Sleepy Hollow S1 Ep01 and Ep02 — Pilot and Blood Moon

FOX’s Sleepy Hollow (airing Mondays at 9:00 PM EST), with its 24-like ratings, looks like it probably won’t be trotting off into the moonlight anytime soon. So, before we get into regular weekly reviews, let’s get caught up.

The show is loosely — very loosely — based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving’s creepy 1820 ghost story laced with old-timey pranks, food porn, and heartbreak. In the story, the late Diedrich Knickerbocker recounts the tale of Tarry Town, NY, aka Sleepy Hollow, a quaint valley believed to be haunted by the Headless Horseman, a Hessian soldier beheaded in battle during the Revolutionary War. At the center of the tale is a schoolteacher from Connecticut named Ichabod Crane, whose life is pretty OK until he decides (along with half the town) to court the rich farmer’s daughter Katrina Van Tassel. His main rival is a guy called Brom Bones, who harasses him by smoking out the schoolhouse and sneaking in at night and turning all the furniture upside down. Brom’s a jerk, but everyone loves him. Including Katrina, apparently, who — long story short — rejects Ichabod. Ichabod walks home dejectedly late at night and winds up being chased by the Headless Horseman, who throws his detached head at him, and Ichabod is never seen again. Brom marries Katrina, and Knickerbocker relays that he long suspected that he murdered Ichabod to get the girl (or, at the very least, staged one last prank that went horribly wrong).

 So that’s the story. Got it? OK, now forget it.

In FOX’s version, Ichabod (Tom Mison) is a former British soldier who switched sides during the Revolutionary war to be a spy for George Washington, and also to help George Washington fight demons. Ichabod himself beheads the Horseman in battle, then the Horseman fatally wounds him, and their blood mixes supernaturally. Oh, and in this alternate universe Katrina (Katia Winter) married Ichabod, and is a witch who put some kind of spell on Ichabod. When the Horseman rises again in 2013, so does Ichabod. The Horseman in this version is not some jerk in a costume, he’s actual Death, one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Katrina was burned at the stake, which will confuse viewers looking for historical accuracy (there were no witch trials in New York in the late 1700s, burning at the stake was not a method used to execute accused witches in America, and also I’m pretty sure that, besides being innocent women publicly executed for no good reason, they didn’t have access to MAC makeup and ren faire pirate wench dresses — you know what? Don’t try and reconcile the witches. George Washington is a demon hunter, OK?).

SH-PAS-R9-02_LY1-photos-lightbox-tbdSo that’s the backstory. Meanwhile, in Sleepy Hollow 2013, a Sheriff named August Corbin (Clancy Brown) and his partner, Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), are having a last meal together in a local diner before she heads down to Quantico, Virginia, to be an FBI profiler (which, if you don’t know, is a really big deal). They answer a call, which turns out to be the Headless Horseman (again, not a jerk in a costume), who — this is really more of a plot point than a spoiler — immediately beheads Sheriff Corbin. In another part of town, another officer, Andy Brooks (John Cho), is rushing to the scene and almost hits some wandering, disheveled-looking guy, who of course is Ichabod, back from the dead. Andy decides to arrest him for some reason, but it’s good, because it ultimately brings together our two heroes, Abbie and Ichabod.

In Episode 1, we learn that Abbie and her sister Jenny, as kids, were witnesses to a demonic event in the same woods where Ichabod died. Jenny was declared insane soon after, and institutionalized. Abbie had a rough time of it, too, but, as we learned in E2, was eventually saved and mentored by Sheriff Corbin, whom she met when he caught her committing a crime as a teen. The point is, Abbie and Ichabod are the two Witnesses spoken of in the Book of Revelation, and their fates are intertwined. And thus, a ship of Biblical proportions is born. Oh, sure, not everyone is there for Ichabbie, as the pair was dubbed by fans about six seconds into the pilot, but it’s the crazy chemistry of the two leads that will keep the show going. So will the scares — Sleepy Hollow is genuinely creepy, especially when the demon is around.

101-005-sleepy-hollow-pilot-photos-lightbox-tbdSo, the show is about Ichabbie fighting the Headless Horseman week after week? Not so fast. In Episode 2, Katrina, who has slightly toned down her still-not-very-18th-Century look, informs Ichabod in a dream (wait, let me back up a little — Katrina is trapped between worlds, so these are actual communications, not mere dreams) that, basically, this will be a monster-of-the-week show, and don’t expect to see the Headless Horseman every episode. In Episode 2, the monster is another witch who was burned at the stake, and Abbie and Ichabod have to try and stop her before she collects the deadly ingredients to restore her charred body. Did I mention that Andy is a bad guy who’s in with the demons? He is. Also, Ichabod has a photographic memory. I don’t know.

Anyway, by the end of Episode 2, we’ve got a bunch of undead characters, a police chief (Orlando Jones) who may or may not be shifty, a jealous ex-boyfriend of Abbie’s, Revolutionary War-era underground tunnels, a seven-year Biblical apocalyptic prophesy, and an awesome Sarah Connor-like Jenny Mills (Lyndie Greenwood). And plenty of 18th vs. 21st Century fish-out-of-water humor, which I imagine will eventually tone down as Ichabod acclimates to the 2010s. Either that, or he’ll start a riot over sales tax. One way or another, it should be fun.