I did not see that coming. (The ‘that’ being the death of one of the leads on the S3 finale of Sleepy Hollow – there will be spoilers here, so if you’d rather not know more than that, and haven’t yet been spoiled, run away very fast.)
I was dismayed and somewhat puzzled on Thursday when Fox announced renewals for Rosewood and Lucifer, but not Sleepy Hollow. As far as I can tell, the show’s done decently on a night when ratings expectations are generally lower, and to me, it always comes down to…what else do they have that might do better on Friday?
But now I think I get the hesitation. Sleepy Hollow essentially ended last night, and if it does return, it will be a re-imagining, something with its roots in the original, but not the same show, and I imagine Fox is trying to determine whether there’s likely to be an audience for such a property.
First, let me note that I don’t believe they had much of a choice in Abbie’s death. Apparently, Nikki Beharie wanted off the show, and I think they have to honor that. Forcing an actor to continue working on something they no longer want to be a part of, for whatever reason, never ends well.
So the question, then, was whether to end the show or reinvent it. Simply ending it would have been the less risky choice, but an absolute bummer for the cast and crew who like having jobs, as well as fans who would at least like the option of seeing the new version of the show.
Second, from an objective point of view (well, as objective as possible) I like what they did here dramatically. When a story centers around characters in life-threatening situations, the impact is heightened when the audience knows that characters can actually die.The death of a lead – and this after another death the week before – adds a layer of authenticity to the plots; it ups the stakes.
I also found the farewell scenes between Abbie and Crane lovely and powerful, and am grateful to the writers for prioritizing that goodbye, even over other stories they could have told instead.
Plus? Exploring the consequences of such a loss can be interesting. What we saw in the cemetery at the end was adequate to give us a sense of how Crane copes with her loss if the show’s not renewed, but having seen how deep was the bond between them, I want to see more of those consequences; I want to see what comes next for him.
And that’s where it all gets terribly complicated in terms of the story they’ve been telling, and the one they’ll now tell, should the show be renewed.
Sleepy Hollow could have been a story about a man waking up two hundred years in the future to fight supernatural evil. In that version of the show, the emphasis would have remained squarely on Crane, and while he’d have no doubt had a team of people working with him, it would have been clear that he was the focus. The death of one of those supporting characters would have been a blow, but wouldn’t have changed the show at its core.
To me, reading post-finale interviews last night, it sounds as if that’s the story they’re now going to tell, if the renewal happens.
The challenge is that’s not the story they’ve been telling for three seasons. Whether they intended to do so or not in the beginning, Abbie, and the relationship between the two witnesses, has received as much emphasis as Crane, and I think you can make an argument for the relationship between them to have been the actual heart of the show.
Abbie’s stories weren’t B-plots. Whether it was her relationship with Jenny, reconciling with her father, or dealing with the consequences of the catacombs, her arcs drove the show every bit as much as Crane’s. So rather than being a tale about a man waking up two hundred years in the future to fight evil, this was one about a partnership, two people destined to fight evil together. And for good or ill, that show ended last night.
Just to be clear…I never cared whether or not they became a romantic couple. The depth of their connection transcended romance for me, and while I wouldn’t have minded a physical relationship, I found the emotional intimacy alone compelling. Whether it was teasing over doughnuts, the unstinting support both received from the other, or their shared commitment to their mission, watching the two of them interact was the reason I watched.
I like Crane a great deal, and find his dry wit mixed with honor and loyalty very appealing. What I don’t know is how much of what I liked about him was due to the context of his partnership with Abbie. If the show returns, I’m willing to give it a chance, because, as I mentioned above, I want to see how he copes with her loss. But I’m rather less enthusiastic about the idea of a new witness.
While I get the story potential of having him look for such a person, it seems unlikely to me that lightning could strike twice in terms of that kind of chemistry, and I’m not sure I’d want it to. The best I can hope for is that if the show’s picked up for another season, they go in a very different direction with the new witness. (A guy? A retired school teacher?)
(Or, hey, given the whole, ‘when one dies, another is called’ nod to Buffy, maybe a retired slayer?)
I don’t have a clue whether there’s an audience for the new reincarnation of the show. While I know at least one person who’s already said no to an Abbie-less Sleepy Hollow, I’m willing to at least give it a shot if Fox does, and I saw a mix of people from both groups online last night. This is where interpretation comes into play: not everyone will agree with me that the show was as much about Abbie as Crane, nor that their relationship was integral to the whole.
I respect that. But for me, Sleepy Hollow ended last night, in a satisfying, if sad, way. We’ll see whether or not there’s a sequel, and whether or not it can hook my interest in a similar way if there is.