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Not So Sleepy After All

“Sleepy Hollow” left John W. Otte a little sleepy. And a little angry. Find out why in today’s post.
| Sep 25, 2013 | No comments |

So I thought I’d take a break from whatever it was I was doing to talk fall TV. This week, a lot of my favorite shows have either returned or will return (such as How I Met Your Mother, Arrow, or Castle). And there are a few new shows that I’ve been salivating over for a while (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., anyone?). But there was one that I felt somewhat compelled to check out, and that was Sleepy Hollow.

I have no idea why, truth be told. I’m not normally a big fan of the horror genre. Well, unless it’s found footage movies. Or video games starring a certain Internet-spawned monster. Or old X-Files episodes. Okay, maybe I should have said I occasionally enjoy horror stories if they fall within certain parameters.

sleepy-hollow-bannerBecause of those parameters, I should be a huge fan of Sleepy Hollow. It sounded like my kind of show. Sort of an X-Files-without-the-aliens type of deal. So I recorded the premier and this past Monday’s episode and recently, I watched them back-to-back. Having seen two hours of it, I can now render my honest opinion.

Meh. Or, more specifically, meh with just a touch of eye rolling.

For those of you who didn’t catch it (and yes, there will be some minor spoilers here), the show is about Ichabod Crane, a professor/Revolutionary War soldier who beheads a British soldier. Predictably, this soldier turns out to be the Headless Horseman. In the fight, Crane is injured and he passes out. When he comes to, he’s in modern day Sleepy Hollow. Unfortunately, so is the Headless Horseman, who’s going around lopping off the noggins of various folk. A sheriff’s deputy (whose name I don’t remember even after watching two episodes of this show) winds up investigating the murders and teams up with Crane to stop the Horseman. It turns out that there are witches involved and apocalyptic stakes, because the Horseman, it turns out, is one of the…Four Horseman.


I’ll come back to this in a bit. After watching those two episodes, I think I’m done. Part of the reason why is because of the uneven writing, especially when it comes to Ichabod Crane. This is a guy who “fell asleep” in the eighteenth century and woke up in the twenty-first. At times, he appeared to be completely lost in this strange world. At others, he blended in a little too well. For example, in the second episode, we see Crane wake up in a hotel room. He’s naturally quite confused about all the modern accoutrements. To help him, there are Post-It Notes on everything. A lamp has a helpful note reminding him how to turn it on and off. The shower has numerous instructions about how to start the water (in spite of which he still does a pratfall when the water actually hits him). There’s a big note on the coffee maker instructing him how to turn it on. And so on.

Then, later in the episode, he reveals that he has an eidetic memory. Sheriff-Lady asks, “A photographic memory?” And Crane simply nods. Which begs the question: how does he know what photographic means? More puzzling to me is why he’d need all the cheat sheets in his motel room if he truly can remember everything he’s seen. Clearly, his eidetic memory failed him.

And not just in how to use modern plumbing. Apparently he never paid close attention when he was reading his Bible before he got thrown into the future. At one point, he calls the Headless Horsemen one of the Four Horseman from the Book of “Revelations.”

Again, I say, “Oy!”

It’s actually a pet peeve of mine when people make the last book of the Bible plural. And this feeds into what really disappointed me about this show. It isn’t the silliness of the Headless Horseman striding through a graveyard using a pump-action shotgun. It isn’t the stereotypical “white vs. black magic” blather. It’s not even the fact that George Washington was apparently in some sort of shadow war to prevent the apocalypse. I mean, if Honest Abe used to stake vampires, who am I to deny our First President a more active role in the supernatural?

No, what bothered me about this was the ham-fisted way the writers tried to smear a patina of piety over the whole premise by making the Headless Horsemen the rider on the pale horse. Or the way that they strongly hinted that Ichabod Crane is one of the Two Witnesses from Revelation 11. Or the way that they’ll probably continue to create a Frankenstein-esque monstrosity by cherry-picking verses out of Revelation and giving them a slightly pagan twist. It’s almost like they’re trying to use this paper-thin “exegesis” as a smoke-screen against offended Christians. “Oh, it’s not as bad as all that! See? We’re using the Bible!”

Maybe I’m being too sensitive. Maybe this just isn’t the show for me. But this is where I disembark.

