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Spoilers.

Sleepy Hollow title card


I don't know where I heard about Sleepy Hollow, but when I watched the trailer I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh, it's REVOLUTIONARY WAR FANFIC!" Except I was wrong. It's Revolutionary War fanfic with monsters. EVEN BETTER.

I've never been into the Sleepy Hollow story or remix culture. I did watch both the cartoon every Halloween (public schools; thank you) and the 1999 film featuring Christopher Walken as the Horseman and an extremely blonde Christina Ricci, which was passable. It didn't do a lot to stick with me. The draw to this iteration was the main character, Abbie Mills, and all the scenes in the trailer where she's being a smartass with a dude a foot taller than her, and showing off her gun.

The important thing about Sleepy Hollow is a) that this is full on shameless crossover fanfic and b) that it's fully aware of the batshit premise it has to work within. It decides, "You know what? Gun it." The first episode is chock full of dramatics, including but not limited to: mystery caves, demon horses, George Washington as a defender against dark forces, nefarious trees, badass witches, cultural retconning, long-kept secrets, sassy quips, and gunfights over pickled heads. I went in with my expectations low. I came out with the firm belief that for a pilot about the apocalypse the entire episode was perfection and that Abbie is my new hero.



A summary of the episode, or, the Official Trailer.


The first season of our romp through make-believe American history opens with a battlefield in the Hudson River Valley, where a lot of horses are pissed. Ichabod, alerted by a bro to the approach of his apparent target, opens fire with bad aim, but manages to knock Leatherface off his horse. Of course, immediately after Leatherface gets up (it's just a flesh wound!) and Ichabod gets sliced and diced. In retribution for ruining his jacket (his BFF George Washington gave him that jacket! This is so not fixable!), Ichabod just chops dude's head off, and they both collapse. I cannot wait for the head puns and jokes that will pepper this show like a fine seasoning.

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


Fast forward to 2013, where Ichabod wakes up in the Cave of Wonders to jars of reptiles exploding due to the outpouring of magic (WITCHCRAFT!). Ichabod wanders out to immediately drink water from a stream of dubious content, almost get hit by an eighteen wheeler, and actually get hit by a family sedan. Instead of having a breakdown over a noisy, loud-mouth bird, the strange machines, and an otherworldly paved road, he turns and runs the direction they came from (dude's got guts). The camera zooms away to introduce Sleepy Hollow, then 144,000 people who are about to start having a really bad year (nice reference), and the fact that New England has actual trains for commuting. #ruralbitterness

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


Next we're introduced to Abbie Mills and her partner, Soon-To-Be-Dead August Corbin, which is a complete waste, because that's a wicked name. Abbie is perfect: exasperated with her current job and August's weird behavior; fond in the way she needles him about his work ethic while establishing that she wants more action; ~hidden backstory~ revealed as they let us know she's aiming the to leave for Quantico and August thinks it's her running away. Fries are stolen, August is brutally blocked from his caffeine, and Suspicious Reverend and August share A Significant Look. This is probably because August noticed the good Reverend eavesdropping on their conversation like a creeper and/or has interviewed him before about the shadowy underbelly of Sleepy Hollow. I'm going to say both are equally likely. A detail I really enjoyed from this scene: the server, even though she doesn't get full body screen time, greets Abbie and is greeted in return. There's direct eye contact like she's a real person and not just a walk-on role. She's even got a name (Maddy?!) and doesn't die later in the episode, Jesus take the wheel.

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


The greatest thing about this episode was the way it wasted zero time by dropping you directly into our first brush with death and beheading. It knows its job, and that job is to cut off as many heads as possible, in the shortest amount of time, with the most emotional agony. I like to think Abbie's frustration is because she's always getting called out to the Fox Creek Stables about spooked horses, and this is just another in a long line of visits since she took the job. I also like to think that she likes the owner and calls him a friend. So Abbie finds poor Jimmy missing his head, and in short order, her partner loses his, and she's cast adrift in a world where murderers ride horses, and have no noggin, and is removing as many heads as he can with extreme prejudice. Who the hell is going to believe this bullshit, she wonders as she's left with two dead bodies missing their heads? Gonna be hard to get a sketch artist on this, she thinks as she cries over the body of her dead partner, thinking that she really should have let him finish the last cup of coffee.

We cut to downtown where Andy Brooks, played by John Cho, is arresting Ichabod, who was clearly jaywalking (she says, justifying this entire scene to herself), and dragging him into custody on suspicion of chopping heads. Apparently Fox Creek Stables is right around the block and he would have definitely had time to ditch the horse and axe.

