Sleepy Hollow: Heartless

Posted on November 11, 2014

shheartlessMatt Barr and Nicole Beharie in FOX’s “Sleepy Hollow”


One of the more interesting developments in genre film and television in the last decade or so is the ways in which creators have learned to tailor fantasy or speculative fiction shows and films to an audience beyond young men. The Rise of the Nerd Girl has been revelatory to the entertainment industry, spawning fantasy-based blockbusters like the Twilight and Hunger Games series of movies, and influencing a host of TV shows, from Lost to Doctor Who to Arrow, to, at the very least, tip their proverbial hat to the women in the audience occasionally. This being the entertainment industry, such hat tips weren’t always, shall we say, evolved in their thinking, but generally speaking, there’s a much greater awareness of the need for female characters with agency and complexity and a desire of a portion of the audience to see male character eye candy. Sleepy Hollow is very much an example of a fantasy-based show that knows it enjoys a large female audience and tailors its material to them, so we’re finding it just a little amazing that they’re going with a “forced pregnancy turns a woman pliable” storyline. It’s just about the worst cliche you could impose on a female character in a fantasy story.

Granted, Katrina is the clear weakest point in the show and it’s obvious that the creators feel some sort of pressing need to define her, but isn’t it clear by now that this is a character that can’t be rehabilitated? It’s almost like they trotted her out these past few episodes just to show how badly she fits into the story so they could send her back to the sidelines. At this point, why not kill her? Or are they afraid to open up the possibility of a romance between the two leads? We wouldn’t want to see Abbie and Ich as a romantic couple any time soon, to be honest, but it’s impossible to deny their chemistry. In fact, when you put Katrina in a scene with the two of them, it only serves to underline how off the charts the Mison/Beharie chemistry is.

There’s a similar problem with the character of Hawley. We’re fine with the idea of this guy, but the fact of the matter is, there’s no real spark between him and Nicole Beharie, so he can’t really do the one thing his character was designed to do; effectively step in between Ichabod and Abbie. We’re starting to wonder if the chemistry the two leads enjoy with each other is hampering the creators and preventing them from pulling together an effective cast of characters around them. It’s sort of like the second season of Orphan Black, when the creators of that show, high on the amazing, buzz-worthy performance of the show’s star in season one, tailored the storyline around a bunch of acting tricks for her to pull off, only to have the plot kind of meander around and fall apart. Sleepy Hollow is a show that desperately needs a large supporting cast to build around its two leads, but so far, the show can’t seem to manage it because once they’re in a scene together, any other characters take an automatic back seat. No one can break through that chemistry, it seems. Granted, the show had Jenny and Frank last season, but for some completely unfathomable reason, they’ve both been sidelined through most of this season (to be replaced by two bland white characters on a show once lauded for its casually depicted diversity).

It seems to us that the introduction of Hawley and the beefing up of Katrina’s part was meant to bring some tension between the two main characters. That’s not a bad idea on paper. One of the few things we’ve liked about Katrina’s increased involvement is the growing tension between her and Abbie. It would be a cheap cliche to have their arguments arise out of jealousy over a man, so it was actually nice to see their tension attributed to a disagreement over tactics and approach in the war. Of course, with every murder and horrific act he commits, Katrina’s arguments that Henry can be saved sound more and more ridiculous. Even if he could be, what do you do with someone like that? Ask for an apology and send him on his way?

We hate to say it, but so far, season two is turning out to be a total bust. The show has lost its way. The diverse and interesting cast of characters has been shunted aside for a love rhombus; the fascinating apocalyptic tale flavored with cool Revolutionary-era art direction has been turned into a family-based drama with succubi in leather mini-skirts, like a bad episode of Supernatural. Everything that made the show unique and fun in season one has been ignored or downplayed in season two. You can’t hang an entire show on the chemistry of the leads, otherwise you’ve got Moonlighting or Remington Steele. Sleepy Hollow had a unique look and a unique hook in season one. It’s time to course-correct and get back to where the show started. Kill off Katrina and Henry, for a start.

Hey, remember when the Headless Horseman rode around on his hellhorse with a machine gun? What the hell happened to THAT show?


[Photo Credit: Fred Norris/FOX]

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