April 10th, 2016
|09:58 am - Postmortem on Sleepy Hollow, Post #22|
To add to yesterday's post for possible projects for Mison and Beharie to do together: OMG I want to see them in Nick Payne's play Constellations (ref: John Lahr's brief summary of it in its original production). They would be so so great in that two-hander.
Anyway, I'm thinking of these alternative projects because for me, Sleepy Hollow is done. It was possible that there would be a Season Four, but the intensely negative widespread reaction to the season finale tells me that the network may go ahead and cut their losses now. It was a show with a great first season, a disastrous second season, and an untenable couple of production problems in the third season that led to crappy handling of an arc and a freaking trashfire of a shoddily constructed season/series finale. So let's talk about that.
In the first season the show worked (for those who didn't mind the 'twistory') because of four things: first, and a bedrock for the whole show, Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie as Crane and Abbie had the kind of chemistry that comes along once every ten years or so, a kind of ease and openness and surprise and hotness, a perfect balance; second, the casting from top to bottom was extraordinary AND extraordinarily diverse, a rarity in network television and in this kind of genre storytelling in particular; third, the writing had a solid thematic heft to it, so that everyone's arc related to the same existential question, What's My Place in A Dangerous World; fourth, Nicole Beharie's Abbie was a great female lead, whose arc fully engaged with the season's theme.
And then it all went terribly, terribly wrong.
Season Two has been widely excoriated for its focus on "Crane family drama"-- in part, it's been suggested, because of showrunner and network issues. What I would say is that Season Two lost a lot of points 2, 3, and 4 from above: the casting was less diverse and noticeably weaker (including the holdover of Katia Winter as Katrina, but to be fair, the part was nigh unplayable); there's no great emotional theme to hold everything together and no good mytharc, especially with the midseason shock disposal of the proper Big Bad for no reasonable story purpose; Abbie's role being weakened thereby. (I would say, however, that the last episode of Season Two, placing her at the center of the story, was much improved, but it was too late to save the arc.) What also happens is that the heart of the show, the Abbie&Crane partnership, was compromised as well.
So, that showrunner left, and a new one came in. The writing room was changed to add diversity. Everything's better... except, as we know now, Nicole Beharie was so demoralized by Season Two and by some really nasty production snubs (including not being asked to do DVD commentary, which just isn't RIGHT for the series co-lead) that she asked to leave the show.
So Season Three started out with a Big Problem: how do you honor the good points of Season One and yet lay the groundwork for the departure of one of the show's leads? The initial answer for the first half of the season was to expand the cast -- we had a proper Scooby Gang in Abbie, Crane, Jenny, and Joe Corbin, and Abbie's workplace got two regulars in Lance Gross and Jessica Camacho, both of whom also added cast diversity -- and to suggest, albeit clumsily, that there was a larger conspiracy arc to explore with the FBI and Michael O'Keefe's character. Shannyn Sossamon's Pandora was a great witchy villain. The show also tried to give the audience Crane/Abbie (or Crane&Abbie) moments in every episode, which Tom Mison in particular sold the hell out of.
But there was no good overarching theme, really; there were gestures to a new version of What's My Place in a Dangerous World, and we were TOLD about character development (the past relationship between Abbie and Lance Gross's Danny). The thing was that we weren't actually SHOWN that development. Because of the expansion of the cast, some subplots that went nowhere, and the attention paid to the romance of Jenny and Joe, which we now know was indeed supposed to substitute for the Crane/Abbie we weren't going to get, nothing about Crane and Abbie actually got organic, in-show development.
(Also, Nikki Reed as Betsy Ross. There is NO JUSTIFICATION for that storyline or that casting.)
And the showrunner? writers? decided to kill off Abbie. From that, there was no going back.
She was supposed to have died in the midseason finale, but the network realized that the first-half tweaks hadn't been enough. (Nothing could have been enough to justify it, of course. ABBIE WAS THE CO-LEAD.) The changes in storyline explain, I think, the real missteps in structuring the use of the Hidden One as villain, the too-late intro of the worldbuilding Corbin-Nevins-Mills supernatural history, and the complete fuckup with Joe. But there's one other weirdness I'd really like to know the behind-the-scenes thinking on, because we're getting contradictory stories.
Mison played Crane as absolutely, stone in love with Abbie. The show lampshaded the potential romantic relationship. The social media picked up on the fans' portmanteau of Ichabbie and teased it. So what happened? Various writers said that the relationship was discussed in-house but that Beharie argued strongly against it, so they didn't go there. But WHY is that the ONE complaint of Beharie's that got attention? It makes no earthly sense.
