Director: Len Wiseman
Writer: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Phillip Iscove
Summary: Ichabod Crane awakens in 2013 where he is once again called to do battle with the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow.
Hudson Valley, New York – 1781 – While fighting a battle in the American Revolutionary War, colonial soldier Ichabod Crane shoots a masked Redcoat on horseback carrying a broadax. Dismounted, the rider swings his weapon and Ichabod sees the shape of a bow branded on the rider’s right hand. The rider cuts Ichabod’s chest with the broadax. As he collapses to the ground, Ichabod is able to decapitate the rider by using his sword. Both men fall to the forest floor simultaneously. In blackness, Ichabod hears a woman’s voice pleading with him to remain conscious.
2013 – Ichabod wakens suddenly from underneath the ground inside a cave. His burial plot is surrounded by bottles and jars. Ichabod finds strange markings painted on his torso. After stumbling up the crypt’s stairs and past a waterfall, Ichabod wanders through the woods until he reaches a paved road. A semi-truck narrowly misses Ichabod and a car swerves off the road while trying to avoid him. Ichabod notices a bird perched on a street sign before he flees into the fog. Elsewhere, Lt. Abbie Mills eats at a diner with Sheriff August Corbin. Corbin asks Abbie about her plan to join the FBI as well as her thoughts on all of the unsolved cases in Sleepy Hollow. As they leave the diner, Corbin acknowledges a priest sitting at the next table. Abbie and Corbin receive a call to investigate the Fox Creek stable. Abbie goes up to the house to find stable owner Jimmy Ogilvy while Corbin searches the barn. Abbie finds Jimmy’s decapitated body. At the same time, Corbin confronts the Headless Horseman inside the barn. Corbin’s bullets do no damage and the Horseman cuts off the sheriff’s head. The Horseman rides his mount into the night. Abbie notices the brand on the rider’s hand before he rides away. Meanwhile, Deputy Andy Brooks finds Ichabod in the street and arrests him as a suspect in the murders. At the jail, Abbie tells Andy that Ichabod is not the man she saw. When Abbie describes the rider to Andy, Ichabod overhears and asks her if the rider carried a broadax and if the brand on his hand was a bow. Ichabod tells Abbie that he last saw the rider when he cut off his head.
Shackled to a chair, Ichabod is submitted to a polygraph exam. Ichabod tells the police that he was a professor of History at Merton College Oxford. He enlisted in the Queen’s Royal Regiment and was sent to the American colonies to fight the patriots, but he defected and became a spy under the command of General George Washington. Ichabod recalls being taken to triage after his battle with the Horseman. He was treated by his wife Katrina, who was a civilian nurse in the 37th regiment. His next memory was waking up in the cave. The interviewer tells Ichabod that he is 250 years in his future. The interviewer informs Captain Frank Irving that the polygraph never had a spike during the entire interview. Irving orders that Ichabod be taken to St. Gregory’s for a psychological evaluation. Abbie asks Irving for permission to interrogate Ichabod, but he refuses. She notes that the decapitations produced very little blood, which the coroner confirmed as due to the broadax blade being heated to 500 degrees. Irving allows Abbie to transport Ichabod to St. Gregory’s. She and Ichabod briefly discuss the differences in their respective eras as well as details about the Horseman. On the drive, Ichabod sees a priest outside a church and recognizes him from the 18th century. Ichabod shows Abbie the cave he came from. In the dirt, Ichabod finds George Washington’s bible with a passage marked from Revelations. Ichabod tells Abbie that Washington had given him the mission to slay the unknown Redcoat mercenary recognizable by the mark on his hand. Ichabod realizes that the Headless Horseman is Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. That night, the Horseman confronts the priest in front of the church. The priest uses paranormal powers to fire chains at the Horseman, but the Horseman shakes them off. Refusing to tell the Horseman “where it is,” the priest is then beheaded.
Abbie brings Ichabod to the crime scene at the church and tells him to wait in the car while she speaks to Captain Irving. Ichabod sees a bird perch itself on the hood of the vehicle and decides to follow it when it flies away. Irving threatens Abbie with disciplinary action when he sees Ichabod in the churchyard. The bird leads Ichabod to the grave of his wife Katrina. Her headstone reveals that she was burnt for witchcraft in 1782. Ichabod notices that Abbie is disturbed by something in her past. Abbie finally escorts Ichabod to the mental hospital. Abbie reveals to Ichabod that in high school, she and her sister Jenny saw four strange white trees in the forest accompanied by a voice before they blacked out. She and Jenny then had a reputation for being crazy, with Jenny going in and out of asylums after the incident. Abbie searches Sheriff Corbin’s office and discovers a secret cabinet with files on Sleepy Hollow’s unsolved cases. An audio recording left by Corbin mentions a history of witchcraft along with two separate covens representing good and evil that integrated themselves into the town’s populace to stay hidden. She also finds a case file on the encounter that she and her sister had. A local farmer in 1882 also claimed to have seen the four white trees. The farmer believed that the trees represented the Four Horsemen and that a demon was sent to raise them. Captain Irving finds Abbie in Corbin’s office and appears suspicious of the file cabinet.
Ichabod sees the bird in his hospital room and is led to the mirror where his dead wife communicates with him. Katrina tells Ichabod that her body is not in her grave, but it is actually the location of the Horseman’s skull. Her coven had assigned the priest to guard it throughout time. She also tells Ichabod that he became bound by blood to the Horseman when they fell on the battlefield and their bloodlines merged. The only way to stop the Horseman and to protect Ichabod was to cast a spell over both men. The Horseman’s body was entombed in the river. When the Horseman was awakened, so was Ichabod. The Horseman will become whole again if he can reclaim his skull. The other three horsemen will then follow and bring the end of the world with them. Light is the Horseman’s weakness as he cannot survive the sunrise. Katrina tells Ichabod to find the answers he seeks in Washington’s bible so that he can free her from the ethereal realm where the demon has her imprisoned. Ichabod wakes and Abbie stops a nurse from sedating him. Abbie gives the nurse a fake paper and pretends to take Ichabod back into custody. Abbie calls Andy and tells him to call all units to the church. Andy tells her he will call it in and meet her at the church. After hanging up the phone, Andy discovers that his apartment has been broken into. He finds the Horseman waiting inside. Andy tells him, “I know where it is.”
Ichabod digs up Katrina’s grave and recovers the Horseman’s head in a sealed case. The Horseman arrives and chases the duo with a pump-action shotgun. Andy pulls up to the scene and subdues Abbie while Ichabod fights the Horseman. Abbie turns the tables on Andy as other policemen arrive. The Horseman fires at the officers, but he is forced to ride away when the sun rises. Captain Irving is forced to believe Abbie’s story after seeing the head and hearing Andy’s confession. Abbie tells the captain that she is no longer transferring to Quantico. Ichabod tells Abbie that Katrina referred to him as the “First Witness” and that the Book of Revelations refers to two witnesses brought together for a seven-year period of tribulation to defend humanity from the forces of Hell. He believes that Abbie is the second witness. Andy says he will only speak to Abbie and Ichabod, but the demon snaps his neck before he can tell them anything. Abbie sees a vision of the demon in a forest reflected in Andy’s jail cell mirror before it shatters.
Any average person who may not be considered a horror aficionado can usually still rattle off a roster of classic fiction’s most notable monsters. Dracula. Frankenstein. The Phantom of the Opera. The Headless Horseman is a likely candidate to appear on many laypeople’s Top Ten lists, too.
Yet with all due respect to author Washington Irving, his short story has endured for nearly 200 years after all, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a less memorable tale when compared with those others. Read Mary Shelley’s novel or see James Whale’s “Frankenstein” with Boris Karloff just one time and the details leave a permanent brand in the mind’s eye, from the lightning storm reanimation to a surly mob carrying torches and pitchforks. The same can be said for the venerability of “Dracula” in relation to its impression on the public consciousness. On the other hand, every child in America probably read “Sleepy Hollow” in grade school, but what does anyone truly remember about the tale aside from the name Ichabod Crane and a pumpkin-headed ghoul on horseback?
Quiz a man on the street about which horror story contains a character named Igor and smart money says that the majority of respondents will reply correctly, even if it is an educated guess. Do the same for the name Van Helsing, maybe even Renfield, and right answers also stand to come out ahead. Now try it with Brom Bones Van Brunt or Katrina Van Tassel and watch for the body language of surrendered confusion.
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a curious source to draw upon as inspiration not just because of its lukewarm popularity, but because 18th century heroes are not exactly trending in contemporary television. Yet Tom Mison mixes enough off kilter charm with on point period postures and enunciation that his Ichabod Crane handily carries the show’s daffy premise.
After beheading the Horseman during the American Revolutionary War, Ichabod mysteriously wakens in the 21st century where he teams with a young police lieutenant to battle the Horseman once again. This time, the Horseman has a demon in tow as they threaten to unleash the other three horsemen of the Apocalypse and bring about the end of the world.
Pairing a white male colonialist from 1871 with a black female police lieutenant from 2013 makes for more than a few rather obvious stranger in a strange land scenarios. Thankfully, “Sleepy Hollow” avoids dwelling on the race and gender chasms between the two eras with any heavy-handed commentary. Ichabod’s antiquated perspective on current social trends and his fascination with modern technology are instead used for occasional comic relief, such as briefly showcasing his fascination with power windows. Although the joke at realizing that a Starbucks exists on every street corner is almost as outdated as Ichabod’s wardrobe.
“Sleepy Hollow” is about entertainment anyway. Its focus lies in speedily establishing Ichabod’s partnership with Abbie and cutting straight to the action. In fact, the pilot episode as a whole is quick to pay off its plentiful exposition with jam-packed backstories delivered swiftly. While other shows might draw out the subplots of John Cho’s character secretly being a villain, Ichabod’s wife being a witch, or the police captain finally accepting Ichabod for who he actually is, “Sleepy Hollow” puts its cards on the table and leaves the characters on the same page as the audience.
“Sleepy Hollow” turns in a solid pilot that has its tone, style, and story elements firmly in place by the time the credits roll. This is the only hour that it takes to tell any prospective viewer everything s/he could ask for to make a decision about investing in the series. But really, all anyone needs to know is that the first episode alone includes a revolutionary war battle, a man traveling 232 years into the future, a headless horseman firing an assault rifle and a pump-action shotgun, a horned demon, a sentient bird, an ageless priest who can control chain link whips with supernatural powers, an ethereal realm that exists in a mirror, a head in a jar, two covens of witches, four decapitations, and the revelation that superpatriot George Washington was actually a demon hunter out to prevent the Apocalypse. When was the last time that 44 minutes of television exploded with this much zany fun?
Episode 2 - Blood Moon
Director: Ken Olin
Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Mark Goffman
Summary: Abbie and Ichabod must stop a resurrected witch from exacting revenge on the bloodline of her executioner.
In the ethereal dream world, the Four Horsemen chase Ichabod Crane through a forest. Katrina appears to Ichabod and reminds him of the importance of stopping the horsemen. She also warns him that the first dark spirit will rise with the blood moon. Katrina adds, “she is one of us,” and tells Ichabod to stop the dark spirit before she can kill again. Katrina then disappears and Ichabod wakes in a motel room. Captain Irving tells Abbie that the other officers who went on record as having seen the Headless Horseman recanted their statements. Irving shows her surveillance footage of Andy Brooks snapping his own neck by running face first into his jail cell mirror. Abbie tells Irving that was not what happened. Irving informs her that a doctor has stated that Ichabod suffers from objective transference. Ichabod tells Abbie about Katrina’s warning. At the Westchester County coroner’s office, the demon resurrects Officer Brooks. Brooks pulls a medallion from his throat and the demon commands him to release a spirit.
