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Sleepy Hollow 1×01 “Pilot” Recap


The pilot episode of Sleepy Hollow opens with a battle.

It’s 1781 and the Americans are fighting the British in Hudson Valley, New York – otherwise known as the Battle of Hudson. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) fires a shot at an approaching British soldier, throwing him off his horse. Somehow, though, the soldier gets up – no worse for wear – and slices Ichabod across the chest with an axe. Before he dies, Ichabod is able to draw his own sword and cut the soldier’s head off.

Headless Horseman here we come!

Village of Sleepy Hollow – Present

Confused, disoriented, and desperately in need of a shower, Ichabod wakes up in present-day – in a cave of all places – and nearly gets himself killed when he walks out into the middle of a road where a truck and a car nearly collide into him.

At a diner, we’re introduced to our other lead character – Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie). Her mentor, Sheriff August Corbin (Clancy Brown), makes clear than he isn’t exactly thrilled with her impending departure to Quantico. Abbie’s been accepted to the FBI, but the look exchanged between Abbie and the sheriff indicates it isn’t an easy decision on her part either to leave Sleepy Hollow.

As the pair leave the diner, Sheriff Corbin acknowledges the mysterious priest (Patrick Gorman) – as priests are wont to be mysterious in shows like this – sitting in another booth.

Abbie and the sheriff are then dispatched to check on a horse stable. While Abbie tries to reach the owner, who’s not answering the door, the sheriff goes into the barn. And immediately we know something is amiss.

And something is very, very amiss. Abbie stumbles upon the owner’s headless body. Inside the barn, the sheriff comes face to face with the Headless Horseman and becomes its next victim.

Abbie sees the Headless Horseman, and for a moment it looks like Abbie is in trouble, but then the supernatural being ignores her and rides away into the night to parts unknown. Seeing that her mentor has been killed, Abbie calls for backup.

Somewhere in the middle of the city, riding in his police car, John Cho hears this and nearly runs Ichabod over. Naturally, Ichabod is arrested and becomes Prime Suspect #1 in the sheriff’s untimely murder.

At the police station, Abbie tells Andy (John Cho) that Ichabod isn’t the guy she saw – the guy she saw wore a red coat and had some sort of branding on his hand. This immediately captures Ichabod’s attention, of course, which lands him right in the interrogation room with a polygraph test running on him.

He claims to be an Oxford professor who was dispatched to “the colonies” to fight with the British, but he ended up defecting and fighting in General George Washington’s army with the colonists instead.

Ichabod then explains what happened after the Headless Horseman wounded him. He was taken to triage, where his wife Katrina (Katia Winter) was working as a civilian nurse, to get medical treatment. Not long after he lost consciousness, only to wake up in a cave.

Everyone assumes Ichabod is either a lunatic or a really good liar looking to use the insanity defense for murdering the sheriff.

Abbie wants to question Ichabod herself because he describes the man she saw in perfect detail (including the headless part but she’s smart enough to keep this to herself), but Captain Frank Irving (played by Orlando Jones – his character name’s is a clear shout-out to Washington Irving, author of the Sleepy Hollow book) refuses.

After much prodding, he finally gives her permission to drive Ichabod to the mental institute, however. Abbie takes the opportunity to question Ichabod, who takes a fascination to the automatic car windows and the idea of a Starbucks coffee shop on every street corner.

Inside the cave is George Washington’s bible. Ichabod tells Abbie that he sent by Washington to kill the now-Headless Horseman. Abbie decides she’s had enough, however. She’s not ready to believe in the supernatural quite just yet.

Meanwhile, the priest from earlier becomes the Headless Horseman’s next victim. He doesn’t go down without a fight, however, as he uses some form of telekinesis against the Headless Horseman.

Abbie drives to the scene of the crime, telling Ichabod to stay in the car. And what does Ichabod do? He gets out of the car. Irving isn’t happy about this, even though Abbie tries to convince him that Ichabod – who’s now presumed innocent since he was with Abbie when the second killer took place – is their best chance at catching this killer. Irving reminds Abbie that she’s supposed to leave for Quantico next week and this snaps Abbie back to reality.

Meanwhile, Ichabod is led to a nearby graveyard by a mysterious bird. There, he finds his wife’s tombstone which reads that she was burned for witchcraft in 1782.

