Premise of the Show: Ichabod Crane, who fought in the Revolutionary War as a soldier under George Washington, awakens in the 21st century. As does the Headless Horseman. This is a case where the audience knows (or do they?) know more than the characters, as many viewers will be familiar with the legend of the Headless Horseman – but it is precisely this legend the writers and producers will be messing with, so assume nothing.
In a pilot there is always a lot of ground to lay and an effective way of establishing where characters have been before we become privy what goes on in their ‘lives’ and in their heads is flashbacks. The Pilot uses flashbacks liberally – but mostly for a line or two, or as a visual to accompany a description in the present about something in the past. Guest star Clancy Brown has the unfortunate distinction of his character Sherriff August Corbin being the first person to die after the Horseman is resurrected.
Over the course of the pilot Lt Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane become partners in their common goal to stopping the Horseman. They obviously do not start out that way – he’s trying to find his bearings, never mind adjusting to 2013 and Abbie slowly comes to accept that all the weirdness (no details are provided) that happens from the time her mentor, the Sherriff is killed until the end of the episode, that it is real, and always was real, and that she needs to stay in Sleepy Hollow to figure it out (and pass up her chance to train with the FBI).
Witchcraft – two covens, good and evil. Ichabod’s wife was/is a member of the good one.
Biblical – the Book of Revelations features heavily. The Headless Horseman IS supposed to be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death
Things to keep in mind / questions that arise:
Captain Irving – Sherriff Corbin had a secret stash of files relating to witchy activities over the last 250 years that he’s been able to link and it’s hidden in his office. There’s a look he shoots in the general direction of the cabinet. At this point, we’ve JUST found out about the two covens and witches, and that he had a file on Abbie and her sister, so is that look a red herring or does it actually MEAN something about that area of narrative.
Ichabod Crane’s past as a spy – will it come back? When Nestor Serrano’s character administers Ichabod’s polygraph test, Ichabod confesses that he first was a redcoat (fighting for Britain) and that he changed sides to serve under General George Washington as a spy. Not for monetary gain, he defected for reasons of conscience. Honour notwithstanding, it could happen again, that his conscience might compel him to appear to be something other than what he is actually doing.
What Abbie and Jenny Mills saw in the forest: at the gravesite of Ichabod’s wife Katrina, who was burned for witchcraft in 1782 and comes to him in the shape of a bird of prey, Abby lets something slip that makes her reluctant “to be alone again arguing a case I don’t understand based on something I can’t explain”. In the hospital room she drops him off, they begin to understand one another. Ichabod is suddenly less certain about reality and truth but Abbie can empathise with his experience and explains where the ‘again’ from earlier came from – flashback to teenage Abbie and her sister Jenny – they see four white trees in a row in the wood, hear a voice of some kind, and apparently black out. Abbie says that Jenny was unhinged by it all and is in and out of (mental) hospitals, Abbie – well, we’re finding out, aren’t we.
The four white trees – they keep showing up and we’re only one episode in! Sherriff Corbin linked Abbie and Jenny’s story to an almost identical occurrence from 1882. The trees suddenly appear in the dream conversation Katrina and Ichabod have, bringing it to a premature conclusion. And we see the trees briefly at the end of the episode, in the forest the demony shape escapes into and before the mirror cracks. Is that the only shape they can take until the ‘End of Days’ begins or until the Days actually End (Judgement Day).
The role of the information Katrina almost inundates Ichabod (and us) with:
– if the Horseman finds his skull, he’ll be whole again (I think that gels with the Washington Irving source story)
– “three more will follow and then it will begin”. “It” is The End, as in End of Days.
– The Horseman’s weakness: light, he can’t survive the sunrise (hmmm, define ‘survive’ – he’s survived 250 years of deathly sleep okay)
– something about Ichabod being the first witness.
– how he can use Washington’s bible to free Katrina from ‘this place’.
The map – ostensibly, I think they said these were sites of suspected coven activity. The last time Ichabod saw it was on Washington’s desk, when the general gave him the assignment to seek and destroy the Horseman (at that time he still had a head and was a mysterious mercenary).
Andy – we’ve already seen that dead isn’t really dead so maybe he’ll be back. It’s John Cho! Why waste him by wasting him in the first episode? So how is he connected to the demony things? Is he a follower, an actual witch, a descendant of one of the witches from old?}
Where is Katrina’s body – she tells him that she’s not buried where her gravestone is. So, where is she?
To be frank, after almost 30 years of watching science fiction and speculative fiction and various other shows with supernatural elements (and a whack of drama and crime procedurals), I don’t know why pundits are calling this show all kinds of insane. This stuff is not new, per se. The things that are new are the ways in which they’ve been put together, the actors, the characterisations, going with trope and against trope simultaneously. I knew I’d be interested and the programme hasn’t disappointed in that department. There’s a lot of potential in the quippy-banter department between Ichabod and Abbie and I hope we don’t waste too much time getting Ichabod up to speed on 21st century gadgetry and all that (he’s mastered power windows and electronic car door releases in a day or two, so, he’s one of the sharper tools in the shed). So, until we go waaaaaaaay into left field or I get bored (hey, it could happen), I’m in.