Monday night gave us the premiere of Sleepy Hollow, Fox’s modern retelling of the classic Sleepy Hollow short story. It follows Ichabod Crane, who finds himself in the twenty-first century after suffering a near fatal wound back in the eighteenth. He teams up with police officer Lieutenant Abbie Mills, and together they go off to stop the Apocalypse—yes, that Apocalypse. The one the Book of Revelation tells us all about. The Headless Horseman is one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse—Death, to be precise, which is not something I had expected when going into this show. This opens up a whole new can of worms that I didn’t see coming, but I’m glad for it, in all honesty. Without some kind of spin like this on the classic legend, I don’t think a story about just the Headless Horseman would have had a lot of room to work with.
I have high hopes for Sleepy Hollow, especially considering that it’s the network’s highest rated fall drama in quite a few years. Overall, Sleepy Hollow seems to have been well received by general audiences, which is good news for me, since I’m quite certain that I may have already fallen in love with it.
Spoilers after the jump.
Our pilot episode opens with Ichabod, now upgraded from wimpy school teacher to aesthetically appealing manly man, fighting in the Revolutionary War back in 1781. Suddenly, a giant of a Redcoat comes riding into the scene, wielding a broad axe and wearing an evil-looking mask. After a bit of a struggle, Ichabod is wounded and all seems lost for our hero as the not-quite-headless Headless Horseman prepares to deliver the final blow. But Ichabod pulls through and takes the Redcoat’s head instead.
Ichabod passes out after this ordeal, only to wake up buried inside a cave and surrounded by creepy glass jars filled with bugs. He manages to make it outside and find a road, just in time to almost be run over by a truck. And then by a car. Thankfully, Ichabod is once more okay from this near run-in with death, and he is properly freaked out by the large metal contraptions on the strange black road.
We next cut to our other aesthetically appealing main character, Abbie Mills, a detective in the police force, as she’s sitting at a diner with her partner. Abbie wants to leave Sleepy Hollow to go to Quantico and try to get into the FBI. However, after some witty banter about this, she and her partner are called to check out a stable. Once there, they come across the Headless Horseman who, for as-of-yet unexplained reasons, is still alive. The Horseman kills Abbie’s partner, leaving Abbie completely shocked at what she’s just witnessed. Naturally, she calls for backup.
Her fellow cop Andy, played by John Cho, immediately starts rushing to the scene of the crime, but before he can get very far, he nearly runs over Ichabod—and despite not yet being anywhere close to the farm, Andy arrests Ichabod as a murder suspect anyway, because the story has to unite Ichabod and Abbie somehow.
At the station, Ichabod confesses to know who the Headless Horseman is, and claims to have cut off his head himself. Since Headless Horseman talk is crazy, he is held as a suspect for the murder of Abbie’s partner and made to take a polygraph test, where he tells them that he used to fight in the Revolutionary War. So now everyone believes Ichabod is crazy, even though the polygraph shows he hasn’t told any lies. Abbie volunteers to transport him to St. Gregory’s, a mental hospital, but instead of taking him there, she drives him back to the cave he woke up in to find answers. There, he finds a Bible with a page marked in Revelation about the four horsemen
From here, this starts our characters on their quest to stop the Headless Horseman, who’s going on a bit of a killing rampage and upgrading from using an axe to assault weapons while searching for his head.
Ichabod is naturally inclined to believe that something supernatural is about, while Abbie has her reservations and spends the rest of the episode coming to terms with what’s going on. She eventually decides to forgo joining the FBI in order to stay in Sleepy Hollow and confront her own demons. By the end of the episode, she and Ichabod have found the Horseman’s head and teamed up to solve the case. Abbie’s boss still doesn’t know what to believe, but due to the Horseman’s rampage, other cops have witnessed him and are now backing Abbie’s and Ichabod’s story.
If Sleepy Hollow sounds a little ridiculous, that’s because it is. The show at least seems to be self-aware about how ridiculous it is, but honestly, that’s one of the many things that makes this a show worth watching. It’s more than entertaining watching Ichabod try to get along in the twenty-first century and learning how many Starbucks we have.
In other ways, Sleepy Hollow reminds me a lot of Supernatural, in terms of what it’s about. While comedic in many instances, it does have a nice touch of demonic horror to it. Unlike Supernatural, however, Sleepy Hollow doesn’t seem to be in want of female characters or characters of color. Abbie Mills, our main female lead, is played by African-American actress Nicole Beharie. I really like that out of our four big, important characters—Ichabod, Abbie, Katrina, and Captain Frank Irving—half are female and only two of them are Caucasian. There isn’t often a lot of diversity in shows like this, and so it was a pleasant surprise when I first sat down to watch this. Additionally, so far, none of these characters seem to be offensive stereotypes, and the show also seems to be aware of some issues that may arise by not having a mostly male and Caucasian cast. It also seems more than willing to talk about these issues, specifically by using Ichabod and his eighteenth-century mindset.
Ichabod comes from a time and place that was both misogynistic and racist, and even if he himself never endorsed slavery, that doesn’t mean he’s not going to have some bigoted views. The Wikia page for Sleepy Hollow also tells us that this may very well be a conflict in our characters’ relationship.
As Abbie is both African American and a woman, his world view from 18th century Colonial America may cause some friction with Abbie, and also the people he must now work with.
What I also really like is that while the show is thus far equal in a male-to-female ratio, there’s a good chance that Ichabod and Abbie will not become romantically involved, since Ichabod is married to Katrina, our other main female lead. I feel as if the Katrina in this Sleepy Hollow is based somewhat off the Katrina in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, as here, she is also a witch. It’s through her that Ichabod wakes up in the modern day. When he and the Headless Horseman fought back in the war, their blood intertwined, binding them to each other. Katrina sealed Ichabod away in a cave to protect him. When the Headless Horseman woke up, Ichabod, who is connected to him, woke as well. Katrina is also alive in the modern day in a certain sense. She was burned as a witch back in the 1700s, and now she is trapped in the form of some kind of bird.
Ichabod hadn’t known she was a witch, and this is something else that he’s going to have to deal with. This can be an opening for the show to talk a lot about religion if it really wants to, since it’s based on Christianity, which is not very fond of witchcraft.
At this point in time, it’s hard to tell if Sleepy Hollow will handle everything in it respectfully—the race issues, the gender issues, and the religious issues—but I really hope it does. So far, everything about it seems promising, and the next episode cannot air soon enough.