“Paul Revere, you rum beggar!” – Ichabod Crane
You’re just not going to hear that anywhere else on television. And I think at this point we can safely say that’s one of the key reasons why “Sleepy Hollow” has become the breakout hit of this year’s freshman class.
Not because audiences have been clamoring for a nutty serialized drama that balances elements of a horror show, historical romp and bantery detective drama, but because audiences have been starved for anything that feels different and fresh.
That’s certainly what we get in “The Midnight Ride,” a prime example of “Sleepy Hollow” at its best. Completely ridiculous and utterly silly? Sure. But also fast, fun, a little bit creepy, a whole lot witty and driven by the lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry between Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie. One crucial side effect of that chemistry: we like Ichabod and Abbie enough to care about them as people, not just cartoons — which gives the show’s convoluted mythology and wild action an extra layer of humanity.
“The Midnight Ride” maintains a firm grasp on that humanity, while successfully pushing the mythology forward in ways that are variously exciting (the return of the Headless Horseman), overdue (Captain Irving finally ditches the skepticism after his literal brush with death when he comes face to, um, body? with Headless) and occasionally rushed (the mass beheadings of the Freemasons; Morales’ bizarre downward spiral). But even when the episodes feel overstuffed (which is pretty much always), they’re usually quite enjoyable.
It’s a magic formula other networks will no doubt want to copy, but will they understand that the real pleasure of “Sleepy Hollow” isn’t in its portrait of mismatched heroes battling back the apocalypse? That it’s actually in the little moments like Ichabod trying to use a computer by frantically pounding on the keyboard, Ichabod interrupting a tour guide to correct historical inaccuracies about Paul Revere, and Ichabod getting a history lesson of his own about Thomas Jefferson’s secret relationship with Sally Hemings (something he dismisses as prurient gossip until Irving clues him in on DNA).
The show’s unique appeal is also on display in the winning montage of failed attempts at destroying the Horseman’s skull, and — in what might be a first — a genuinely rousing climactic action scene in which Ichabod, Abbie and Irving work together to trap Headless with a combination of old school methods and modern technology.
Next week: The interrogation of Headless. Yeah, that should be fun.
Odds and ends:
– So nice to see John Cho back again and getting laughs (“I am dead. Is that not apparent?”). It also appears he’s having a crisis of conscience after teaming up with the dark side. (Or maybe it’s just this sudden crush on Abbie.) He’s the one who explains that even if Headless can’t be killed, he can be trapped.
– We finally learned something about Captain Irving! He has a daughter … and an ex-wife.
– Seems like the writers missed a golden opportunity to work the Beastie Boys’ “Paul Revere” into the episode. I suppose Ichabod will have to learn about hip-hop another day.
– Abbie: “I have good news and bad news. What do you want first?” Ichabod: “Is this a riddle?”
– Ichabod politely declining the “Hot Chixxx” pop up: “I’m flattered, madam, but I’m afraid I am a spouse to another.”