But I’m curious: What shows are you watching this fall? Which ones are your faves? Which ones have let you down?

John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he’s a Lutheran minister, husband, and father of two. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes unusual stories of geeky grace. He lives in Blue Springs, Missouri, with his wife and two boys. Keep up with him at JohnWOtte.com.

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I caught the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last night. I thought it was good though it didn’t blow me away. I’ll definitely keep watching, just because I’m a huge comics fan, and sometimes it takes these shows a little while to find their legs. Honestly, the show would have to get really bad for me to stop watching.

Did you see it?


I plan to watch S.H.I.E.L.D for sure.

As for Sleepy Hollow (which I was really excited about) I watched the last 45 min of the pilot episode. My response to the Four Horsemen thing was something like, “whaaaaaaaat? Really?” but I was willing to give it a shot, because, after all, it is fiction. And fiction that brings Christian elements into the mix always gets my attention.

And then I saw the end scene with the creepy creature walking away into the woods.

I’m not ashamed to admit that it freaked me out–on a spiritual level. Yup. When I get a feeling like that (I dunno, it’s like a so-cold-it’s-hot pain that shoots through my soul and leaves it trembling) I tend to take it seriously. So, yeah, I won’t be tuning in anymore, but I am curious to hear what others thought about it. I know not everything affects all Christians the same way.

Lacee Hogg

The creature at the end creeped me out, too! It definitely seemed different than the rest of the show.


I also watched the first two episodes of Sleepy Hollow. I found the writing sloppy and lazy and the research ridiculous. Since when does the most wanted man– “crazy” on top of that–in your city accused of killing your sheriff gets escorted to the squad car by one lone officer and chit-chats while the deputy rummages in the trunk and then gets to sit in the front seat on the way to a psych eval? After this faux pas, the story lost me. I understand suspension of belief, but the writers didn’t even enact proper police protocol and procedure in that scene–at minimum! And a quick perusal of the book of Revelation would have shown the writers the book’s proper spelling and pronunciation–among other things. I think the writers are relying too much on special effects and shock value to make up for bad story-telling. I predict the show won’t last long.

I’ll keep an eye on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but I don’t feel compelled to watch it. But I will definitely be watching The Goldbergs–funny, outrageous, nostalgic.


I’m currently watching the first episode of Agents of Shields. My younger brother caught the last quarter hour on TV (despite never seeing Avengers) and thought it looked interesting.

Ralene Burke
Ralene Burke

Yeah, I didn’t really like Sleepy Hollow either. It’s okay, I don’t really want to add to much to my TV list this season. I watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and enjoyed it enough to watch the next episode. I’m not typically a big super hero movie person (No, I haven’t seen Iron Man … any of them.), but the show looked interesting enough.

I’m looking for a good fantasy replacement since Merlin is over. πŸ™ I know the CW has Reign coming out in October, but it’s CW so I’m not getting my hopes up too much–but I’ll check out the pilot.

And of course loving my usuals: Bones, Castle, and The Vampire Diaries (my guilty pleasure).

Shannon McNear

Well, that’s disappointing. They probably didn’t get their RevWar era research right, either! πŸ˜€

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Persons of Interest, Castle, The Good Wife.

And yes, I watched the first episode of Sleepy Hollow. You made good points, John, as did the other commenters, about the quality of writing/research. I suspect the creators/writers are thinking the scare factor will carry the show. I admit I expected there to be more of a connection to Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” That was one of my favorites growing up, so I was rather disappointed in . . . most everything. But I thought I’d give it another try. Fox re-aired the first episode on Saturday (or was it Friday?) and I’m hoping they do so for episode two also.


Morgan Busse

I haven’t seen it, and probably won’t now, partly because I can’t do horror, and then what you brought up. Enjoyed Shield, looking forward to Arrow, can’t wait for Continuum to come to the internet (we don’t have cable so I’m always a season behind unless the station puts it on the internet) and love, love, love the new Korra season.

I’m with you, Ralene. I need my fantasy fix. Merlin was great, right up until the end. Then it flopped πŸ™


I have to disagree. I found the use of the Bible, while very loose, entertaining.

I wrote a review of both episodes at (EP001 – http://wp.me/p37kAZ-1cR) and (EP002 – http://wp.me/p37kAZ-1e5). Also The SciFi Christian did a write up of the first episode at (EP001 – http://tinyurl.com/lv63pq8).


