I was not ready for this show to be so entertaining! The commercial made it look serious and maybe kind of dumb, but a subject that's right up my alley and perfect for this time of year; the reality was much neater, better looking, snappier, and walks that line right between silly and scary like Supernatural and Buffy and Blood Ties do.
The backstory is pretty much like the story we all know, but with a lot of additions. Here, Crane is a former English history teacher turned spy for the Revolutionary army, who is given the task of taking out a mercenary that is known only by a brand on his hand. He beheads him, but it doesn't stop him, and he gets killed in the process. You know, until he wakes up under a cellar in the woods the same night the Horseman returns.
Abbie is a Lieutenant (which Crane pronounces in that lovely English way like there's an F in it), partner to the Sheriff, who is there when the Horseman lops off his head. She knows she saw something weird and so she doesn't take Crane immediately to a loonybin, since he seems to be the only one who knows--or at least thinks he knows--what's going on, and she investigates her dead partner's office and finds secret files about two separate covens of witches, one good and one evil, who have always existed in the town and seem to be at perpetual war.
And basically the show is bonkers. Here's some of the other stuff that happens:
- The Horseman needs his head back to get his full power, and the head happens to be in some sort of containment unit--and still alive--and sort of zombie-ish.
- Crane's wife was one of the witches, probably good but who knows yet, and was tried and convicted of witchcraft after his 'death', but isn't really quite dead. She's some sort of ghost who can communicate through dreams, and may or may not be a bird in the normal world.
- Abbie and her sister had an encounter with a demon when they were in high school, and her sister went off her nut from it; Abbie went super-soldier and was about to transfer to Quantico before she realized that she has a mission here now.
- The Horseman is actually Death--as in Of The Apocalypse--and there's three other Horsemen still to come according to the preview at the end of the episode.
- The demon Abbie and her sister saw is some sort of advance force of the Apocalypse, sent to earth to bring about the end of the world, helped by one coven of witches and fought by another, and is the creepiest thing I've seen on TV in ages.
- Andy (John Cho) is on one side of the battle, the one opposite Abbie, and her Boss (Orlando Jones) seems to be shifty but hasn't declared for one side or the other yet.
- The Horseman discovers semiautomatic weapons. He comes at them with a machine gun.
- There are four evil trees?
Like I said, nutbars. But somehow it manages to be bright and engaging and has patches of just lovely banter. O-Jo isn't overacting the way he sometimes has in the past, and turns out to be pretty good at being a boss and possibly a shifty dude. The chemistry is good between Crane and Abbie, and the fact that he was progressive for his time but hopelessly oldfashioned for ours is amusing and sometimes awkward. The tone seems to be what Grimm was going for--there's a lot of similarities there, the cops, the secret societies of occultists, the demons, the shifty boss--but it does it so much better than Grimm does; this show is something I want to watch again, whereas Grimm is sort of tepid, something I'll watch when I remember it's on, but not something I was really hooked by, despite the fact that it sounds like it's exactly what I like in a show.
The commercials showed no indication that Crane was smart or snarky, or that he was so adorably befuddled by the modern world and yet adapting to it as best as he can, and that's a shame because that's often the best part of his scenes. He's tough, but he's also at a loss and doing the best he can. It makes him instantly likable, and it was a good call on the writers' part.
Abbie, too, is tough, but she's not just the sassy black girl she could have been. She's only as sassy as is believable for someone who's pretty buttoned up after a harrowing experience when she was a kid that drove her sister mad and that made people doubt her sanity, too. But that experience also makes her understanding of Crane's situation, and forms a connection between them that feels natural and understandable, and gives them a reason to work together.
Overall, I liked it. I was liveblogging my reactions and opinions on Tumblr as I watched it, and it was interesting to see it forming an instant fandom as it aired--it's exactly the sort of show, so far, that people who like Supernatural and have been looking for something else with that flavor love on sight, and we all know the Supernatural fandom is a powerful one. If FOX was trying to get some of that power for itself, they seem to have gone exactly the way they should have.
Let's hope they leave it alone and let it grow naturally.
What did you think? Share in the comments below!