Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci return—sans J.J. Abrams—to fill the paranormal void in Fox’s primetime schedule left after Fringe’s departure. The show’s premise is a revised version of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Instead of taking place in the mid-19th century, the show’s backdrop is contemporary Sleepy Hollow, New York. Ichabod Crane (played by Tom Mison) is transformed from the tale’s lanky and superstitious school teacher into a rugged British history professor turned American Revolutionary soldier. Crane is resurrected along with the tale’s mysterious Headless Horseman, who Crane beheads in battle, according to the show’s flashback.
Nicole Beharie plays Lt. Abigail “Abbie” Mills who discovers her partner/mentor August Corbin (played by Clancy Brown) beheaded corpse after an encounter with the devilish character. After Crane is taken into custody for his alleged connection to the murder, Mills is the only one in the Sleepy Hollow Sheriff’s Department to believe the resurrected patriot, even if it is just a small hunch.
Mixed with paranormal and eerie moments, Crane’s experiences with 21st Century life under an 18th Century worldview adds some lighthearted humor as well as some social commentary. Ichabod’s first words towards Abbie are “are you emancipated?” Abbie, obviously offended, gives him an “excuse me” look. Ichabod quickly remarks how he is a strong proponent of abolition, the 18th Century’s version of “It’s okay, some of my friends are black.”
After experiencing a vision from his dead wife Katrina, who has an affinity for the occult, Crane and Mills learn that the murderous Headless Horseman is part of a more sinister plan. The American Revolution becomes a stage not only for the birth of a new nation, but also a battle between the biblical forces of good and evil. The Headless Horseman is not a vengeful Hessian soldier, but actually Death of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. As if American’s needed another self pat on the back.
The second episode starts off with the Four Horseman, with Headless Death (awesome metal band name), chasing Ichabod through a dense forest with thunder and lightning in the background. Crane, seemingly captured by vines, is pulled into an underground tunnel where he encounters Katrina who warns him of evil forces preceding the Four Horsemen and the End Times. Crane wakes up gasping in a dull motel room like a bad Sunday morning. Lt. Mills meanwhile struggles to convince her superior Captain Frank Irving, played by Orlando Jones, that the Headless Horseman and Deputy Andy’s twisted death are real and part of something fiendish. An altered surveillance tape and two overworked officers’ testimonies leave Mills and Crane the only ones on the case to bring Corbin’s killer to justice and possibly save humanity.
Katrina warns her husband of a witch who will return before the next blood moon (another awesome name for a metal band). Deputy Andy (played by John Cho) returns from the dead to continue his pawn and messenger role for a blurry demon pulling the strings for the apocalypse. After pulling out an enchanted necklace from his throat like a bad dare, he makes his way to a shrine to resurrect Serilda of Abadon, a witch from Katrina’s past who was burned at the stake and vowed her revenge on the descendants of her wrongdoers. Serilda who looks extra well-done begins her vendetta with help from Andy to restore her more presentable form.
Meanwhile, Abbie attends Sheriff Corbin’s funeral and Ichabod visits his wife’s gravestone nearby. He relays Katrina’s to Abbie and the two are on the case.
Andy pulls over a car on an empty forest road. After confirmation of the identity of the unfortunate driver, he apologizes and lets the fried witch exact her revenge with an incinerating blast that would make Michael Bay go, “meh.” The two paranormal investigators discover what the other investigators didn’t, a claw-like mark on the crispy corpse. Ichabod recognizes the witches M.O. and the pair go to Corbin’s files to find out more about Serilda. Unfortunately, the two discover Corbin’s emptied out. Abbie tries to find the location of the files, while Ichabod hangs around the department and encounters Abbie’s ex Luke who exchange some words about the American Revolution. Ichabod’s British accent makes Luke to go all “Murica” on the Revolutionary soldier on kicking their ass.
Abbie learns that the files are secured across the street, with no proper way of getting in. Ichabod’s local knowledge of town guides the two to a sealed tunnel from the war that runs between the main department and the secured archives. The tunnels were made of great use for secret transport of munitions and supplies, as well as witch burials. Very versatile. Abbie finds the files and learn about Serilda from both the documents and Ichabod’s personal knowledge. They are able to trace who the next target might be, but Andy and Serilda are already ahead. Turkey-neck Andy confirms the identity of a young boy surnamed Hemmington, one of the two families, along with Firth, who condemned Serilda.
At night, the boy hears a strange noise and goes down stairs to investigate like every horror movie character. He turns around and sees the burned Serilda. The boy screams, the mother runs after him, and the pair burst through the open front door hoping to prevent another death. Fortunately the boy is unharmed and adopted. However, the dead husband’s ashes are missing.
Serilda needs her bones to complete the ritual to restore her being, and the pair remembers the reopened tunnels. Andy digs up the bones, because he already has no problem bending over backwards. The pair makes it just in time to see Serilda’s resurrection. Ichabod’s first response, like many of us would make, is to fire a gun at her. Bullets and the supernatural don’t really mesh well. The witch chases after Ichabod, where he leads her to the gunpowder room. Serilda tells Ichabod about his wife’s state in the world between worlds.
Crane has enough of Serilda and throws his torch onto one of the crates. The delayed reaction causes a moment of frustration for the Crane and relief for Serilda that lasts all of five seconds before the witch is burned again.
The pair head back to the station in victorious relief. While Crane leaves for coffee, Abbie re-enters Corbin’s office to see it restored to normal and the Sheriff sitting at his desk. She wonders if she’s dreaming and asks the sheriff why he never told her about his paranormal research. He tells her that she would never believe it. Before Crane interrupts the reunion, Corbin tells her, “Don’t be afraid of No. 49, that’s where you’ll find you’re not alone.” Corbin disappears and the office is empty again.
The scene then cuts to a mental hospital, where an orderly brings medication to Jennifer Mills of room 49. She gets rid of her pills and continues her intense workout when the blurry, horned demon appears on the reflection of her windows. She misses it, just barely, but is obviously disturbed.
The show brings back a fun paranormal mystery drama for fans of shows like Supernatural and Fringe, especially with Halloween only a month away. The series fits perfectly in the current Fox fall lineup following the hit show Bones. The series premiere gained decent ratings and hopefully will continue. The character dynamic between Abbie and Ichabod works so far because there’s no romantic tension, and if it does happen, hopefully it won’t come off as too forced. It is pretty hard to start a romance when your dead wife warns you of evil forces.
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