In Hudson Valley, New York, in 1781 at the opening of the Sleepy Hollow
premiere, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is in the midst of a battle. He is approached by a Hessian soldier, German mercenaries employed by the British, riding a white horse, who he shoots. The man falls, hits the ground and it would seem the threat against Crane has been neutralized. Instead, the man, wearing a Jason Voorhees type mask, immediately arises and practically disembowels a still stunned Crane. Before collapsing from his wound, Crane manages to decapitate his executor.
How Crane is transported from the battle field and winds up emerging from underground in a cave is a mystery. The multiple jars, some curious markings on the ground and his body and a telltale snake all point to some type of magic. He emerges from his hiding place and stumbles through the woods until he comes to a paved road. After almost twice becoming roadkill, Crane starts to run, following the road. A sign places him on the outskirts of the town of Sleepy Hollow.
Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and her captain, August Corbin (Clancy Brown), are sharing a plate of fries when they receive a call regarding a disturbance at a local farm. Abbie discovers a lifeless, headless corpse, presumably that of the farmer. In the barn, the captain makes a similar gruesome discovery, only the decapitated body is otherwise alive and well. Let's just say his role is definitely a cameo. The murderer emerges from the stables riding a white horse. He stops briefly, sensing Abbie's presence but leaves her in one piece and rides off.
Abby calls for backup, and a fellow officer, Andy Dunn (John Cho), heads (no pun intended) to the scene but stops when he spots Ichabod. The man, looking a tad out of sorts, to say the least, is arrested. Abbie's eyewitness account of the killer doesn't jive with Ichabod's appearance, making him unlikely of being guilty of any slicing and dicing. She tells Dunn the man she saw was wearing a red coat and had some kind of brand on his hand.
Ichabod asks if the man carried a broad axe and if the mark on his hand was a bow. Abbie questions how he could know that information and when the last time he saw this man. A flummoxed Ichabod answers, "When I cut off his head."
Still considered a murder suspect in the death of the sheriff, the police try to interrogate Ichabod, who is uncooperative, mostly due to just having awakened in the present after dying during the Revolutionary War. During a polygraph test, Crane reveals he was a professor at Oxford University until coming to America to fight the patriots. He changed allegiances and became a double agent under the command of General George Washington.
Crane tells the police of his run-in with the redcoat during battle. Crane was then taken to triage where he was reunited with his wife, Katrina, a civilian nurse. He lost consciousness, and when he came to, he was in the cave. His interrogator drops the bomb that Crane is now residing in the 21st century.
The town's new police captain, Frank Irving (Orlando Jones), orders that Crane be transported to a nearby mental hospital. Abbie asks for time to question him, as there are some inexplicable crime scene details he might be able to shed some light on. Irving abruptly dismisses her request but, due to her persistence, finally grants his permission for her to speak to Crane on the way to the psychiatric facility.
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The two get off to a rough start due to Crane's outdated views on women. Abbie is also offended, by what she feels are racially-charged remarks. But Ichabod was ahead of his time when it came to slavery, having been an abolitionist in his former life. Both are skeptical of each other. Crane knows Abbie isn't being exactly forthcoming about her encounter with the Headless Horseman, and she doesn't buy his backstory.
Abbie tells Crane she wants him to take her back to his cave. On the way, he spots a reverend standing out in front of a church, and the man's face triggers some sort of flashback. The two investigate his former resting place, and Crane comes across a Bible that was buried with him. There is a particular passage marked in the Book of Revelations. It describes the mysterious rider on the white horse as one of the possible Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Crane tells Abbie that George Washington had told him the revolution wasn't just a war for the future of the country; it would determine the fate of every man, woman and child on earth.
Washington gave Crane a mission, to kill the mercenary known only by the mark on his hand. Abbie calls the whole tale crazy, to which Ichabod replies that it doesn't make it any less real. He says the Bible was left with him for a reason, just as he and the horseman showed up at the same time. He tells her there are connections all around, but she refuses to accept them. Ichabod states that the reason the horseman didn't die is because he is death itself, and he has returned to Sleepy Hollow to finish what he started.
Whatever the horseman's scheme, it involves beheading the reverend that caught Ichabod's eye earlier in the day. Abbie points out the similarity of the wounds to Irving, who is more concerned about why Crane is at the scene of the crime. She tells him that Ichabod has been in her custody the entire time and therefore can't be the killer. Abbie is adamant that Crane is their best bet for catching this serial killer. Irving orders her to deliver him to a padded cell or she's suspended.
Mills tells Ichabod that she can no longer help him try and untangle all of the intricacies of his life and these murders anymore. She informs him that Irving could derail her plans to head to Quantico, Virginia. Crane tells her their fates are intertwined, and even her leaving won't change that. She finally leaves him under psychiatric supervision.
Just because she doesn't have a dashing, witty Brit egging her on doesn't mean Abbie's curiosity is sated. She does some snooping in Irving's office and comes across a secret file kept by her old boss that seems to be full of supernatural and occult happenings that have been plaguing Sleepy Hollow for years. Included in the evidence is an event that happened to Abbie and her sister who, when they were children, claimed to see four strange white trees in the forest along with a demon-like figure.
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Things go from bad to worse for Ichabod when he is visited in a dream by the spirit of his wife, Katrina (Katia Winter), who is trapped in some netherworld purgatory. It turns out she was a witch, of course. You can't swing a black cat these days without hitting a show with a witch character. Luckily, she was a good witch, part of a coven who had sworn to protect Sleepy Hollow from evil.
The bad news is that when Ichabod "killed" the horseman, their bloodlines were merged. Katrina says the only way to stop the horseman was to cast a spell on them both. They submerged the horseman's body in a coffin in the local river. Some kind of nasty evil awakened the horseman. Once he gets his hands on his head, more will follow. Katrina tells her husband that he cannot allow the horsemen to reclaim his skull. The horseman does have one weakness: light. He can't survive the sunrise.
Abbie springs Ichabod from the booby hatch and shows him the evidence she found hidden away in Corbin's office. She shows him a map that originally belonged to George Washington. It looks as if the ex-sheriff was using it to try and piece together some kind of supernatural puzzle.
The episode's big climax is a showdown between Abbie and Ichabod, the horseman and a semi-sinister Officer Andy Dunn. Ichabod and Abbie have beaten the horseman to the prize, but he's determined to get it back. Time is on the good guys' side as the horseman is forced to retreat due to the sunrise.
Abbie gets off the hook with Irving since there are now multiple witnesses to the horseman's existence. She decides to stay in the not-so-Sleepy Hollow, now convinced she has some sort of connection to the recent string of events. Irving orders them both to bring him something he can understand. One would assume he means a rational explanation, something he's unlikely to get. Ichabod points out another Bible passage that he feels anoints him and Abbie as defenders of humanity from the forces of hell.
This incarnation of Ichabod Crane is far from the gawky, lanky schoolteacher from Washington Irving's short story. He looks like he belongs on the cover of a romance novel. The series pays homage to the short story in subtle ways: the object of Crane's affections in the story was also named Katrina and the police captain shares a surname with the author. But this Headless Horseman comes equipped with a shotgun and is far from the flaming, jack-o'-lantern flinging villain we've seen in the past.
Let's just hope the show doesn't become so mired down in history, theology and philosophy that viewers need multiple advanced degrees to understand, much less enjoy, the show. Sleepy Hollow
needs just a few more creepy mist-filled landscapes and things that go bump in the night as opposed to a treatise on the probability of supernatural occurrences throughout American history.
airs Mondays at 9pm on FOX.
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(Image courtesy of FOX)