Abbie asks about Ichabod’s relationship with his wife and her practice of witchcraft. Ichabod is surprised at the price of donut holes and the 10% tax on prepared food. Abbie and Ichabod attend the funeral for Sheriff Corbin. At the churchyard, Ichabod realizes that Katrina was trying to tell him that the dark spirit is a witch. Brooks takes the medallion to a monument and summons the witch. He delivers the demon’s message, “the ashes of the pious will ordain your resurrection. Take their flesh and you will reclaim yours.” Acting as a police officer, Brooks pulls over a man named Jeremy Furth. After Brooks leaves, the witch appears and immolates Furth in his car. Abbie confides in Ichabod about how Corbin saved her from a criminal path as a teenager and changed her life. Abbie brings Ichabod to the crime scene with Furth’s charred body. They notice claw marks as if someone grabbed something from the corpse. The clue prompts Ichabod to recall a connection to his past.
Ichabod recounts the story of his regiment returning to camp near Albany during a blood moon and finding extensive damage and bodies reduced to ash. Ichabod sensed a presence in the woods. As the strange murders became more frequent, tales spread of a dark coven led by the high priestess Serilda of Abaddon. General Washington believed that the Redcoats had formed a dark alliance with the sorceress. Abbie brings Ichabod to Corbin’s office to access the former sheriff’s files for information on Sleepy Hollow’s witch covens, but they discover that his belongings were moved. While Abbie inquires about the new location, Ichabod has a cold first meeting with her ex-boyfriend Luke, who is also a police officer. Ichabod learns that Abbie broke up with Luke after she was accepted to Quantico. Discovering that Corbin’s secret file cabinet is in the inaccessible archives building across the street, Ichabod brings Abbie to a basement wall. He breaks it down and they enter a subterranean tunnel once used to secretly transport munitions.
Ichabod points to an underground area where the remains of convicted witches were disposed because they could not have proper burials. He and Abbie find an old crate of gunpowder. Brooks delivers a cryptic message to a young boy named Kyle Hemmington. While exploring the archives, Abbie learns that Ichabod has an eidetic memory. Ichabod discovers a book revealing that a benevolent coven known as the Sisterhood of the Radiant Heart used white magic to weaken Serilda. She was captured and executed, but not before cursing the bloodlines of her captors and promising to live again. The magistrate who sentenced her was Robert Daniel Furth, the ancestor of immolation victim Jeremy Furth. Realizing that Serilda must complete her resurrection by the blood moon, Ichabod and Abbie vow to find her next target. They learn that the magistrate had a daughter who married into a family named Hemmington. Meanwhile, Serilda stalks Kyle inside the Hemmington home.
Ichabod and Abbie burst into the house as Denise Hemmington finds her son screaming about seeing a woman on fire. Ichabod notices an object missing from a shelf in the foyer. Denise says it was her husband’s urn. She reveals that Kyle was adopted, making her husband the last descendant in the Hemmington bloodline. Ichabod tells Abbie that they must find Serilda and burn her before she completes the ritual using the ashes of Hemmington and Furth. Ichabod realizes that Serilda will go looking for her own remains in the underground tunnel. At the same time, Brooks digs up Serilda’s skeleton for her. Serilda begins her resurrection in the tunnel.
Serilda chases Ichabod and Abbie. She reveals to Ichabod that his wife was the one who bound her and that the demon holds Katrina captive in the world between worlds. Ichabod eventually destroys Serilda by igniting the crate of gunpowder. Ichabod comes to believe that it is possible to free his wife. Abbie goes into the sheriff’s old office and communicates with a sentient vision of Corbin. He tells her not to be afraid of number 49. Meanwhile, in room 49 of a mental hospital, Abbie’s sister Jenny Mills spits out her medication before the demon briefly appears inside her room.
In case anyone missed the pilot and chose to start watching “Sleepy Hollow” with its second episode, “Blood Moon” pulls double duty as a fresh chapter in the series and as a primer for those who skipped the first hour or just simply forgot the key details during the previous seven days. In lieu of a “Previously on” style cold open, Abbie recaps her first outing with Ichabod in conversation with the police captain while Ichabod has his mission restated via dreamlike fantasy with his not-so-dead-after-all wife Katrina. Once a few more premiere episode flashbacks finish gnawing at screentime during Sheriff Corbin’s funeral, “Blood Moon” is freer to sally forth onto new business.
An elephant in the room with “Sleepy Hollow” may be how the creators are going to maintain a weekly series with a concept built chiefly around a displaced time traveler battling the same Headless Horseman on a regular basis. With the threat of Death unleashing Armageddon alongside War, Famine, and Conquest, not to mention the horned blur with Cyrillic typeface subtitles facilitating events, the meta picture seems suitably covered. From the look of things, individual episodes appear to be taking on an X-Files monster-of-the-week approach with Ichabod and Abbie standing in for Mulder and Scully, albeit with a firmer tongue in their collective cheek.
As that tongue stays in position for Ichabod’s colonial Lenny Bruce rant over a 10% prepared food tax on donut holes, Mister Crane also has a chance to balance his wide-eyed wonderment over “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” with an equally wide-eyed focus on spontaneous wall demolition. Tom Mison is well on his way towards developing a “Doctor Who” like quality in Ichabod. He is missing The Doctor’s encyclopedic knowledge of universal history, although he makes up for it with an eidetic memory and callbacks to his past that are surprisingly useful in the present. His eccentricities may be played as more subdued than the good Doctor’s, but Ichabod demonstrates resourcefulness and fearlessness in ways that mirror the two characters as fish out of water types who refuse to let daunting situations impede a good chortle.
Ichabod handles strange situations with rather jovial aplomb, all things considered. Not too many people would be able to hit the ground running in the way that he has after waking 232 years in the future. There is a delicacy involved with how fast he should come up to speed with that missing two and a half centuries, however. Having Ichabod fire his gun once and then throw it away because he does not know it has more than one shot is an undeniably fun moment. Except at some point, the series can only squeeze so much mileage from montages of Ichabod pushing buttons and familiarizing himself with modern conveniences. Such gags will soon become stale, as well as out of character for an observant intellect that adapts quickly.
Look no further than the hints of whimsy in the music score to see that “Sleepy Hollow” is a show wisely embracing its own daffiness, which is the greatest source of its charm. It is too early in the season for a red flag, yet to stay wise, the creators should tiptoe on that razor’s edge of good humor without teetering too far into self-aware wink-wink territory. As an example, while it is generally a challenge to find anything criticism-worthy in the dulcet tones of Frank Sinatra, the on-the-nose inclusion of “Witchcraft” playing over/under key scenes involving said craft could have benefitted from a little more subtlety.
The same thing goes for the production design. By the time Serilda of Abaddon undergoes her resurrection ritual with an accompaniment of strobing lights, ash wisps, swirling fog, and blazing torches, the set starts resembling an overzealous Broadway theater stage play. The Art Department should consider putting less effort into overselling the setting, and more time on putting Ichabod into a coat that has not been underground for over 200 years. After all, when is the poor man going to finally don some new clothes?
Episode 3 - For the Triumph of Evil
Director: John F. Showalter
Writer: Jose Molina, Phillip Iscove
Summary: Abbie enters a Native American dreamworld after The Sandman begins killing people connected to her sister Jenny.
Abbie dreams of watching her own interrogation at the hands of Ichabod Crane. Alongside her in the viewing room are Captain Irving and an unfamiliar woman introduced as a forensic psychologist. Ichabod’s eyes turn white and Abbie becomes trapped in the interrogation room. She is confronted by a sand-dripping white-faced creature without a mouth and with black eyes. Abbie wakes when she is called to the scene of a suicide jumper. Abbie tells Ichabod about her strange dream. Captain Irving tells Abbie that the jumper is Doctor Maura Vega, and she has asked to speak only to Abbie. When Abbie confronts the doctor, she realizes that Vega is the woman from her dream. Vega’s eyes are white. Vega speaks about her guilt regarding Abbie’s sister Jenny before jumping onto a car below. Later, Irving, Ichabod, and Abbie inspect Vega’s body. Her white eyes suddenly burst into sand.
Abbie learns that Vega was a resident psychiatrist at Tarrytown Psychiatric Hospital, where Jenny Mills is held. Ichabod believes that the incident relates to the seven years of tribulations foretold for the two witnesses by the Book of Revelations. Abbie reviews Vega’s files. Abbie learns that Vega came to believe that Jenny was not suffering from delusion, but allowed Jenny to remain institutionalized. At the mental hospital, Jenny refuses to speak to her sister, but she agrees to meet with Ichabod. Ichabod tells Jenny about Vega’s death and the coming of the Four Horsemen. Jenny tells Ichabod to ask Abbie about the truth of her institutionalization.
Abbie admits to Ichabod that after she and her sister encountered the demon in the woods as teenagers, they were unconscious for four days until they were found by rancher Mr. Gillespie. Jenny told the truth to the police, but she was viewed as crazy when Abbie and Gillespie refused to corroborate her story out of fear for being labeled insane themselves. Jenny was committed while Abbie went back to her foster home. Ichabod and Abbie decide to visit Mr. Gillespie. Meanwhile, The Sandman from Abbie’s dream appears to the rancher. Captain Irving confronts Abbie’s former boyfriend, Luke Morales, about an office prank before being called to a report of shots fired at the Gillespie ranch. Ichabod and Abbie arrive on the scene with Irving. Gillespie requests to speak to Lt. Mills. With his eyes glazed white, Gillespie holds his wife at gunpoint while Abbie talks to him. Gillespie tells Abbie that The Sandman is coming for Abbie next. He then shoots himself.
Abbie tells Ichabod about Gillespie’s warning and the legend of The Sandman. Ichabod tries one of Abbie’s Red Bull energy drinks while they conduct research in Corbin’s files. Abbie shows Ichabod a symbol from an 18th century Mohawk tribe story about a dream demon. Ichabod realizes that The Sandman is Ro’kenhrontyes, a dream spirit that would come for people who ignored the plight of a neighbor. Ichabod recommends that they visit a Native American shaman. Abbie takes him to Geronimotors, where they meet car salesman and Mohawk tribesman Seamus Duncan.
After much resistance, Abbie and Ichabod eventually convince Seamus to help them battle Ro’kenhrontyes. Abbie and Ichabod drink a tea to enter The Sandman’s dream world. Seamus straps them to two tables for their own safety. Seamus and another man then use scorpions to sting Abbie and Ichabod, as scorpion venom is what will allow them to control their actions while inside the dream. In the dream, Abbie relives the police interrogation where she turned on her sister. The policeman asking the questions becomes The Sandman.
Elsewhere in the dream, Ichabod walks through a hall where Vega and Gillespie hang from nooses. An empty noose also hangs from the ceiling. Ichabod interrupts Ro’kenhrontyes’ torment of Abbie. Ro’kenhrontyes tells him, “your sins aren’t mine to punish” before incapacitating Ichabod. Abbie then confronts the creature with an admission of responsibility and an apology for abandoning her sister. Ro’kenhrontyes gradually freezes into a statue. Abbie uses a chair to shatter him into ice and sand. She and Ichabod recover in the real world and return to the archive room with Corbin’s files. Captain Irving finds them there. Rather than discipline the duo, Irving agrees that the room would make a good office for them to conduct their work. Abbie returns to the Tarrytown Psychiatric Hospital to visit her sister, but Jenny is missing from her room. Abbie discovers a concealed access panel in the ceiling that Jenny used to escape.
For the pilot episode of the NBC sitcom “Night Court” back in 1984, John Larroquette’s prosecuting attorney Dan Fielding was initially depicted as a pipe-smoking stuffed shirt whose chief concern regarding Harry Stone was whether or not the new judge played chess. It would take some time for Larroquette’s character to develop into the self-obsessed womanizer that eventually made him a fan favorite. In another era, it would not be until it went head-to-head with ABC’s “Batman” that “Lost In Space” changed from serious sci-fi to its campier focus on Dr. Smith that became the series’ hallmark. Younger viewers of the current incarnation of “Doctor Who” might have trouble finding the same level of entertainment in his black-and-white early adventures with a purposefully educational flavor. And if the first year or two of “The Simpsons” went on a permanent vacation, a fair contingent of fans probably would not complain too much.
Television shows can take anywhere between several episodes and several seasons to refine their signature styles. Yet while it is certainly not to say that “Sleepy Hollow” has its formula set in stone, with only three episodes under its belt, the continuing adventures of Ichabod Crane and company seem to have established a discernable rhythm. These first three hours should be all that it takes for viewers to acclimate themselves to the temperature and to decide if they want to stay for an extended swim or head back to shore.
