Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Idiot Box: Sleepy Hollow - 1x01 - "Pilot" Review

Usually in every new television season, it seems like I find at least one show that is so obviously and completely aligned with my own personal tastes that it is almost surely doomed for an early cancellation. I joined many in lamenting the loss of Firefly after fourteen episodes, and joined basically no one in being the only person actually interested in how Alcatraz was going to turn out. Sometimes the trend is bucked by circumstance, as in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal, given a last minute reprieve thanks to NBC’s otherwise lackluster slate of hour long dramas, and the vastly underrated Fringe, which found itself on the bubble for pretty much every year of its five season run. This season, we have Sleepy Hollow, a show from the makers of Fringe that I have no doubt will be cancelled as soon as the executives who greenlit it sober up and realize what they let on TV. But until they do, I’m gonna love the crap out of every minute of it!

Sleepy Hollow follows Ichabod Crane, special agent to General George freaking Washington himself, traveling through time into the present day after being mysteriously resurrected to help stop a bad-ass gun toting Headless Horseman, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse no less, from retrieving his head and jump starting the End of Days. Along the way we get witches, more time travelers, allusions to Freemason conspiracies, Clancy motherfuckin’ Brown, and even Satan himself. And we’re not talking some subtle, whispery in the background kinda Satan. This is full on Tenacious D, Dave Grohl Satan with the big ass horns and the unholyest of bitch slaps. Its insane and clearly not for everyone (i.e. not for the masses of slack jawed yokels who’d want it gone to make way for another reality show about slack jawed yokels), but for a horror-fantasy junkie like myself, this is forty minutes of pure Nirvana.

What I think I like most about the show, apart from just how balls to the wall crazy and daring it is, is how much it accomplishes in just one episode. The world building this pilot does is amazing, establishing so many interesting mysteries and avenues to explore, putting the original LOST pilot to shame in half the time. At the same time, if I weren’t so excited to see it play out, I’d almost say it works better as a movie, but only because I can’t really see the every-plot going into each new episode. Most would consider that a bad thing, having no standard template to work from week to week, but I think it just leaves them room to explore more of the central story in every episode rather than having a regular structure that only hints at the larger mythology here and there. In a way its hard to see where the show goes from here, but only because they’ve crammed so much into this first episode and so much promise into this first season, that I can’t fathom how they might escalate things moving forwards.

It’s easy to feel betrayed by the “brilliant but cancelled” phenomenon, so much so that one might be inclined to premptively give up on potentially great shows based on the knee jerk assumption that they will either never make it, or even worse, never be as good as they could be. As much as television has been experiencing something of a renaissance in the last few years, there’s still a rich history of unnecessarily terrible disappointment, and for every great show that actually gets the chance to grow into itself, there are a few dozen that don’t. Personally, I’m not willing to let the fear of possible shittiness to come dissuade me from mining whatever enjoyment I can from shows like Sleepy Hollow while I can. If you missed the first episode, I definitely recommend ignoring the vast majority of critics who’ve lambasted it and to give it an honest shot. I’ll be sticking with it for the long haul, no matter how short and sweet that may be.

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