When Abbie informs Ichabod that she’s leaving Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod is upset and tells Abbie that their fates are intertwined now – she can’t run away from this. She takes him to the mental institute anyway. There, Abbie softens up and decides to tell Ichabod the story of when she and her sister were teenagers and were walking home from school through the forest. They saw something that wasn’t quite human, but they blacked out quickly thereafter and everyone said they were crazy.

Her sister Jenny has had it rough ever since.


At the police station, Abbie goes through the sheriff’s old belongings. Among the usual photos of family and the like, she stumbles upon some rather unusual documents. Turns out the sheriff had a few secrets… He was investigating the paranormal and supernatural happenings in Sleepy Hollow. Abbie listens to the tape recording of the sheriff talking about everything he uncovered, and, before he died, he was debating with himself to tell Abbie everything.

Irving confronts Abbie and she quickly thinks up a lie, while secretly putting the key to the locked file drawers in her pocket.

Ichabod, meanwhile, is greeted by the spirit of his dead wife Katrina. Here’s what we learn from her:

  • Katrina was a witch – part of an ancient coven sworn to protect Sleepy Hollow from the forces of evil.
  • After Ichabod beheaded the Horseman, Ichabod and the Horseman’s bloodlines merged, which linked them.
  • In order to save Ichabod, Katrina cast a spell on both Ichabod and the Horseman. She then buried them both – Ichabod in the cave and the Horseman under the lake.
  • The Horseman was awoken first, and Ichabod along with him.
  • Katrina has been imprisoned by a mysterious evil.
  • Ichabod was the “first witness”.
  • The answers are in Washington’s bible.
  • Sunlight is the Horseman’s weakness.
  • If the Horseman finds his skull, then he will become whole again. Three more will follow and then the end of the world will begin.

Katrina urges Ichabod to wake up. He does, only to find himself strapped down on the bed in the mental institution. Abbie rushes into the room just in time, however, before the doctors can inject Ichabod with a serum. She and Ichabod leave.

In the car, Abbie tells Ichabod about everything she learned, having gone through the sheriff’s casework. They drive to the church since that’s where the Horseman’s skull has been buried. She tells Andy on the phone, and it turns out… that Andy knows the Headless Horseman! Andy tells the Horseman, “I know where it is.”

Abbie and Ichabod get the skull, but the Headless Horseman shows up with a machine gun (yes, this really happens) and fighting ensues. Abbie fires her gun at the Horseman, distracting him so that Ichabod can get away. Andy arrives shortly after and Abbie is grateful to see him… only to get whacked on the head by him. Andy reveals that he’s a not-so nice guy and that Abbie should have heeded his warning to stay out of it.

Abbie manages to fight Andy off and handcuff him to the police car. Andy warns Abbie that she can’t kill the Horseman – he’s “Death.”

Back-up finally shows up. They shoot at the Headless Horseman, but to no avail. Finally, the sun comes up and the Horseman retreats.

More back-up arrives and Abbie and Ichabod smile at each other, feeling victorious for the moment. A very pissed off Captain Irving arrives, and Abbie tells him that she no longer has plans to go to Quantico.

At the police station, Captain Irving says that he’s going to need Abbie and Ichabod’s help to solve this spree of murder cases, especially with a human skull that he has no idea what to do with.

Meanwhile, in Andy’s jail cell, a demon confronts Andy about failing his task. Andy begs for a second chance. Instead the demon kills Andy. Oops.


  • When I first learned about Sleepy Hollow, I thought the premise was absolutely ridiculous. To my surprise, I ended up really enjoying the episode.
  • It had the right balance of humor and seriousness. I hope this balance carries out throughout the rest of the season.
  • My favorite scene was between Abbie and Ichabod when they first introduce themselves to each other. I loved Abbie’s reaction to Ichabod asking if she was emancipated. She handled it perfectly and showed she’s got a bit of a sassy, sarcastic side. I love her already. They didn’t drag it out too much, either.
  • I was not expecting John Cho to be evil or creepy in this! But it’s a nice twist.
  • Fans of Sleepy Hollow have nicknamed themselves “Sleepyheads” on Tumblr. Nope. I’m not a fan of that nickname.
  • Speaking of fans, there’s a select group of them who are shipping Ichabod with the Headless Horseman. Yeah…
  • Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie make a gorgeous pair.
  • I love that there’s a black female lead and that she has substance and backstory.
  • That last scene freaked me out! I jumped in my seat.

Rating: B+