tek's rating: ¾

Sleepy Hollow, on FOX
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Caution: spoilers!

When I first started seeing ads for this show, I thought it might be a joke. (After all, I was only seeing the ads on foxadhd.com while watching a couple of redonkulous cartoon series.) It's actually kind of a cool concept, and an interesting twist on Washington Irving's familiar story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Still, it seemed like it had the potential to be, well, redonkulous. Partly that's because I got the vague sense from the ads that it would be set in more or less the real world, by which I mean, a world in which that story actually existed in-universe, so people would of course be incredulous not only about the bizarre supernatural occurrences, but also about the fact that supposedly fictional characters were in fact real. Luckily, that didn't prove to be the case, so the people on the show only have to deal with the former improbability, and not the latter. Even so, it is hard for some characters to deal with, at least initially, and their jobs will be made harder by the knowledge that they must keep their battle against the forces of evil secret from most people, because most people would find it impossible to believe, and therefore would believe that anyone who did believe it was insane. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Season One
It starts out in 1781, during the American Revolution. There's a British teacher-turned-soldier named Ichabod Crane, who had defected to America's side and become a spy for General George Washington. He cuts off the head of an enemy, but is mortally wounded himself. The two men's blood mixes, so their fates become tied together. Then Crane wakes up in a cave in the present (2013), and soon learns that the man he killed hadn't actually died. He just rides around on a horse, carrying a broad axe (and later a shotgun), killing people. And he has no head. So, you know, he's a headless horseman. Crane is taken into custody by the police of the town of Sleepy Hollow, after the Horseman had killed Sheriff August Corbin (Clancy Brown). There's a police lieutenant named Abbie Mills, who is planning on transferring to Quantico, to join the FBI. She's the only cop who had actually seen the Headless Horseman, so she's the only one who believes anything Crane says... though even she has trouble, understandably, in believing that he's from 1781. Meanwhile, Crane has trouble believing he's in 2013. But he eventually learns that his wife, Katrina, had been a member of a good coven, who were opposed to an evil coven. And the Headless Horseman is actually Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from the Book of Revelations. You know, in the Bible. In the past, it seems Crane's actions had delayed the Apocalypse, but now that the Horseman has returned- and is trying to get his head back- Crane and Mills are the only people who can prevent the Apocalypse from getting back on track.

Well, lots of stuff happens over the course of the first season (which is only 13 episodes). Apparently there are prophecies about Crane and Mills, who are called the "Two Witnesses." And they learn that Sheriff Corbin had been researching paranormal stuff before his death, so his secret files will come in handy (and we occasionally see him in flashbacks). And Katrina is stuck in Purgatory, but occasionally communicates with Ichabod, who promises to free her. And the demon in charge of the Apocalypse is named Moloch, whom Abbie and her sister Jenny had seen in the forest when they were kids. Abbie later lied about it to the authorities, not wanting to sound crazy, but Jenny had told the truth. So over the years, she spent a lot of time in jail or psychiatric facilities. The latter is where she is at the start of the series, but she eventually gets out, and begins helping Abbie and Ichabod. And we learn she'd had a connection to Corbin that Abbie never knew about. Also, there's a cop named Andy Brooks (John Cho), a friend of Abbie's who was killed in the pilot and brought back to life as a servant of Moloch's. There's also a cop named Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones), who is sent by the state police to take over Sleepy Hollow's sheriff's department after Corbin's death. At first he's one of the people Abbie and Ichabod have to hide things from, but eventually he becomes an ally in the war against evil. Another ally they acquire is a sin-eater named Henry Parrish (John Noble).

Incidentally, I said that Ichabod had been a spy for General Washington, but he didn't merely serve him in the colonies' war against the British. He also was involved in a war against supernatural forces, though it seems there was a great deal Washington never told Ichabod. I'm not sure what the point of keeping secrets was if he was already sharing some pretty unbelievable information, but it's necessary for Ichabod not to know everything, as it lends drama to the struggle in the present. I should also mention that we only occasionally see the Headless Horseman, as Moloch has plenty of other servants he can use against our heroes. (I also want to say that I find it neat that the series worked George Washington into the story, as well as a character named Irving. And throughout the series, lots of other historical figures will be worked into the plot, as well.) And... I don't want to spoil anything else at this point, except to say that the first season ends on a hell of a cliffhanger.

