If you heard something go bump on Friday night, it wasn't a monster, it was the sound of a collective fandom banging their heads against their desks after watching Sleepy Hollow's season ender. Sleepy Hollow, Fox’s troubled sci-fi show, ended its third season with the profoundly stupid death of its central character Abbie Mills, played by Nicole Beharie.
If only it had sustained their groundbreaking and whimsical storytelling in season 1.
Hollow is a contemporary re-imagining of the spooky classic “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow." It unites soldiers, or witnesses, in the battle against apocalyptic evil. Beharie’s modern day police officer-turned-FBI agent is paired with a resurrected 1770s era revolutionist Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), who reveals that America’s founding fathers battled supernatural evils as well as the British. Part National Treasure, part The X-Files, Sleepy Hollow began as a campy, macabre adventure with a diverse cast and an intriguing twist on American history, led by an African-American woman.
Problems arose almost immediately when talented, veteran actors, including actor John Cho’s deputy and trusted ally actor-writer'sOrlando Jones' Captain Irving, were underused and saddled with nonsensical arcs before eventually being killed off. Replacing them were Ichabod's bafflingly powerless witch and wife, Katrina, and an action-ready Betsy Ross, who could kick ass in corsets, in seasons 2 and 3 respectively.
While Ichabod was being loved and lusted after in the past and present, Abbie Mills's life was never explored outside of her duties as a witness.
This season saw the introduction of Lance Gross as Abbie’s FBI boss Daniel Reynolds, an old fling of Abbie's from Quantico. Beharie and Gross generated about as much on-screen heat as a deep freezer, namely they merely talked about a relationship that was never shown. It must be noted that viewers were privy to Ichabod's courtships some 240 years earlier. Ultimately, it was another distraction from what fans predictably wanted most and what should have always been the heart of the Hollow: Abbie and Ichabod’s bond as partners, friends, and even the possibility of romantic love.
Similar shows like Bones, Castle, The X-Files, Law and Order: SVU and even Hawaii Five-0 rely on the intensity of romantic will-they-won’t-they tension to reel in and keep viewers emotionally engaged. For some baffling reason—maybe because Abbie Mills is black—the show actively detracted and undermined it every chance they got, despite the intense chemistry between Beharie and Mison.
According to THR.com, Beharie actually wanted to leave. So it must be asked why would Beharie, who is just one of a handful of black actors leading a show on broadcast television, willingly want out? Is it because there were problems behind the scenes? Is it because the star of Sleepy Hollow wasn’t invited to contribute to the DVD commentary? Is it because of the disrespectful treatment to other co-stars, like Orlando Jones? Could it be that Abbie Mills, who is a young, gorgeous single woman, was never a fully realized person capable of love, introspection and failure? Is it because the great Ichabod Crane, a white man, was deemed the focus on this story even though it was Abbie who bailed him out of jail, risked her career for him, supported him, helped him cope with modern times, and saved his life and the world numerous times?
The answer is most likely an extremely complicated and depressing yes. If you cast a person of color on your show but are constantly curtail their emotional journeys for that of their white counterparts, it’s beyond not just pandering, it’s problematic and insulting.
The decision to kill off Abbie isn't just a slap in the face loyal viewers who mainly fought for the show because of Beharie, but it disrespects the forward-thinking move to have a black woman starring in a sci-fi show—a genre in which people of color typically die gruesomely before the start of Act 2.
What's worse, in her last episode, the writers went out of their way to completely downplay Abbie’s role, reducing her to a magical negro trope whose only destiny was to play guide to Ichabod Crane. And now Abbie’s status as a witness, something that was once described as unique and destined solely for her, will be inherited not by her capable and fierce sister, Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood), but by some distant relative that Ichabod has to actively seek out. If Sleepy is renewed, I'm betting that Greenwood will be conveniently unavailable as well.
This Small Screen Girl who saw a rare representation of herself in Abbie Mills, and I will no longer watch the show. I don't anticipate it will have much life without Beharie. CBS’ Person Of Interest made a similar move in 2013 by killing off series star, Taraji P. Henson. The ratings plummeted, and the show has limped along ever since before behind put out its misery this March, TVLine.com reports. CBS will burn off the rest of the episodes this summer. Henson, meanwhile, is enjoying the role of the lifetime as Emmy-nominated Cookie Lyon on Fox’s hip hop tragedy, Empire. I sincerely hope Sleepy Hollow meets the same fate, and Beharie has the receives the same deserved career karma.
Abbie's death isn't just a means to an end, it's an end to Sleepy Hollow as we know it. It triumphantly and disgustingly plants Ichabod's flag in Abbie's grave as if she was never there or was never important, which sadly falls in line with the monstrous realities of American history.
Abbie Mills and Nicole Beharie deserved better, and frankly so do we.
Here are some fan reactions to Abbie's death.
Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.