Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sleepy Hollow

If you've read Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (my students have!), and if you've watched any of the episodes of the new Fox series Sleepy Hollow, you know that the only resemblance between the two is a few names (the Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel) and the setting near Tarrytown, NY. Just about every other thing is totally different.

(Here's a link to the text of the original story.)

The gawky, superstitious, clueless, ever-hungry, timorous teacher/singing master whom Irving created is now an action hero of the American Revolution (it was he who beheaded the Horseman in battle--about the same time that the Horseman killed him); he has risen from the dead in contemporary Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown (no one in that town, by the way, appears to have read Irving, either--and, FYI, the mascot of the actual Sleepy Hollow High, I kid you not, is The Horseman). The task of  the new Ichabod (who attended Oxford University) is not to court Katrina or survive another day in a one-room schoolhouse; it's to battle the evil forces who/that have ridden out of the Book of Revelation to threaten Life As We Know It. Yikes.

Katrina, who toyed with and dumped Crane in the original story, is now an ethereal creature, once married to Ichabod; she now lives in some kind of Between World (she visits him--and at least one other--in dreams and in other ways). Crane has teamed up with Lt. Abbie Mills, a Sleepy Hollow cop, a young attractive African American woman who has issues. Her sister has even more issues. The police captain is comfortably credulous and lets Lt. Mills--oh, hell, let's be informal: Abbie--pretty much run around wherever she needs to in order to save humankind. Decent of him. Although he does revert from time to time to his role as crusty captain--not willing to commit--not until Abbie or Ichabod convinces him it's time to act. (What a fresh idea!)

I really like the guy who portrays Crane--Tom Mison--who gives him a kind of intellectual gravity and some humor, as well (and who has a sort of Sherlockian capability, too). I think, though (and we've seen, via DVR, only about a half-dozen of the episodes), that it's time he changed his clothes. He's worn the same since he crawled out of the grave in Episode One--after having lain there since the Revolutionary War. I'm guessing he's got to smell a little ripe ... overripe.

Abbie's character also has a solid player in the role--Nicole Beharie--and there's some sexual electricity between Ichabod and her; we wonder how Katrina will deal with it. I also love the interplay between the two as Ichabod tries to learn about the modern world. One funny moment: He tries to remove the clear, hard plastic cover from some product he's bought. (I've been there, done that--rather, failed to have done that.)

The gore in the show is not too gory--just enough to elicit an ugh! now and then. The writing is decent, sometimes even very good. In my view, it's better in the scenes when some apocalyptic creature is not in action.

Of course, the writers have made another major change from Irving's tale, which has no religious thrust. (In fact, we're convinced that it's only a disguised Brom Bones who has done the riding--not an actual Hessian trooper who lost his head in battle--all in an attempt to humiliate Crane and frighten him away.) The writers ask us to accept that the Book of Revelation is literally true--I'd rather not think so, thank you--and that Ichabod Crane (Ichabod Crane!), back from the dead, is the only one who can save us. That's quite a premise.

I'm not sure I'm going to watch any more episodes. They've become formulaic (a Bad Thing arrives;some heads go missing;  the Good Things win by the end of the hour)--and I think I'd rather read that classic tale that Washington Irving, who lies now in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, published nearly 200 years ago (1820).

Oh, and for true entertainment, you've got to watch the Disney cartoon of the tale--one of the first films I can remember seeing, probably because the Headless Horseman scared the hell out of me.  Here's a link to it.

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