If American Horror Story is too intense for you, but Vampire Diaries is too silly, then I've got one recommendation for this fall TV season: Sleepy Hollow on FOX. It's the perfect blend of fun and chills. We saw the pilot at Comic-Con and everybody cheered like maniacs.
In the pilot, we're introduced to the soldier Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) during the Revolutionary War, just as he's engaging in a fatal battle with a massive, masked man whose hand is scarred with the sign of a bow and arrow. Ichabod shoots the man, but he keeps coming like a Terminator. Then, just as the man delivers a mortal blow to Ichabod's chest, Ichabod cuts the man's head off. Their blood — red and curdled black — runs together.
Cut to the present day, where Ichabod claws out of his grave in an underground cavern. Shivering and confused, he wanders into the road and is nearly hit by a truck. Meanwhile, a young police officer named Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) is about to leave town to join the FBI when she gets a "horses spooked in the barn" call. She and her partner smile and roll out — only to find the caller with his head chopped off. When Abbie sees a massive headless man (with that bow scar) behead her partner, she knows things are about to get messed up.
Partly that's because she had a weird supernatural vision of four white trees and demon when she was a teenager. And partly that's because another cop (John Cho) drags in a suspect who calls himself Ichabod Crane and claims to be over 250 years old. When Abbie and Ichabod meet, they immediately trade amusing barbs and the chemistry is great. "You have been emancipated, then?" Ichabod asks. Abbie rolls her eyes. Ichabod is thrilled, because he was a supporter of abolishing slavery and of emancipating the United States — and both things have come to pass while he was dead.
As things get weirder and weirder, Abbie comes to trust Ichabod. He's the only person who seems to know who this headless freak really is. Ichabod tells her that he was a spy for Washington against the British — and later, helped Washington in a secret quest to prevent unleashing the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, the headless guy who is back? He's Death. He's already killed an immortal priest who helped Ichabod two centuries ago. And his three horseman buddies might not be far behind.
Luckily the horseman can't regain his powers without his head, and it's been hidden by Ichabod's dead witch wife (because of course he has one of those — she's why he came back from the dead). There are some great fight scenes, where you'll actually notice great camera angles and music, because director Len Wiseman did a bang-up job here.
When the supernatural deaths start piling up, even Abbie's dubious superior officer realizes that they need to investigate what appears to be impossible: a harbinger of the Apocalypse. Ichabod and Abbie become partners, and the seriously scary demon that Abbie saw as a teen is now back — creeping us out and killing John Cho (damn). There's a great balance between cute banter and serious horror, reminiscent of the legendarily great seasons 4 and 5 of Supernatural (which were also about the Biblical Apocalypse). Also, Abbie's dead partner has a secret stash of files about all the supernatural stuff that's been happening in their town that the two partners can mine for information.
It's a smashing setup for a show that crackles with charisma. The show creators, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, told the Comic-Con audience about how the series wouldn't just focus on the headless horseman — he's one of many things Ichabod and Abbie will deal with. And it will also go deep into flashbacks, so we can learn more about George Washington's secret war on evil in America (he was a Mason, after all). I was not expecting to be excited about this show at all, but after seeing the pilot I'm chomping at the bit to see more. Plus, Buffy alum Jose Molina will be one of the writers — and that bodes well.
Sleepy Hollow premieres this fall on FOX.