Sleepy Hollow gives the Headless Horseman a shotgun and the shotgun appears to fire explosive rounds. Three people get their heads cut off in the first half hour. There are frequent flashbacks to scenes that happened ten minutes ago. Also, you know how throughout American history there have been witch trials, which historians retroactively consider the result of mass hysteria? Turns out all those witches were actually witches. None of these things even come close to being the kookiest part of the series premiere of Sleepy Hollow, a crazypants — and entertaining, if you squint — hour of television. Our critic Jeff Jensen has already weighed in with a look at some of the deeper resonances in the show. What follows is a handy primer for the show’s insanity:
The episode starts in the middle of a Revolutionary War battle, which you have to admit is not a common starting place for TV shows. Like, CSI didn’t start its pilot in the middle of a Revolutionary War battle. Nor, for that matter, can I think of any other TV show in history that has suddenly introduced an invulnerable British soldier wearing an Eyes Wide Shut mask. And certainly, it’s rare for the protagonist of a TV show to chop off someone’s head in the first three minutes of his show. Although, come to think of it, Ned Stark did it way back in Game of Thrones‘ pilot. TREND ALERT.
Anyhow, we don’t really know who this guy is yet, except that obviously we do because the title of the show is Sleepy Hollow and we all remember Disney’s Ichabod Crane song. After being knocked out and losing a lot of blood during his fight with the British Masked Horseman, Ichabod Crane suddenly wakes up inside of a cave covered in weird cave stuff. When he wakes up, a couple of glass jars break. One of them contains a snake, and one of them contains a frog. This will probably be important later, unless it’s not.
Ichabod immediately runs into the middle of a road and almost gets hit by not one, but two terribly animated digital cars. The second one actually clips him. Actor Tom Mison kind of sells it. So, to recap, in the first five minutes, the protagonist of Sleepy Hollow has decapitated a Redcoat, flash-forwarded 250 years in history, woken up in a cave, and been hit by a car.
Elsewhere in Sleepy Hollow, we meet Clancy Brown, who’s basically playing the same character Jeff Fahey played on the first episode of Under the Dome. He fires 12 rounds of ammunition at the Headless Horseman and gets his head chopped off.
In one of the night’s many flashbacks, we see Ichabod in a Revolutionary War-era infirmary. He’s hanging out with his wife, who is a nurse, and also a priest who appears to be immortal. But none of that is important right now! What is important is that they put a Bible on Ichabod’s body, and in the present day, Ichabod finds it and flips right to the Book of Revelation and decides that the Headless Horseman is the First Horseman of the Apocalypse. And they keep on reading Revelations throughout the episode to get clues about stuff. So basically, the Book of Revelation is to Sleepy Hollow as Edgar Allen Poe is to The Following. So excited for the “Seven Trumpets” musical episode!
Also, George Washington is in this TV show. Although he only appears in flashbacks that are shot like re-enactments on Unsolved Mysteries. Anyhow, all you have to know is that the pilot of Sleepy Hollow features the line “The answers are in Washington’s Bible!” So it’s basically National Treasure meets Assassin’s Creed 3 meets Picket Fences.
Remember that immortal priest I mentioned? Turns out that he’s telekinetic or whatever! He tries to hold off the Headless Horseman using his brain to control chains, but the Horseman cuts through them with his axe, which I should mention is heated to 500 degrees. This priest also gets decapitated.
Never let it be said that the Headless Horseman doesn’t have a sense of humor.
Ichabod is wandering around a graveyard and he finds the grave of his wife, who it turns out was burnt for Witchcraft. In flashback #42, she tells Ichabod, “There’s something I haven’t told you.” This is only crazy because it pays off very quickly …
But first we should mention Ichabod’s new partner, Abbie. When we meet her, she initially seems like an everywoman police officer. She is also the source of most of the pilot’s self-mocking exposition, including the immortal line, “So the killer is the First Horseman of the Apocalypse, and the proof is a Bible we found in a cave.”
But it turns out that she has a crazy history. When she was young, she and her sister were wandering through the forest, when suddenly they saw four white trees, which represent the Four Horseman probably, because numbers. They also saw a strange creature. Then they blacked out. It turns out that Clancy Brown was investigating this and many other mysteries before he died, and basically Sleepy Hollow is Twin Peaks plus Cabot Cove.
I should note that Orlando Jones plays a shadowy authority figure who, at one point, does an imitation of the shifty-eyed dog from The Simpsons, complete with scary music.
Oh, and also it turns out that Ichabod Crane’s wife is a witch who is currently residing in some weird dimension in the forest that looks like Fairyland in True Blood. She’s a good witch, though, and she’s trying to stop the apocalypse, but there’s a group of bad witches who are trying to cause the apocalypse. Somewhere, the decapitated head of Washington Irving is rolling his eyes.
Hey, look, it’s the decapitated head of Washington Irving! No, just kidding. That’s the Head of the Headless Horseman, which the Headless Horseman needs to get back.
Right about the time that the Headless Horseman starts firing a shotgun, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Certainly the only thing sillier than this would be that the shotgun appears to be shooting fireworks.”
Gentlemen, your chariot has arrived. The fireworks don’t hit anyone, because this is broadcast TV and you can’t show anyone getting shot, although you can show three decapitations.
Or should I say three and a half! John Cho appears in the pilot episode as a duplicitous cop who is a witch or whatever, and is mostly just there to remind you how much you liked John Cho’s character arc in FlashForward. He gets killed by some kind of strange creature …
… who appears in the mirror and is basically the devil, probably. Or Bib Fortuna? No, that’s definitely the devil.
Also, the Headless Horseman’s Horse has red eyes. Spooky!
So there’s no way the show can possibly maintain this momentum week-to-week, unless at the end of episode 4, America launches its nuclear arsenal at the Moon in order to destroy an attacking horde of bat-people. But dear god, I would watch the hell out of that show. What did you think of the Sleepy Hollow premiere, fellow viewers?