Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison
Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) meets Washington Irving in Sleepy Hollow, a thrilling, loopy funhouse ride of a fantasy series premiering tonight on Fox. Co-creators and executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci from the rebooted Star Trek movies have taken Irving’s beloved 1820 yarn about a timid schoolteacher’s encounter with a terrifying wraith and pumped it full of storytelling steroids that carry the Colonial American action into the present-day.
The story opens in the heat of a Revolutionary War battle, where history teacher-turned-spy Ichabod Crane (Brit hunk Tom Mison, HBO’s Parade’s End miniseries) finds himself confronted by a masked, ax-wielding Redcoat on horseback. After shooting his adversary proves ineffectual, Ichabod beheads the Horseman, but not before he sustains a grievous wound himself. At the brink of death, Ichabod sinks into unconsciousness … then awakens, gasping for air as he digs himself out of the floor of a cave. Finally breaking through to muted daylight, Ichabod finds himself on the outskirts of Sleepy Hollow, in a strange new world of asphalt roads and roaring metallic conveyances.
That night, as wind blows and lightning flashes, Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie, Shame) and her mentor, Sheriff August Corbin (guest star Clancy Brown), are investigating an incident at a nearby farm when Corbin is attacked and decapitated by the Horseman as Abbie watches in horror. Back at headquarters to report the murder, Abbie encounters the peevish and disoriented Ichabod, who has been brought in for questioning. When Ichabod clings to his far-fetched insistence that he is a spy for George Washington who has been asleep for 250 years, Abbie’s tough-minded captain (Orlando Jones) orders her to take him to a psychiatric facility for evaluation. She spends their long car ride together sizing him up.
“Did you get up to pee?” she asks Ichabod about his long nap, smiling. “I don’t know about you, but I’d be getting up to pee every 75, 80 years.”
Soon, however, Abbie realizes that, nutty or not, Ichabod seems to have special insight into the psychopath who beheaded her former boss. Still haunted by a paranormal experience she and her sister shared as girls, Abbie quickly bonds with Ichabod as their investigation starts to turn up indications that this eerie case may involve a secret society that stretches back for centuries, witchcraft, the Book of Revelation, Ichabod’s dead wife Katrina (Katia Winter) and, of course, “an ancient evil.”
Clearly, Kurtzman and Orci are building a mythology for their show that could sustain years of storytelling without a sweat, so my only worry – as with most high-concept shows – is whether Sleepy Hollow might meet the ratings ax before fans are able to get closure with this epic narrative. That’s out of my hands, though, and the pilot is so much fun, and looks so gorgeous, that I was pretty much in by the first commercial break, although I hope future episodes may inject a little more humor.
It obviously doesn’t hurt, either, that Mison and Beharie are a real dream team in terms of chemistry. He recently topped a poll of my colleagues in the Television Critics Association as this season’s most likely new breakout star, but it’s Beharie who’s the real find for me. Beautiful, confident and radiating intelligence and humor, her Abbie is a lovely creation and a perfect foil for Mison’s intense and often testy Ichabod. I’m looking forward to spending Monday nights with this duo for a long time to come.
Favorite Line: Deputy (shouting to Horseman): “Put the weapon down and put your hands on your … uh … .”