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Heather’s TV Goodness All-Stars 2013: Sleepy Hollow’s Tom Mison 

Photo Credit: FOX
Photo Credit: FOX

This past fall was a busy season of brand new TV shows, but life was such that I took a gamble on exactly two out of the gate–Betrayal, which unfortunately didn’t maintain the allure of the pilot, and Sleepy Hollow, which paid off huge and became appointment TV for me pretty much by the time it went to its first commercial. Equal parts heart, humor, and horror, the show is a wonderful mash-up of historical drama, ghost story, and police procedural that works precisely because of the gamesmanship of the cast to just go with it, regardless of what it is (Exhibit A: Orlando Jones). Anchoring the whole affair is the lovely and talented Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane, a man literally out of time when he’s reawakened to a world that’s very different from the one he left during the American Revolutionary War. I affectionately call him The Bod.

While Crane had the potential to be a hugely damaged character, Mison plays him straight–as a man handed a terribly sad and complex fate who still soldiers on simply because there is no alternative. He’s resolute in his determination to get back to his wife, Katrina, who’s trapped in Purgatory, and to honor his seemingly fated assignation, alongside Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), that they are preordained by the book of Revelations to save the world.

He’s also wondrously childlike as he discovers how far we have and haven’t come and the ascension of technology. He’s frank when asking Abbie about slavery and when he questions how the Native Americans could have been treated so badly since his time. He’s baffled that scores of missing children are accepted as commonplace, and then he’s shocked, appalled, and slightly intrigued when he stumbles into a live sex show on the Internet. He’s also delighted when Abbie explains how baseball works (a funny wink, nod to the World Series pre-empts).

Mison also makes Ichabod terrifying in defense of his family. In “Necromancer,” when they finally capture the Horseman, he leads the interrogation and learns things he didn’t want to know. And in “Sanctuary,” when he finds out that a malevolent being condemned Katrina to flee with his son, he takes an axe to it until he’s soaked in blood.

Photo Credit: FOX
Photo Credit: FOX

And finally, Mison is heartbreaking in the little moments when the unrelenting losses of his life register, and when he acknowledges a surprising, and welcome, kinship with Abbie. In “Sin Eater,” when he seems about to meet death to take out the Horseman, he tells Abbie how much it’s meant to him to find her here in this time, and later when they learn their friendship has traveled down the line of their families from centuries earlier, it’s a quiet, sweet, sad acknowledgement of all the sacrifices both their families have made.

In the last episode before the hiatus, “Golem,” Crane learned what his son had endured after Katrina surrendered him, and faced the Golem he had manifested as a weapon. When Crane finally defeats it, he sits, with it as it dies, wishing it peace, and saying all the things he will never say to his son. He tearfully thanks the Golem for being his son’s protector. Mison sells it completely as Crane weeps and essentially tells the son he never knew goodbye.

And that’s why Tom Mison is one of my 2013 TV Goodness All-Stars–in his first leading TV series role, he brings an enormous range of emotion to a character that could have been a straight fish-out-of-water caricature. Instead, that “otherness” in Crane is just one small piece. The honor and code of who Crane was then balances out with what he’s learning now, and he rolls on as he uses his own abilities–eidetic memory and an expansive knowledge of history, science, and technology–and learns new things about this world he’s been dropped into, and the family he left behind.

Mison is an actor who says reams with his physicality. Almost in opposition to how heavy Crane’s burden should be, Mison makes Crane light and lithe–and the waistcoat doesn’t hurt–he’s always moving quickly (and kudos to Beharie, who’s easily a foot shorter, for keeping up with him) and he can bow and scrape or drop cross-legged to the floor on a dime. He’s also wonderfully expressive, whether it’s a glance, or a smile, or just a flicker of something unsaid dancing across his eyes. He’s immensely watchable. He’s also supremely capable at rattling off Crane’s 18th century vocabulary.

FOX has historically been unkind to me in keeping shows that I love. Human Target was my last show on the network, back in 2011. I’m so glad I took a chance on Sleepy Hollow and was rewarded in spades. The only downside is that we’re almost done for the season, since the network capped it at 13 episodes this year. It returns January 13th for the last of three new episodes. You can catch the last five episodes of the season online now.

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