So, with all of that mess in place, the finale fucked up in the following ways: 1) Betsy Ross, USELESS; 2) the handling of the villains was ridiculously paced, with the Hidden One too easily defeated; 3) other plotlines were just dropped, specifically with Danny and Sophie; 4) Abbie died halfway through the episode, in a seemingly pointless sacrifice; 5) the "dream" farewell between Crane and Abbie made the disjunction between Crane in love and Abbie sort of...not?... really weirdly pointed, with the added story insults of Abbie saying she had done what she needed to do for herself and her story was finished (WHAT?) and telling Crane her job was to push him to the next Witness (WHAT????); 6) the ending was Crane, seemingly doing okay without Abbie, getting embroiled in the conspiracy hinted out through the season.
Nothing worked organically. Nothing made character or story sense. It all felt thrown together. And Abbie Mills, a great Black female lead, was thrown away.
So, again, it's over for me. I wish Mison and Beharie the absolute best in the future, but I hope it's nowhere near Sleepy Hollow.
My flist has been universally united in condemnation. Which makes me glad I never started watching in the first place.
The first season's still a blast, though.
I didn't realize all the behind-the-scenes stuff going on. Overall, I thought this season made up for the disaster that was Season 2; that said, yes, this final episode was total suckage, and it made me very sad for what could have been, because I did enjoy (most of) the cast tremendously. I really loved them bringing in the Mills' father as a member of our "Scooby gang," and that should have been brought in MUCH sooner. Killing Joe off last episode was extremely painful, and OMG, both the Hidden One AND Pandora were defeated pretty freaking easily (with the sacrifices it should have been a lot harder).
I'm sad to lose it, in any case - uneven or downright idiotic as it could be, I enjoyed watching it.
The show itself MIGHT get renewed -- it was on the bubble before the finale -- but the universal condemnation of the finale probably pushed it toward cancellation.
I am v.v. bitter that we didn't get Crane/Abbie, to be honest, but I would agree that the show was very much watchable this year. I really liked Sophie and wanted a story for her, I LOVED Papa Mills and wanted him much earlier, and I liked the Corbin-Nevins-Mills Sr backstory a ton.
Yeah, I'd heard it was on the bubble. Before the finale, I was hoping for renewal... but I guess I can take this as an ending, if that's the way it has to go.
Even a last kiss would have been nice (much as Mr. Reese and Detective Carter got in "Person of Interest" before Taraji P. Henson left that show...
Much as I didn't want an Abbie/Danny pairing, it was utterly bizarre that there was no scene of Danny's reaction to Abbie's death. It was like, "We wasted all this time on Abbie/Danny, and he supposedly loved her, but ha ha, the writers care even less than the viewers about his reaction!"
And OMG, Betsy Ross. Such terrible casting. I didn't want them to bring Betsy into the present day, but I assumed that was where they were going, because why waste So Damn Much Time on the character otherwise?
I do hope the show is cancelled.
The Danny thing, OMG! Yes, ESPECIALLY since we got that crazysauce Abbie line in the dream porch scene about Danny being part of how she had her life all figured out! Danny, who'd been lying to her all along about the FBI surveillance (which we knew about and she didn't)! Shouldn't he have gotten an onscreen moment of remorse at least?
(Which also leads to the question WHY ON EARTH did the show end with the Crane info-dump at Abbie's grave, rather than a montage showing the funeral, a For Sale sign in front of the house, Crane with citizenship papers, etc? And why wasn't Crane grieving more??)
And Betsy Ross, no no no no. Nikki Reed is probably fine in contemporary projects, but she had no business playing an 18th-century woman. She made Katia Winter's Katrina flashbacks look accomplished by comparison.
I have a lot of anger stored up here... ;)
|Date:||April 10th, 2016 10:36 pm (UTC)|| |
Sorry your show took a downward turn, I'd still like to see the first season someday. But at least I know not to go any further.
The first season is a twisted blast, and Abbie and Crane are magic together. :)
Cheers for the rest of your week!
It's really too bad. Even though I couldn't quite connect, it was obvious the show had such potential. Some shows should have people who love them, working on them.
IF you don't have a Coldplay squick, you can watch a tribute fan-vid to Abbie (and Ichabbie) in lieu of the show -- here
. It'll do for now.