Forget those high-prestige dramas filled with their conflicted antiheroes and layers of subtext. Enough of those pretentious cable series with their hoity-toity serial arcs. No, the folks at Fox have decided what the viewing public really wants is a headless horseman with an assault rifle.
Sharknado, meet Sleepy Hollow.
Fox's drama (and I use the term loosely) is perhaps the craziest show on television this side of History Channel's Ancient Aliens. It makes Supernatural look like a gritty docudrama and Once Upon a Time read like a history lesson. It's about demonic beasties, ageless ninja priests and how George Washington helped stave off the end of the world.
You may bemoan the fact that Fox based this campy actioner (at least at first) on a work of classic American literature, but let's be honest: It's not like Washington Irving was going for hard-core realism when he penned "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." We're talking about a Headless Horseman here. How does the dude see?
So, really, Fox doesn't take nearly as many liberties with Irving's story as it does with the book of Revelation.
Let me explain. Or try to.
In 1781, Revolutionary War soldier Ichabod Crane faces off against a masked Redcoat with dead-gray eyes and a bow-like scar on his hand. Ichabod manages to slice off the Redcoat's head, but not before Ichabod's chest gets hacked open. The two fall on the field of battle, apparently dead.
But the Redcoat actually can't be killed. He's one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, see, and the Revolutionary War wasn't just about American independence, it was a war (Ichabod says) to decide the fate of "every man, woman and child on Earth." Why is Ichabod still talking, you ask? Because his blood mingled with the Horseman's on the killing fields, of course, and through spells cast by his wife and her coven cronies.
Fast-forward 232 years or so, and both of these guys pop out of the grave, looking not the least bit worm-eaten. The Horseman continues to make the occasional cameo while Ichabod discovers that his old nemesis is just part of an even bigger story—yes, bigger than even "deciding the fate of …" yeah, you get it. There's mystery, magic and a whole bunch of monsters that crop up here as Sleepy Hollow turns into ground zero for supernatural cataclysm.
Ichabod's the good guy here. (I felt like I probably should spell that out.) And he's trying to keep not only the horrible Horseman at bay, but also that whole cataclysm thing, too. Fortunately he has a little help, thanks to a roll-with-the-punches police officer by the name of Abbie Mills. Oh, at first she found the whole supernatural stuff a little, well, unnatural. But two seasons in, the only thing she's likely to say if she sees a werewolf scamper down the street is, "Again?!"
Sleepy Hollow does offer some good messages about family and friendship and chivalry and the power of love. But the themes get pretty muddy pretty fast, what with Ichabod believing that he and Abbie are the "two witnesses" mentioned in Revelation—warriors tasked with battling demons for seven years (or at least the length of a semi-successful television series). The Headless Horseman, if he ever gets his head back, will call his three apocalyptic riders to join the bloody party. (I know Revelation can be a tricky book to interpret, but I don't think John saw anything quite like this.) Witches (both "good" and bad), vampires and demons sometimes show up too. And then you've got Ichabod's creepily old (but not quite as old as he should be) son Henry Parrish. That guy's a no-good louse (if ever there was one) who may be in league with the devil himself. He certainly seems strangely interested in purchasing discount souls.
On top of that spiritual hoo-ha, Fox's scripts are fraught with profanity … and violence. Blood flies. Body parts are lopped off. Multiple people in each episode can be expected to die through various grisly means, including getting shot, stabbed or broken in half. Oh, and some have even been "privileged" enough to have their heads excised with the Horseman's superheated cauterizing ax. (Really.)
But forget about all those missing heads. This whole show seems to survive without a brain.
"And the Abyss Gazes Back"
Joe Corbin, son of one-time sheriff August, returns from Afghanistan and blames Abbie for his father's death. But he's plagued by a more serious problem: He's a wendigo, a creature from American Indian lore that has a hunger for human organs.
We see the wendigo's handiwork: There's a dead person inside a pickup truck, while another victim lies on the ground, his rib cage torn open and his torso devoid of innards. (Joe's platoon in Afghanistan was also mysteriously obliterated, with Joe emerging as the only survivor.) The wendigo is shot with a tranquilizer and fed organs from the morgue in order to get it to change back to Joe. To cure the curse, Ichabod takes some wendigo blood, holds it in a human skull and chants an incantation that includes a reference to "the great spirit in the sky." (Part of the skull glows red during the rite.)
We see the results of a failed scalping and hear references to "black magic." A preternatural spider poisons a woman (crawling into her mouth). Soul "trading" is talked about. Ichabod eschews yoga, relaxing at the pub instead. He plays a violent video game, hurling 18th-century insults at his opponents. Characters say "p---ed," "d--n" and "b--ch" once or twice each, "h---" four or five. God's name is misused. It's implied that Joe is naked at one point.
The Horseman slices through Ichabod's chest, leaving a bloody wound. Ichabod cuts off the Horseman's head, and he falls to the ground. We see the bloody neck stump. Then we continue to see the Headless Horseman's grotesque injury throughout the show as he goes on to behead several other victims. (We typically see their headless torsos slumped on the ground, and in one murder, we see the beheading from the perspective of the victim—complete with the camera falling to the ground sideways.) The Horseman shoots at his quarry with a shotgun and automatic rifle. And he himself is shot repeatedly. (Bullets don't seem to have any effect.)
A woman bites a man's thumb, nearly severing it. A demon snaps someone's head backwards, breaking the neck. People hit and fight. Ichabod's sideswiped by a car.
The "good" coven has been tasked with keeping the Horseman's undead head hidden. And a member of the coven, who also is (or pretends to be) a priest, is apparently ageless. Ichabod is kept alive through witchcraft—and part of the magic is said to be imbued in George Washington's Bible, which Ichabod was buried with. We see a demonic creature.
Characters say "d‑‑n" four or five times, "h‑‑‑" a half-dozen times. God's name is misused six or seven times.