By all appearances thus far, that formula is a measured recipe of simplified police procedural mixed with Carl Kolchak-style mysteries punctuated by moments of levity cashing in on the clashing eras driving the premise. No one would mistake “Sleepy Hollow” for a Dick Wolf production. Viewers are more or less asked to look the other way when out-of-her-specialty Lt. Abbie is given a second crack at crisis negotiation immediately after her first consultation leaps to her death. And the alarming amount of access given to presumed crazy civilian Ichabod regarding sensitive information and crime scenes cannot possibly be by-the-book at any law enforcement office in the world.
In the context of the show’s rules bent to suit the purpose of providing an hour’s worth of weekly entertainment, such ludicrous happenings are no more unbelievable than a Headless Horseman bringing the Apocalypse to planet Earth. The blatant disregard for realism works to the series’ benefit by establishing its own fictionalized universe operating unapologetically on its own terms. Besides, smart money says that Orlando Jones’ Captain Irving will at some point be revealed to have insider knowledge connected to one of Sleepy Hollow’s two cults. Whether he is aligned with the good one or the bad one is to be determined, but that storyline will probably justify why he affords Ichabod so much leeway when it comes to departmental affairs.
“Blood Moon” saw Ichabod’s rage at the price of donut holes and his relative surprise in discovering that modern pistols can fire more than one round. Similar trip-ups in “For the Triumph of Evil” come courtesy of fumbling with a remote control and choking down a Red Bull for the first time. “Sleepy Hollow” scripts have clued in to the notion that familiarizing Ichabod too fast with the 21st century is the surest way to quickly fizzle the uniqueness of his pairing with Abbie. Limiting anachronistic gags to just one or two instances each episode is poised to become the new norm.
Even the cinematography is finding its own pattern. “For the Triumph of Evil” is the third consecutive episode to feature an upside-down establishing shot that flips its horizontal axis as action swings by. Much like the requisite ha-has concerning Ichabod’s time displacement, the inclusion of this particular camera movement is on track to be a “thing” for the show. The Music department also joins the repeat performance act by shoehorning a spot for The Chordettes to chime in with a song. It was too late for the production to take my previous note about its on-the-nose inclusion of Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft” and avoid doing the same thing with “Mister Sandman” for an episode involving a dream demon, but points can at least be awarded for consistency.
“Sleepy Hollow” has laid bare its intentions just shy of a quarter of the way into the freshman season. The claim has been staked that this is a program about spooky atmosphere and moderate charm instead of outright scares and nailbiting thrills. Critics can accuse it of not being frightening, of not having a serious tone, and of missing more than a few facets of realism. But no one can say that “Sleepy Hollow” is vacillating in its identity. There is a sincere goal to entertain on hand, and everyone behind the scenes appears to know exactly what they want to do in giving the series its discernable flavor.
Episode 4 - The Lesser Key of Solomon
Director: Paul Edwards
Writer: Damian Kindler
Summary: Ichabod and Abbie team up with Jenny when modern day Hessians act to summon the demon from the woods.
Boston Harbor – December 16, 1773 – While the Boston Tea Party rages as a distraction, Ichabod Crane, Samuel Adams, and other members of the Virginia militia confront a Hessian mercenary in order to claim a mysterious box. The Hessian recites an oath to Death before exploding a bomb in front of the patriots.
In 2013, Ichabod offers romance advice to the NorthStar operator he called to unlock Abbie’s vehicle. Abbie convinces Captain Irving to call off the search for her sister so that she can find Jenny first. Jenny goes to a bar and retrieves a bag from the bartender, Wendell Clark. Elsewhere, a German music teacher receives a phone call from a disguised voice informing him of Jennifer Mills’ escape. The German man is instructed to find her and to retrieve an object identified as “item 37.” With two associates, the German man enters the bar and confronts Wendell for information on Jenny. They begin to interrogate Wendell with torture implements while Wendell is held on the pool table.
Irving meets Officer Luke Morales at Wendell’s bar. They see Wendell’s body pinned to a wall while his severed head sits on the pool table. Ichabod and Abbie meet with Jenny’s former foster mother, who tells them of a cabin at Trout Lake where Jenny would retreat to sometimes. Upon breaking into the cabin, Abbie and Ichabod discover that it belonged to Sheriff Corbin and that Corbin knew Jenny very well. Jenny enters the room and the two sisters pull guns on each other.
Ichabod persuades the siblings to lower their weapons. Jenny reveals that she used to help Corbin retrieve rare items. Corbin predicted his own death and sent Jenny to the cabin on the night before he died. Jenny opens a secret panel and produces a cartographer’s sextant. Ichabod tells the ladies about his mission to acquire a secret weapon that was tracked to a shipping warehouse in Boston Harbor. With the Tea Party as a distraction, Ichabod and his men confronted the Hessian soldier, but he killed himself. Ichabod was the sole survivor, although he was able to secure the stone chest that he was sent to retrieve. Using the sextant as a projector lens, Ichabod shines a flashlight through it, revealing a map of Sleepy Hollow that pinpoints the location of the stone chest. The three German men who killed Wendell suddenly assault the cabin with automatic weapons. Two of the men escape with the sextant, but Jenny is able to capture their leader.
Ichabod finds the Mark of Reinhessen tattooed on the man. The same tattoo was also on the back of the Horseman’s head. Ichabod realizes that the German man is a modern Hessian soldier and a member of the 5th battalion of Shadow Warriors. The Hessian tells Ichabod that the stone box is a doorway to the seventh circle of Hell where 72 condemned souls wait upon a shore of flaming sand. Jenny associates the reference to The Lesser Key of Solomon, a book of black magic written by King Solomon that can conjure the 72 demons that he trapped in Hell. At the same time, Irving and the police descend upon the Hessian’s home and uncover his sinister connections. The Hessian bites a cyanide capsule hidden in his tooth. Before dying, the Hessian says in German, “Moloch shall rise.”
Ichabod uses his photographic memory to recreate the sextant map. The two remaining Hessians find the stone chest in an old church. One of the men cuts open his hand and allows his blood to drip onto the pages of the book from the chest. A nearby altar erupts in fire.
Ichabod, Jenny, and Abbie arrive at the church where they find demons rising from the fiery slime around the altar. Following a struggle, the Hessians are killed and Abbie throws The Lesser Key of Solomon into the fire, banishing the demons. Back at the police station, Abbie and Jenny make amends. Abbie produces paperwork to give her a limited conservatorship over Jenny. Ichabod tells Abbie that Moloch is the demon from the woods, and that he is also the creature that guards Ichabod’s wife Katrina.
Samuel Adams. Brewer. Patriot. Demon slayer. Should the Boston Beer Company decide on a highly unlikely tie-in of “Sleepy Hollow” themed craft ales, I would be first in line at BevMo for as many cases as could fit in my car trunk. “The Lesser Key of Solomon” reveals that in addition to better-known exploits such as signing the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams put down his stein long enough to aid Ichabod Crane in staging the Boston Tea Party not as a political protest, but as a smokescreen to steal King Solomon’s book of rituals for conjuring 72 condemned souls from the shores of Hell. How is that for revisionist history? As if America needed another reason to admire the pioneering spirit of its Founding Fathers.
The first three episodes were perfectly clear, but episode four hammers the idea home. Anyone not already endeared to the quirky atmosphere seeping through the fog of “Sleepy Hollow” has little hope of being swayed by anything poised to spring down the line.
Although even for its devoted following, “Sleepy Hollow” is admittedly not all wine and roses. While the Wardrobe Department waits for budget approval to finally fit Ichabod for a new costume (expect a future episode’s gag of the week to be a shopping spree or otherwise humorous fitting session with Abbie), the FX team stretches their allotment of digital sequences to include another underwhelming blaze of flames. In “Blood Moon,” it was an awkwardly animated fireball barreling down an underground tunnel. This time, condemned souls writhe in a fire to break free of something that resembles an oversized Glad Hefty bag. Future demonic encounters might want to steer clear of fiery themes until the post-production software receives an upgrade.
But beginning with Ichabod’s sympathetic soliloquy of Lovelines-styled advice to the forlorn OnStar operator (“NorthStar” in Sleepy Hollow Land), “The Lesser Key of Solomon” packs its hour full of tasty morsels specifically intended for the series’ already passionate fans to gorge upon, including a first peek at the Horseman pre-disfiguration and headlessness. Apparently, everyone’s favorite merciless Hessian bears a striking resemblance to Daniel Day-Lewis’ Bill the Butcher from “Gangs of New York,” but with kempt hair and sans the Rollie Fingers mustache curls.
Speaking of Hessians, “Sleepy Hollow” is also diverging down a road where the ruthless German mercenaries, to whom the Horseman belonged anyway, will have more opportunities to displace the British Redcoats as chief antagonists. Perhaps they appear more sinister as ongoing adversaries in comparison to the powdered wigs and tri-pointed hats of Ichabod’s ilk.
Though to be certain, “Sleepy Hollow” can hardly be rightfully accused of racial or cultural stereotyping when it comes to its unique character constituency. Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones, and Katia Winter are the four actors credited in the title cards. Factor in that Lyndie Greenwood is currently assuming the position of a fifth lead as Abbie’s sister Jenny Mills and that makes 60% of the main characters black, as well as 60% female. With John Cho as Andy Brooks and Nicholas Gonzalez as Abbie’s ex-boyfriend Luke Morales, “Sleepy Hollow” just might be a network television leader in ensemble diversity. Then again, Andy was up to no good and between Irving and Morales, one of them is a top candidate for being the man behind the disguised voice tipping off the Hessians to Jenny’s escape and the bartender’s whereabouts.
Viewers may require a level of sanity that would qualify them for residency in a room adjacent to Jenny Mills, but swallowing a blue pill every 12 hours would be worth it in order to continue enjoying the delectable lunacy of “Sleepy Hollow.” And until the time comes for the next dose, the audience can bide its time by mulling over questions like, how much pizza was Sheriff Corbin eating that his cabin table has restaurant shakers filled with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper?
Episode 5 - John Doe
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Writer: Melissa Blake
Summary: A young boy from the Lost Colony of Roanoke brings a pestilence created by the horseman Conquest to Sleepy Hollow.
A young boy in 16th century attire follows a young girl in a white dress leading him through the woods. Suddenly, the horseman Conquest emerges and chases the boy out of the forest and into a street in 2013. Abbie moves Ichabod into Sheriff Corbin’s former cabin. The duo is called to the scene where a mail carrier found the boy from the woods. Ichabod sees that the boy’s veins are blackening as the child succumbs to a strange illness. Before he is taken to the hospital, the boy speaks to Ichabod using Middle English.
Abbie searches the missing children database for their John Doe. Ichabod tells Abbie and Captain Irving that the boy said, “evil girl.” Irving asks the CDC to examine the child’s illness. Detective Luke Morales asks Irving about Ichabod’s role with the police. Irving dismisses Luke’s inquiry. Ichabod communicates with the quarantined boy through video chat. The boy tells Ichabod that his name is Thomas Grey and he came from Roanoke. Ichabod tells Abbie about the Roanoke Colony that disappeared from North Carolina sometime after Governor John White left for provisions in 1587. When he returned in 1590, the entire colony was gone. Irving informs Abbie and Ichabod that the EMT who treated Thomas has acquired the same illness. In his quarantine bed, the EMT sees a vision of Conquest before dying.
Abbie and Ichabod investigate the trail at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve where the mail carrier found Thomas. Luke’s partner, Detective Devon Jones, discourages Luke from digging into Ichabod’s background. Two more people who had contact with Thomas contract the disease. The CDC agent realizes that Thomas is succumbing more slowly than the others because his blood has different antibodies. He also shows no signs of having ever been vaccinated. Using his tracking skills, Ichabod aligns tree markings and finds a hidden path. When they step through the trees, he and Abbie step back in time to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. They also see that everyone in the colony is infected.
