Sleepy Hollow is a network drama about a small town cop and a Revolutionary War soldier fighting demons and researching the secret history of the United States as they try to avert the Biblical Apocalypse. It’s a strange little show, with horror elements that mark it as a descendent of Buffy and The X-Files and conspiracy genes that show its debt to The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure. It’s also completely wonderful. And bonkers.
The second season premieres next Monday (9/22) on Fox, so now’s the perfect time to get caught up on season one! In honor of this, here are our top ten reasons you should be watching Sleepy Hollow:
1. Nicole Beharie as Lt. Abbie Mills. It’s unusual to have a petite black woman as the well-developed lead in a supernatural TV show (or, let’s be real, any TV show). Abbie is the smart, no-nonsense, kick-ass center of the show, and Beharie is fantastic.
2. The awesome diversity of the cast – and the general awesomeness of the cast. The cast and creators have spoken frequently about how important it is to have a show that represents the diversity of its viewers. Well over half of the main and recurring casts are people of color, and while race isn’t ignored in the script, it also isn’t the focus. It also bears mentioning that the excellence of the cast is pretty ridiculous: John Cho, Orlando Jones, Amandla Stenberg, Lyndie Greenwood, Clancy Brown, Nicholas Gonzalez, and John Noble (to name a few) backing up Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison seems almost too good to be true!
3. It plays with history in hilarious and excellent ways. Crane’s constant need to correct modern interpretations of his time forces us to acknowledge the way that history is rewritten over time. At the same time, characters like Abbie and Irving aren’t afraid to tell it like it is (was?), correcting Crane’s privileged views (like when they break the news about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings). At the same time as all this real talk, the show creates an alternative history in which George Washington was successfully resurrected from the dead (a thing his doctors actually tried to do, by the way) and the secrets to preventing the apocalypse are hidden in his Bible.
4. Sleepy Hollow knows just how insane its premise is, and it embraces its own camp elements. As cultural critic Susan Sontag famously wrote, camp happens when you extravagantly embrace the ridiculous stylization of your decidedly silly idea. The premise of Sleepy Hollow is appropriately silly. (The secrets to averting the apocalypse are found in Washington’s Bible? Really?) And the show has oh so much fun making it sillier and sillier: when an evil witch, for example, is preying on the people of Sleepy Hollow, the show samples Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft” and, in the next episode, during a sequence riffing on Sandman folklore, the soundtrack flips over to The Chordettes’ “Mr Sandman”. You’d never accuse this show of taking itself too seriously.
5. This is a show with a male and a female lead in which the pair’s romantic attraction does not figure into their relationship. Abbie and Ichabod rely upon each other and care for each other, but the show is utterly uninterested in the will-they-won’t-they dynamic that defines all too many relationships between men and women on TV shows. (In fact, the show goes to some effort early on to let both Abbie and Ichabod assert that they’re not romantically interested in each other.) Instead, they just have a fantastic friendship, complete with teasing, trust, and heckling little league baseball games.
6. An awesome – and conscientious – depiction of disability. Frank Irving’s daughter, Macey, has recently started using a wheelchair because she was injured in a car accident that Irving blames himself for. But whenever he acts differently toward her and moves to pity her for what she has lost, Macey calls her father on his privilege. In a late episode in the first season, then, when Macey is in danger from the supernatural forces of evil that plague the characters in this show, Irving affirms that he knows that she is still strong and apologizes for ever believing that she might need “fixing.”
7. John Noble being wonderfully enigmatic and creepy. For those of us who are still mourning the end of The Lord of the Rings film franchise, of Fringe, and of the wonderful venues these provided for Noble’s particular brand of slightly sinister, slightly unstable character work, Sleepy Hollow gives him a wonderful stage.
8. The number of amazing female characters, and the genuine interest that the writers and actors show in exploring the relationships between these women. Half of the principle cast are women, and a number of additional women play interesting and complex recurring roles on the show. These women have strong personalities, nuanced relationships, and awesome lines. Yes, most of them can hold their own in a fight. But Sleepy Hollow understands that having strong female characters doesn’t just mean putting your female characters through training in mixed martial arts. Instead, this show embraces assertive, funny, powerful, and caring women who make their own fates.
9. Ichabod Crane has a lot of fish out of water scenes, and they are superb. More than 230 years after he was killed by the Horseman, Ichabod has a LOT of culture to catch up on: cell phones, Starbucks, the “nin-na-net,” skinny jeans, fist bumps, chained pens, and showers are all new and puzzling for him, which provides endless entertainment for us.
10. Fans call themselves Sleepyheads. Which is adorable.