Two weeks. It’s been two full weeks since Sleepy Hollow ended a bad third season with one of the most awful, infuriating hours of TV I have ever watched. It was a finale that blew up the show’s soul (nearly literally!)—and even now, I can’t stop thinking about how much I hate it.
I had already pretty well given up on Sleepy Hollow, whose third season had managed to get even worse after its impressive awful second season squandered all the show’s promise (and most of its premise). I was only watching the few remaining episodes out of momentum, mostly, fast-forwarding through the many, many, many bits that didn’t include the show’s two leads, Abbie Mills (Nichole Beharie) and Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison).
That just underscored the show’s main problem: The season’s overarching battle against the shockingly uninteresting foes was a waste of time. But what’s kept fans watching has been the foundational Abbie/Ichabod partnership—which has been the foundation of the entire show.
What Sleepy Hollow did was kill that relationship, forever, by killing off Abbie.
Yes, half of what made the show so damn good in the first place—and half of what kept us watching even as the series slid from mediocrity to abject badness is gone, forever, and the show even managed to make this event as horrible as possible. It would have been irritating enough that Abbie sacrificed herself to save the world from season three’s infuriatingly generic villains, but this is literally the second time she’d done it this season. Her exit wasn’t even original for season three, and Sleepy Hollow didn’t—actually, it couldn’t—give viewers a decent explanation of why this time she was super-permanently dead but the last time she died it was no big deal. Sleepy Hollow spent the entire episode trying to convince us this second death had some kind of emotional impact beyond infuriating us. It failed.
And this dumb, stupid, awful death makes all the bullshit we suffered through over the last two seasons so much worse. Seeing the show squander the initially amazing Abbie/Ichabod relationship was like watching a beloved friend suffer for years from an illness—except when it finally came time for her to be released from her misery, she was brutally murdered instead of passing away with some sort of dignity. Basically, we suffered patiently through two years of crap, waiting for the show to fix the entire damn reason we loved it in the first place, only for the show to suddenly say, “Not only are we not going to fix it, we’re breaking it permanently, and all the time you spent waiting, hoping for it to get better was for nothing.”
Now here’s the thing: Beharie’s departure may not have been Sleepy Hollow’s choice. The Hollywood Reporter says that Beharie had been trying to get off Sleepy Hollow for a while, and nearly managed to convince them to let her die in the mid-season finale. The same article also mentions that Tom Mison had been trying to lessen his screen-time on the show. Both of Sleepy Hollow’s stars suddenly wanted to be on Sleepy Hollow as little as possible, and given the show’s downward spiral of quality after season one, there’s a very obvious reason why.
I don’t blame Beharie for wanting to abandon a show that went from clever to bad to crushingly dull and dumb in three seasons. Nor do I blame Mison for wanting to appear as little as possible in it. Hell, I didn’t even like watching the show for an hour a week. But I absolutely blame the show for its two stars suddenly hating being on it. There’s no way they could have enjoyed the terrible plots and dialogue they were suddenly forced to perform, or how the show turned went from a surprise hit to a slow crushing disappointment, as if it had been secretly waiting to live up to the dismal expectations we’d all had, when we first heard that Fox was remaking Sleepy Hollow but in modern times.
Now to be fair, there is the possibility that Mison and Beharie actually hate each other—this happens on more shows than you might think—and the writers were forced by the actors to diminish the Abbie/Ichabod relationship. This seems unlikely to me, given how natural and genuine their characters’ friendship seemed in season one—but still, they are actors. This is what they’re paid to do! (Although very few actors can completely hide total contempt for their co-stars.)
But even if that were true, it would only explain why the show messed up Ichabod and Abbie—not how it turned the series’ clever mythology into an overcomplicated, overwrought mess in season two, or how it made its two foremost villains into boring, childish bores, or Hawley, or, why, when the show had basically reset itself and dispensed with almost everything besides Abbie and Ichabod for season 3, it completely failed to make the new villains or the new storyline even slightly interesting.
And it also fails to explain how Sleepy Hollow could handle Beharie’s departure and her Abbie’s death so badly that even people who had stopped watching the show were furious about it. It wasn’t just an insult to the character and the actress, it was an insult to every single viewer who had fallen in love with this weird, once wonderful show, and then stuck with it, even as declined.
Apparently, there’s a good chance Fox will renew Sleepy Hollow for a fourth season, where Ichabod Crane will look for a new, predestined partner, as well as a secret, evil-fighting society that George Washington founded (which somehow has never even been alluded to, despite Ichabod spending most of his time dealing with instructions Washington left for him from the past.) It’s possible that this new partner will be a perfect companion, and will finally return Sleepy Hollow to greatness.
I sincerely doubt it. More to the point, I’ll never find out, because I am absolutely not watching this goddamn show when (or if) it returns this fall. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m still going to be angry four months from now.