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


Ichabod is self-righteous, sarcastic, and determined. Every word out of his mouth is a thing of beauty. We learn more of his backstory as he takes the polygraph test, his status as a spy, his BFF George Washington, his wife Katrina, and his frustration over the facts of the horseman's demise. First I shot him," he says of the horseman. "But he rose back up. Beheading him seemed the next logical step." He only mutters "You complete ingrate!" to himself, silently. The interviewer takes all the wind out of his sails as he tells him everyone he loves is dead, callously handing him a dollar bill with his pal George emblazoned across the front. "Have a picture of your dead boss!" he thinks, as he welcomes Ichabod to the 21st century. This is exactly how you treat someone who you suspect of having a severe mental illness. I bet that guy doesn't have a lot of friends.

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


Abbie, not content to write Ichabod off yet after hearing him name exactly what she saw, chases after Captain Frank Irving to get access to him before he's locked away in a mental ward. Frank's having none of it, until Abbie pulls the "my partner was just killed violently in front of me" card, and Frank crumples like a grumpy wet napkin. Like you could say no to her, Frank. It's all worth it for the moment that Abbie and Ichabod imprinted on my heart forever. Abbie's snark and Ichabod's sass collide in an explosion of cultural assumptions and clarifications that ends with Abbie threatening to shoot Ichabod with her gun, and a scene where Ichabod realizes that this black woman is his only ally. He has a mild breakdown when Abbie tells him the things that are happening are just not possible. Ichabod's having exactly zero percent of that nonsense, as he's now a time traveller, and is perhaps a little upset about it. Ichabod, as we learn, responds to high stress situations by ratcheting up the Sass-o-Meter, which for he and Abbie's second and third scenes together, is sitting at a perfect, glorious 10.

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


Abbie decides that what Frank doesn't know won't hurt him, and decides to take Ichabod back to the Cave of Wonders. On the way, he expresses confusion about ladies in trousers, the proliferation of Starbucks, and meets a fellow time traveller in the form of the Suspicious Reverend. They share a mutual gaze of "WTF?" before Ichabod is swept along on Abbie's mission to find out what's going on.

Every time this show thrusts the modern world into Ichabod's face my heart clenches up. I want an episode comprised of nothing but Abbie impatiently trying to get Ichabod up to speed on the world, including washing machines, cell phones, and the Internet. I desperately want Ichabod to become a Friend of the Library because he's there so much trying to catch up on everything that's happened while he was cosplaying Rip Van Winkle.

In the Cave of Wonders, Ichabod picks up the use of the flashlight like a boss, and then finds a dirty bible that summons Backstory, establishing that in addition to being a spy he was George's right-hand man in a worldwide supernatural battle to the death. He was tasked with killing the Horseman, who is one of the four Horseman of the apocalypse, Death. Predictably, Abbie is like, "Oh hell no, not more supernatural bullshit!" as she continues to hope the entire situation will reveal logic, and they leave.

On cue, our Headless Horseman rides through the dusk toward the church, where the Suspicious Reverend is attempting something with a shovel. Unfortunately, he never goes on his treasure hunt, despite witching some chains around Headless, which are completely ineffectual against his magical axe. "I am prepared to die," he says, and Headless obliges immediately, apparently unconcerned that he won't find what the priest was attempting to recover. Turns out he was only acting suspicious because he was on the side of the Light. Whoops, another dead Good Guy.

I think it's useful to point out that at this point, we have three dead white guys (assuming Jimmy was, which I'm just going to go out on a very short limb on) and no dead ladies and/or minorities. I keep seeing people going "If you love Supernatural, you'll love this!" but I'm a little concerned that it might be a tad too shocking to watch a show where Headless has a murderous preference, and it's for middle-aged/older white men. Whoops.

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot

I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. /twelve.


And of course, although Abbie demands Ichabod stay in the car and trusts that locks will befuddle him enough not to get her ass in hot water for not ramming him into the mental ward yet, he flouts that command when that bird shows up again. The bird leads him to the grave of his dead wife. The hits just keep coming for both of them. Abbie can't prove what she saw, doubts her own brain, can't get her superiors to trust her to investigate, and is loads of shit for trusting Ichabod in the first place. Ichabod has discovered all in one 24 hour period that he's a time traveller, his boss is dead, the evil villain he was tasked to take care of is on the loose, and his wife is dead not only from the long years, but because she was a witch. That blows, dude.

animated gif animated gif
source


We talk a lot about "strong female characters", which I have come to despise, so I would like to take a moment to point out that although I hate that trope, here is how to write an excellent character who happens to be a woman and do it in a way that's human. I love Abbie. She snarky and brash, she listens but she will tell you when she is done with a conversation, she is a skeptic but is willing to be convinced, she's emotional and human, and she understands that being stoic isn't the be-all-end-all of being tough. When she finally shares her past, as well as being extremely unsettling, it's to offer sympathy to Ichabod, for absolutely no gain except to make him feel better and less alone. This is what I often miss from male heroes who never reach out emotionally, and why I am such a sucker for it when it happens even though in those cases they are still complete dicks (Dean Winchester, I am looking at you, you asshole).