So, um, the show is cool, and interesting, and it has a nice, dry humor about it. There's definitely some good banter between Abbie and Ichabod. But despite the shortness of the season, I still often felt like the pacing was a bit slow. So the show's not always quite as cool or interesting as I'd like it to be. But there are some truly awesome moments in the battle against evil (whether the good guys are winning or losing, at any given time). Most of the show's charm, however, lies in the (platonic) chemistry between Ichabod and Abbie.

Season Two
So... I said that the Headless Horseman is actually the Horseman of Death, but there's more to it than that. You'd expect that to be, like, an inherent, singular identity, but I guess it's more like a mantle, or job description, or something. In fact, the Horseman was, in life, Abraham Van Brunt, a good friend of Ichabod's, who was in love with Katrina, and came to hate Ichabod for "stealing" her from him. Which I guess is why he became the Horseman of Death. But anyway, there are still three other Horsemen of the Apocalypse who need to be identified, and at the end of season one, we learned that Henry Parrish is actually the Horseman of War, and a servant of Moloch. What's more, he's actually the son of Ichabod and Katrina, Jeremy Crane, who has a major grudge against his parents. Now that they know he's their son, they hope to convince him to switch sides, or at the very least, they hope they can stop his evil plans without killing him. This leads to a bit of tension between Ichabod and Abbie, since she wants to be sure Ichabod is willing to do whatever has to be done to win the war, even if it means killing his son. Oh... and I should say that fairly early in the season, they finally manage to rescue Katrina from Purgatory, but she's captured by Abraham, who hopes to convince her to switch sides, and love him again. (He has some magic that allows her to see him with his head, which he still hasn't actually got.) Meanwhile, she decides to stay captured, so she can be a spy for Ichabod and Abbie.

Also this season, Captain Irving is in a psychiatric hospital, for a reason I don't want to get into. But he's been replaced on the police force by a new sheriff, Leena Reyes. So Ichabod and Abbie have to hide the truth about certain things from her, while also convincing her to let Ichabod help in certain police investigations. Also this season we meet a man named Nick Hawley, who collects and sells various artifacts, many of which may be supernatural, though I think at first he didn't believe in that kind of stuff. He was just trying to make a profit wherever he could. And I guess he used to be romantically involved with Jenny. Anyway, he sometimes helps Abbie and Ichabod, though his help isn't free, and they don't trust him too much. And... Henry becomes Irving's lawyer, and ends up gaining possession of his soul. So that complicates things. And eventually Katrina rejoins Ichabod and helps him and Abbie in their war against evil, but certain things lead to strain in their marriage. Eventually, Moloch is defeated, but there will still be random evil supernatural threats for the Witnesses to fight. But now their mission is less clear. Irving is finally cleared of the charges that had landed him in the asylum, but... things are still complicated, until the end of the season. I don't want to spoil too much, but lots of things happen throughout the season. And without Moloch as his master, Henry becomes the new main antagonist. However, he's defeated by the end of the season. And there's one other major development that I'll wait until next season to spoil....