The Roanoke prefect explains to Ichabod that the colonists fled Roanoke after they were attacked by the horseman of Pestilence, also known as Conquest. Pestilence rode through the settlement and infected everyone. Virginia Dare was the first to die, but her ghost then protected the other colonists by leading them to safety. The prefect says that the disease does not affect them while they are within the colony. But when Thomas left, he brought the disease to the outside world. If the epidemic spreads, then the horseman Conquest will be able to return to Sleepy Hollow. To put an end to the pestilence, Thomas must be returned to Roanoke. While Ichabod promises Thomas’ father William that he will rescue the boy, Abbie sees a horseman riding along the edge of the forest. When he and Abbie return to Thomas, Ichabod is forcibly placed into quarantine after his veins start turning black. Under sedation, Ichabod visits his wife Katrina in purgatory.
Luke receives a call from Oxford College confirming that Ichabod Crane is a tenured professor at the university and is on loan to New York law enforcement. Abbie goes to the hospital chapel and asks God for a sign. Seeing the holy water upon her exit, Abbie has an idea about the spring water in the Roanoke colony. Katrina confesses to Ichabod that there is a reason why Moloch has trapped her and wants her soul. Before she can reveal her secret to Ichabod, he is pulled out of the vision. Abbie explains her theory about the healing spring water to Irving. The captain helps her sneak Ichabod and Thomas out of the hospital by staging a quarantine transfer.
Abbie, Ichabod, and Thomas make it back to the Roanoke colony. As Pestilence pursues them on horseback, Ichabod submerges himself and Thomas in the settlement’s spring water. The horseman disappears after Ichabod and Thomas emerge. The settlement then vanishes and Ichabod realizes that Thomas and the colonists were dead all along. At the same time, everyone back in quarantine miraculously recovers. Meanwhile, the Headless Horseman mounts his horse and rides out of the Sleepy Hollow woods in a trail of fire.
“John Doe” shows that when “Sleepy Hollow” is not in full on bonkers mode, it can slow down to a tempo somewhat more in line with routine weekly television. Episode five is not bad, it just lacks the galloping rhythm that came with the breakneck nature of the first third of the season.
Death steps aside momentarily for his horse-riding mate Conquest, aka Pestilence, to have a go at the center stage in “John Doe.” The monster of the moment also joins Death on sabbatical as this episode’s supernatural problem du jour is of the contagion variety instead. “Sleepy Hollow” comes up with its own creative theory about what really happened to Virgin Dare and the Lost Colony of Roanoke circa 1590. Ever the passionate patriot, even in death, Virginia’s ghost led the colonists from their settlement to thwart horseman Conquest’s efforts at paving a path of pestilence for his return to Sleepy Hollow.
There is a bit of a catch-22 on display as the series takes a much needed breather from the pattern of battling creature after creature to try its hand at a story with an alternate problem for the heroes to put their minds to. The trouble is, watching sweaty, black-veined victims writhe on hospital gurneys as they slowly succumb to disease is not nearly as engrossing as cauterized axe decapitations and gooey fire demons.
The hour is still very much a distinctly “Sleepy Hollow” affair, replete with the usual nuances of subtly sarcastic humor and a baffling mystery that only a man from the 18th century could possibly solve. Although Ichabod does manage a noble assist from the burgeoning faith of Abbie, who strangely still has the occasional issue with processing unbelievable events, even though she lives in the most amazing pocket of New York State that ever existed in any century.
Even if the self-contained story in “John Doe” is not quite up to previous snuff, the episode does make space to lay a few cobblestones into the foundation for future storylines. Katrina hints at being more of a naughty witch than Ichabod suspected with a tearful admission cut short by an untimely interruption in Ichabod’s unconsciousness. Luke finds another way to be an aggravating ex-boyfriend by inserting himself as an obstacle to Ichabod and Abbie’s personal X-Files unit in the Sleepy Hollow police force. His troublemaking efforts to dig into Crane’s background attract the raised eyebrow of Irving, adding more skepticism about what the captain’s true motives may really be. Someone set up the ruse that Luke encounters upon contacting Oxford University about Ichabod’s tenure. And if Irving is aligned with Moloch and company, he sure has been an intricate part of foiling their plans to bring Armageddon to Earth. Maybe the good captain is on the side of right after all?
I do not believe in the term “guilty pleasure.” If you enjoy something, you should not be afraid to go public with that admission. Just because “Sleepy Hollow” may be popcorn entertainment for the masses instead of high society fare for the “Downton Abbey” set in no way diminishes its worth. Stodgy types may be immune to its charms, yet I cannot help but be endeared to Ichabod Crane when I watch him face the same frustration as I upon confronting clamshell plastic. Really, who knew that a 250-year-old man could be this relatable?
Episode 6 - The Sin Eater
Director: Ken Olin
Writer: Alex Kurtzman, Mark Goffman, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas
Summary: At Katrina’s urging, Abbie searches for a Sin Eater to lift the curse binding Ichabod’s blood to the Headless Horseman.
Abbie takes Ichabod to an amateur baseball game. Afterwards, Ichabod visits his wife’s tombstone, where he is shot with a tranquilizer dart and kidnapped by men in suits. As Abbie drives home, she enters a strange vision that finds her terrorized by the Headless Horseman. Once the Horseman is gone, Abbie is visited by Katrina. Katrina says that she is communicating with Abbie because Ichabod has been abducted and the men who took him have erected a shield to protect their location from Katrina’s otherworldly sight. Katrina tells Abbie that the Headless Horseman will return to Sleepy Hollow that night. Because the Horseman’s blood is tied to Ichabod’s, one cannot be harmed without harming the other. Katrina tasks Abbie with finding the Sin Eater, a man who can undo the spell binding Ichabod to the Horseman.
Abbie convinces Captain Irving to grant Jenny a 24-hour furlough from the mental hospital so that she can help her find the Sin Eater. Ichabod is released in a subterranean room where he discovers that he has been captured by fellow freemasons led by a descendant of Edward Rutledge, the youngest signatory of the Declaration of Independence. To convince the masons that he is not an imposter, Ichabod is forced to verify the history of how he came to fight in George Washington’s secret army. Ichabod recounts being assigned as a British soldier to interrogate freed slave Arthur Bernard, who stood accused of treason for publishing a treatise advocating American rebellion under the name Cicero. At Bernard’s home, Ichabod has his first meeting with Katrina, a nurse from the local Quaker community. Ichabod clashes with the colonel in charge of his regiment over the execution of traitors. Katrina realizes that Ichabod has a conscience. Ichabod has a startling vision of the colonel wearing a demon’s face.
Katrina learns that Ichabod possesses the power to bear witness and tells him that his assistance is needed in a secret war against demons. Jenny and Abbie track the Sin Eater to a mysterious man who had a habit of visiting death row inmates. After finding his pattern of using names of executed prisoners, the sisters learn that the Sin Eater is named Henry Parrish and they trace him to Hartford, Connecticut. Abby and Jenny pay Henry a visit, but he professes that he no longer performs the role of a Sin Eater. When he and Abbie touch, they share a vision of an underground tunnel leading to a door with the freemasonry symbol. Henry then dismisses the two women.
Ichabod is ordered to execute Bernard in the forest to prove his loyalty. While Ichabod escorts him, Bernard tells Ichabod that Katrina was right and that Ichabod is needed for their cause, but if he kills Bernard, the sin will invite evil into his heart. Ichabod allows Bernard to go free, but the colonel appears and kills him anyway. The colonel then turns into a creature and attacks Ichabod, but he is chased away by approaching horses. Katrina nurses Ichabod back to health. Ichabod blames himself for Bernard’s death because he did not allow him to go free sooner. The freemasons are satisfied that Ichabod is their true brother. Rutledge reveals that Katrina’s coven was once in league with the masons, but she betrayed them when she secreted Ichabod away because the only way for them to kill the Horseman was to kill Ichabod, as well. The masons present Ichabod with a box and tell him that he needs to make a sacrifice for the greater good.
Abbie and Jenny find the mason’s room in the underground tunnels. Abbie learns that Ichabod plans to drink a poison from the box in order to kill himself and the Horseman. She pleads with him to find another way, but Ichabod drinks it anyway.
As Ichabod begins dying, Henry Parrish arrives to rescue him by separating the bloodlines. Henry cuts Ichabod’s hand and allows blood to pool on the table. Henry tastes the blood and tells Ichabod to summon Arthur Bernard. Bernard tells Ichabod to forgive himself for Bernard’s death. When Ichabod does, the blood pool on the table separates into two. Henry uses a piece of bread to soak up the Horseman’s black blood and eats it. Ichabod is saved, but now they need another way to stop the Horseman. Meanwhile, the Horseman finds the chamber where Ichabod was buried and runs his hand through the dirt.
As “Sleepy Hollow” nears the midway point of its freshman season, episode six shows the series’ stars settling into their roles with even more comfort than before. When filming on the pilot episode began, the cast likely thought that the premise was as off kilter as the critics and the fans initially did. It has taken six hours for the primary players to grab a firmer hold of the personalities on the page and the tone of the fiction for what is turning out to be one of network television’s most unique programs.
No longer fazed by the supernatural encounters plaguing his town on a regular basis, Orlando Jones injects more purposeful sass into Captain Irving when Abbie enters his office on cue for this week’s bizarre request slash info dump. Up until now, Abbie’s boss has offered her investigations either a stone wall or a surprising helping hand. The glib way he handles Abbie’s latest dilemma by responding, “I have questions, if that’s okay,” shows a snarkier side of the character that has been dormant in previous episodes.
Like his peers, Jones is catching his footing on the fact that this particular set of characters cannot be approached with traditional acting styles. They require a skillful performance range to bend the fantasy and the subtle humor in a way that at least some modicum of realism can be sold to the audience.
While Irving explores his cheekier side, Tom Mison appears satisfied enough with the Doctor Who-like qualities of Ichabod Crane that he can now focus on developing the Sherlock Holmes in his character. Right down to identifying the skin discoloration where his abductor’s ring should be, Ichabod almost exactly mimics a similar moment from the Robert Downey Jr. films featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s distinguished detective. Uncanny powers of observation can be notched into Ichabod’s repertoire of enviable abilities that already includes a photographic memory and a fashionably retro ponytail.
“The Sin Eater” is hardly the most thrilling episode to date. Characters spend much of the hour sitting and talking or standing and talking whether they are watching a baseball game, interviewing a lead, interrogating a suspect in the past, interrogating a suspect in the present, or just generally sussing out exposition on the current mystery du jour.
At least the characterization is strong enough to keep the constant chattering moving. For proof of what a guest star of John Noble’s caliber brings to a script, take a look at his dialogue as printed:
“I have been called many things. Angel. Demon. Until now, I wasn’t sure what was true. So long I’ve hoped for this day. To find the reason for what I’ve been given. And now I know. The reason is you.”
Those lines begin in a cliché that has appeared in countless screenplays and end with Hoobastank lyrics. Yet Noble chews on otherwise dull words like a Sin Eater chewing on bloodied bread to deliver a nuanced performance like only he can. This is how the cast prevents the show’s outlandish and occasionally trite ideas from feeling hokey or condescending. Through a true believability in the strange personas that they inhabit.
“The Sin Eater” is a reset point before the season’s middle episode. Relationships are deepened and new players are introduced. Katrina and Abbie are no longer strangers. The hatchet between Jenny and her sister seems suitably buried. John Noble will definitely appear again and the same is likely true of the mysterious masons. No way did “Sleepy Hollow” cast a talent as highly regarded as Paul Frain in the role of Edward Rutledge’s descendant just so that he could sit at a table and listen to Ichabod tell a tale.
Anyone who may have felt let down by the slower tempo of this episode needs only patience. “Sleepy Hollow” merely needed a moment to put a few more toys in the sandbox. It will not be long before the Headless Horseman makes a galloping comeback, and with him, “Sleepy Hollow” should return to form in no time.
Episode 7 - The Midnight Ride
Director: Doug Aarniokoski
Writer: Heather V. Regnier
Summary: A connection between Paul Revere and the Horseman’s skull holds the key to stopping Death from destroying the world.
Boston – April 18, 1775 – Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride – As Paul Revere and his riders deliver the message that “the regulars are coming,” the Hessian mercenary chases Revere and beheads his accomplices.
