The plot: In the new Fox series from Star Trek scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, British turncoat spy Ichabod Crane (his civilian gig was teaching History at Oxford) gives the Headless Horseman his name, fighting for George Washington in the Hudson Valley. He subsequently blacks out, and wakes up 232 years later (a la Rip Van Winkle), frozen and buried in a cave. Meanwhile, Quantico recruit and police lieutenant Abby Mills is on her way out of town, when a terrifying figure murders her partner. One trip to the psych ward, a dream featuring Ichabod’s supernatural wife, and a secret compartment of unsolved cases in Abby’s mentor’s office later, and the unlikely pair are on the case. As if there was any doubt.
It’s clear from the word go that Abby isn’t going anywhere, so the FBI thread is thankfully dispatched quickly. Nicole Beharie and Tim Mison have a wary, fun energy as unexpected kindred spirits. Beharie’s Abby is determined, wants to believe (“I don’t have the luxury of giving you the benefit of the doubt”), and is someone you’d like on your side in a fight. Her past is dark, but it doesn’t make her a misery to be around, which is often pilot shorthand for damaged goods.
Mison’s Ichabod is gentlemanly, intelligent and a bit starchy, but has a wry delivery that makes some of the more obvious one-liner’s work. You can see an exchange between the two in Abby’s police cruiser about the ubiquity of Starbucks a mile away, but it doesn’t make the payoff any less enjoyable. The mood was suitably creepy thanks to director Len Wiseman and the FX was pretty effective, especially the hazy demons that look like they could be extras in a Guillermo del Toro movie.
Honestly, not too many. Casting John Cho as the first villainous emissary was a nice misdirect. If he had been kept on any longer it would’ve gotten tiresome. The only problem I see on the horizon is the potential for the characters to spin their wheels (and get bogged down with repetitive cases of the week) while they’re waiting for the other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse to arrive for the big show down.
Final thoughts: Two witnesses bound together for a “7 year trial,” huh? I have to hand it to Orci, Kurtzman and fellow execs Phillip Iscove and Heather Kadin. Seven seasons is fairly ambitious for a fantasy themed show on Fox, but if they can find an audience like genre buddy “Grimm” (which survived despite NBC’s initial time-slot shuffle), they might make it, provided they have a solid hold on their mythology. Look, there’s a creepy messenger bird, a telekinetic and immortal clergyman, and George Washington’s Bible just so happens to be flipped to the Book of Revelations. Sure, the road is well trod, and the premise is a little gimmicky, but everyone on the team commits 100%.
Final Grade: B+. It’s a good time, and if they can sustain the fun, I’m in.
Sidenote: By the way, Washington Irving, Ichabod Crane and Rip van Winkle’s creator led a pretty fascinating life. In the early go, America was a bit devoid of fairy tales or fables, and Irving took it upon himself to change that. He’s also famous for writing a satirical history of New York (you can attribute the names of The New York Knicks a.k.a Knickerbockers and Batman’s Gotham City to him), and he was the U.S.’s ambassador to Spain in the early 1840s.
Airs at 9:00 pm EST on Fox