Recap/Review

‘Sleepy Hollow’ pilot recap: Two heads are better than none

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Abbie and Ichabod make quite the dynamic duo. (Photo credit: Brownie Harris/FOX via SpoilerTV)

Now that you’ve seen why I instantly fell for ‘Sleepy Hollow,’ let’s rehash the details of this fantastic pilot and digest the loads of crazy mythology we can look forward to exploring as the series continues.

‘Sleepy Hollow’ draws viewers in with an action-packed opening as we watch Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) face-off with a merciless mercenary during the Revolutionary War in 1781. As the axe-wielding masked maniac approaches, Crane notices the scar on his hand in the shape of a bow and arrow. We aren’t sure exactly what this means, but it will surely play a part in the greater mythology eventually. Crane shoots the Redcoat, but it inflicts no harm. The monstrous man rises and slashes Crane in the chest, Ichabod resorts to the only method of murder left: beheading. With one swift swing, Crane lops off the brute’s head.

Cut to the present day, where Crane emerges from a grave hidden within a secret cave riddled with trinkets and critters indicating some sort of occult activities may have taken place in this covert lair. As he climbs out and makes his way through the wilderness, Crane is literally knocked into the 21st Century with the nearly crushing blows of trucks and cars breezing past him on the highway. He watches a bird land on a roadside sign which says “Village of Sleepy Hollow Pop. 144,000.” (According to TVLine, this number is of Biblical significance and will come into play as the series progresses, so keep your eyes peeled for clues.) In a stroke of soundtrack genius, The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” kicks in and sends chills down your spine as Crane makes a run for it into the foggy town. While Crane confusingly stumbles into a modern day Sleepy Hollow, we begin to learn about his soon-to-be partner in supernatural crime-solving, Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie.)

Mills dines with her partner and friend, Sheriff August Corbin (guest star Clancy Brown) in small coffee shop. They discuss her plans to leave Sleepy Hollow in hopes of making it to the big leagues by getting accepted into Quantico. Sheriff Corbin notes that there are so many unsolved cases and a lot of excitement worth sticking around for. He asks if Abbie is running away from her past, but she avoids answering the question. As they leave the diner, the sheriff says goodbye to a priest sitting in the booth behind them. They exchange a nod as though they know something we don’t. Mills gets a call about an incident at a nearby stable, so they go to check it out. This is when things really start to heat up.

It is the heart-pounding moment we’ve seen in all the previews. Mills sees a headless body and rushes to join the sheriff in the barn, but she is too late. Sheriff Corbin becomes victim to the Headless Horseman’s head-severing strike. Abbie may have been too late to save her friend, but she is only person who saw the murderer. Unfortunately, no one would believe her if she told them what kind of man she really saw. The Headless Horseman makes a getaway on his demonically red-eyed white horse and Mills calls the police force for help.

When her buddy and fellow cop, Officer Andy Brooks (John Cho) drives past a panicking and suspicious-looking Crane, he arrests the frazzled man and takes him into custody. Brooks takes Mills to see Crane and she says that he is not the murderer. When she begins to describe the man she saw, Crane’s eyes widen and he asks if the horseman carried a broad-axe and had a mark on his hand in the shape of a bow. Mills can’t believe Crane’s detailed description and wonders when he saw the murderer. Crane matter-of-factly states the last time he saw the horseman, he cut off his head. Next thing you know, Crane is hooked up to a polygraph machine for interrogation. He is naturally insulted and baffled by the shackles and strange machinery, but remains complacent in order to get out of jail.

Without causing a single untruthful blip on the scanner, Crane explains that he was a professor of history at Oxford. He joined the Revolutionary War, came to America fighting for the Queen, but had a change of heart and eventually defected to work as a spy for George Washington and fight for freedom. Washington gave him orders to kill the mercenary. When shooting him didn’t work, Crane jumped to the logical step and beheaded the man. He was then taken to triage where he saw his wife Katrina who was a civilian nurse. The last thing he remembers is losing consciousness before he died and then he woke up in the cave. After finishing his story, Crane says in a huff that he has several thousand questions to ask as well, but he won’t demean the detectives by hooking them up to a contraption. So where is he? The detective shows Crane a dollar bill and explains that it is a matter of when, not where. While Crane processes the mind-blowing information, Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) steps out of the viewing room and decides to place their suspect under a 72 hour psych evaluation. At that point, Mills introduces herself to Capt. Irving and asks to question Crane. She argues that he is a valuable resource and can be of great help to their case. She even corroborates Crane’s claims about the horseman’s heated blade after seeing the coroner’s report. Irving still doesn’t let up, so she finally pleads to at least transport him to the asylum so she can talk with Crane and get some closure during their ride over to the hospital. Irving gives his okay, so Mills visits Crane’s cell.

