Heroics, horror and humour make Fox’s retelling of the Sleepy Hollow legend a gripping hour that plays out in two centuries.
Fox’s new supernatural police drama Sleepy Hollow is headless yet brainy
Television is a ravenous maw that devours mythology and folklore – the scarier the better – and few tales can lay claim to having roused the goosebumps for almost two centuries as well as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the 1820 short story by Washington Irving, who introduced the Headless Horseman to the roster of American ghouls.
Sleepy Hollow has inspired scores of movies, television shows, operas, animations and Broadway musicals – from Will Rogers as the superstitious schoolteacher hero Ichabod Crane on the silent screen in 1922 to Tim Burton’s notable 1999 outing with Johnny Depp’s Ichabod reimagined as a New York City cop sent to investigate murders.
Now the Fox network has taken its kick at the crypt and its new supernatural police drama, Sleepy Hollow, is proving a spooky delight to watch. Hailed as one of the 10 best new shows by Time magazine, it’s already been renewed for a second season of 18, hour-long episodes to be broadcast this autumn.
With a surprisingly fun mythology, this supernatural police drama delivers a modern-day twist on Irving’s classic tale, in which the former Oxford history professor turned colonial spy Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is resurrected and pulled forward two-and-a-half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding of America.
“I haven’t seen a show like this that has two different periods – 200 years apart – and follows stories in both of them,” says Mison. “It’s remarkable. With the mythology, they’ve created something so thorough and so unique that, for an actor, it’s nothing but fun to dive into it.”
Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman, whom he beheaded in 1781, and who is now on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow.
But the Sleepy Hollow of today is a town that Ichabod no longer recognises and struggles to comprehend. By necessity he teams up with Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), a young African-American cop with a history of supernatural experiences. The two embark on a mission to squelch the evil that has awakened.
Ichabod quickly realises that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – and only one of many dreadful foes he must face to protect not only Sleepy Hollow, but also the entire world.
Handsome and heroic and with a native British accent, Mison also imbues a light touch to his Ichabod, with sundry, humorous man-out-of-time situations as an 18th-century white male who finds himself paired with a 21st-century female cop.
Fans of sci-fi and fantasy can tuck into the equivalent of genre comfort food here with the familiar faces of John Cho and the towering Clancy Brown.
Cho plays officer Andy Brooks, a friend who helps Abbie solve the mysteries despite having shuffled off his mortal coil, so to speak. Brown plays Sheriff August Corbin, Abbie’s mentor and a father figure who has delved deeply into the dark secrets of Sleepy Hollow and whose own head may not be long on his shoulders.
With the freedom of a largely reimagined legend, Beharie says: “We’re keeping everyone on their toes and defying expectations.”
“By the end of the pilot, you begin to realise that anything can happen in this world we’ve created,” adds Mison. “There aren’t very many rules. People come back from the dead. People die unexpectedly. There are monsters all over the place.”
• Sleepy Hollow premieres at 9pm on June 15 on OSN First HD