We were hooked on Sleepy Hollow from its very first episode, falling in love quickly with the show’s willingness to be completely batpoop crazy when it felt like it – and it felt like it often. In the early days of the show, we tweeted that it was essentially an American Doctor Who, in that it’s a genre tale tied directly to the history and culture of its country of origin; in that it crosses back and forth from the present to the past; in that it has a good-looking, charismatic platonic couple at its center. But it really wasn’t until last night’s fast-paced, head-spinning episode that we got to the heart of how the two shows are similar and why Sleepy Hollow works: It’s all about the leads. A show like this, telling a story like this, is only going to work if you have lead actors absolutely one hundred percent committed to the material. It’s why the casting in modern Doctor Who has reached such epic importance and it’s why Sleepy Hollow is so damn entertaining.
Because really, when you get right down to it, an episode where the protagonists have to find Benjamin Franklin’s magic key in order to free one of them from Purgatory should, by all rights, be a ridiculously silly hour of television. In fact, it’s at those moments when the lead characters do everything but turn to the camera to explain this week’s story (“The secret is in Washington’s diary!” “We have to find Ben Franklin’s key and free Abbie from Purgatory so that another soul won’t have to take her place!” “We have to find my long-lost wife Katrina, who has been kidnapped by the Headless Horseman!”) that we’re momentarily taken out of the story to remark on just how INSANE that story actually is. And then we immediately note “But boy, he/she just sold the HELL out of that line.” All good genre tales require actors who can make the silliness of the story sound absolutely dead-serious and important, from Alec Guiness raising the Star Wars films up to a religious experience to Marlon Brando, chewing everything he could get his hands on in Superman. The key to Sleepy Hollow’s success has always been in its stars and we’re happy to report that the chemistry between Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie is as strong as it ever was, and their ability to spit out the very clunkiest of exposition remains top rate. If these two don’t work, the whole thing falls apart. Fortunately for us, they work just fine.
When a surprise hit show enters its second season, there’s every reason in the world to believe that all the things that made it a hit will be foolishly shunted aside in a bid to expand the story or to make it more serious somehow. Again, we’re happy to report that not only has the show not lost any of the lunacy that defined its first season, but that the premiere episode of season 2 gave us every reason to believe that the creators aren’t even thinking of slowing down or changing course. From the opening seconds of this episode, our heads were spinning. The fakeout was so masterfully done that it fooled us all the way through and had us thinking we’d either misremembered the finale of last season or we’d missed a line of dialogue that explained the new status quo. Even better, the creators still managed to drop in all the little character bits that make the show worthwhile, from Ichabod’s confusion over birthday candle rituals, cell phones, and how to drive in reverse, to Jenny’s kickass retort to Henry that she hopes he chokes on her sins, to the very best fist bump any fan could hope for, it was all there. The rest of the plot or developments almost didn’t matter to us. Half the time we can’t make sense of them until they’re over, anyway. As with all things Sleepy Hollow, it’s best to sit back and enjoy the ride, secure in the knowledge that the people in charge know exactly what they’re doing.
Plus, extra added bonuses: Naked Ben Franklin! Hot (?), shirtless (and also headless) horseman! Y’know, for a show loaded from top to bottom with pretty people, it’s remarkably un-sexy.
Also: Ichabod really must stink to high heaven by now. It’s time to buy him some clothes.
[Picture Credit: FOX Television]