As we reach the end of the first season of Sleepy Hollow, what most stands out is how surprisingly good the series has been so far. It established itself almost immediately as a ridiculous, fun show with a lot of heart as far as its main characters go. With some great supporting turns, such as bringing on the infallible John Noble, and some gripping and creepy action sequences, there are so many moments that stand out from the first eleven episodes. There, though, are some of the best:
5. Welcome to Sleepy Hollow, Episode 1 — “Pilot”
A pilot has so many difficult pitfalls to overcome. How much exposition should it have? How obvious do the writers have to make certain relationships or ideas without coming off heavy-handed or making the viewer feel dumb? How important is the balance between making the world and atmosphere of the show engrossing versus making a character or two interesting enough to bring viewers back? Any faults that the Sleepy Hollow pilot might have had are required to step aside in the face of how openly honest the show is right from the get-go. It’s insane. Ichabod Crane wakes up, buried in some cave, and finds his way out onto a road and several hundred years in the future. A semi-truck blows by. Ichabod is confused. “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones plays. Then, finally, the camera pans to the Sleepy Hollow city sign before giving us a view of the city from high above. This is a show announcing itself in the most fantastically silly way possible.
4. The crew traps the Horseman, Episode 7 — “The Midnight Ride”
The characters in Sleepy Hollow are often questioning their own sanity. Can all of this really be happening? But when Ichabod and Abbie manage to set up a magic trap and lure the Horseman into it, Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) is forced to believe — there are forces in this world that people turn a blind eye to, but once that truth is seen, people have an obligation to help fight the evil in any way they can. More basic than that, this moment serves as a substantial victory for our protagonists. When two opposing forces go against each other and one (the Horseman) is clearly stronger than the other, it’s up to strategy and wit to take down the stronger force. Resolution is the natural end to conflict. But few things are able to make that resolution as satisfying as it is here.
3. Abbie does right by Jenny and beats the Sandman, Episode 3 — “For the Triumph of Evil”
Part of what makes the battle against Moloch and evil so difficult is that the fights aren’t as clear-cut as “defeat this foe using this weapon.” Evil manifests itself in different ways and can seep into someone’s whole being. With that in mind, Moloch often attacks Abbie and Ichabod by getting into their heads. When up against the Sandman, Abbie is confronted with her past, in which she stayed quiet about the demon that she and Jenny saw as children. Jenny ended up being sent off, having been declared mentally unstable, and Abbie didn’t step up to defend her. The showdown with the Sandman gives her the chance to redeem herself, which she, of course, does. Add to that the outstanding costume design and make-up that the Sleepy Hollow crew would go on to one-up as the season progressed. Little flourishes like this go a long way in creating the aesthetic of a series, and Sleepy Hollow comes closest to its X-Files precedent when it creates these monsters that look and feel so real and terrifying.
2. Ichabod’s conversation with Yolanda, Episode 4 — “The Lesser Key of Solomon”
This is Sleepy Hollow at its most essential: wildly entertaining and funny, but also heartfelt and serious enough to be taken seriously. The episode begins with Ichabod telling the tale of Katrina, which is full of longing and sorrow. Then we cut to Ichabod in a car, where we realize he’s been telling this tale to Yolanda, an employee of an OnStar-like company, as a means of comforting her. He thanks for unlocking the car and showing him how to use the entertainment system before she says a tearful goodbye. This is easily the best Ichabod-comes-from-another-
1. Celebrating the holidays with Sleepy Hollow, Episode 9 — “Sanctuary” and Episode 10 — “The Golem”
These two episodes form an Ichabod-centric arc that revolves around the fate of Katrina and their son, who Ichabod never got to know. At the end of “Sanctuary,” after another brilliant monster episode that takes place mostly in a house, Ichabod and Abbie return to ponder the events and new information they’ve been given. Part of that information is that Abbie’s ancestors were the ones who helped bring Ichabod’s son into the world. “It seems that you and I…our paths were entwined from the very start,” he tells Abbie. Sleepy Hollow is a standout example of a series that has a male-female co-lead that doesn’t tug on the sexual chemistry string. These two are platonic partners and have so much respect and need for each other. As the two celebrate Thanksgiving over rum, they toast: “To family,” Abbie says. “To finding family,” Ichabod responds. And in the following episode, John Noble returns to help put the Golem to rest, thus putting Ichabod’s son to rest. “It seems no matter how hard we both tried, one cannot turn from fate,” Ichabod says to Mr. Parrish, who was reluctant to come help the two. His response: “And yet, for the first time, I feel that fate has delivered me a blessing by bringing you both into my life.” Maybe it’s just how well John Noble sells it, but it’s pretty much impossible for any person with a heart to not feel something special in that moment. If that weren’t enough, Parrish stops just before leaving to say, “We never bury the dead, son. Not really. We take them with us. It’s the price of living.” Abbie, moments later, gives Ichabod a Christmas stocking, which he is appropriately puzzled with. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, these episodes say to us just as they impart some wisdom and empathy that keys into what being a human and connecting with other people is all about. Well played, Sleepy Hollow. Well played.