Immediately you can tell that Mison and Beharie’s chemistry will be a delightful development throughout the series. Crane and Mills’ banter bounces back and forth in a very complimentary and engaging way. He is quick to point out all the shocking changes, her freedom and status as a lieutenant (eventually her pants come into question too.) Mills cuts him slack by buying into his little role-playing game, but she still remains firm in conveying her authority over him. She will shoot him, so he better watch it. As she takes him to the car, Crane calls her out. He deduces that Abbie saw the Headless Horseman and wants his help. He doesn’t let her deny it because their collective experience can’t be impossible. As they start driving, Crane is mesmerized by the excelled technology (hilariously playing with the car window) and vast amount of Starbucks. Mills is quick to jab at Crane asking how the Civil War didn’t wake him. Although she toys with him, she earnestly asks to see where he was when he woke up. Crane is kind of impressed that she is disobeying orders and willing to hear him out. After all, nobody will believe him if he tattles on her, so there really is no harm in checking it out. As they drive past the church and cemetery, Crane recognizes the priest we saw at the diner earlier. The same priest was with Crane and Katrina when he was in triage during the war. They finally make it down to the cave and begin looking for clues.

Mills records her observations of jars and other possible indicators of witchcraft. Then Crane finds the Bible that was buried with him. He remembers Katrina placing it on his chest before he died. He opens the marked page and reads a passage from the Book of Revelations. It speaks of a rider that held a bow and his name was Death. The passage describes a hellish voice like thunder taunting people to “Come and see.” Crane immediately concludes that the Headless Horseman is Death. He explains to Abbie that when the Redcoats ambushed the Hudson Valley, Washington called him into a secret meeting. Washington believed the Revolutionary War would determine the fate of every man, woman and child on earth. It was about much more than America’s freedom. Washington sent Crane to kill an unknown mercenary because the masked man was Death itself. Mills thinks the whole story is crazy, but Crane argues that crazy doesn’t make it less real. Crane says there are connections all around them; she just has to be willing to see them. The Headless Horseman didn’t die because he was never a man to begin with, now he has returned to Sleep Hollow to finish what he started. Meanwhile, Death continues with his mission.

The Headless Horseman pays the priest a visit. When the priest sees him coming, he uses magic to bind Death’s hands with chains. The Horseman slashes through them and charges towards the priest. The priest vows that he will never tell him where it is, he’d rather die. In one of the best cinematic shots of the pilot, the camera’s perspective switches to that of the priest. The Headless Horseman swings at us and the camera falls to the floor as the priest’s head lands on the ground. Awesome! I also want to highlight fun the equestrian crossing sign behind the horseman that ended up getting beheaded in the attack. Hilarious! Sometimes the little things make all the difference, anyway, moving on…

Mills receives a call about the new murder and takes Crane with her to the scene of the crime. Irving is naturally upset about this, but Mills still argues that Crane can be helpful. Crane sees the bird again and starts following it. While Officer Brooks begs Abbie to let this thing with Crane and the Horseman go she realizes that Crane has wandered into the cemetery and follows him. The bird has led Crane to his wife’s tombstone. When Abbie chastises Crane’s disobedience, he cheekily retorts, “I’m insane and therefore impervious to simple commands.” As he clears the filth off of Katrina’s tombstone it reveals that she was burnt for witchcraft in 1782 at the age of 32. That is what Katrina was trying to tell him on his deathbed. Crane shows Abbie this as proof that he isn’t lying or crazy. Mills isn’t ready to buy it quite yet, she’s been through something like this before and she isn’t sticking around to make the same mistake again. She reveals her plans to leave Sleepy Hollow in a week and Crane is stunned. He tells her that their fates are intertwined and she can’t leave now. Abbie says she can’t explain it now, but she can’t go through this kind of ordeal again. She says they need to get some sleep and takes him to the hospital.

Abbie was able to pull some strings and get Crane his own cell. She understands that this has all been scary for him, she sympathizes and can relate. Crane laments that perhaps he truly belongs in an asylum, which prompts Abbie to open up to Crane about her secret. Back in high school, Abbie and her sister Jenny were walking home through the forest. Suddenly they saw four white trees and heard a strange voice. She saw a figure and she couldn’t really tell if it was a person or a thing. Then they both blacked out. Everyone said they were crazy. Jenny has been in and out of mental hospitals ever since. Crane understands that Jenny has been “battling demons.” Mills knows how it feels to be called crazy. In this moment, the unlikely pair forge a bond which I’m sure we will see strengthen over time. Before she leaves, Crane offers his deepest sympathies for the loss of her partner. While Crane tries to adjust to his new surroundings, Mills searches for clues.

