[Ed. Note: You might remember Carmen Petaccio from his wonderful Newsroom recaps. You should, the just ended last week. He's back to recap Sleepy Hollow, something he enjoys much more, and we'll be catching up with the first two episodes today and tomorrow. Let's go!]
“However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative—to dream dreams, and see apparitions.”
-Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
‘Tis the Year 1781, in a Forest grayed by War & Winter, deep, deep in the Bosom of New York’s Hudson Valley — ’tis here our Journey begins. A Battle rages. The Air brims with Musket Smoke & Cries of Revolution. Cannonballs detonate against the Hillsides; hard Earth careens heavenward. For Home & Country, Men on both Sides meet Death swiftly, bravely, fear never once farther from their Eyes. Somewheres within this Fray, amidst the whirligig of Chaos & Death, a handsome Hero awaits his handsome Destiny. His name is Ichabod Crane, and henceforth, his fucking bonkers journey will be our fucking bonkers journey.
So, Ichabod Crane is straight musket-pwning every Red Coat in the battle. He’s putting the musket game on musket notice like he’s the Kendrick Lamar of muskets. At least he thinks he is, until The Pre-Headless Headless Horseman (TP-HHH) drops by in a BDSM mask (like he’s the Drake of broad-axes) and slices Ichabod across the sculpted abs, that is! Abs sliced, pride tested, Ichabod shoulders his musket to shoot TP-HHH in his pervert mask, but TP-HHH parries the attack. Disgraced, Ichabod falls to his knees. Just as the world looks its bleakest — just as TP-HHH swings his broad axe for Ichabod’s throat — Ichabod un-sheaths his pocket sword and decapitates The Pre-Headless Headless Horseman, instantly transforming him into The V-Headless Headless Horseman. To celebrate, Ichabod lays down in the middle of the battle and takes a refreshing nap. This is the most normal, least awesome thing that happens for the next forty minutes. Be warned and not warned.
Cut-eth to Ichabod waking up in a Fluff mud bath in a creepy cave. He staggers out of the Fluff mud all covered in shit and discovers that his scar has magically healed. Soon thereafter some of the cave’s decorative jars (?) with frogs in them (?) begin to explode (?) so Ichabod, no duh, books it the brimstone out of there. He crawls out of the hole that magically appears in the cave ceiling, drinks Smart Water from a waterfall, and power-walks to…a…a…uhhhh…street?! As in a “street” from our present futuristic times?! Wasn’t it just 1781?! ?!?!?!?!?!?!
No time to explain! Because — vroom! — Ichabod barely dodges a passing Mack truck! And — vroom! — Ichabod barely dodges a sedan, which crashes into a roadside ditch! And — whoosh! — Ichabod runs from the scene of the accident like a jerk-face! We’re not in 1781 anymore,
bad Samaritan Ichabod! We’re in Sleepy Hollow!
Now two cops are shooting the shit in the local Dunkin’. One is The Sheriff, played by the devil priest from Carnivale (you remember), and the other is Abbie Mills, a lady cop who is played by someone who wasn’t in Carnivale but is nevertheless implausibly and alluringly effervescent. Turns out, Abby is planning to leave Sleepy Hollow forever in order to work for the FBI. Aw, didn’t we just meet?! How can Abby and her adorable mannerisms leave us already?! *Whale face* Being a smooth operator, The Sheriff tries to glamour her out of it, but her face is so charming and beguiling that his/our heart(s) melt(s) into his/our shoes. He gives up. We give up. We surrender our time and reason eternally to the utterly bewitching Abby Mills, SHPD. PS: PLEASE STAY.
On the way out, The Sheriff says “hiya” to a creepy priest and then a routine 6969 (Police Code for coyote in the horse stables) comes over the scanner. Mills and The Sheriff (prequel, PLEASE) spring to action. Backed by spooky music, they drive the spooky Sleepy Hollow streets to the spooky farm where spooky thunder booms and spooky lightning crashes. Mills checks out the spooky grounds while The Sheriff inspects the spooky stable. Mills finds the farmer’s decapitated body, which is bad. But The Sheriff finds The Headless Horseman, which is way worse. You can tell it’s way worse because of how The Headless Horseman immediately cuts off The Sheriff’s head. See you in Carnivale Season 3, The Sheriff! HBO should stop ignoring my petition any day now!
After decapitating The Sheriff, The Headless Horseman flaunts his hand tattoo at Mills and rides into the mist. Following protocol, Mills radios Officer John Cho for backup. Officer John Cho whips his cop car around in the middle of an intersection and, vroom, almost hits Ichabod Crane, this-show-style. Officer John Cho arrests Ichabod, puts him in jail, and meet-cutes him to Mills, thinking Ichabod is the killer. “That’s not the killer, stupid John Cho,” says
Inspector Holmes Mills. “When was the last time you saw the killer, Ichabod Crane?” To which Ichabod Crane is like, “WHEN. I. CUT. OFF. HIS. HEAD.” To which I am like, “THIS. FOREVER.”
