“Sleepy Hollow” Post-Mortem: The Death of Abbie and the Painful Erasure of Black Women

• Not to do #NotAllWriters, but not all writers are at fault here: With all of this said, I’ll refrain from blaming individual writers. Overall, the writing team as a whole has to take the blame, but if we go by the individual writers, the deck was stacked against the writers of color from the get-go. There were less than a handful of POC writers on the Sleepy Hollow team, and I think that led to many of the problems in the latter seasons. Also, despite J.J. Abrams not being involved with Sleepy Hollow, to me it always seemed that the ghost of Abrams reigned supreme over Sleepy Hollow‘s first season, because the first season was spectacular in its sensitivity to racial and cultural discussions as well as fan engagement. Abrams himself might have not had a hand in Sleepy Hollow, but a lot of his surrogates did, such as K/O Productions, and Abrams seems to hire people who are sensitive to diversity and inclusion because Abrams himself  is sensitive to such. (He has been vocal about inclusion before and after #OscarsSoWhite and has produced several projects about inclusion, including the mismatched show Undercovers, the NBC show starring two black leads before it was “trendy.”)

Even without the color/race issue, there’s still the concept of group writing. A writing team is an exercise in writing by consensus, with the showrunner getting the last word. At some point, someone’s not going to get what they want, and Abbie’s death seemed to be one of those unhappy moments. But, with less people of color to advocate for different outcomes, it becomes easier for the majority to get their way. So in our grief, we should remember that some of the writers are probably grieving as well. We will never know if there was another plan that got voted down, a plan to have the show go out on a high note and to at least give fans some kind of closure as far as Abbie’s validity and her relationship with Ichabod are concerned. Like Ichabod and Abbie always said, there’s always another way to get out of a jam, and even with Beharie wanting to leave, there was still another way her exit could have been handled (such as maybe both of the Witnesses dying and their journey into fighting the good fight from beyond the veil, like Katrina did during Season 1). But was that way proposed only to get rejected? It would be a crying shame if this turned out to be true.

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• The show destroyed Jenny, too: Abbie may be getting the brunt of the grief, but let’s also not forget that Jenny’s emotions were also sidelined. Again, I assumed that the show would delve more into Jenny’s own trouble with processing emotion, and to a degree, they did with her relationship with Joe. That exploration made Joe’s death all the more painful, because that meant that 1) Jenny would once again have to feel like everyone she loves dies and 2) It would translate to the fans as Jenny always having to suffer, just like her sister. For the show to pull that card on Jenny twice in two weeks is astounding to me. Jenny has always seemed, to me, like the most sensitive and emotionally vulnerable of the two sisters, despite her outward strength. She had already said this season how she hated getting close to anyone because they always leave her. Why did it make any type of storytelling sense to be this masochistic to Jenny? Do her feelings not count for anything either? As bad as I feel for Abbie, I feel nearly doubly as bad for Jenny, who was finally growing accustomed to putting down roots and living a (mostly) emotionally stable life.

• Ichabod is now a man without a home: Ichabod was also treated horribly. Ichabod has always maintained that he and Abbie were the only two Witnesses. The clumsy Avatar: The Last Airbender-esque caveat of a Witness’ soul getting reincarnated is something that we could have accepted if the show had started with that premise in the first place. Heck, even the Bible doesn’t state that Witnesses can be reincarnated into different people! What the Bible states is that yes, the Witnesses die, but they are brought back to life after they’ve served the Lord. They aren’t reincarnated; they’re brought back as themselves, similar to how Jesus served the Lord, sacrificed himself, and came back as himself, but holy. The Witnesses are supposed to become holy people.

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Biblical theory aside, what sense does it make to have Ichabod, who has always been attached at the hip to Abbie, and—if the hints were to be believed—was developing a deep, romantic love for her, now suddenly without a love, without a home, and essentially without a purpose? What sense does it make to have Ichabod become the lead of this show, which has always relied on the power of two? Why should Ichabod, who has a core principle of railing against his own set of racial, cultural, and status privileges, suddenly become the privileged Dr. Who-esque white British male trope? Why should Ichabod’s internal logic be rewritten in order to make him okay with finding a replacement? If this was the Ichabod we knew in Season 1, the Ichabod who was ready to kill himself in order to save the world, then I think Ichabod would have sacrificed himself with Abbie in order to keep Pandora’s box from destroying everyone. If he jumped into the dreamscape with her in the second episode of the first season, then he’d certainly jump into the abyss with her to save humanity.

At the end of the day, the show forgot what it was, who it was for, who its characters are, and what its ultimate goal was. The only thing I have left, now that the anger has subsided, is just severe disappointment. Sleepy Hollow has always been a show that did things to extremes. It had the best pilot anyone had ever seen in years, then it had the worst season anyone had seen in years. Now it’s garnering the most disappointment anyone, fans and critics included, have experienced. If we could just revert back to the first season and pretend these last two didn’t happen, that would be great. If the show could just end its misery and get cancelled, that would be even better.

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