Abbie stocks Corbin’s cabin with canned goods and provisions in the event that Ichabod needs to retreat there for an extended period. Ichabod criticizes the price of bottled water. Luke tries to renew his friendship with Abbie and she agrees to meet him for coffee the next day. Later, Andy Brooks confronts Luke in an alleyway. Andy tells Luke to stay away from Abbie as he is the only one who can protect her from “The End,” where everyone will die except for the chosen few. Andy touches Luke forcefully and appears to give him some sort of vision. Ichabod goes to meet the freemasons to discuss how to stop the Horseman, but discovers that all of their heads have been severed.
Ichabod searches the freemason archives, but discovers that pages on defeating the Horseman have been removed. Ichabod expresses his frustration and anger over the murders of his mason brothers. After seeing a slashed portrait of George Washington, Ichabod realizes that the Horseman came in search of his head. He and Abbie convince Captain Irving to retrieve the head from the lab where it was sent for analysis. At the New York Fish and Wildlife Services lab, the technician tells Irving that all tests performed were unable to find any signs of life within the skull. Meanwhile, the Horseman arrives outside.
The Horseman shoots the lab technician with an assault rifle and throws his broadax at Irving. The police captain is able to stun the Horseman and flee with the head. Later, Irving discovers that all of the surveillance cameras at the lab cut out, preventing the Horseman from being recorded. Abbie and Ichabod try various methods of destroying the skull until realizing that it is indestructible. When they leave to take the head to a wrecking yard, Ichabod sees four lanterns hanging in the nearby church window. He investigates with Abbie and discovers that the Horseman used the heads of the freemasons to mimic Paul Revere’s candlelight signals. Ichabod recalls a time when he observed Samuel Adams handing Paul Revere a packet containing a manuscript with information on defeating their enemies. The manuscript was marked with the symbol of a demonic heptagram. Ichabod realizes that the documents actually contained secrets for conquering evil and that the assailant who chased Revere on the Midnight Ride was really Death in pursuit of the manuscript.
Abbie takes Ichabod to the Tarrytown Museum of Colonial History to find the manuscript. After Ichabod corrects a tour guide’s facts regarding Paul Revere in front of a group of schoolchildren, Abbie learns that the manuscript is on loan to London, but its pages have been uploaded online. Ichabod has difficulty operating Abbie’s laptop, accidentally opening a sex chat window at one point. Ichabod finds a cipher in the manuscript text, but needs a password to decode it. Abbie leaves a voicemail to cancel her plans with Luke, but he is distracted by the recurring vision in his head of Andy Brooks. At the same time, Andy appears to Abbie in the underground tunnels and tells Abbie that he is trying to protect her. When a light gleams on the Horseman’s skull, Ichabod looks behind its teeth and sees that Paul Revere engraved the password “Cicero.”
Ichabod finds Abbie and Andy in the tunnels. Andy reiterates that he is there to help Abbie. Ichabod tells Andy to deliver a message for the Horseman to meet Ichabod in the cemetery at nightfall if he wants his head returned. Back in their office with Corbin’s files, Ichabod recounts the deciphered message for his partner. Although Death cannot be killed, he can be captured against his will by having a witch transform the moon into the sun, using its light to immobilize the Horseman. Abbie points out that the manuscript was written in a time before technology. Instead of a witch, she theorizes that they can achieve the same effect by using ultraviolet light to simulate the sun at night. With Irving’s help, Abbie and Ichabod begin crafting fake skulls to fool the Horseman while also discussing Thomas Jefferson and slavery. With their plan in place, Ichabod and Abbie prepare to lure the Horseman.
In the cemetery, Ichabod taunts the Horseman with his head. Ichabod, Abbie, and Irving use the false heads to lead the Horseman through the subterranean tunnels and ultimately trap him in a room where he is bound in place by the UV light.
The only people still referring to “Sleepy Hollow” as a “surprise hit” are those who are not keeping up with the series on a regular basis. There is nothing surprising about wise audiences catching on to the fact that smartly crafted entertainment can come with a wink and a nod without being campy or condescending. Not that “Sleepy Hollow” is above a camp-flavored ring around its edges, but it has thus far known where that line is drawn and the tone tiptoes along it with ease.
While the show has hit a confident stride, one that is far off the starting gate of having more to prove about longevity potential, it is the vocal fans singing the praises of “Sleepy Hollow” facing the challenge of keeping their words fresh. The regular exploits of Ichabod, Abbie, and company have been consistent to the point where continuing to highlight everything that the show does right begins sounding like a skipping LP.
The lone empty tank that “Sleepy Hollow” has is in ideas to attract new viewers. “The Midnight Ride” is wedged perfectly as season one’s midpoint apex since it is a showcase of all the elements that make each hour alluring, which are also the same things that frustrate those to whom the concept and execution simply do not appeal.
Anyone convinced that “Sleepy Hollow” cannot bring horror to broadcast network primetime need only gaze at the quad of hollowed out heads that the Horseman displays as lanterns in a macabre mocking of Paul Revere. This also means that my previous prediction of seeing actor Paul Frain again was completely wrong, since his severed dome looked to be among those of the other unfortunate freemasons. Then again, death in Sleepy Hollow is certainly not guaranteed to be permanent. Episode seven’s returning guest star can attest to that.
Along with said guest star, other seeds planted for future reaping include a blooming backstory for Captain Irving. Casual mentions allude to the lawman having both an ex-wife and a child. It would be odd to toss in such facts even nonchalantly if these investments are not meant to pay dividends down the line. Irving has also made a firm stand on his allegiance. Doubts that he may be in league with the sinister side of Sleepy Hollow’s warring factions can step aside for the time being.
Not to be outdone in the department of improving character usefulness, Abbie steps out as Ichabod’s padawan to prove herself capable of contributing to a balanced partnership. The way that Abbie and Ichabod combine their knowledge of respective eras to formulate a plot against the Headless Hessian is an intelligent way of playing up each character’s value in the overall arc. Ichabod holds the keys to the past. Abbie knows how to adapt them to the present. This is “Sleepy Hollow” using its unique conceit for clever storytelling.
Ichabod also takes time to visibly vent his frustration at the Horseman’s bloody wake, exhibiting a flash of brimstone and fury that has been dormant while his lighter side borrowed the spotlight. Yet “Sleepy Hollow” is far from losing its knack for displaced time traveler humor. Whether marveling incredulously at the price of bottled water or navigating online sex chat pop-up ads, Ichabod manages to retain his brilliance even when looking like a wide-eyed babe in the woods.
Such moments rarely move the story forward, but they are nearly always entertaining distractions. “The Midnight Ride” weaves in still more when Abbie, Ichabod, and Irving lightly debate Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemmings, and the issue of slavery via bull session whilst hatching their scheme for catching the Horseman. A lesser show might make do with a music-set montage for that same scene. “Sleepy Hollow” has the patience to give its players more depth, instead.
Episode seven then ends on a note where the series adds another category to its best-in-class performances. This is the right way to dangle a cliffhanger ending. The hour reaches a full resolution and completes its self-contained story, but at the same time it deliciously resets the pins for what is to come. Because from the looks on those faces, the intrepid trio may not have planned far enough ahead to know what they should do next.
Episode 8 - Necromancer
Director: Paul Edwards
Writer: Mark Goffman, Phillip Iscove
Summary: Ichabod learns the Horseman’s true identity and the reason why Moloch holds Katrina’s soul captive.
Ichabod, Abbie, and Captain Irving plan to interrogate the Headless Horseman by communicating with him through Officer Andy Brooks. Two hunters find Death’s horse roaming in the forest. The hunter of German descent makes a mysterious phone call about the horse being without a rider before shooting his hunting partner dead. On Abbie’s advisement, Irving recruits Jenny to help with the Horseman. Since Jenny used to work there in acquisitions, Irving takes her with him when he is called to a robbery at Adams Antiques. Abbie and Ichabod find a corner in the tunnel where Andy has been residing. Ichabod discovers Egyptian hieroglyphs indicating that Andy is the Horseman’s necromancer and can communicate with the dead. Andy agrees to help them, but warns that confronting Death will not end well. In a secret room at the antiques store, the police find Adams shot. Adams tells Jenny that the Hessian thieves stole a Thracian filing relic that can break a hex spell like the one binding the Horseman. Jenny believes the Hessians will cut the power grid in order to disable the underground UV lights.
The Horseman drops an emerald necklace. Ichabod recognizes it as a gift given to his wife Katrina by her previous suitor Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt. Katrina broke off their engagement after falling in love with Ichabod.
With a tactical unit, Irving and Jenny take down a team of Hessian mercenaries at Sleepy Hollow Power, but the Germans still manage to blow up the west power grid. The Horseman tells Ichabod that his original mission was to avenge the death of Abraham Van Brunt. Ichabod vehemently denies being responsible for Brom’s death. The power goes out in the tunnels.
Ichabod tells Abbie of the time he and Brom were tasked with a clandestine mission to deliver the Declaration of Resolves of the First Continental Congress. Heartbroken over Katrina, Brom was distracted. Ichabod admitted that he and Katrina were in love, prompting Brom to draw his sword and force Ichabod into a duel. The two men were suddenly beset by Hessian mercenaries and Brom was shot. Ichabod had to flee with the declaration as more soldiers arrived and a sword was pointed at Brom, who lied dying on the ground.
Irving returns to the tunnel with Jenny and reports that they were unable to find the Thracian filing with the Druidic incantation that can free the Horseman. Irving, Jenny, and Abbie go to guard the corridors while Ichabod continues the interrogation. Inside the chamber, Andy pulls the Thracian relic from under his skin, where it was hidden in his body. He recites the incantation and summons the minions of Moloch. Irving and the Mills sisters fight off several of the creatures. The Horseman breaks free and fights Ichabod with a sword. From his fighting style, Ichabod realizes that the Headless Horseman is actually Abraham Van Brunt.
Abraham reveals that the Hessians turned him into one of them. Brom made a deal with Moloch in return for the promise Katrina’s soul. Before the Horseman can kill Ichabod, Andy summons more of Moloch’s minions and they spirit the Horseman away. Ichabod wonders why Moloch spared his life. He then realizes that his wife Katrina is the Horseman’s greatest weakness.
Over 200 years have passed since Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman last pointed their sword tips towards one another. Nearly 200 years is also the length of time it has taken to elevate Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt above the role of a loudmouthed pumpkin-headed prankster and into an undeniably formidable adversary for the television take on Sleepy Hollow’s most notable resident.
In reviewing the pilot episode of “Sleepy Hollow,” I mentioned a casual aside about the original text and how everyone remembers the name Ichabod Crane, but no one remembers Abraham Van Brunt. Now, the “Sleepy Hollow” creative team does what Washington Irving himself was unable to do in literary form, and that is to make Brom into a character audiences will wish to remember.
With a brilliantly inspired stroke, “Sleepy Hollow” returns to the source material of Irving’s iconic short story to carve out a history that meaningfully connects the primary hero to his archenemy beyond simply being the Horseman’s decapitator. The Headless One is not the Hessian mercenary seen igniting a bomb in Samuel Adams’ face back in episode four after all. The Horseman is actually none other than Abraham Van Brunt.
Washington Irving let Van Brunt have the last laugh in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” In the battle for the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, Abraham bested his competition by filling Ichabod’s head with ghost stories and letting the schoolmaster’s imagination do the rest. With the help of horse and a pumpkin, of course. Whether scared out of town or spirited away by a phantom, Ichabod was never to be seen in Sleepy Hollow again.
The TV series turns the tables on these events by having that love triangle play out in a different way. And in a way that has far more serious stakes than Irving would have ever dreamed.
The heart wants what the heart wants. And Katrina’s heart wants Ichabod, not the man to whom she was betrothed. So with an 18th century equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me,” Katrina kicks fiancé Abe to the curb in order to freely romp about with her true love Ichabod. Abe does not take the besmirching lightly, of course. In a flashback scene owing more to George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan than to Washington Irving, Brom’s fury gets the better of him and leads to his reconstruction as a demonic Hessian mercenary maligned by love for a woman no longer in his reach. From his backstabbing of Obi-Wan to the deal with Palpatine over resurrecting Padme in exchange for becoming an agent of evil, the parallel with Darth Vader nee Anakin Skywalker is eerily familiar.