Oh and as to the other shows I watch.

Agents of SHIELD – DVR’ed can’t wait to see it.

Haven – Interesting return after Audrey went into the barn.

Revolution – Returns tonight will be at church and DVR it

Arrow – Can’t wait for that to come back

Once Upon a Time – Starts this Sunday

Pretty Little Liars – Watch with teenage daughter and is interesting.

Ravenswood – Spin off of Pretty not sure yet.

Tomorrow People – Can’t wait, I was a big fan of the original and John from the original has a recurring guest.

Under the Dome – Half way through the first season on DVR and enjoying it.

Falling Skies – Can’t wait for return but not until 2014.

Atlantis – Has a November BBC America airing and looking forward to it.

I think that is about it.


If “Sleepy Hollow” was big and dumb enough, I think it could work in a mindlessly entertaining way. I don’t have much faith in the horror genre for sense-making. It doesn’t even have the excuse of “Silent Hill” (the [American] movie adaptation of the Japanese video game) for having a Japanese surface (mis)understanding of Christianity.

R. J. Anderson

To riff off of notleia’s comment, IMO Sleepy Hollow is big and dumb and knows exactly just how big and dumb it is, which is why it actually worked for me. Yes, the Biblical stuff is eye-rollingly bad and so for that matter is the “history” of the witch hunts and the population of Sleepy Hollow (which is, in reality, less than 10% of the 144,000 they needed for that particular Biblical allusion). Which makes me on the verge of deciding that the show takes place in an alternate universe version of Earth where both the Bible and American history are different.

(Whether speculating about an alternate universe where the Bible is different is worthwhile or not is left as an exercise to the viewer, but at least then it might make sense that both Abbie and Ichabod referred to the “Book of RevelationS”. Maybe it actually IS called that in their universe!)

I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll go on watching the show or for how long, because I am really not fond of stuff focusing on demons, witches and other supernatural creatures of horror, and the more the show goes into that the farther I am from enjoying it.

BUT, I was completely charmed by Ichabod’s dry humor, and I adore Abbie, and I think the show does a lot of interesting things that we don’t often see on television (GOOD things, like having a non-white female lead in a show that isn’t “about” race, and making Abbie a likeable, capable, compassionate character who is a woman rather than the cliched “Strong Female Character” who is basically just an exaggerated action-hero male in a woman’s body, and having a truly multicultural cast where the PoC characters are regulars and not window dressing or cannon fodder).

In short, I like it with reservations, and time will tell. But I adore the main characters and the emotional beats, and that’s a big thing for me.

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Glad you weighed in RJ. I wondered what you thought. I saw some of your tweets but it was before I’d seen the show so I didn’t know what to make of half of them. πŸ˜‰


H.G. Ferguson
H.G. Ferguson

Sleepy Hollow embodies all the worst trends in television horror and even in some horror stories. We hit the ground running, pant, pant, pant, pant, and we keep running pant, pant, pant, pant, no atmosphere, no build-up of mood of any kind and all of the comments re the misuse of Scripture, Ichabod’s adjustment to the modern world are all dead on. This show makes no attempt whatsoever to anchor itself to the “real world,” i.e., the world without the weird, making the whole thing ridiculous. There is no way today cops could have an ineffective firefight with a headless horseman and then “they recanted” and we forget all about it. Nor can a resurrected corpse just leave the morgue, steal a police patrol car and drive around without the whole county police force looking for the stolen car. Impossible. Not real. If the “non-weird” becomes unreal, the “weird” becomes even more so. For horror to “work” the “real world” must be given its place, just as Tolkien advocated making his fantasy world as “real” as possible. We all know how THAT turned out πŸ™‚ precisely BECAUSE he succeeded so well. Horror is not different, even “speculative Christian horror” — weirdness on page one, or minute 1 if on television, doesn’t work either. Case in point: the first two seasons of SUPERNATURAL were anchored to the “real world” in almost every episode. By season 3 however, it tailspinned into a visual comic book and now we have things happening so outrageously unbelievable my wife and I have bailed. Sleepy Hollow does the same thing, only right out the gate. We’re bailing on that too, having concluded episode 2.

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