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Sleepy Hollow's Casting Announcement Shows Its Priorities... and Its Failures

(Inda Lauryn has been published in Blackberry, A Magazine, Interfictions, The Toast, XOJane, and Callaloo as well as had her work featured on blogs such as Black Girl Nerds, Bitch Flicks, and AfroPunk. She is currently working on a novel and a sci-fi web series, occasionally blogs at Corner Store Press and hosts a radio show at MixCloud.)

Sleepy Hollow was an immediate success when it first premiered in the fall of 2013. Those of us who frequently livetweet had a blast with the first episode and were immediately hooked. By the time we got through the season finale of the 13-episode run, we were elated and thought we finally had the show we've wanted for years.

Then season 2 happened.

Season 2 had us all rubbing our temples and taking deep breaths as we wondered what the hell happened to our show. Everything that made Sleepy Hollow good in the first season was systematically stripped away and replaced with the worst possibilities. Lyndie Greenwood, who had been promoted to the regular cast, was cast aside to a white male dudebro who had no function other than to take the place of other characters. John Noble, also promoted to regular cast status, lost his appeal as a villain as his character became a sniveling child to his master as he worked out his parental issues.

And Katrina. Where do we start with where Katrina went so horribly wrong? Let me get back to that later.

As anyone who follows the show knows, Katrina dies at the hands of Ichabod. Right now it appears that both Katia Winter and John Noble are no longer a part of the show unless they somehow haunt Team Witness on a regular basis. Orlando Jones is also now gone and so far we have no explanation of what will happen to Frank Irving.

Instead of remedying any of these issues, TPTB in the Sleepy Hollow writers room decided to take a different route: they announced Nikki Reed as Betsy Ross in the season 3 cast. Apparently, Betsy is Ichabod's ex-girlfriend.

sleepy hollow

While this is not problematic on the surface, it speaks volumes that the show runners decided to focus on introducing another white cishet love interest for Ichabod after the death of his estranged wife. Fans of the show who hoped so hard for Ichatrina now have another pairing upon which to pin their white cishet hopes upon... let's call it Ichabet.

As much as I love the chemistry between Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), I was never an Ichabbie shipper. I thought the show could work just as well with the two remaining devoted friends and partners in their fight against evil. However, the racist backlash against the pairing made me hope and pray for a XXX sex scene between the two just to shut up the racist detractors.

Now with the announcement of Betsy Ross emphasized as Crane's ex-girlfriend, I am further convinced that the Sleepy Hollow writers' room has a fear of an intimate relationship between Ichabod and Abbie. Instead of focusing on issues such as what will happen to Irving or who will be the next big villain now that Moloch is (supposedly) gone, we get an announcement regarding Crane's love life.

This goes beyond a mere bait and switch used to pull in devoted viewers of the show then abandoning them once TPTB realized who was really watching and paying attention to the show. This goes to a real fear of seeing a Black woman onscreen who is adored and loved by her white counterpart. Ichatrina shippers emphasized this as they not only do not want Abbie with Ichabod but also want to see her alone as a Strong Black Woman trope that they are used to seeing on the screen.

It also further speaks to what I feel is animosity and maybe disbelief that a Black woman carries this show. I personally only became interested in Sleepy Hollow after I saw that Nicole Beharie was indeed a lead character. Sleepy Hollow was just as much her show as it was Tom Mison's. As time went on, it became clear that the show does not work without her. This came to light in disastrous fashion as she was pushed aside more and more as writers tried to make Ichatrina happen only to find that it just didn't work.

So I have very little faith that trying to pair Ichabod with another white woman even if only in the past will do the show any favors. After seeing how things went so wrong with Katrina, I have to ask if the show runners even know what they are doing at this point. Katrina Crane had great potential as a character, but she was wasted the entire season as she was reduced to damsel in distress at least and incompetent at worst. Her transition to evil witch was abrupt and served only as a plot device rather than character development.

Really, she could have been Team Moloch all along and her sabotage would have made sense for the entire season. Instead, her sudden transition to Moloch's side was an excuse for Ichabod to finally have a reason to kill her. Now I wonder if season 3 will be spent with him brooding to Abbie over his actions in killing his "beloved" wife to save her life while he swoons over what he had with Betsy in the past. Or worse, will Betsy somehow travel to the present to provide further distraction from Team Witness?

Making such a big deal out of casting Betsy Ross tells me so much about the show's priorities. There were so many other great options that would have worked so much better to advance the show. For instance, if we needed another white character, Joe Corbin would be perfect. As August Corbin's son, he has a direct connection to the Mills family and would work so much toward not only with fleshing out the Mills' background but also in showing a blended family of sorts.

The show could bring back the Mills' ancestors, Grace Dixon and Lori Mills. Grace was a witch and Lori also seems to have some insight as well, so bringing them back as spirits with August could be a great element to this show. Furthermore, what about Papa Mills? Whatever happened to Abbie and Jenny's father? When did he leave the family and why? The Sleepy Hollow writers could have a field day casting him.

Then there's the matter of Frank Irving's departure. With Orlando Jones gone, we may also lose the entire Irving family. Maybe Frank goes away to protect his family. So why not bring in someone from Andy Brooks' family to find out what happened to him? A Tumblr friend of mine began an awesome fanfic in which Andy's cousin comes to town to find out what happened to him. Since he and Abbie have a history, she can't just lie to him. This would be such a great idea not only because it would introduce another family of color but also because it gives the writers a great way to flesh out Abbie's delinquent past.

Then there's the matter of Abbie's love life. Can we bring Luke back? What happened to him anyway? We never find out the details of their relationship, only that they broke up when Abbie was supposed to go to Quantico. Perhaps the spark is still there and gives Abbie some initiative to find out where Luke is? Oh and Calvin the cop. Calvin was definitely interested in Abbie. See, Sleepy Hollow, you don't have to pair her with your precious white male lead.

Focusing on casting Betsy Ross throws away so many opportunities to get the show back on track and retrieve what it lost in that first season. If only the show would open its eyes and stop worrying about being so anti-Ichabbie, it could save itself and become a good thing as it once was. Instead the show runners seem hell-bent on repeating the mistakes of season 2. Until the show gets its act together, I'll just ask who do I need to see to bring back Big Ash.

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