We learn from Abbie that as she and her sister (she has a sister; I am SO EXCITED) were on a walk home from high school, they were menaced by four white trees and a creepy voice/figure, and blacked out. I am really impressed by this casual insertion of terror via the hazy memory of what amounts to shrubbery and noises that can be chalked up to wind by the people who weren't there. I'm impressed by the performance: the way she shares it, full of nervous ticks and anxious laughter because she's been where Ichabod is, alone and not believed. I finished this scene in love with Abbie and wanting her to get the answers she had been denied for so long. The way Ichabod apologizes at the end: HER FACE. I CANNOT, JUST STOP IT, SHOW.

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


After a Backstory Montage where we find out that August was secretly building some X-Files on the sly via a key Abbie finds on the back of a photo of herself in his office (ADORABLE! HEARTBREAKING! STOP IT!), we cut to Ichabod and his new bird friend. Bird friend, who is either a spirit or a familiar, leads him from his room in the mental facility into the mirror where he meets his (alive? in stasis?) wife, who explains everything in increasingly hurried tones because here come those creepy trees again. Turns out she's actually trapped in a space-time pocket and her grave is hiding Headless's skull which he wants back immediately. The Good Witch Reverend had that shovel to maybe dig it up and re-hide it somewhere less obvious. Can't really let it stay there if Ichabod is going to be hovering over it in sadness, bringing the Horseman right to his prize. He's got a great sense of direction even without a head; maybe his skull's got radar and if he gets too close it starts blipping, and oops, there goes the world. Ichabod takes the confirmation that she's a witch and that there's some creepy blood magic linking him and Headless (what are we going to name their ship, fandom? cause you know he's gonna get it back eventually and turn out to be a smoking hot, evil white dude) pretty well, proving that Fictional George Washington has pretty good instincts on who to assign to matters of world-saving supernatural import.

Ichabod wakes from his vision to find himself on the receiving end of some sedative, because apparently it's hard to tell between a breakdown and a nightmare, but is busted out by Abbie with a fake court order. The episode ramps up to 11 at this point as Abbie begs Andy to put his career on the line and call for backup to help her go find a random skull buried in a random grave at a church in the wee hours of the morning. Don't you need some sort of license for that? #tvlogic Andy agrees, grudgingly, to help even as he's a) not calling it in and b) not turning around to go back. I sure thought Andy was dead at this point, because I'm a sucker. Turns out, maybe not so much.

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot

Everyone knows what comes next and if you don't you're not in on the joke.


Cemetery showdown! Abbie and Ichabod dig up the the hidden skull, but unfortunately since Andy is secretly working for the bad guys, now they know, too. On the extended unfortunate side, now Headless has decided to join the future and drop the axe for a gun, which can kill people from much farther away. As Ichabod is fighting Headless, Andy assaults Abbie and then gets real gross about it, cooing over protecting her and stroking her face as he loads her into the back of his squad car. Dear psychotic dudes making deals with evil: that's super creepy, maybe just stick with the demons. She is, quite rightly, like "fuck this!", bites the shit out of him, steals his gun, and forces him to cuff himself as she holds him at gunpoint. He pleads with her as he tells her that there's no hope and she gives exactly zero fucks. Ichabod, on the other hand, decides that running, screaming for Abbie's help, and hiding would serve him best at this time.

Several things about this scene I noted: the equality of the action. Abbie doesn't need to be saved. Ichabod can hold his own but knows when he needs help. They're both equally outmatched by Headless, who is surfing on supernatural mojo, and only can really be vanquished via the appearance of the sun (why is that sun so high? Show, are you kidding?). Are the Horseman secretly vampires who are immune to everything? Because that would be the best twist. I would sign up for that. Also, dear Westchester County Police Department, you may need to teach your people not to shoot wildly at everything that moves. I know it's been slow in these parts the last couple hundred years, but ya'll are way too trigger happy. Just a thought!

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


Captain Frank is pissed, mostly, I assume, about being wrong and losing two good cops to months of intense therapy and night terrors. He orders Abbie and Ichabod to find him some answers, starting with interrogating Andy, right after giving Ichabod a pet name I hope lasts all season. Abbie decides to stay in Sleepy Hollow instead of shipping out to Quantico, and Ichabod smirks in glee before telling Abbie they were fated to be partners to defeat the awakening evil in the town (surprise hellmouth?)

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


The end of the episode ends with full-on embrace of horror and the sad loss of Andy, who made terrible deals with demons that didn't specify a clause for not killing him horribly should he fail. This fucking show is going to continue to do terrifying things using mirrors that give me nightmares. I can only hope they plan to end lots of episodes with Clancy Brown reading from Revelations or other spooky texts. I jumped a mile at the end of the scene. I loved it, and listen, I don't do horror, except for how now I guess I have to because I want to see Abbie every week for seven years, even with the terrible retconning of American History and George Washington's link to the magical underworld. I'm all in.