Abbie goes through Sheriff Corbin’s office. She looks at the photos on his desk, when she picks up a picture of herself, a key falls out. After a bit of trial and error, she unlocks a file cabinet full of unsolved cases. Sheriff Corbin didn’t help Abbie by accident. For years he has been investigating cases that involved the occult. She plays a tape that reveals his findings. He says 100 witches were put to death between 1712 and 1816. He learned that two covens were hidden in the populous, one good and one evil. Even worse, they aren’t just located in Sleepy Hollow. Sheriff Corbin followed murders and disappearances throughout the east coast, including Boston, D.C., and Manhattan. All of the cases seem connected in a mysterious way. Then Mills discovers a bombshell: Corbin found out that in 1882 a farmer saw same thing that has been haunting Abbie since high school. The farmer believed the four white trees represent the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the creepy person/thing is a demon that is there to raise them. Poor Corbin wanted to tell Abbie the truth, but he didn’t want to put her in harms way. The closer he got to the truth, the more he could sense something getting to him. Suddenly Capt. Irving walks in on Abbie. He tells her to let the cops do their job and let it go. While Abbie processes all the crazy new details affirming her childhood visions, Crane has a surprising vision of his own.

Crane awakes to see the bird in his room. He looks at the mirror and sees Katrina. She apologizes and says she was trying to lead him. Crane finds himself standing next to her in the woods with four white trees. She explains that her body was never buried in the grave, instead it hides the Horseman’s skull and it has been guarded by the priest for all of these years. When Crane beheaded the Horseman, they became linked and bound by a blood spell. Katrina cast a spell on both of them, so that when the Horseman rose again, Crane would rise with him. The Headless Horseman was buried deep in the river and they buried Crane in the cave to protect him. Evil awakened the Horseman and Crane woke up due to their blood bond. The same evil has trapped Katrina is this mysterious realm. She warns Crane that if the Horseman reclaims his skull, he’ll become whole and three more horsemen will follow. Then the Apocalypse will begin. But wait, there’s some good news! Light is the Horseman’s weakness, he can’t survive the daylight. Katrina begs Crane to find her and free her from this supernatural prison. She says the answers are in Washington’s Bible. Crane is the first witness. Suddenly the evil face-less figure begins to approach and reaches for his arm, so Katrina shouts at Crane to wake up.

When Crane’s eyes open, orderlies are trying to hold him down and sedate him. Luckily, Abbie arrives in time to bail him out with a fake court order. In the car she shows him a map she found in Sheriff Corbin’s file. Crane confirms that he’s seen it before. It is Washington’s map of the Hudson Valley in 1776. Abbie starts to question her sanity. Corbin said it was real, Crane believes it is real. Is she nuts to agree with them? Crane tells Abbie that he saw the white trees and she is not crazy. Crane saw the creepy figure as well. They know they must get the Horseman’s head. Abbie calls her buddy Brooks and tells him to meet them at her at the church and call for back-up.

Officer Brooks has been acting strange around Abbie, persistently telling her to drop this case. When he reaches his apartment we find out why. He opens the door and the Headless Horseman rises from a chair, armed with Brooks’ machine guns. Brooks surrenders and says he knows where it is.

Crane digs into Katrina’s grave and retrieves the skull which has been preserved in a glass case. The Horseman’s demonic white eyes chillingly roll open in his skull. Headless arrives at the cemetery and fires at Crane and Abbie. Crane hides in the grave, while Abbie takes cover and shoots back at the Horseman. Crane starts beating him with a shovel and amusingly smacks him on the gaping hole where his head should be. Suddenly, Brooks knocks Abbie out. As she comes to, he explains how he told her to stay away. He is trying to protect her, but she won’t listen. Abbie bites Brooks’ finger. He warns her that the Horseman cannot be killed because he is Death. Back-up arrives and is stunned to see a Headless psychopath open fire on them. As the sun rises, the Horseman’s red coast starts smoking like he is a vampire burned by the rays. Thankfully, the sunrise causes Death to ride away. Abbie leaves Brooks cuffed to a cop car. The other cops start shooting at Crane, who cowers behind a car for protection. She stops their fire and he flails his hand in the air to signal that he’s alright. In a slow-motion shot, the two walk towards each other in the middle of the street. Crane still has the Horseman’s head and they both flash a smile loaded with subtext.

