What does the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, George Washington’s Bible, and the small town of Sleepy Hollow have in common? A man by the name of Ichabod Crain! Slain in the American Revolution fighting an evil foe on the battlefield, he has since awakened in a cave under the city… two hundred years later. Baffled by modern conveniences and somewhat resentful of them (“This so-called coffee comes with a lump of cow’s milk on top of it, and costs more than a horse!”), he winds up (where else?) in the care of the police department, where they sluff him off on Abbie Mills, a cop with a past. She doesn’t take Ichabod seriously at first, until she sees an actual Headless Horseman behead her boss, Sheriff Corbin, in front of her very eyes.
It turns out that she and Ichabod have been chosen as Witnesses in the last days, and it’s up to them to stop the apocalypse. In each episode, the two of them pair up to solve the week’s mystery, as it pertains to sinister things that go bump in the night, from flesh-eating wendigos to trips to Purgatory and back. And it’s all wrapped around a mystery of “how much the Founding Fathers knew about this, and prepared for it.” George Washington left them secrets written in invisible ink in his Bible; Benjamin Franklin left them a key to Purgatory that comes in useful in saving Ichabod Crane’s wife, a witch trapped there by her own coven, and so forth. It’s a blend of mystery, murder, and mayhem, historical reinventions plus mythological creatures, and even a few fairy tale themes tied into the American Revolution (curious how that regiment died? The Pied Piper lead them all to their slaughter!). Family curses haunt people for centuries to come (there’s a haunted house that once protected a coven), a Golem comes to life in its master’s defense (and terrorizes four witches from Greek mythology), and Ichabod and Katrina soon find out something sinister about their family tree, as he and Abbie plot to take down the demon Moloch. They even meet up and temporarily team forces with an angel who, as it turns out, is one of death and destruction.
Though not conventional murder-mystery-solving detectives, it’s a riot to watch these two interact with the real world and dip into the past. One episode finds them rediscovering the lost colony of Roanoke, which is suffering from a magical pestilence that could spread a plague among humanity; another sees them investigate a portrait in which a witch coven trapped a serial killer from Abigail Adams’ day (requiring Ichabod and his wife to enter the painting to rescue someone who has been dragged into it). It mentions ties to the Witch Hunts in Salem (they didn’t start how you think), and has trips to the underworld, not to mention demon-possessed minions.
What is really fun about it (admittedly, the historical revisionism with magic is near and dear to my heart) are the two leads—the tough-talking but compassionate Abbie Mills, and a “man out of time,” in Ichabod Crane. Abbie is no-nonsense and down to earth, always practical and focused on doing what she can to prevent evil from spreading its putrid poison into the world. If that means capturing the Headless Horseman or fighting a Gorgon, so be it. Ichabod has retained his Colonialist wardrobe and manners, despite living in the modern-day; he complains endlessly about the price of food, of room and board, of so-called ‘reality’ television, and in one episode, tells off a bank teller for wanting to drag people into debt. When Abbie tries to get him to wear modern clothes, within two minutes he is back in his old coat and has enlisted the services of a reenactment seamstress to provide him with new clothing, in the same old style.
Abbie has problems of her own, since she witnessed Moloch the demon as a child in the woods, alongside her sister Jenny. When the police took them in for questioning, she knew they would think her insane and kept her mouth shut; Jenny went on and on about a demon and wound up in a series of mental institutions. Now both adults, their relationship is strained at best, but over the course of the series, we see them forgive each other. Meanwhile, Ichabod has to grapple with the newfound knowledge that his wife is a witch who has kept many secrets from him, and their relationship struggles along with highs and lows as they save the world, over and over again.
I absolutely love detectives of any flavor, but throw in a supernatural blend of old and new, fantasy and reality, and I am hooked from the start. Where else can I hear a rant about how insufferable Benjamin Franklin was, thinking himself “always the smartest man in the room,” in the same episode as a fantastical journey to the underworld? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish watching season two…
I wrote this as part of We Love Detectives Week. Click on the link for more entries!