Sleepy Hollow Review: Not Your Parents' Fairy Tale

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There were no frills when it came to naming the premiere episode of Sleepy Hollow, as the series pilot thrust us right into the heart of a story we thought we knew... but our expectations quickly needed adjusting because there was little about this program that harkened back to the fairy tale we thought so familiar.

In this version of Sleepy Hollow, nobody had heard of the fairy tale and Ichabod Crane wasn't a mousy school teacher.

He was a professor at Oxford who had come to America to fight on behalf of the British army, but fell in love with the idea of what America represented and decided to switch sides. He became a valuable ally to George Washington himself and was on a special mission at his bequest to take out the fellow who became the headless horseman. Not just an ordinary fellow, he was death himself!

Sleepy Hollow Premiere Photo

From the moment Ichabod awakens in a cave surrounded by what appear to be voodoo-like elements and stumbles onto a paved road with cars whizzing by, you know this isn't your parents' Ichabod Crane. For one, Tom Mison isn't hard on the eyes. Additionally, while he's definitely surprised at his surroundings, he seems to take it in all in stride, as if his past has been just crazy enough that he can believe something strange has happened and he'll patiently wait to discover his fate.

The casting of Mison was equally matched in that of Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills, a deputy on her way out Sleepy Hollow and on her way to the FBI Academy - until she sees her friend and sheriff beheaded by a headless horseman. She, too, has a past that allows her to easily accept the unimaginable without pushing her too far off course.

The chemistry between Crane and Abbie was immediate and their banter believable. I don't think just any man could have had the discussion with Abbie about the emancipation of the slaves and gotten away with it, but Abbie instinctively trusted his sincerity and it strengthened their bond from the onset. 

I also really enjoyed that the other characters suspended their disbelief of a man popping back up in the 21st century with barely giving it a second thought. Once Crane passed the lie detector test, the brass instinctively wanted to send him to the loony bin, but they also welcomed him to the present by telling him he won the war and showing him a dollar bill. There was a part of them fighting the idea that he was crazy, too. It only took another beheading and the discovery of the blinking, canned skull for all skepticism to slip away and for them to partner Abbie and Crane to look into whatever the hell was happening in their once peaceful town.

The addition of Crane's wife, Katrina, being caught in some middle world of magic, fighting on her husband's behalf and leading the way for he and Abbie to discover clues she left behind as the mystery continues (while she also hopes for her own salvation) takes away any worry on our part of a romantic entanglement between Crane and Abbie. They make great friends and allies; it's nice to know we won't have that undercurrent ruining every episode as we move deeper into the mystery of the apocalypse. 

Oh! I failed to mention that, didn't I? Okay, maybe I just haven't gotten to that new development in our modern day Sleepy Hollow saga. Our headless horseman (who looked a lot like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises before his head was lopped off) is one of the four horseman of the apocalypse. No matter what happens to this one, there will be three more, and they won't just be chasing Ichabod Crane around, but hoping to bring down humanity and end the world. How's that for a neat twist on the old tale?

Top it off with a bit from Revelation that suggests Crane and Abbie are the two witnesses who were brought together for a seven-year period of tribulation to fight the forces of hell. Their battle is supposed to ordain the fate of the world on Judgment Day. The good news is that they must have a plan to keep the show on the air for seven seasons (c'mon ratings!) and a nice outline to get there. There were plenty of scares, a healthy helping of humor and fictionalized historical references to play with making the story feel more compelling. 

For me, it was a solid win. The casting, writing and set design are all above par. Taking a chance by killing off some of the more familiar faces in the first episode (Harold goes to hell!) always impresses me. It means that pretty much anything can go and we need to hold on to our seats because it's going to be a rough ride. Bring it on!

Random thoughts:

  • The Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil is a perfect accompaniment for Sleepy Hollow.
  • I enjoyed Ichabod's questions about Starbucks and wondering whether there was a law requiring so many of them. Of course, he wouldn't have been able to look at at a city street and said, "that used to be a livery stable," because things would have been unrecognizable to him.
  • Did you catch the irony of the street sign that was cut in half during the sword fight in the cemetery being one that showed horse crossing? It ended up as a headless horseman.
  • Since the first horseman to visit was death himself, we can assume the other three will be war, famine and conquest. I wonder what will make them different opponents from death and whether they, too, will be headless. If Brooks was right, war is next up.