In any event, the revelation of this link to both Ichabod and to Katrina makes the Headless Horseman so much more than a shotgun-toting version of the terminator clad in Revolutionary War garb. Consider that the Horseman has no face with which to emote and still he is a terrifying villain as well as a rich character that continues developing as an intriguing point of interest for the show’s mythology.
When Ichabod loses his cool in repeated instances during the Horseman’s interrogation, Crane is shown as truly fallible. Usually the most knowledgeable and dependable person in any room, unresolved issues with his wife and Van Brunt are a genuine weakness giving new depth to Tom Mison’s role. Ichabod may be endlessly resourceful and intelligent, but there is a legitimate reason to worry about how easily his buttons can be pushed thanks to this newly revealed conflict.
Those viewers who have yet to pick up the show, yet hear its high regard, can make “Necromancer” a perfect jumping on point if the thought of catching up on seven previous hours is an obstacle. Episode eight reintroduces all the major players and finds a moment to sum up key plot details thus far. Now is the time to convert the unbelievers, and this is as worthy of an episode as any to finally start.
Episode 9 - Sanctuary
Director: Liz Friedlander
Writer: Damian Kindler, Chitra Elizabeth Sampath
Summary: A haunted house connected to Ichabod’s past holds startling revelations for Ichabod and Abbie.
Billionaire socialite Lena Gilbert and her bodyguard Sam investigate a recently purchased ancestral property that had been abandoned for decades. Lena finds tree roots growing all throughout the house. When she cuts her hand in one of the closets, the tree roots come alive and pull her in. Captain Irving assigns Abbie and Ichabod to investigate Lena’s disappearance after finding a paper Lena left behind with the name “Katrina C.” An Internet search reveals that Lena is a descendant of Lachlan Fredericks, an influential landowner and charter member of the Continental Congress. Ichabod recalls a time when he and Katrina visited Fredericks Manor as it was a renowned safe haven for freed slaves. Inside the mansion, Abbie and Ichabod discover Sam’s dead body. When they try to leave, all of the doors slam shut and trap the duo inside.
Abbie sees the ghost of a woman later revealed to be house matron Grace Dixon. Ichabod finds a copy of Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels,” which was his wife’s favorite novel. Inside is the letter Ichabod wrote to be delivered to Katrina in the event of his death in battle against the Horseman. Ichabod comes to realize that Fredericks Manor doubled as a refuge from supernatural threats and that Lachlan belonged to the same coven as Katrina. Abbie and Ichabod find Lena trapped in the closet and free her from the tree tendrils. The tree roots bleed when they are severed. At the same time, a scarecrow made from those roots animates in the garden outside and stalks towards the house.
Captain Irving and Jenny Mills converse about her involvement with the Horseman case. Jenny invites Irving to Thanksgiving dinner with her and her sister. Their surprisingly cordial behavior towards one another gives the impression that they are dating to Irving’s ex-wife Cynthia and to his disabled daughter Macey, who enter the office unexpectedly. Lena tells Ichabod that she wrote Katrina’s name because she found it in a registry listing her as the last person who came to Fredericks Manor before it was abandoned. Ichabod and Lena become separated from Abbie as the scarecrow begins chasing the trio.
Macey introduces herself to Jenny. Cynthia tells Irving that she is ready to file for full custody if he does not stop cancelling his weekends with their daughter. Abbie follows the ghost of Grace Dixon and witnesses a vision of Katrina giving birth to Ichabod’s son with Grace as Katrina’s attendant.
Abbie finds Ichabod and tells him that his wife had a child. She also reveals that the evil in the house broke the protective hex by growing inside the property, enabling Moloch’s scarecrow to presumably kidnap the baby after killing Lachlan. Ichabod and Abbie follow Lena’s scream and find her being held by the scarecrow in the mansion’s basement.
Abbie is able to free Lena by shooting the tree roots. She follows the ghost of Grace Dixon once again and everyone is led to an exit. With Abbie and Lena safe outside, Ichabod takes an axe and returns to the house. Inside, he does battle with the scarecrow and kills it with the axe. Back in the office with Corbin’s files, Abbie opens a delivery from Lena Gilbert. In the Fredericks Manor records, Abbie finds Grace Dixon’s family tree and discovers that her mother, Lori Roberts, was Grace’s descendant. Abbie’s ancestor helped to deliver Ichabod’s son.
Just when it seems like “Sanctuary” is going to be a disposable, albeit lively hour of B-movie creature feature meets haunted house horror, the ninth episode of “Sleepy Hollow” goes and adds a major wrinkle certain to ripple into future storylines. “Sleepy Hollow” even doubles down on this twist by swirling in a link to Abbie’s ancestry that cements her partnership with Ichabod in a very thoughtful way.
Ichabod and Abbie’s excursion inside a creepy mansion to rescue a billionaire socialite from the tree-root grip of an animated scarecrow reveals a piece of his wife’s past to which Ichabod was not previously privy. While not completely jaw dropping, the revelation at least causes lips to part slightly while the head spins with a question of, “exactly how is this going to work out?” It is a well-timed addition to the bevy of playthings that the show now has at its disposal. The scripts know precisely when to take toys out and put new ones in to keep the sandbox primed with plentiful ideas.
If Ichabod and Abbie are Mulder and Scully, then Captain Irving is their Walter Skinner. Like his FBI counterpart, Irving initially sauntered onto the scene with a chest puffed full of authority and a grim pout that said, “I’m in charge,” and nothing else. His icy exterior and “is he hiding something?” grimaces have steadily melted to the point where his top two investigators, as well as the viewers, are ready to trust him wholeheartedly.
While Abbie and Ichabod are off playing a game of ghost hunters, Irving finds time to entertain Jenny Mills’ Thanksgiving dinner invitation. Their uneasy alliance has filtered in potentially furtive flirtations that have Irving’s ex-wife and his daughter making assumptions about Frank and Jenny as a couple.
Ichabod’s heart belongs to Katrina. Abbie had zero chemistry with her ex-flame Luke, and any romantic subplot involving her time-displaced partner would be foolishly ill advised. Should “Sleepy Hollow” be interested in a little more kissing and canoodling, Frank and Jenny are currently making the short list for filling that role. At the very least, the two of them are prepped as a pair for B plot stardom while Abbie and Ichabod keep the A stage occupied.
Virtually every sustained series adds a Christmas episode at some point, and often a Halloween one, too. Few take on Thanksgiving as a theme. “Sanctuary” folds in hearty portions of sentimentality by giving all of the primary personalities a moment to reflect on family and a sense of belonging, although it does dip liberally into schmaltz.
Irving’s disabled daughter Macey is overly forthcoming in a conversation with Jenny underscored by a too obvious soundtrack of emotional piano keys. But these pauses do keep the show’s far-flung fantasy grounded in humanity. They also double as a reminder that the characters are more than mere vessels for keeping the action train on the tracks.
Along with a haunted house full of slamming doors and cawing crows, “Sanctuary” adds another monster to the ever-growing folio of “Sleepy Hollow” creature concoctions. Similar to the Sandman and to Moloch’s minions, this episode’s gnarled bark scarecrow has an effectively streamlined appearance.
The monsters in “Sleepy Hollow” have always been simply presented. The effects department resists the urge to run wild with their designs and it is to the series’ benefits. The creatures do not detract from the stories and they maintain profiles that are familiar, yet perfectly in keeping with the show’s mythology.
Speaking of mythology, this is another episode that demonstrates how ably the writers and the directors balance development of the show’s ongoing arc with a “done in one” story of the week. Other shows incorporating serialized storylines can learn a lot from the methods employed on “Sleepy Hollow.” Rare is the program that can satisfy both goals of rewarding ardent followers with another piece of the bigger picture while simultaneous giving casual viewers inviting entertainment within the same hour. And “Sleepy Hollow” does exactly that.
Episode 10 - The Golem
Director: J. Miller Tobin
Writer: Mark Goffman, Jose Molina, Alex Kurtzman
Summary: The search for answers regarding Ichabod’s lost son resurrects a creature determined to slay Katrina’s coven.
Abbie and Ichabod ponder the fate of Ichabod’s son. Sin eater Henry Parrish arrives at Corbin’s cabin. Acting on Ichabod’s request, Parrish uses his powers to strangle Ichabod, bringing him close enough to death so that he can visit Katrina in purgatory. Katrina tells Ichabod that she named their son Jeremy after Ichabod’s grandfather. Katrina’s coven sought retribution after she secreted Ichabod away in the cave where he laid dormant for over 200 years. While searching Europe for a spell to unbind her husband from the Horseman, Katrina learned she was with child. Confronted by the coven, Katrina fled back home to Fredericks Manor and gave birth. Fearing the coven would use Jeremy to take revenge, Katrina entrusted the boy’s safety to Grace Dixon and Grace’s husband, Pastor Joseph, at Trinity Church. Before giving him up, Katrina gave Jeremy a handmade doll that she promised would keep him safe. Katrina was then banished to purgatory by members of her coven known as “The Four Who Speak as One.” Ichabod vows to discover his son’s fate and to free Katrina from purgatory just as a creature enters, sending Ichabod back to reality. Meanwhile, that same creature rises from beneath the forest floor in Sleepy Hollow.
Despite his hesitance, Abbie convinces Henry to help her and Ichabod further. Captain Irving visits Reverend Boland at his church for counsel. Ichabod, Abbie, and Henry research Trinity Church at the Sleepy Hollow Historical Society. Henry notices that librarian Miss Nelson appears to be hiding something. Records indicate that Grace Dixon and Pastor Joseph died in 1784 when their house burned down. Local townspeople claimed that Jeremy was capable of starting fires simply by crying. Ichabod realizes that the boy inherited his mother’s powers. Having survived the blaze, Jeremy was sent to an orphanage. Miss Nelson tries to drive away in a hurry, but the creature from the forest kills her in her car.
Captain Irving visits his ex-wife and spends the day with his daughter Macey. Abbie and Ichabod examine Miss Nelson’s personal effects and learn that she was a witch. Inside a box they discover a book revealing that Jeremy was physically abused by the priest who governed his orphanage. During one of his beatings, Jeremy bled on Katrina’s doll and inadvertently turned it into a golem that killed the priest and became Jeremy’s protector. Abbie and Ichabod realize that the golem plans to take revenge on the witches from Katrina’s coven.
While in the park with Macey, a vendor threatens Irving after becoming possessed. Irving grabs the vendor angrily, unknowingly transferring the entity into a nearby woman before he and his daughter leave the scene. Carnival tickets found with the librarian’s items reveal that Miss Nelson visited “The Four Who Speak as One” regularly for over a century. Fearing that they are the golem’s next targets, and reasoning that they might have the power to bring Katrina back from purgatory, Ichabod goes to see the four witches at the nearby carnival in Dobbs Ferry.
Isa, Jer, Nahum, and Mal reveal that Jeremy refused their offer of help. Fearing the golem as well as the boy, the four witches imprisoned the golem in purgatory. However, Jeremy was immune to their spells. After he refused to join their coven, the sisterhood bound together to invoke a hex that would stop Jeremy’s heart and they buried him in a coffin. The witches tell Ichabod that since Jeremy’s blood gave the golem life, only his blood can end it. The golem appears and tears down the witches’ tent as panic consumes the carnival. Henry sees a mirror shard piercing Ichabod’s chest and theorizes that Ichabod’s blood is the same as Jeremy’s. Ichabod confronts the golem and tries talking it into surrender. The golem attacks Ichabod instead, but Ichabod stabs it with the bloody shard and destroys the creature.
Henry expresses a willingness to help Abbie and Ichabod in the future. While alone in the police station, a mirror cracks and Ichabod returns to purgatory. Moloch appears and tells Ichabod that his death is assured. Abbie finds Ichabod when he returns to reality. He tells Abbie that Moloch is coming for her soul and the demon claims that Ichabod will be the one who delivers it to him.
Ichabod feels guilty for not being there to mentor his young son, even though that was never an option since he was buried underground at the time. Katrina feels guilty for giving up that same son into the care of others, even though that was the only way she could protect everyone in the Crane family. Captain Irving feels guilty about not being around more for his ex-wife Cynthia and for his daughter Macey, even though the fate of the world demands his attention point elsewhere.