Later, Ichabod is posted up in the SHPD interrogation room, producing the coolest imaginable words with his mouth. “Are you an elected magistrate?” he says. (Sidebar: omg.) “Is this an admiralty court?” he says. (Sidebar: omgomg.) Just the coolest. His words are like this show: relentlessly the coolest. Ichabod provides a exquisitely-accented exposition dump to the polygraph machine about how he had been a professor at Oxford in the late 1700s when he was enlisted to fight the American Rebel Alliance (!), but defected to the American Rebel Alliance (!!), whereupon he became a double agent for George Washington (!!!), decapitated the Hessian mercenary who became The Headless Horseman (!!!!), took a nap (!!!!!!), and time-traveled two-hundred fifty years into the future in a Fluff mud bath (!!!!!!). He, of course, passes the polygraph test with flawless flying colors, and Police Chief Orlando Jones, per his being sane, orders Ichabod sent to the nearest insane asylum.
Except! Except that Mills wants to interrogate him first. This magically leads to some of the (has to be) sharpest slavery & misogyny repartee in television history, as well fun bonding over The Headless Horseman’s hand tattoo, as well as Ichabod’s sorta release, as well as their friendship, as well as our viewership until cancellation.
Somehow, it isn’t the chill battles or stellar production that force me all-in with this show, it’s this scene in the
mechanical horseless horse carriage car with Mills and Ichabod. Which is as straightforward as scenes get for Sleepy Hollow: They exchange more fantastic time travel dialogue, Ichabod joyfully raises and lowers the car window, Mills responds by turning on the child locks, Ichabod asks, “Since when are women allowed to wear trowers?” And it’s all just unabashedly quick-witted, fun, and hyper self-aware, but unlike the current Whedonian iteration of this brand of writing, this brand of writing fosters my emotional investment in these characters. Not in their vapid banter juxtaposed with spectacle, or whatever. I want to spend time with these improbably time-deserving fake people, and that’s all any alternative history magic apocalypse dramedy should want from me, and that Sleepy Hollow on any level wants that is great. Hashtag: $0.02
Mills and Ichabod head to the creepy cave and spelunk down and find George Washington’s Bible, duh. Ichabod immediately deduces that The American Revolution was in actuality a celestial war for the souls of all mankind. And The Headless Horseman is one of The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. And The Headless Horseman has returned to Sleepy Hollow to kill Ichabod Crane. And also duh.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Sleepy Hollow, the creepy priest is lurking around his creepy graveyard. At least he thinks he is…UNTIL…THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN…RIDES UP…AND THEY F’N BATTLE! The creepy priest fights his heart out with his creepy chain magic (!), but everyone knows that hell-forged broad-axes always beat magical chains (you remember, from recess), and The Headless Horseman cuts off the creepy priest’s creepy head. Like essentially everything in this show, the action is pleasantly stylish, campily delightful, perilously weird, and simply very fun to watch. Spooky thumbs spookily up. Anyway, Creepy priest is dead now. Bye-ya, creepy priest.
Police Chief Orlando Jones yells at Mills for not taking Ichabod to the sanitarium. This logically leads Ichabod to deduce that his wife was a witch and Mills had a traumatic supernatural experience in her past. Mills is like, “Okay, that’s it, time for the (Through the Never voice) SAN-I-TARIUM.” She throws Ichabod in the looney bin, recounts the one time her and her sister were ghost molested by a tree demon, and, honestly, the show could have ended right there and gone down as one of the greatest shows in history.
But then Mills goes to leave, turns back to Ichabod, and says, “You can call me Abbie.” Daw.
And the show could have ended right THERE and gone down as THE greatest show in history, but Mills raids The Sheriff’s man cave and finds a bunch of 8-track demos that prove her tree demon is real. So the show continues, and so HOORAY/HUZZAH, and we’ll have to hold off on Sleepy Hollow‘s place in the pantheon.
Back in the SAN-I-TARIUM, Ichabod crow-dreams (total thing) of his gorgeous ginger witch wife. She gorgeously informs Ichabod that he and The Headless Horseman are spiritually linked, like Harry & Voldy; that The Headless Horseman’s weakness is the sun, like Edward Cullen; that “the answers” are in George Washington’s bible, like National Treasure (probably); that Ichabod is “The First Witness,” like Desmond is The Constant (probably); and, finally, that he has to stop The Headless Horseman from retrieving his head, like, I don’t know, The Temple Guards in The Shrine of the Silver Monkey. Before you can process any of this, the molester tree demon appears and is the absolute scariest and you run screaming from your Hulu. See dramatization:
Mills & Ichabod head to the graveyard where The Headless Horseman’s Head is. The Headless Horseman sneaks up on Officer John Cho and now they’re most likely teammates, heading for the graveyard, too. Ichabod exhumes The Headless Horseman’s Head, which is just a normal, not scary at all preserved head (NOPE). In super expected fashion, The Headless Horseman quickly rides into the graveyard on his horse of the apocalypse and, caps and exclamation points, STARTS SHOOTING AT THEM WITH A SHOTGUN!!! A pleasantly stylish slow-motion shootout ensues, complete with exploding gravestones and flying axes and Ichabod goosing The Headless Horseman over his absence with a shovel.
Officer John Cho skids up in his cop car and abuses Mills’s trust by pistol-whipping her in the face. Come on, John. As we all know by now, Mills has too much pluck and guile to be knocked unconscious by a pistol-whip from a punk like Officer John Cho. In retaliation she bites his stupid hand and from then on its more or less an endless stream of awesome. The Headless Horseman unloads on a cop car with a machine gun and rides into the mist: awesome. Ichabod is deputized: doubly awesome. Mills chooses to stay: triply awesome. That punk Officer John Cho gets decapitated by the molester tree demon: so scary/so awesome.
And while ’tis only the beginning of our journey, if I must sayeth one thing of Sleepy Hollow, let me sayeth this: