'Sleepy Hollow': Ichabod Crane at Starbucks

Cops in Sleepy Hollow answer a 911 call to find a soldier who turns out to be headless, but his condition doesn't seem to be slowing him down at all.

Sleepy Hollow

Airtime: Mondays, 9pm ET
Cast: Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison, Orlando Jones, Katia Winter, Clancy Brown, John Cho
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: Fox
Director: Len Wiseman
Air date: 2013-09-16

The premiere episode of Sleepy Hollow is far more fun than it has any right to be. The show opens in 1776, as Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) fights for the Americans in a Revolutionary War battle. A mounted and masked Redcoat with an axe cuts a swath through the American forces until Crane gets in his way. Despite taking a nasty slice to the chest, he manages to behead the soldier with a single swing of his sword.

The next thing Ichabod knows, he's waking up in a cave and the year is 2013. At the same time, a couple of police officers in Sleepy Hollow (a town of over 100,000 in suburban Westchester County, New York, the show informs us) run afoul of the same British soldier on a 911 call to a local farm. The soldier is now headless, of course, but his condition doesn't seem to be slowing him down at all. Only Detective Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) makes it out of the encounter alive. She then duly teams up with Crane to track down the murderous Headless Horseman.

Somehow, this ludicrous premise and uneven plot elements cohere into a fast-moving, exciting hour.

The pilot episode runs through some well-worn territory as it brings Mills and Crane together, but director Len Wiseman doesn't linger too long on the requisite time travel beats. Crane is understandably confused by his situation when the police arrest and interrogate him. But instead of scoffing at his wild tale, they hook him up to a polygraph and see that he believes everything he is saying. This is an efficient way to dispense with the unnecessary skeptics' reactions that usually take up too much time at the start of such stories. We all know he's telling the truth, so it's best to get on with it. Just so, by the end of the episode, the Headless Horseman's reign of terror through Sleepy Hollow has pretty much everyone believing Crane's story.

Crane himself takes his predicament remarkably in stride. Yes, he's a bit frightened of riding in a car, and he is confused by the presence of a Starbucks on every block and so, further aligns his common sense with ours). But even with such distractions, he remains dedicated to stopping the Horseman. It helps that Crane is a man ahead of his time, not so much clichéd as admirable. Not only did he defect from England to fight against the tyranny of King George, he was and is also decidedly pro-abolition. This is a necessary plot point, seeing as Detective Mills is black.

Mills is also helpfully practical-minded and sympathetic. She's understandably terrified of the Horseman and bristles at Crane's observation that she must be an "emancipated slave." And it's true that her immediate career path is foreordained, that when she says she's leaving in two weeks for the FBI Academy, she won't be leaving. But Beharie effectively sells Abbie's indecision and also her gumption. Yes, the supernatural childhood incident that ruined her sister's life is predictable genre claptrap, but Abbie and Crane are not just Mulder and Scully rearranged. They bring to bear some current political questions along with those perennially paranormal concerns.

The Horseman too serves this mix of interests, as an allusive legend and also formidable enough immediate threat. He's genuinely imposing each time he appears. As a stand- alone episode, the premiere of Sleepy Hollow may be the most consistently entertaining piece Wiseman has directed, after having grappled with the presentation of other scary beasts in the first two Underworld movies, as well as Live Free or Die Hard and the Total Recall remake.

He and his fellow executive producers -- Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, best known for their collaborations on both Transformers and Fringe -- have their work cut out for them. It's hard to imagine how they'll sustain Sleepy Hollow's focus on Crane's conflict with the Horseman week to week. The first episode intimates that other storylines are layered beneath the obvious vengeance plot, with references to secret documents and supernatural forces locked in surreptitious battle for hundreds of years, and also some overt connections to the Book of Revelations. The show goes so far as to make a very optimistic mention of seven years' worth of confrontations before the final battle between good and evil.

The mystery of how Crane and the Horseman arrived in 2013 is solved by the end of the pilot and so it won't be a lingering question. But all the other potential, just mentioned plot turns may prove difficult to manage over the course of a season. It may be that Sleepy Hollow figures out how to balance its action and procedural elements, the odd couple cops, and overarching story points. And that may be fun.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.