There is quite a bit of self-inflicted punishment weighing heavy on the heart for three of Sleepy Hollow’s Big Four. Individual culpability in each of these abandonment issues is up for debate however, while “The Golem” is indisputably guilty of pouring a heap of exposition on the “Sleepy Hollow” faithful.
A willing trip to purgatory courtesy of returning guest star John Noble gives Ichabod a face-to-face heart-to-heart with his ethereally captive wife. Linking in a good old-fashioned jaunt to the local library, Ichabod’s search for the truth about the son he never knew he had results in a beefy info dump with plenty of story material to process.
Among episode ten’s revelations are the fate of Abbie’s ancestor Grace Dixon, the reason why Katrina did not tell Ichabod of her pregnancy, why her own coven banished her to purgatory, and how this hour’s monster of the moment came to be created from a creepy homemade doll and a few drops of blood. The only question still unanswered by this point is the one that Ichabod started with. What on Earth happened to his son Jeremy?
A strange moral grey area is developing in the middle of the mess regarding Katrina, her coven, and Ichabod’s tie to the Horseman. Each new nugget of information changes the perception of which side is which in this battle of good versus evil.
Katrina only wished to save her husband’s life by hex-binding Ichabod and sealing him in his underground cave. If she had not done so, there would not be a “Sleepy Hollow” television series to watch. But the sisterhood takes a Mister Spock view of the event. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. And Katrina’s action was undeniably selfish. Is the coven to be forgiven for wanting Ichabod dead in order to end the Horseman’s threat? After all, which is the worse sin: Katrina suspending Ichabod’s life, the coven suspending Jeremy’s, or Jeremy unknowingly burning up Abbie’s ancestors in a house fire? Separating the good intentions from the bad is becoming more of a challenge with every episode.
John Noble’s second appearance on the show picks up where it left off, with sin eater Henry Parrish matching his reluctance to be involved with a distance separating him from the others. Henry requires copious amounts of convincing to get his hands dirty with Ichabod and Abbie again, which is strange for a man willing to drive all the way out to Corbin’s cabin in the middle of nowhere just to exclaim he would rather not be there.
John Noble has an unmatched talent for expressing through a face weighed down by emotional torment. It is a good thing that Henry loses his attitude of unwillingness by hour’s end to hint at future participation in regular Sleepy Hollow adventures. The heart wants to go out to a character burdened by such incalculable sadness. That can finally take place now that he is done being so prickly and aloof.
Even with a slight pause to partially slow the action while more story seeds are thrown in the dirt, “The Golem” one-ups its predecessors as the best example yet of how effortlessly “Sleepy Hollow” melts mythology into standalone story. Newer viewers may be lost in the thick mire of character histories, backstory developments, and a nearly unnecessary aside featuring Captain Irving on a park stroll with Macey. But there is a complete tale of Ichabod, Abbie, and Henry’s battle against the golem working well enough on its own that it can be enjoyed independently of every other spinning plate.
If nothing else, episode ten amps up the weird factor through a very cool quartet of black-veiled witches with gorgeous blue eyes offsetting pointy yellow teeth. Every detail is a highlight of the series’ creative production design. Through the haze of the foursome’s hookah-pipe smoke exists enough skulls and candles to fill each stage on a King Diamond concert tour. And all of it exists under the canopy of a red and white circus tent to boot. No matter the criticisms that anyone might have of the show, it cannot be said that “Sleepy Hollow” does not aim high when it comes to creating fun atmosphere.
Episode 11 - Vessel
Director: Romeo Tirone
Writer: Melissa Blake, Mark Goffman, David McMillan
Summary: The demon Ancitif possesses Irving's daughter Macey in order to force the captain into giving up George Washington's bible.
While puzzling over the meaning of Moloch’s most recent threat, Abbie outfits Ichabod in new clothes, although he ultimately returns to his familiar wardrobe. Irving watches the polygraph interrogation of the vendor from the park who issued a demonic warning about Irving’s daughter Macey. The woman from the park who next hosted the vendor’s demon arrives at the station and transfers the evil spirit into one of the police officers. The possessed officer calls Irving’s cell phone and threatens to possess Macey if Irving does not hand over George Washington’s bible. Irving sees that the call is coming from inside the station and confronts the possessed officer at gunpoint. However, the spirit transfers into Luke Morales’ partner Devon Jones. Irving calls Reverend Boland for help fighting the demon and protecting his daughter. Irving tells Abbie and Ichabod about the demon’s demand. Assuming that there must be a hidden message in the bible on how to combat the forces of evil, Abbie and Ichabod begin researching Sheriff Corbin’s files for references to demonic possession. They discover a recording that Corbin made in which he exorcised a demon from a 19-year-old girl. That girl turned out to be Jenny Mills.
Jenny joins Abbie and Ichabod in watching the recording and in trying to determine how to combat the demon. Morales and Jones help Irving escort Macey and his ex-wife Cynthia to a secluded cabin for safety. The demon transfers from Jones into Morales. Jenny confides in Ichabod that she used to get herself arrested and imprisoned so that she would not be able to harm her sister. Reverend Boland blesses a protective line of salt in the cabin doorway. Still possessed, Morales has Jones remove the salt line so he can enter the house and he then snaps Jones’ neck.
Ichabod, Abbie, and Jenny learn that the demon’s name is Ancitif. Repeated viewings of the exorcism video reveal that Corbin bound the spirit with salt. Their research also uncovers that the demon can be expelled from its host with a blessed lantern. Ichabod recognizes the lantern as being one of several given by the French to Benjamin Franklin for defeating evil. Jenny knows of one such lantern in the possession of a militia. Back at the cabin, Ancitif makes his move by possessing Macey.
Possessed by Ancitif, Macey twists Reverend Boland’s head around and kills him when he attempts to expel the spirit from her. Macey takes Cynthia hostage and demands that Irving turn over Washington’s bible. Abbie and Ichabod break into the militia’s compound and steal the lantern, but the militia confronts them at gunpoint when they try to leave.
Ichabod and Abbie try appealing to Chase Weaver, the militia’s leader. When Weaver demands that they give back the lantern, Jenny arrives and points her own guns at Weaver’s men. Hinting at a past between he and Jenny, Weaver allows the trio to leave with the lantern. Jenny promises to return it when they are done. Irving reluctantly takes Macey to Corbin’s library, but discovers that Abbie and Ichabod hid the bible. As the demon uses Macey to confront the girl’s parents, Ichabod and the Mills sisters arrive.
Following a struggle, the sisters are able to bind Ancitif with a salt ring while Ichabod uses the lantern to exorcise Macey. Later, Ichabod crafts a mixture for revealing invisible ink. Inside the bible, Ichabod finds the date “December 18th, 1799” written in George Washington’s handwriting. Abbie points out that December 18th was four days after George Washington died.
Finally, Ichabod dons a new outfit! Oh well, that was short lived. The brilliance in Abbie’s failed attempt at modernizing Crane’s wardrobe and his bemoaning the crotch-constricting inseam of skinny jeans is what the brief interlude reveals about Sleepy Hollow’s creative personality. The subtext from behind-the-scenes acknowledges fans’ spirited nitpicks over things like Ichabod’s 200-year-old wardrobe and then says, “we’ve spanked the elephant in the room, now trust us to get on with the storytelling.” It is another way of the show proclaiming that an opportunity for levity through a wink is so much more enjoyable than treating everything too seriously.
If/when “Sleepy Hollow” runs for several seasons and ends up with episodes numbering in the triple digits, “Vessel” is unlikely to rank in the top 25% of that collection. Episode eleven is still adequately serviceable. But despite isolated moments of inspiration in key arc developments, the main plot of demonic possession piles on pounds from exorcism-related feasts already eaten innumerable times since Regan MacNeil’s head did its first 180 way back when.
Even with half of the episode’s cast hosting a demon or being killed by one at some point during the hour, there is a high amount of playing it safe going on. Captain Irving has an opportunity to turn a corner into sympathetically motivated duplicity when confronted with a choice between giving in to an evil demand and saving his daughter. His character could have added another layer by remaining aligned with Abbie and Ichabod while undertaking a secret burden of temporary allegiance to the demon Ancitif. It is the heroic thing for Irving to hold out as long as possible and to be upfront about his dilemma instead, but his character’s flavor risks turning vanilla with a continued portrayal of supremely moral family man.
Until this point, Irving has jockeyed neck and neck with Ichabod and Abbie for the crown of most perceptive investigator. Which makes it a ludicrous notion that the captain would expect a polygraph interrogation of the briefly possessed park vendor from the previous episode to yield any useful information. Irving knows that the entity body swapped, evidenced by the fact that he also summoned the woman subsequently possessed after being bumped into. What would he realistically expect to be revealed from picking the memories of two people who have none?
The comedy of confusion continues when he confronts the demon’s latest host, one of his own officers. By the time Irving can point his gun in the unsuspecting man’s face, Ancitif is already off to the next body. Again, Irving knows that the demon transfers through touch. But instead of locking down the room and quarantining everyone within ten feet, he just shrugs his shoulders and virtually sighs, “guess he got away.” Irving has always been brighter than this before.
Episode eleven is smarter about other things, however. One of those things being the intelligent way of bringing Clancy Brown back for a guest appearance without resorting to the convenient fantasy hallucinations Abbie briefly had near the start of the season. Flashbacks via video recordings in Corbin’s files make better sense as a means for reinserting his character into the meta-storyline.
As far as setting up future plot devices goes, what “Sleepy Hollow” plans to do with its newly introduced “Warehouse 13” militia is up in the air. Out of any number of ways for the intrepid trio to acquire this episode’s deus ex machina, establishing a band of gun-toting good ol’ boys won out. Their quick toe-to-toe with Abbie and Ichabod is undone just as quickly by Jenny two-fisting a pair of her own guns. The only immediate accomplishment from this confrontation is an extension of the time it takes to lay hands on the magic lantern. Here is to hoping that the series has something more significant in mind for the long game with these makeshift minutemen.
“Sleepy Hollow” has had a knack for clever rewrites of American history from the get go, and “Vessel” teases potentially the best development yet. Ignoring for a moment that Abbie somehow has the date of George Washington’s death readily available at the front of her brain, the revelation that the United States’ founding father did not actually die when textbooks say he did is rife with possibilities. With Sleepy Hollow’s fearlessness for putting imagination above reverence, whatever is in store for General Washington’s resurrection is virtually assured to be as delightfully dizzying as “Sleepy Hollow” has reliably been.
Episode 12 - The Indispensable Man
Director: Adam Kane
Writer: Damian Kindler, Heather V. Regnier, Sam Chalsen
Summary: Henry Parish aids the search of George Washington's secret tomb for a map to Purgatory so that Ichabod might free Katrina.
Andy Brooks breaks into Abbie’s home to warn her that Moloch wants George Washington’s bible in order to find a map. Before escaping, Andy promises to spare Abbie if she hands over the bible and he repeats the prophecy that Ichabod is destined to give Abbie’s soul to Moloch. Ichabod recalls Washington mentioning the story of Lazarus. Within the bible, Ichabod and Abbie discover ten extra verses in the Lazarus story where Washington hid a coded message. Ichabod learns that prayer beads cursed by occult forces were used to resurrect Washington four days after his death so that he could undertake a final mission. Having existed between the worlds of the living and the dead, Washington used this knowledge to draft a map leading from Earth to Purgatory. Ichabod realizes that with the map, he can free his wife Katrina.
Among the names listed in the bible as being involved in Washington’s reanimation is Reverend Alfred Knapp, the 200-year-old warlock aligned with Katrina who guarded the horseman’s head and who was killed when Death first returned to Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod reasons that the cursed prayer beads used in the supernatural ritual must have belonged to Knapp. Assuming that the beads are now filled with sin, Ichabod and Abbie call on Henry Parish to assist them in using his sin eater powers to read the beads’ history and to locate the map. At the police station, Captain Irving is interviewed about the deaths of Reverend Boland and Officer Devon Jones. Meanwhile, Moloch uses locusts to spin a cocoon around Andy and morphs him into a more powerful creature to serve in his army. Abbie, Ichabod, and Henry open Reverend Knapp’s tomb. Henry’s hand is burned by a hex when he attempts to read the rosary buried with Knapp.
