SLEEPY HOLLOW “Columbia” Review
By Clara Pullman
Sleepy Hollow is a lot like its own supernatural world. No matter how many times you think it’s down, it comes back.
The show has been through major reboots before but this time the challenge is even harder: Ichabod Crane is back but without his fellow Witness Abbie Mills. And just to add to the degree of difficulty, we’re not in Sleepy Hollow any more.
So to recap, Sleepy Hollow season four has to:
- Recreate the show without one of the two main characters that led so many people to love it.
- Move the action from the town of Sleepy Hollow to Washington.
- Introduce an entirely new cast, outside of Tom Mison and Lyndie Greenwood
So how did it go?
Surprisingly well, considering the challenge. It’s not fully gelled yet, and it’s noticeably missing some elements that made the show so compelling before (more on that later). But the rebooted concept retains the show’s high flying craziness combined with real human moments and whacked out versions of American history. The writers made sure to drop pilot call-backs that loyal fans will recognize and love. But if you’re new to the show, it’s possible to jump in without knowing the whole backstory and start fresh. Perhaps the biggest thing that anyone new to the show will need to understand is the importance of Abbie Mills. In the premiere, the writers want us to feel the weight of Abbie’s loss. They don’t dwell on it, but she’s a presence throughout. Meanwhile, Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane is as engaging as ever – somehow juggling Ichabod’s wit, haughtiness, strangeness, and vulnerability. And he still manages to make the crazy in Sleepy Hollow seem real and urgent.
Let’s run through the new and the familiar in this season four premiere:
Diana Thomas, Crane’s new partner: I was worried that the preseason descriptions of her made her sound way too much like Abbie 2.0. Thankfully, she wasn’t. Sure she’s a skeptic and she’s gruff and she’s brave and she has great jackets but…Janina Gavankar is making her own version of this strong female character who is coming to grips with the strange new world she’s been thrust into, thanks to this strange new Englishman in boots.
Jake and Alex: aka the Scooby Gang, who manage Agency 355, the “last watchtower of threats otherworldly and supernatural malevolence” (which really sounds more like it belongs in Harry Potter). They are not exactly an original pair. He’s a dreamy believer! She’s hands on and skeptical! But Jerry Mackinnon and Rachel Melvin made them surprisingly fun to watch. Jake in particular is just flat out adorable. His excitement at realizing Crane is the “Captain Brownbeard” he’s been following, and that the supernatural world he wanted to believe in really is true is irresistible. He and Crane had some of the best exchanges:
Crane: Those who ignore history are doomed to….die by its bloody hideous claws.
Jake: I don’t think that’ how that saying goes.
I hope they play up these two. Mison and Mackinnon worked well off each other. And luckily for the reboot Tom Mison’s comedy skills are fully intact. His understated delivery of the line “the Superman” was one of my favorite things in the episode, as was his tiff with the Lin-Manuel Miranda stand-in. That scene with the Hamilton re-enactors was one of the better signs for the new season. You knew they had to do a nod to Hamilton, but conceiving the Hamilton characters as a bunch of smug hipsters was a clever upending of expectations.
The baddie, Malcolm Dreyfuss: The jury is still out on the baddie for season four for me. Jeremy Davies has a weird, off kilter style that is entertaining but the whole “megalomaniacal billionaire” thing is a little Gustav Graves/Montgomery Burns … hopefully he isn’t manufacturing an evil plan to block out the sun. So far we don’t have much idea what’s he’s up to other than he likes the taste of his own blood, he’s very interested in “the Englishman” (who’s accent he makes fun of; Davies is funny, I hope that keeps up) and he has some unusual methods for closing business deals.
Molly, Diana’s daughter: We meet Molly at the very end of the episode, as she’s mysteriously drawing pictures of our own Ichabod Crane. Which is mysterious since she’s never seen him before. (She does have mad fan art skills though.) She’s also stopped talking, coincidentally about the same time that Abbie died and it’s really all very mysterious. Is she the new Witness? If she is, not sure how that plays out since she can’t fight evil as a 10-year old but too soon to tell on this.
The Archives: Ok but you might be thinking, what about the Archives!? The tunnels?! Fear not. Alex and Jake’s library of the supernatural is housed in the Vault which looks a lot like but is totally Not the Archives. And coincidentally a series of tunnels extends from the Not the Archives underneath the city, giving Crane and Diana access to the Lincoln Memorial and who knows what in the future.
They are leaning hard into the new Washington DC setting in this premiere, with establishing shots galore. The National Mall and the Jefferson Memorial were used to gorgeous effect in Crane’s two final scenes, with Jenny and with Diana. Which leads to…
Jenny: Thanks God she’s back and she’s as badass as ever. Actually, Miss Badass, as she corrects Crane. (Lyndie Greenwood and Tom Mison – those two can really elevate what on paper looks like basic action movie dialogue). She is also looking a bit shell shocked, since, in her world, it’s just been 2 weeks since she lost both her boyfriend and her sister. Lyndie Greenwood was a welcome sight when she finally appeared – in a big way – toward the end. She brought her usual grace notes to this tough, no-nonsense character.
So overall, not a bad reboot, with some big open questions still. What the show really needs that isn’t quite there yet is a bond between the characters that was a hallmark of the show. That bond came immediately in the show’s stellar pilot, via the connection between Abbie and Crane. Fortunately, Jenny and Crane still have a strong connection, and the scenes between them were easily the most affecting of the episode. They should have an even stronger connection now that they’re sharing their grief over Abbie, and trying to find their way in this new situation with new people and a new threat. Let’s hope season four gives the two of the plenty of screen time together, even as it builds relationships among the new characters.
Sleepy Hollow’s fourth season continues Fridays (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.