Dyson. So maybe by the time Sleepy Hallow gets to DVD I’ll be able to wrap my mind around it.

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

      “Meanwhile, I’m just now zooming through Lost Girl and it’s all about Dyson, Dyson, Dyson, Dyson.”

      You are *so* my people. Dear Lawd, but do I love that wolf. Welcome to my crazy.

      OK Madeline, S2 will be rough and S3 sux balls most of the time but the first 2 eps of S4 have be great for the most part so hang in.

      Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
  • Post authorLizEverly

    I confess. Once again, I’ve not seen this show. But it sound like I might really like it. I’ve been meaning to check out Coven, as well. and I agree with CMK, Dracula is getting silly.

    Reply to LizEverly
  • Post authorElizabeth Shore

    It’s a shame about Dracula. I had such high hopes for it, not to mention the fact that Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars. I’ve wanted to check out Sleepy Hollow and I know it’s getting good attention. Hmm, may have to include it in my viewing, especially since my only show right now is The Walking Dead (but oooooh, what a show!).

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
  • Post authorAlexa Day

    I just want to acknowledge here that I’m not supposed to be watching quite so much TV. 🙂

    Scandal is my number one show, especially now that I know about What Happened to Mellie That Night. Now I’m not sure how I feel about her (although I’d sure like to go back to not liking her). I started watching American Horror Story for Angela Bassett. If I have to grow up, I wouldn’t mind being her, at least for a couple of days a week. Now that I’ve started, I can’t look away. It’s so, so weird.

    And of course, I’m down with Sleepy Hollow. I wish I could say my intentions toward Abbie and Ichabod were so pure as yours, Kiersten!

    Okay, you got me. I don’t wish I could say that at all; I want those two together. I like Katrina, too, so this is difficult for me. I can’t help it! Chaste interracial interactions marked by respect and admiration are okay, but I don’t think we’re getting enough shirtlessness.

    Reply to Alexa Day

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