These are my thoughts on the latest episode of Sleepy Hollow. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a recap.
Note: I keep tweaking this post. As I said on Twitter, when I write angry, I can sound like a stuffy English textbook.
Preface: A Word About Writing
In response to a tweet about the latest happenings on Sleepy Hollow, I said that I didn’t have any faith in TPTB (aka The Powers That Be) behind the show–its producers, writers, etc. Then I deleted my words. Quite frankly, I felt I needed to revise what I’d said. Yes, I’m angry about what happened to Nicole Beharie‘s Abbie Mills, but I have a hunch that the details involved are more complicated than what some viewers believe.
A TV writer’s work can be dictated by anyone from a showrunner to an executive who hasn’t written a script since God knows when–if at all. Not to mention that I’ve seen at least two messages that have left me thinking that there’s more to the current state of Sleepy Hollow than what the public has been told.
Maybe I’ve put too much faith in the folks who work behind the scenes, but I can’t help but think of what an instructor of mine once said: “This is television writing. If you want complete control over what happens to your characters, write books.”
And even then, I books have editors.
Now for the heart of the matter.
Saving Grace…Abigail Mills
Since Friday night, I’ve seen #CancelSleepyHollow in the Twitterverse.
I’ll tell you something though.
I don’t want this show cancelled. I want it fixed.
Let’s start with an honest understanding of why people enjoyed Sleepy Hollow. I’ll begin by sharing how I began to watch.
I have hazy memories of when I first got drawn into watching. It might have been because of a commercial. Or perhaps a message on my twitter timeline. Either way, I was curious. Sci-Fi/Fantasy programming that was well written, and one of the leads was someone who looked like me? I had to check it out!
I found the first season’s episodes online. I think it took me a whole weekend to whip my way through them.
When I watch a show, I can tell you that I don’t look at it merely as a viewer. I take it in as a whole, and consider how it was produced and by whom. As I scanned the show’s credits, I was impressed. I didn’t recognize everyone, but I knew Ken Olin, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. I’ve seen their work before. And though I slacked off in my watching over the past year or so, I figured the show was in good hands.
That is, until its latest development.
There was never any doubt in my mind about the importance of Nicole Beharie’s Abbie Mills. Still, a part of me wondered how she was perceived behind the scenes. In the days following the character’s demise I didn’t have to look very far for a clue.
“…I recently went to Comic Con in London. I was invited without the white male counterpart in my cast, and it was packed. And they knew that it was just going to be me. That shook me…I’ve always been told and I believed that this doesn’t work without him.” – Nicole Beharie (emphasis added)
Feel free to watch the video that features this quote.
For a while, I’d suspected that someone who works on Sleepy Hollow misunderstood why people loved it so much. However Ms. Beharie’s words made it plain. Let me clarify my take on what made the show special: To some degree, whomever had been speaking to Nicole was right. In the world of the show, Abbie and Crane are an irreplaceable pair. I know that I’m not alone when I say that I have absolutely no interest in an iteration of Sleepy Hollow without both Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie as the series’ leads.
However, when it comes to real-world appreciation of the show as a whole, it’s a mistake to underestimate Nicole Beharie. She has her own, unique power. She alone is the reason that a significant portion of Sleepy Hollow’s audience began to watch the series–including me. A talented Black woman playing a real person (NOT a trope), who’s a lead character in a sci-fi series is not an occurrence that should be overlooked. It should be celebrated. Yet it’s clear to me that at least one person behind Sleepy Hollow has no idea how important and meaningful Ms. Beharie’s Abbie has been to many, MANY people.
The so-called influence of the white male fanboy archetype needs to die. It’s a myth. I feel as though someone was banking on the fact that because Sleepy Hollow merged science fiction and fantasy, only stereotypical viewers of these genres were watching. Or, that only their attention was worth having. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Here’s the thing. Those who watch TV and truly value diversity are comfortable with seeing it beyond the walls of ShondaLand. People of all colours and cultures enjoy fantasy and science fiction. More significantly, Black people, people of color, and women–and those who appreciate us–have the power to make a show like Sleepy Hollow a hit.
Which brings me to my next topic: The show’s ratings. When I first thought about writing this post, I had a theory about which season was Sleepy Hollow’s best. I verified it via Google. There’s no doubt in my mind why people enjoyed this show’s beginning. It had a winning formula.
DiversityInclusion + Deft Storytelling + Flawless Science Fiction
…In the eyes of many, this equaled must-see TV.
Take a moment and think seriously about Sleepy Hollow’s first season. Let’s ignore Abbie Mills for a moment. Was there anything really wrong with Captain Irving or his family? What about John Cho as Andy Brooks?
Regarding what I saw on screen, there was nothing wrong with the equation that gave us Season 1. As far as most SleepyHeads were concerned, it could only have gotten better.
The blatant rejection of everything viewers loved about this show blows my mind. Nothing in Sleepy Hollow was broken. I’m not sure who decided it needed to be fixed, or why.
For now, I sincerely hope that someone will make a decision that will result in the show being restored to its original glory. And above all else, if she hasn’t been snatched up already, that includes rehiring Nicole Beharie.
The joker in me almost wants TPTB to pull a Bobby Ewing, but I’m pretty sure they won’t have to go that far. In spite of the show’s dialogue about Abbie’s death, I didn’t see a body. And even if I did, Sleepy Hollow isn’t based in the world as we know it. Our Lieutenant can be brought back to life.
From the beginning Sleepy Hollow was a winner. It can be that way again.