Henry forces himself to clutch the beads and glimpses a vision before collapsing from the pain. Abbie tries telling Ichabod that the severity of protections in place suggest that the map should not be found. She worries that Ichabod is blinded by his desire to reach Purgatory and free his wife. Moloch’s minions attack the trio in the cemetery, but they successfully fight off the creatures.
After regrouping, the three of them deduce that the map would have been buried with Washington, but that Washington would have been entombed in a hidden crypt to guard his secrets. Reasoning that Washington would have wanted a burial near Sleepy Hollow so that Knapp could protect the tomb, Ichabod, Abbie, and Henry travel to Bannerman’s Island in the Hudson River. Once there, Ichabod uses his knowledge of freemasonry to uncover the hidden passage to Washington’s underground crypt.
Irving learns that the police are collecting a sample from his daughter Macey to match against DNA found on Reverend Boland’s neck. Ignoring a decoy pyramid monument as a booby trap, Ichabod’s ring opens a passage hidden behind a marker devoted to Washington’s idol, Cincinnatus. Behind the wall they discover the real tomb. After finding the Purgatory map in Washington’s secret coffin, the newly transformed Andy Brooks attacks.
Abbie seemingly destroys Andy, but he reanimates and continues his pursuit. Abbie triggers the booby trap to collapse the crypt on top of Andy while she escapes with Ichabod and Henry through another secret tunnel. With the map finally in hand, Ichabod resolves to find another way to Katrina and burns the map in order to preserve Abbie’s trust and friendship. In order to spare his daughter, Irving confesses to the murders of Boland and Jones and turns himself in. Back at his cabin, Ichabod uses his photographic memory to recreate the Purgatory map.
Ironic that the famous anecdote about the cherry tree is a fable to promote truth telling when it is really just the most repeated lie told about George Washington. Although maybe General Washington really could not tell a lie and it is just idolizing journalists making up tall tales about chopping down trees and throwing silver dollars across the Potomac.
According to “Sleepy Hollow,” lesser known among the fudged facts of Washington’s biography is the truth behind his 1899 demise. It turns out that the founding father was not above using a cursed rosary to resurrect himself so that he might draft a map outlining an earthly path to Purgatory. And that happens to be the very piece of parchment Ichabod requires to free his wife Katrina from her ethereal chains.
Thus begins “The Indispensible Man” adventure for Abbie, Ichabod, and returning guest star Johns, Noble as Henry Parish and Cho as Andy Brooks. The setup is a ten-year-old boy’s dream fantasy realized in an episode loaded with secret passages, secret messages, secret rings and pretty much any other plot device one can think of with the word secret as an adjective. Secret tombs are also on the menu when it is revealed that the bones of the first U.S. president are not interred in his Mount Vernon memorial as popularly believed, but in a hidden underground chamber booby-trapped with exploding pyramids and false walls. Are American History textbooks right about anything when it comes to George Washington?
The details it takes to get to the “good stuff” are arbitrary at best and confounding at worst. Why would Washington ever write the December 18th date at all, other than to provide a dun-dun-dun moment at the end of the previous episode? Would it not have been simpler to put the ultimate message there in the first place or was it necessary to have Abbie show that she conveniently knows off the top of her head the correct number of bible verses in the story of Lazarus? Ichabod ought to dunk Washington’s entire bible in that invisible ink solution while he is at it and be done with it. If he continues finding messages one at a time, shots of him painting that brush over each page on an as needed basis will only elicit sighs.
My heart sank with mild disappointment when Washington’s secret coffin opened and a skeleton was inside clutching the map in its bony hand. Part of me wanted George to join Ichabod in 2014 and add a whole new level of crazy to the series. Perhaps the notion of a recurring “zombie George Washington” is too much even for Sleepy Hollow’s zaniness, though I do hope he did more in his second life than spend an hour as an undead cartographer.
Episode 12’s script wakes from a trance of chatty exposition and humdrum location-hopping to insert a random graveyard attack by Moloch’s minions. It is as if the story knows it is intended as a stage setter for the episode 13 finale and suddenly remembers to spice up the action before inducing narcolepsy.
That “oh wait, we forgot something!” feeling is revisited with the briefest B-plot to date in the form of Captain Irving and the police resolving the matter of two dead bodies back at Frank’s cabin. There is a bit of a “we’ll deal with this later” attitude on display from the writers, although it is appreciated that there are genuine consequences for the two deaths last episode. The situation does not just magically disappear simply because the previous hour reached it conclusion. Someone besides the primary characters is also counting the new additions to Sleepy Hollow’s morgue.
The overall quest to retrieve the Purgatory map is meh as a plot, particularly given a resolution that initially turns the whole affair into a moot point. But “The Indispensable Man” does make time for the show’s characteristic flair with amusing moments of Ichabod’s various travails over a cell phone. When newcomers visit “Sleepy Hollow” for the first time 20-30 years from now, it will be equally amusing to see how jabs at social media friend networks and palm-sized hardware fascinations play. “Sleepy Hollow” just might be dating itself worse than Ichabod’s wardrobe.
Episode 13 - Bad Blood
Director: Ken Olin
Writer: Alex Kurtzman, Mark Goffman
Summary: A journey into Purgatory reveals Moloch's plan to resurrect the second horseman, War.
Henry Parish wakes from a dream in which he sees Moloch resurrect the horseman War under a solar eclipse. Ichabod stumbles into a contemporary reenactment of a battle from the American Revolution and uses the opportunity to purchase new clothes. Henry meets Abbie, Ichabod, and Jenny at Corbin’s cabin and tells them about his dream. The Mills sisters connect that it is the thirteenth anniversary of the day they first encountered Moloch in the forest. Everyone concludes that War is destined to arrive in Sleepy Hollow that day.
Washington’s bible reveals that War can be bound by witchcraft to the soil where he is buried. Ichabod confesses to Abbie that he recreated the Purgatory map from memory. Abbie is convinced to help him retrieve his wife so that Katrina can bind the second horseman with a hex. Captain Irving leaves a datebook for Abbie that belonged to Corbin. Jenny is tasked to go through Corbin’s audio logs in search of a connection to Reverend Knapp in order to solve Moloch’s riddle about a saint’s name leading to War taking form. Henry accompanies Abbie and Ichabod to the location where they can enter Purgatory. Henry warns them not to eat or drink anything while there or else they will be imprisoned in Purgatory for eternity. Abbie and Ichabod recite an incantation written by Washington and enter Purgatory when the doorway opens.
Abbie wakes in an alternate reality where she is joined by Andy Brooks and Sheriff Corbin. They try coaxing her into eating a slice of apple pie, but Abbie recalls a memory of Ichabod and the illusion shatters. Ichabod wakes in England to be welcomed by his estranged father in a timeline where Britain prevailed in the American Revolution. Before he can sip a celebratory libation, Ichabod remembers Abbie and breaks the spell.
From Corbin’s tape recordings, Jenny traces the connection between Corbin and Knapp to a ruined church and begins an investigation to uncover the church’s true name. Abbie and Ichabod reawaken inside the real Purgatory and reunite with each other. They locate Ichabod’s wife, but Katrina tells them she cannot leave without first being granted forgiveness. The only other way Katrina can leave is if another soul takes her place.
Following an emotional discussion, Abbie elects to take Katrina’s place so that Katrina may leave and Abbie can finally confront Moloch. Ichabod passionately vows to return for Abbie after he and Katrina successfully stop War. Katrina gives Abbie an amulet bound by the Sisterhood of the Radiant Heart to protect her from Moloch before returning to Earth with Ichabod. Jenny locates the abandoned church and finds a discarded sign revealing the name from Moloch’s riddle. Before she can bring the sign back to the others, the Headless Horseman appears in the road with a shotgun and overturns Jenny’s car.
Abbie fights Moloch before fleeing into a life-size dollhouse where she meets younger versions of herself and Jenny. Young Abbie tells her that they are actually Abbie’s own memories that Moloch took from her so that she would not remember what happened during the childhood encounter in the woods. Henry accompanies Ichabod and Katrina to the spot where War is buried. There, Henry binds Ichabod and Katrina to two of the four white trees and explains that he is really their son Jeremy. Buried alive by Katrina’s coven, he was rescued years later by Moloch and transformed into the second horseman. The Mills sisters witnessed his resurrection that day in the woods, but the memory was taken from them. The first place that Jeremy saw after coming out of the ground was the church where he was abandoned. He renamed himself from the sign that read, “St. Henry’s Parish.” The Headless Horseman arrives and takes Katrina away. Henry puts Ichabod in the pine box where he was buried and traps Ichabod under the earth.
“Afraid there’s no time for pleasantries, my friends. I believe that on this day, Moloch will seek to unleash Hell on Earth,” Henry Parish says hurriedly upon bursting into Corbin’s cabin. Cue a shocked expression from Abbie, an emphasized audio sting, and Jenny’s plucky response of, “that’s one way to enter a room.” Leave it to the season finale to not waste one moment encapsulating the spirit of “Sleepy Hollow” before hitting the first commercial break. Urgent activity. Dire consequences. The fate of the world hanging in the balance. And colorful characters snarking out one side of the mouth while taking the madness with slick aplomb.
The mounting complexity of season one’s meta-arc during its back half has required quite a bit of talky-talky to set up pins for episode 13 to knock over with a thunderous strike. “Bad Blood” packs in a dictionary’s worth of dialogue as well, but it goes down smooth thanks to the smirking snap of sly lines such as, “I have more than faith. I’m a mental patient with a gun.”
Ichabod’s betrayal of Abbie’s trust by using his photographic memory to recreate the map she saw him destroy is glossed over with a verbal hand slap of, “a half truth is a whole lie.” Abbie more or less lets it go, making the rigmarole of arguing over using the map and Ichabod turning on the waterworks while drafting the replacement two largely pointless experiences. No time for mourning dead-end scenes of fast forgotten emotion, however. That type of drama is available elsewhere. “Sleepy Hollow” has more pressing matters to attend to, starting with a physical trip to an ethereal Purgatory.
When not offering tempting illusions of dead loved ones, Purgatory is busy resembling a better-lit Silent Hill with significantly less fog. The dilemma presented to Abbie, Ichabod, and Katrina regarding who stays and who goes is a terrific topper to the developing relationship between the two primary players. An appreciable respect exists between Ichabod and Abbie that lends a platonic tenderness to their genuine friendship. Mulder and Scully started that way before ultimately having a child together, but “Sleepy Hollow” is following a more noble arc of portraying a strong male-female connection without leaning on any will they or won’t they romantic devices.
At the expense of poor Captain Irving, whose pathway to prison subplot is swept aside the way a second-rate comedian gets bumped for an A-list celebrity running long on a late night talk show, Henry Parish elbows into a huge chunk of screentime. A prime component of this episode’s big reveal is how brilliantly the unexpected development taps into John Noble’s unique strengths as an actor. No more is he simply a trembling voiced empath staring sullenly as though transfixed by some vague memory or shiny object dangling just offscreen. The confidence booming in his voice at his character change is as welcome as the twist setting him up deliciously as the perfect adversary for the heroes of Sleepy Hollow.
“Bad Blood” is a breathtaker bookend capping a season with thrills and fun in equal measure. Irving in cuffs. Ichabod buried alive. Katrina captured by the Headless Horseman. Jenny unconscious in an overturned vehicle. And Abbie trapped in Purgatory. Evil prevails and everyone is in a bad way with no easy escape in sight. This climax satisfies as a near-perfect cliffhanger given that there is no guarantee how season two will open, yet whatever option the creators choose, it won’t feel like they are undoing anything permanent with a cheat.
As far as who has the best chance of turning the tide goes, smart money is on Abbie, if for no other reason than she is the only member of the five who currently has mobility. No matter where the story goes, “Sleepy Hollow” needs only slide right back in where it left off and it will already be mid-stride in momentum for confident delivery of consistently enjoyable episodic entertainment.