On Sleepy Hollow (2013 TV series)

On the show Community, they occasionally show clips of of a Doctor Who parody called Inspector Spacetime. The Inspector and his companion will crash-land somewhere, and the companion will say "Where are we, Inspector?" to which the Inspector replies, "The question isn't where, but....when?"

This line appears, almost verbatim, in the first episode of the new Sleepy Hollow TV show, which I've taken to describing as "If Inspector Spacetime crash-landed in Twin Peaks." I can't do much better to describe than my fellow Firebrand Literary survivor Scott Neumyer did in his Rolling Stone review, which was entitled "Sleepy Hollow Is Batshit Crazy." But I mean all this as a compliment. Sure, the show may make very little sense, really, but it has foggy graveyards, catacombs full of the bones of dead witches, dusty old books full of ancient secrets, and some pretty slick coffins. And, now and then, a headless horseman. I'll give pretty much anything with a headless horseman in it a shot.

Now, this show and its premise have almost nothing to do with the original Legend of Sleepy Hollow. To refresh, the story there is that in the early 1800s, a lanky New Englander named Ichabod Crane comes to Sleepy Hollow, New York, to teach school. While there, he becomes enamored with a coquette named Katrina Van Tassel, whose father owns a heck of a farm. After being strung along by her for a while, he's chased out of town by the Headless Horseman, the chief among all the local ghosts. It's said to be the ghost of a Hessian soldier from the Revolution that had taken place in living memory, but Washington Irving's story, the one that chases Ichabod is strongly implied to have been Brom Bones, Ichabod's romantic rival, in disguise, just trying to scare him.

Here on the show, Ichabod Crane is a British official who switched sides to fight under George Washington in the 1770s, and died in battle just after decapitating a horseman. His wife, Katrina, put him under some sort of spell that kept him asleep for more than two centuries until he wakes up in New York, where he finds that Katrina was burned as a witch in the 1790s and now inhabits some sort of world-between-worlds, like the Black Lodge only with more shrubbery, and that the horseman is actually one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Teaming up with the police officer who found him, Ichabod and Katrina now fight various demons and witches every week as they try to keep the horseman from finding his head and bringing about the end of days.

Now, there are plenty of things wrong with this. As a historian, I don't even know where to begin saying what's wrong with Katrina being burned as a witch in the 1790s. I'm hesitant to call it a "modern day take" on the old legend, since it has basically nothing to do with it (I don't think the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman exists in the world of the show). Take out the names Ichabod and Katrina, and there's basically no connection at all.

And I'm pretty sure that one day soon, perhaps as soon as next week (we're three episodes in as I write this), I'll turn the show on and realize that I no longer have any idea what the hell is going on. It happened about midway through season 2 of Twin Peaks, and about halfway through the run of The X-Files, and I doubt I'll last the whole season on this one. For now it's mostly just a "monster of the week" sort of show, but sooner or later it'll bogged down on the underlying plot and I'll lose track of things.

But for now, I'm really enjoying it. Though Ichabod's jokes about seeing a Starbucks everywhere now were a bit cheap, I enjoyed watching Ichabod adapt to the 20th century. And though I have some issues with its awful grasp on history, problematic uses of religious themes, etc, it is nice to see such a diverse cast. And it's kind of fun to watch a headless horseman with an assault rifle. He's a pretty bad shot, but, hey, how's he supposed to aim the thing without any eyes? Most Sleepy Hollow variants seem to take it for granted that the horseman can see pretty well.

And, as mentioned, it's got foggy graveyards and catacombs full of the bones of dead witches that you can apparently find just by poking around in suburban New York basements (hey, they find dead bodies all over the place; they found a whole underground chamber full of skeletons in Union Square back in the 60s).  If the show is over-the-top with its corniness and insanity, at least it knows it. It's the kind of show where if someone seems like they'd look good in a cape, they'll probably go ahead and have them wear a cape. Where a villain probably wouldn't be afraid to say "It's mine! All mine!" Where no production assistant would ever dare to utter "Hey, do you think people will wonder how come there's a fog machine going?" It's nice to see a show that seems to have no real interest in taking itself too seriously.


costumes for plus size ca said...

Great blogsite, this movie is nostalgic as it was shown around 1999, its about a headless man riding a horse and it featured actors Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci.

Anonymous said...

"problematic uses of religious themes"....it uses certain literary religious sources, but not in the way any actual real world religion does and takes pains to avoid realistic usage of actual beliefs.

The show seems to take it as seriously as, say, the "Alien" film series uses the actual space exploration effort: It's al just an excuse to show monsters and weirdness.


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