Season Three
So, at the end of season two, Ichabod was finally forced to kill Henry. Katrina found this unacceptable, and she became an enemy to Ichabod and Abbie. So Katrina was eventually killed, as well, which naturally was quite distressing to Ichabod. Season three picks up nine months later, after Ichabod has done some traveling and investigation of things on his own, which eventually led him to discover a stone tablet which is going to be important... and which apparently has a prophecy about Abbie and himself being "Destroyers." When he returns to Sleepy Hollow, he finds that Abbie is now an agent of the local FBI office. Her boss is Daniel Reynolds, with whom she had been friends (and perhaps more) at the academy. Of course, she has to keep the truth about supernatural things secret from him. Also this season, we occasionally see Betsy Ross in flashbacks to Ichabod's old life, when she was also a spy for Washington. And in the present, Ichabod is befriended by a historian named Zoe Corinth, who will help him in his new efforts to become an American citizen. (He needs to do this, I guess, at least partly in order to save the archives where he and Abbie and Jenny keep books and things that help them in their war against evil.) And Zoe eventually becomes a love interest for Ichabod, but that doesn't last. (Which is a shame, because I rather liked them together.) Also, in one episode of season two, we met Joe Corbin, a former Marine and the son of August Corbin. This season he becomes a regular, and spends a lot of time working with Jenny, with whom he eventually becomes romantically involved. (It may sound like there are a lot of new characters to keep track of, but several others aren't around anymore, including Irving, Hawley, Henry, Reyes, Katrina, Moloch, and Abraham. Some of them are dead, so presumably won't return, though you never know when the ones who are still alive might show up again. But for now, there were openings in the cast, and they've been filled.) Oh, also there was a crossover with a non-supernatural show, "Bones," in which Ichabod and Abbie made an appearance. I never watch "Bones," but I did watch that one episode, so that I wouldn't be too lost when I watched the "Sleepy Hollow" episode that aired right after it, in which the main characters from that show made an appearance.

The main antagonist this season is Pandora (Shannyn Sossamon), who I guess is sort of the source of various ancient myths from different cultures, including the famous Greek myth of Pandora's box, though that wasn't her original identity. Or whatever. Anyway, she summons different monsters and things to challenge Abbie and Ichabod each week. And she has ties to a criminal named Atticus Nevins, whom Agent (or is it Director?) Reynolds was investigating, which also intersects with Jenny and Joe's investigations about something called the Shard of Anubis. This all leads to Pandora's resurrection of her love, the "Hidden One," an ancient god who wants to fix the world, I guess, after all the damage humanity has done to it. The mid-season finale leaves Abbie's fate in question, and... well, really pretty much everything in question. The mid-season premiere is set... either a few weeks or a few months later, I forget which. But anyway, Ichabod has been trying to find Abbie, who was apparently transported to some other dimension called "the Catacombs." And it doesn't take long (just a couple of episodes) for Ichabod to rescue her, now that the show is back on, but it turns out that from her perspective, she was in the Catacombs for like a year. While Abbie was away, Ichabod revealed the truth about the supernatural to Sophia Foster, who had at first apparently been working for Atticus Nevins, but by the end of the first half of the season it was revealed that she was actually an undercover agent working for Reynolds. Anyway, she will help Ichabod and Abbie and Jenny and Joe for the remainder of the season, while keeping the truth from Reynolds. (Though near the end of the season, he learns the truth too, and begins helping them all.)

Another plot point this season is the fact that Abbie and Jenny's father, Ezra Mills, had abandoned them and their mother when they were children. So there's some drama surrounding the possibility of them reconciling with him, now. But toward the end of the season, there will be a major revelation about him that I don't want to spoil. Also, there are a few times throughout the season when we see Reynolds talking to some mysterious people about Abbie, so he's been keeping secrets from her (though when he learns the truth about the supernatural stuff, he reveals at least a bit about his secrets). Anyway, there are also plenty of monster-of-the-week episodes, while all the various plot arcs are going on. But the most important arc is, of course, about the Hidden One's plans to destroy humanity. Also I should say that in the mid-season finale, Pandora's box, the source of her power, had been destroyed. So in the second half of the season, both she and the good guys are trying to recover pieces of the box. Meanwhile, as the Hidden One continues to regain his own power, he acts like more and more of a dick toward Pandora, which eventually leads to her helping the good guys against him. And he is finally defeated in the season finale, but... the heroes suffer some losses, along the way, though I don't want to spoil exactly how everything ends.

I will say this: the season finale set up a major change in the show's dynamic, which I thought could prove quite interesting. However, I didn't bother watching season four, because the finale also set up another major change in the dynamic, which I felt eliminated the best thing about the series. And the show was cancelled after season four.

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
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movies: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad * Sleepy Hollow
TV: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999) * The Hollow * Sleepy Hollow