What were your thoughts on the premiere and did the show win a permanent slot on your DVR or is it a wait and see? Grade the opener now:


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (249 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


Series started out nice, but in episode 2 it was time to stop it all together. i believe there is a major fault in the plot. if the headless rider, being Death himself, cannot tolerate sunlight? why go through all the trouble of burrying the head? why not hold it out in the sunlight and be done with it? that just killed it for me. #notwatchinganymore


Since the first horseman to visit was death himself, we can assume the other three will be war, famine and conquest. I wonder what will make them different opponents from death and whether they, too, will be headless. If Brooks was right, war is next up. There was a shot of all 4 in the coming attractions clip - 3 normal riders along with old Headless. Also if you watch closely when the priest meets the Headless Horseman at the graveyard, one of the headstones has a mystic society logo on it - I'd have to rewatch it to spot which one (although I recognized it). It looks like Washington was a member (as was the Sheriff - Note that he greeted the Priest in the diner).


The show started off interestingly for a few minutes, then Crane decapitated a horseman who looked like Bane from Batman...ugh... The stars are winsome, yet the emotions they display are flat...the pretty young cop, Abbie, has her mentor/partner killed, and what might have happened to her was nothing more than a stubbed toe...Crane is led to his wife's grave by a bird, and again, well, actually less than a stubbed toe is evident in his face... I'll give the show some time to develop, and grow. And I want to see if Harold (from "Harold and Kumar) invites Kumar to do a cameo when he's not working for Obama's campaign...okay, maybe not, I'm watching the show (DVR'd it), and Harold is a bad guy?! Okay...most interesting part of the show right now... I'll give it time.


The biblical references are completely wrong. The white horseman with the bow (1st one mentioned in the bible) was called Conquest. The pale horseman is a different horseman (mentioned at the very end of the episode) and is the 4th one mentioned in the bible, and he is the one called Death. There were two witnesses, but they only were there for 42 months (3.5yrs) and then they were killed by the devil and the resurrected by God, and then are assumed into heaven. (But 3.5 years is not as good as 7 years for a show to last I suppose.) Other than those ridiculous not even close to the actual text errors..the show is really awesome.


Much improved from the movie "Sleepy Hollow". They took out parts of that movie and incorporated on it's own show.


You know right from the beginning that this series is 'not your parents fairy tale' when Ichabod is standing on the road and the camera pans back and you see the sign 'Welcome to Sleepy Hollow, population 144,000'. That's a magic number right out of the 'Book of Revelation' if I ever saw one!
I thought this pilot was great. I will be watching again. I want to know how the sheriff's investigating really ties into all this and if they can ultimately stop the 'end times' from happening.


Interesting beginning. I am willing to overlook the fact that they said Ichabod's wife was burned at the stake. There were no witches burned at the stake in what were the 13 colonies or early America, they hanged them instead. Witch burning was a European thing! OK, crank up the old legend and play fast and loose with history I still enjoyed it. I say they should have made the horseman a Hessian!


It would be wonderful if you would stop referring to the Washington Irving story as a "fairy tale"--no fairies are involved. As for the first episode, I made it through 3 minutes before I was called away. Since it seems to have nothing to do with Washington Irving, I may be able to figure out a way to enjoy it for what it is. We'll see.


Manguns you are an idiot if you dont like it dont watch it, its called entertainment and the slavery comments are part of our history get over it and grow up. He didnt call her names or belittle her he just simply commented on what any person from his time would do it they were to come back now. Im sure dancing with the duds would be more your pace!
That being said great writing and a great start cant wait to see more of this show.


Conspiracy about bible appocalypse? some evil organization? Some secret order defender? Lunacy to far. Headless ancient british soldier horseman with shotgun and machine gun? Ghost-Rider Nicholas Cage is better.
I think the writer already insult black american: a black detective with
funny eyes, become stupid beyond measures by deny everything without having any irrational clues, and black trooper fail to shoot the monster but hot trigger unarmed man. Very annoying.
If sometimes bible appocalypse become to happen, it's very unlikely to happen in american soil. Very stupid idea becouse more likely in middle east or italian or greek soil, as the bible writer tought.
American movies/tv should stay on zombie or conspiracy idea, not crossing zombie and religious and conspiracy. Lunacy

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Sleepy Hollow Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Police Detective: Do you admit to cutting off his head, yes or no?
Ichabod: Nooo. First I shot him, then he rose back up. Cutting off his head seemed the next logical step.

Abbie: Who is he? When's the last time you saw him?
Ichabod: When I cut off his head.