Last week’s episode of Sleepy Hollow began with Abbie Mills extolling the virtues of baseball for Ichabod Crane. Of course, Sleepy Hollow being Sleepy Hollow, where subtext is as conspicuous as a catcher flashing signs, Abbie wasn’t only talking about the American Pastime. She was talking about America, too. Or America as it should be. “For me, baseball is about three things,” she told the 18th-century Rip Van Winkle, recently awakened from a 232-year-long dirt nap. “First, tradition. Rules never change. You can always count on the grass to be green, the lines to be white. No matter how crazy the world gets, it makes you feel safe, like everything is going to be okay. Second, it’s about teamwork. Players have to have faith in each other and watch each other’s backs. Because without that the team won’t work. But what I love is that this sport does not discriminate. You can be a short long reliever or long shortstop, black, white, Hispanic — now that is the American dream.”
Crane’s eyes flashed with enlightenment. Abbie was speaking his language: Logical if fancifully articulated idealism. Like Thomas Paine applying Common Sense to sports. “So baseball represents the spirit of democracy?”
“It is what you guys were fighting for, right?” By “it,” Abbie meant “freedom.” Specifically the freedom the criticize authority, be they leaders of state or arbiters of sporting matches. And so Ichabod exercised the right he and his fellow old-school revolutionaries bled for by rising up and chewing out the umpire. “You! Basket face! I thought only horses slept standing up!”
All this, from a show that re-imagines Washington Irving’s classic 1820 short story as a cheeky-creepy buddy cop apocalypse pop, in which The Headless Horseman is not a twisted joke gone awry but Death, the Pale Rider of Revelations. Yet Sleepy Hollow, now entering the second half of its 13-episode rookie season, seems insistent on being something slightly more interesting than mere escapism; it seems to want to be a kind of light beer alternative to American Horror Story, serving less prickly/tastes great gonzo goth hoppy with mildly subversive subtext. Where AHS is fixated with sex, gender, and race, Sleepy Hollow sweats this “spirit of democracy” business. Are you the kind of American who believes our basic freedoms are currently imperiled? That subversive foreign agents are plotting against us or conspiracies of powerful men are the real movers and shakers of civilization? That the “official version” of anything is a cover-up for something sinister? Then Sleepy Hollow is your man in the stands, exercising his conscience and raging against basket-face authority.
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