Sleepy Hollow episode screenshot


I loved it and can only pray that they don't screw it up with terrible writing or mishandle Abbie, who is my queen, and that they please, please, please don't take themselves seriously, ever. That would totally ruin the really great and terrible thing they have going for them, which is complete supernatural apocalyptic ridiculousness with really strong characters with super awesome chemistry. I believe in you, show!

Idle Thoughts:
  • I'm a little disappointed that we didn't learn Andy's motivations for agreeing to help Goat Demon, because it just comes out of the blue. Maybe they'll explore this later via other characters? However, most of my disappointment is related to the fact that John Cho is awesome, was only a guest star, and his character is now super, gruesomely dead.

  • Does anyone else get hearteyes when Ichabod calls Abbie by her title? It pretty much makes me sublimely happy that he treats her as a fellow soldier in battle situations and okay that just really gets me ♥ ♥ ♥ Also, I just really like that pronunciation of the word: "leftenant".

  • I am excited that Good Witch Reverend was "a member" of the coven and not "the leader" of the coven. This makes me excited that we can hopefully avoid the gendering that happens along those lines re: witches?

  • The show is setting Frank up as a maybe-grey character. Secretly I want him to be a witch on the side of Light, which has gotten a little murky in the off years.

  • I am super hopeful that Katrina is going to get rescued from her space-time pocket and become Abbie and Ichabod's ally on the sly and help them save the world. THEN: MAKEOUTS.

  • I loved the two cops at the end. "Do you think he can hear us?" I hope these guys come back for more comedy shenanigans by ending up in the wrong place every single time.


Supplemental Material:

  • Watch the first episode (limited time)!

  • Interview with Nicole Beharie: "I honestly never imagined I would actually get to do this. No, like seriously. I never imagined as a black, African-American 20-something, I would be able to do this. You just don't see it. It's just not a reality. When they called me in, I read it and I was like, "Okay, cool, this is great." I never saw myself as someone who would be able to tote a gun and be also in a fantasy piece, but I welcome it with open arms because I grew up on comic books and action films... I love those things, but I've never seen myself as a representative. So hats f***ing off, hats off to Bob and Alex and Fox for saying, "We're going to cast this girl as the gun toting apocalyptic crusader and witness." It's amazing."

Date: 2013-09-23 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theliteraryomnivore.wordpress.com
YES! This did not disappoint!

Between this and Elementary, I hope we start seeing a trend of A.) more well-written ladies of color and B.) more platonic lady-dude friendships. I'm also weirdly invested in Ichabod and Katrina's relationship, mostly because Abbie eye-rolling at two temporal fishes out of water would be magical. (Also, her bird's name is totally Donald, a la the Falconer. Speaking of birds, I just realized that August Corbin means "WISE RAVEN." Oh, this show.)

The escalation in this show is my favorite, because the crazy never stops. It just piles on and on until you get a prophecy in the show about the show lasting seven years.

Date: 2013-09-23 03:57 am (UTC)
chaosraven: Chopper (Default)
From: [personal profile] chaosraven
I AGREE WITH ALL OF THIS. MY FEELS ARE ALREADY AT MAXIMUM CAPACITY AND THIS IS ONLY THE FIRST EPISODE.

Words cannot express how happy I am that they didn't go the "strong female character who proves she's strong by out stronging all the men" route with Abbie. She is such a nuanced character. She's an authority figure who is used to getting the respect she deserves, and it shows. But as she gets to know Ichabod through the episode, she starts to see him as a person and not as a part of her job and their interactions are so much richer for the writers to have added that dimension.

Ichabod, in contrast, barely has a single moment in the episode where he has control over the scene, despite his sassy defense mechanisms. What a great role reversal.

Basically, I'm so glad you're forcing me to watch television this season, there are already great things happening.

Date: 2013-09-23 05:18 am (UTC)
myfriendamy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] myfriendamy
lol so I finally watched this and I was like...I have no idea what I just watched.

But I'll definitely keep going. Will you be recapping every week? /hopeful

Date: 2013-09-23 07:52 pm (UTC)
myfriendamy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] myfriendamy
What fives shows are you watching?

And yeah lol it seems like the plot is going to be a little bit complex so thorough recappers are appreciated NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING :)

Date: 2013-09-23 08:04 am (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
"I think it's useful to point out that at this point, we have three dead white guys (assuming Jimmy was, which I'm just going to go out on a very short limb on) and no dead ladies and/or minorities."

<3

So, I take it I should get my paws on this and watch it? :P

Date: 2013-09-29 03:05 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I am sad to hear that John Cho is an evil guest star with no interesting motivation as yet but everything else sounds great!

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