Having seen the first episode of this new series, I was reasonably impressed. It takes an old legend and puts a new spin on it. However, the strength of the pilot was less in its concept (though well done), but in how they executed it.
* Possible spoilers ahead * (I’ll try not to, but you’ve been warned)
The show itself is about the return of the Headless Horseman, though in truth he’s a warrior from the American war of independence (the British side). The Horseman is slain in combat by Ichabod Crane, who also succumbs to his wounds.
Flash forward several hundred years or so and Crane wakes up in a cave, supposedly preserved and confused. The Horseman is also ‘awake’ and starts taking heads. Enter the police, and one Lt. Abbie Mills (well played by Nicole Beharie). Conflict ensues, and we are introduced to a demonic plot and at least two covens of spellcasters. I’ll leave it at that for the plot, as you’re better off watching it for yourselves.
What the story does do very well, is avoid excess complexity. Rather than infodumping the viewer with massive amounts of backstory, the show starts with the battle where the Horseman and Crane are wounded, then jumps forward to Crane waking up in the cave. There’s enough to get a sense of what’s going on, but hey, there’s more story to tell so let’s get moving.
As the story continues, each character is introduced with enough information to give them a place and role in the story, and they develop with the story. Information is given in the right amount at the right time to both keep the story moving and give the view the information needed to stay involved. I thought the handling of pacing was well done.
The conflict set up in the show was also clear, simple, and uncomplicated. There's a situation, a bad guy, and the good guys, and they go after the bad guy because that's what you do. This isn’t to say it wasn’t interesting. Far from it. However, rather than some convoluted plot that will stretch over three episodes, it set up a villain, the plot behind the villain, and allowed the characters to pursue the conflict to the conclusion, and wrapped up the story within the eipsode. At the end, they introduced more plot hooks and subplots, including some cool surprises, that clearly will work to sustain the overall story arc for a few (hopefully) more seasons.
Finally, what impressed me was the way the characters adapted to the really weird stuff happening in the episode. Granted, many wouldn’t believe the stories of the Horseman (you know, the whole headless part), as well as Crane’s time-suspending stasis, when the evidence comes in (and the Horseman is standing right there), the characters adapt and work with what’s in front of them. This includes the police chief and an assortment of other characters. A few jokes are made (Crane: “you’ve been emancipated then?”) and that’s it. On with the story, because there’s now a headless whackjob out there murdering people, so we have stuff to do. They ran the balance between disbelief and practicality, which was refreshing. The writers stuck with the story, rather than get caught up in what would have been a tiresome gag.
Overall, a thumbs up for the first episode. Episode 2 is on the PVR and ready for tonight’s viewing and I’m looking forward to where this show goes. I see potential for some good things here.