Calling all Cortexifans: Here's a successor to Fringe- and you should be watching!

11:04 AM Amanda Prahl 0 Comments

"You are my favorite thing, Peter. My very favorite thing." And for five glorious seasons, Fringe was a favorite thing for millions of fans who loved its unique blend of outrageously creative and creepy sci-fi mythology, thoughtful philosophy, and emotionally rich character arcs. In today's TV milieu, dominated by anti-hero cable dramas and sharp-tongued sitcoms, there is little, if anything, that captures a similar spirit of adventure and darkness alongside a healthy dose of hope. But with last season's breakout hit Sleepy Hollow, it seems the spirit (no pun intended) of Fringe may once again be on our TVs. Here's four reasons why you should be watching, Fringe fan or not.

Sleepy Hollow cast, image (c) Fox
1. The basic tone and setup is ridiculously reminiscent of Fringe.
Complicated, capable heroine with a supernaturally-messed-up childhood? Check. Leading man with scruffy good looks and a knack for sarcasm? Check. Parent-child relationships that make your family look like a Hallmark card? Tiny fragment within giant bureaucracy, assigned to investigating anything that falls under the category of "completely bananas"? Check. Heck, we've even got the semi-stoic chief with family-vs-job problems. The core elements that make up Sleepy Hollow are, at heart, the same building blocks we loved on Fringe. Given that some of the same creators are behind both shows, perhaps that's no surprise. But in case you fear that it's just a Fringe-rehash, know that the different approaches to these elements are what still allow for the most delightful, sometimes terrifying, surprises. It's easy to watch the first few episodes and feel like we're in a sub-par sci-fi procedural, to be sure. But remember, Fringe took a while to get off its feet, too. Give it a chance- you'll be glad you did. 

2. Despite the supernatural creepiness and gore (and there is plenty), it's still a show with love at its core.
One of the oft-cited highlights of Fringe was its bravery, in a genre-TV landscape where "gritty" is the buzzword of the moment, to be a show with a remarkably positive worldview. At its heart, it was a story about the power of love as salvation.  And, much like its spiritual predecessor, Sleepy Hollow has a premise filled with the wonders of human connection. Like Fringe, its mythology centers on an act of love to save a loved one from certain death. But instead of a parent's love for their child, Sleepy Hollow's act of supernatural-horror-unleashing love comes from a wife- powerful witch Katrina Crane- to her husband, Ichabod.
Image (c) Sleepy Hollow/Fox
This plot point is what makes it such a shame that, unlike Peter and Walter Bishop's complex and powerfully moving relationship, the relationship between Ichabod and Katrina remains one of the weakest points of the show. Instead, it is utterly overshadowed by Ichabod's (currently) platonic bond with Abbie Mills, his soulmate-in-prophecied-apocalypse.

And speaking of "Miss Mills"...

3. Nicole Beharie as Lt. Abbie Mills. Full stop.
Sure, there are plenty of genre-TV heroines these days, but few are as complex, real, and endearing as Lieutenant Grace Abigail Mills. For fans of Fringe, she is every bit a worthy successor to Olivia Dunham, though a little more emotionally open than Olivia was at this point in her story. She's haunted by demonic horrors from her childhood, but also from the guilt and strain of pretending they never happened. Her relationship with her sister is full to the brim with years of betrayal, love, guilt, distrust, and redemption. Her partner is a centuries-old professor/conspiracy member, yet she maintains a healthy amount of skepticism and sarcasm. There is a palpable connection between this dashing hero and her, yet she is not defined by any sort of romantic tension. Abbie manages to be a gun-toting, capable action heroine without sacrificing her femininity or her role as the series' emotional anchor.

And she is a brave, active character, someone who acts instead of being acted upon. There are probably essays to be written about the fact that she does this as a woman of color on a genre show, but I'll leave that discussion for another day and simply note it as one more factor in what makes Abbie (and her portrayer Beharie) so extraordinary and compelling.  
Image (c) Sleepy Hollow/Fox
4. John Noble, doing what he does best. (warning: this item contains major spoilers!)
We all know Noble from his stunning work as guilty, kind, brilliant, and somewhat mad Walter Bishop on Fringe. At the heart of his nuanced portrayal was the complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately redemptive relationship between Walter and his son-from-another-dimension, Peter.

On Sleepy Hollow, Noble once again takes on the task of portraying one half of a supernaturally-fractured father-son relationship. At first, it appears Henry Parrish is a version of Walter, kind and compassionate with a growing fatherly affection for our young hero. But in a wonderful, unexpected twist, Noble is revealed to not be playing the father figure, but the resentful, bitter son: Jeremy Crane.

In moments, the kindly man vanishes into the cold Horseman of War. With Noble confirmed as a series regular for Season 2, we can only imagine what his talents will be turned to this year.

Sleepy Hollow returns Monday, September 22 at 9/8c on Fox. I'll be watching- will you join me?