In the first episode of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) awakens for the first time since the 1700s and finds himself in the modern world. He soon meets Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), a lieutenant in the police force in the town of Sleepy Hollow who is the first to believe Crane’s theory that a headless horseman is running amok in the area. The nods to Washington Irving’s popular novel, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow abound, but by episode 3 the series has turned into a witty and dramatic cross between a seriously creepy horror film and a campy episode of Buffy, set to spectacular original music. Here’s how Sleepy Hollow became even more of a hodgepodge last night.
The third episode of Sleepy Hollow features Crane and Mills solving a brand new mystery featuring The Sandman. This isn’t the Rise of the Guardians Sandman who helps to put children to sleep. Instead, it’s a demon who forces humans into misery that is so horrific they choose to take their lives rather than live with the visions the demon is putting together. Crane and Mills are forced to consult with a Native American Shaman in order to drug themselves and fight the demon on his own terms—in the dream world.
The most interesting thing about the latest episode of the series is that the headless horseman—a creature who spurred the series into existence and wreaked havoc throughout the first episode—was barely even mentioned. In fact, the horseman is only brought up when Crane visits Abbie’s sister Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) and lets her in on the fact that demons are plaguing Sleepy Hollow. Despite the plotline explaining Abbie and Jenny’s past, we mostly get a bottle episode featuring a demon that has nothing to do with the horseman, and it seems like this might be more of the direction Sleepy Hollow intends on heading in. Sure, the demon plotline still related back to Jenny and Abbie's life-altering experiences as youths and to Crane and Abbie's ultimate partnership, but it had little else to do with the episodes that came prior. Where was John Cho's character? And why is Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) totally fine with Mills and Crane going off and solving supernatural crimes without consulting him?
If you’ve been watching, there’s a good chance you’ve been invested in the series, despite the way this last episode played out. You also may be wondering whether adding a more “weekly demon to hunt” format is a good thing or a bad thing. The truth is, with only three episodes under our belts, we don’t really know.
What’s far more important is the show picks a format that works for itself and sticks with it. It could go the Buffy route and offer several bottle episodes for every one in which our protagonists try to catch the Horseman. That would allow for the show to go on indefinitely and for plenty of different avenues to be explored. Oppositely, it could try to tie every single thing together into one consistent mythology that will need to tie together down the road. That’s fine too, but if the writers go that route, they need to be ready to explain how all of the mythology overlap and crossover is actually consistent and relevant once the show moves into new seasons (and they need to be able to do it better than Lost did). The procedural route is certainly easier, but both have their pros and cons.
There’s no right or wrong answer for Sleepy Hollow, but the show will need to choose a direction and do so soon. Right now viewers are invested in the show because it offers a new and exciting premise, but when that is no longer true, the show will need a solid foundation to stand on, and choosing a direction is as key to that foundation as Crane and Abbie's amusing relationship. What do you think? Would you rather the show be more focused on the horsemen or would you rather see more one-off episodes like this week?
Sleepy Hollow is a part of Fox’s lineup. You can catch new episodes on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET.