|Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie|
Since AMC's phenomenal success with "The Walking Dead," genre shows seem to be all the rage of late. FOX is the first to debut a new show this season with Alex Kurtzman's and Roberto Orci's (both of "Lost" and Star Trek) "Sleepy Hollow," a modern take on Washington Irving's 18th century ghost story. Last visited by Tim Burton in his 1999 film of the same name, this new version takes a decidedly demonic approach to the tale, adding witchcraft and the Book of Revelations to the mix in what may well be the best new genre series since NBC's "Grimm."
In this version, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is a British defector during the American Revolution. While fighting a mysterious masked mercenary, Crane is mortally wounded, but not before be-heading the mercenary. The two are bound by blood and Crane suddenly finds himself resurrected in 2013, confounded by modern technology and thought to be insane by the local authorities. Meanwhile, Sheriff August Corbin (genre regular Clancy Brown) and his partner, Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) are dispatched to investigate a disturbance at a local horse farm. Mills is scheduled to leave Sleepy Hollow to attend FBI training at Quantico in two weeks, but after Corbin is killed by an apparently headless monster, she decides to join up with Crane, despite her misgivings.
While the premise may seem outlandish, the pilot's execution was loaded with action, mystery and lots of fun. Mills, who has had her own brush with the supernatural as a child, is sympathetic towards Crane's plight and despite orders from Police Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones), takes Crane at his word and helps him escape from the asylum to which he's been assigned in an effort to solve the mystery of her partner's death. Of course, this is only after she discovers Corbin's secret files on witchcraft. When her friend Andy Dunn (Star Trek alum John Cho in one-off cameo) gives into the Horseman's demands to find his missing head, she is convinced that Crane is telling the truth and decides to help him fight the evil forces which have returned after 250 years.
The pilot, directed by Underworld director Len Wiseman, is a terrific combination of exposition and and action, setting up a series with plenty of potential. The chemistry between Mison and Beharie is surprisingly good and the supporting cast all hold their own, especially Jones in what I believe to be his first non-comedic role. "Sleepy Hollow" may play fast and loose with actual history (no one was ever burned at the stake for witchcraft in U.S. - that was a strictly German phenomenon in the 17th Century), the writers have obviously done just enough research (George Washington was indeed a land surveyor) to make it plausible. The writers also play fast and loose with their source material, but Irving is long dead and the property is well within the public domain, making it fair game for reinterpretation. Loaded with plenty of relatively bloodless violence and supernatural tomfoolery, "Sleepy Hollow" manages to be lots of fun to watch. And what more can one ask from a genre series?
I thoroughly enjoyed the "Sleepy Hollow" pilot and look forward to where they will take this tale of two unlikely partners and their fight to stop the impending Apocalypse. *** (Three Out of Four Stars).