Sleepy Hollow: The New Supernatural?

The other day, I Facebook messaged a college friend who recently moved to Florida. She and I gush and trade gossip about Supernatural regularly as a means to keep in touch, and that day was no different. “Hey,” I said. “Have you started watching Sleepy Hollow, yet?!!?” She replied with an indifferent “Eh.”  When I asked what her hesitation was, she explained what should have been obvious to me all along: Sleepy Hollow was pretty obviously ripping off Supernatural.

At the risk of starting a fan war, she has a point.

I kept watching Sleepy Hollow and the similarities kept piling up. That demon that pops up in the first episode as a eerily blurry figure in the forest to resurrect the four horsemen of apocalypse sounds like something straight out of the Supernatural writers’ room because is it: That’s almost the exact plot line from season five of the show.  Supernatural practically invented the apocalypse plotline for television; there’s a new one every season. And the headless horseman as Death? Yeah, we’ve seen Death before, too and he’s way more likeable over with Winchesters. As the show progresses, more horseman are revealed—as was the case in Supernatural.

Last week’s Sleepy Hollow episode, “John Doe,” dealt directly with the missing American colony of Roanoke—as I watched I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The parallel to the Supernatural episode “Croatoan” was so direct that it bordered on homage. Sleepy Hollow is dealing with some serious biblical end-times shenanigans here, but that’s territory we’ve seen covered, and well, for coming up on nine years with Sam and Dean. Devils, demons, angels, Lucifer himself—God is the only character who hasn’t had made his appearance yet. That’s what Supernatural does: it reinvents biblical myths for the small screen.

I keep watching Sleepy Hollow because I want to know where this new show will diverge from its predecessor. There are so many aspects of it that I’m hooked on already, just five episodes in: Crane’s sharp and snarky wit partnered with all-around badass Abbie Mills is such a charming combo—throw Orlando Jones in there (who might be in a coven?) and I’m watching for the characters more than for what seems so far to be a copy-cat plot line. The diversity of the cast is extraordinary and it is such a pleasure to see television actively casting minorities in leading roles. The female characters, too, are complex and subversive. As a lady-geek, seeing women break into this genre of television makes me glow. Diversity and women are two things Supernatural seriously lacks and if Sleepy Hollow thinks they can fill in the gap, I welcome the change.

The truth is, I might just be bitter fan not ready to let go of my favorite demon-fighting brothers. Because Sleepy Hollow is shaping up to be a seriously good show: suspenseful, scary, with palpable chemistry between the characters—all the markers of what makes Supernatural great, too. I remember watching it for the first time and thinking “Are you kidding me? Demons?” It was the emotional bonds and the relationships formed and broken between characters that turned me into a true fangirl. I gave up criticizing the often silly plotlines and just enjoyed watching Sam and Dean argue in the Impala. I think Sleepy Hollow has the same potential. Maybe what is similar about the two shows is actually what makes them both great.

Elisabeth Sherman is a graduate student Columbia University. You can follow her on twitter.


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