Two hundred and fifty years ago in the town of Sleepy Hollow, scholar and Revolutionary War spy Ichabod Crane is killed on the battlefield by a masked Hessian soldier, but Crane manages to decapitate the Hessian in his final dying moments. However, Crane is somehow resurrected in the modern age of smartphones and Starbucks, finding that his headless Hessian foe has also returned, but as one of the the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.
The end times are near, as witches, ghosts, and demons rise. If the Headless Horseman is reunited with his head, the other three Horsemen will ride as well, and it will be Hell on Earth. Crane, accompanied by street-wise police Lieutenant Abbie Mills, find they are the biblical Witnesses, destined to battle the forces of evil and save the world.
Sleepy Hollow takes a number of interesting and rather fun liberties with Washington Irving's classic ghost story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, blending it with elements of Irving's other work, Rip Van Winkle, as well as shows like Supernatural and The X-Files. There's even a reference to comic book character Captain America, as both he and this version of Ichabod Crane are "men out of time." The show utilizes horror and supernatural elements very effectively, and also blends these elements with historical elements that cast a new spin on the American Revolutionary War.
The show also uses humor very well, as Crane must adapt to a modern world that he finds bewildering and baffling. Tom Mison's performance as Ichabod Crane shines here, as he doesn't overplay it, his subtle reactions to things like automatic car windows (not to mention cars themselves), and his seemingly legitimate outrage over a tax on donut holes is sheer gold for the viewing audience. His uncanny chemistry with Nicole Beharie's "Leftenant" Abbie is truly the emotional backbone of the show. (Side note - Beharie is exiting the show before its fourth season next fall, so I cannot imagine this show without the Team Witness chemistry of Crane and Abbie.) The great John Noble joins the show halfway through the first season, adding even more depth to the impressive acting talent on display.
If there are any flaws with the show, it's that the season is too short, lasting only a paltry 13 episodes. Also, the subplot involving Katrina, Ichabod's wife who is trapped in Purgatory, lends little emotional heft to the main story. Yes, Ichabod wants to reunite with his wife, but we don't get to spend much time with her or get to see them together often enough to feel anything emotionally for their relationship.
Though the show has fallen off in quality in subsequent seasons - you get the feeling they had a good idea with this show but didn't know where to take it - the first season is still one of the best first seasons for a show in recent memory. It made me a fan, so much that I visited the actual Sleepy Hollow in upstate New York (I live an hour and twenty-minute drive away) and had to enjoy some Apple Pie a la Mode at a diner named The Horseman while I was there. Watch the pilot and you'll get the reference.
Filmmaker Len Wiseman (the Underworld series, Live Free or Die Hard, the Total Recall remake) is a producer on the show and directed the pilot episode, and it exists as probably his best work. Welcome to Sleepy Hollow. The Headless Horseman awaits you.