Back at the station, Abbie has two cops to back up her story about the Headless Horseman, plus a creepy skull. Capt. Irving is finally on board with Crane’s assistance on the case. When he asks Abbie about Quantico, she says she isn’t going. Crane and Mills simply scratched the surface and things are going to get much worse. She is needed in Sleepy Hollow. It is where she is supposed be which is exactly what Crane hoped to hear. Irving tells them to talk to Brooks together and see what he knows about the Horseman. Abbie tells Brooks warned her that a war is coming. Crane explains to Abbie that the Book of Revelations speaks of two witnesses. Ichabod is the first, so that makes Abbie the second witness. Together they will ordain the fate of the world on Judgment Day. Mills wants to finish what Sheriff Corbin started, so she’s all in. They start by paying Brooks a visit to see what he knows.

Before they reach Brooks, he is visited by the freaky demon-like creature Abbie and Crane saw in the woods. The demon tells Brooks that he failed and gruesomely slashes his neck open, nearly beheading him. Crane and Mills enter his cell and watch the demon creep the mirror in monster-like motion as he re-enters the woods. The mirror cracks and Corbin’s voice over speaks of impeding death and destruction. The episode closes with the bone-chilling tune of “Sympathy for the Devil,” leaving us eager to see what will happen next.

Afterthoughts:

  • Mythology: This show’s mythology will make fans of various subjects geek out. History, religion, folklore, etc. This series has a lot of fun twists up ahead and I can’t wait to see how the creators will put a ‘Sleepy Hollow’ stamp on it all.
  • Supernatural baddies: The Devil, demons, the Four Horsemen, evil covens, and who knows what other ghostly creatures will arise. The teaser hints that all sorts of evil will be unleashed in preparation for the Apocalypse. We’ve already met the creepy face-less demon-like figure, but who is he? Is he the Devil or just a demon doing the Devil’s work? Is he the only person who can control the Four Horsemen? Is there a way to gain control of them?
  • The Book of Revelations:The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are Death, War, Famine and Conquest/Pestilence. Show-runners said at Comic-Con that we will eventually meet the remaining three. Plus, flashbacks will reveal what Death was like when he had his head. If we use the Bible as our guide, perhaps the seven seals will also become part of the narrative and indicate what we can expect to see on the show. Each broken seal paves the way for the impending Apocalypse. Maybe members of evil covens are trying to help the Horsemen by breaking some of the seals. This storyline can go in a lot of directions, all of which will be fascinating to see.
  • Mison and Beharie: Abbie and Ichabod make a great pair thanks to Mison and Beharie’s chemistry. They are excellent together. Their comedic timing works. There is a hint of cute flirtation, but mostly it is nice to see how they trust each other pretty quickly in pilot. Mills and Crane are kindred spirits in a strange way. Despite their obvious differences, they both feel a sense of duty to do the right thing, even if it means breaking a few rules. Their dynamic is refreshing to see on TV. So many relationships are spelled out from the start, but Crane and Mills differ from the norm. Crane admires Mills’ moxie, but he isn’t falling in love with her anytime soon. After all, he has a wife to rescue…
  • Katrina’s damnation:It is awesome to give Crane’s wife some power of her own. She carried a lot of responsibility in the past and proved she was fearless. If she was really burnt at the stake, then she wasn’t afraid to fight for what she believed in. It will be fun to see if any historical figures were in her super secret coven. What kind of evil did they vanquish in the past? Why and how did Katrina get trapped in that creepy realm? Can she communicate with others or is it only Ichabod? Is she really dead? How much magical mojo does she have? Can she come back to life like Ichabod? Katrina’s circumstances are one of the major mysteries I am eager to see unravel this season. Luckily, next week’s episode will touch on her work with the coven in the past.
  • Who should we trust?: Officer Brooks worked with the Horseman, so that makes you wonder: how many other people are controlled by evil? Sheriff Corbin discovered that there are members of evil covens still living in Sleepy Hollow. Was Brooks in one of them? How does Death or the demon controlling him decide who will do their evil bidding? Could Captain Irving be one of the bad guys? He comes off harsh at first, but then he allows Mills and Crane to investigate these matters further. It’ll be interesting to see where he stands.
  • Song choice:Loved the use of “Sympathy for the Devil”! It was worth every penny. I hope we will hear more classic songs on the show. The right kind of music can really enrich a show.
  • Cinematic quality: Kudos again to Len Wiseman for his spectacular film-making. There was such an epic feeling to the whole episode. The fun and creative camera angles kept things interesting, the transitions were clever and seamless, and the special effects were stunning. It really felt like a movie, which is always a huge compliment for any TV show. I hope to see more of this caliber of film-making on television, especially on ‘Sleepy Hollow.’

What do you think of the pilot? Is it everything you hoped for? What were your favorite moments? How do you feel about the mythology? Did this make you an official “sleepy head”? Will you be tuning in again next week?

Share your thoughts below and stay tuned for more news!

‘Sleepy Hollow’ airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX.

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