I am a 61 year old SleepySister and prospective first-time grandmother. I was a sitting Deacon at the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns, which includes the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, NY for S2 & S3 of Sleepy Hollow (Fox). I am a docent at the Old Dutch, built in 1685, the oldest church in NY state. We greet thousands of visitors a year, especially during the month of October when Washington Irving/Headless Horseman fever hits the Hudson River towns of Irvington, Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and Croton-on-Hudson. I speak with visitors about Irving, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, our church, the American revolution, the Philipse family, Major Andre, George Washington, and other historic figures on Saturdays, during the summer months. Occasionally, a Sleepyhead or two will venture forth and I’ll take them into the burial ground to show the names on headstones that may have been used by Irving in his tale. Irving himself is buried not far away, so that his grave overlooks the church he made famous. This was at his request. In the three years I’ve been doing this, I can tell you I’ve met just a handful of fans. Those who know the story often know the Johnny Depp movie version of Ichabod, not Tom Mison’s. We were fortunate to have Orlando Jones and Lyndie Greenwood visit the church at the beginning of S2. Little did I know how sidelined their characters would become that season. For me, as for many who may read this, Orlando Jones was my inspiration to get on Twitter. His love and enthusiasm for the show was compelling and his understanding of the role of fans in the success of a show–spot on. @SleepyAddicts and @TomMisonFans were my first foray in the world of fandom tweeting. My handle is @DeborahMcCue2 – very unimaginative, but I felt if celebrities tell you who they are, I should as well. I’ve had a lot of fun meeting fans at NYC meet-ups (courtesy @TomMisonFans and @HeadOverFeels) and Chrissy (@SleepyAddicts) and I have loved interacting with fans through on-line contests, trivia, live tweeting, #HollowHangout, Sleepy Slumber Parties with @aabaiers, and rewatch parties. The Hangout ladies were in the middle of discussing a S4 meetup in Sleepy Hollow, NY just before the S3 finale. And then it happened. They killed off Abbie Mills.
After last night’s episode, I was shocked. It took an half hour on Twitter for the tears to start. And they wouldn’t stop. As the comments flashed by I became more and more agitated because I saw a fandom imploding, and since we are a virtual community, the only thing we have with which to express our feelings or to reach out to console fellow #Sleepyheads are words. I was glued to my computer for 5 hours. Watching #SleepyHollow trend all the way to the top on the anguish of a fandom did not feel good. Before the finale, our concerns were about rallying each other to tweet #RenewSleepyHollow. Never, in our wildest dreams, especially after the shocking death of Joe Corbin in the previous week, would we have imagined that we were watching the last episode with Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills. You’ve seen my tweets. My heart is broken. The death of a lead compressed into minutes, cut to commercial. This, after years of “Bond”, “There’s always another way”, and this season, palpable evidence was offered by the writers that would lead to a consummation of the Witness Bond in a tangible way and end the pursuit of prospective lovers, allowing our Abbie and Crane to continue their work as Witnesses with another degree of closeness. The saddest thing I have ever seen on this show is Tom Mison’s Ichabod standing in front Abbie’s headstone, still unable to articulate the words, “I love you”.
As I lay awake, tossing and turning, saying to myself, this is only a TV show, get over it McCue, I realized I wasn’t just mourning the departure (or termination) of Beharie, I was mourning all the things that Sleepy Hollow could have been. And when I awoke this morning, my first thought was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. A favourite of Writer’s Assistants @KeelyMacDragon and @ErinConley. It was mentioned in Ep17. This musical has revolutionized Broadway and invigorated the dialog of freedom by casting people of color in roles of the Founding Fathers. I’ve been following it on Twitter, You-Tube, and I enter the ticket lottery all the time (I have tickets for Oct, 2016). It’s the boldest, hottest show on Broadway and it’s a colonial story revisited by 21st century minds and voices. Lin-Manuel meets his audience wherever they are. He cherishes his cast and audience. For me, he’s showing us a whole new way to interact with the written and musical word. He’s a man who is making a difference and teaching others how to do it.
From the onset of Season 1, Sleepy Hollow could have been Hamilton. It could have had the same impact on TV viewers. The genius of Orlando Jones was that he knew this and he pulled us into this story with his tweets, You-Tubes, Tumblrs and any other tech he could get his hands on. The writers knew it when they created bold dialog between the cast on such topics as Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, or even that first encounter between Crane and the Leftenant that included “abolitionist” and “emancipated”. Sleepy Hollow allowed people of color to interact with a history they where cast from through the relationship of 18th century Crane and his 21st century compatriots. This is what got me hooked.
A Real Woman
I was not a shipper until it became impossible to deny that magic happened whenever Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison shared the screen. But that came later for me. In S1, I was enjoying the uniqueness of this partnership. I know it’s been overstated, but I could have seen this as a long-term celibate best friends partnership if they didn’t constantly make those eyes at each other or keep rescuing each other from fates worse than death. When Jenny came on the scene and her relationship with Abbie became more normalized and we got to hear Mama Mill’s story and meet Grace Dixon, I couldn’t get enough. These characters were not caricatures. The Mills sisters tearing down the wall in their mother’s former hospital room only to uncover Mama’s mural with the words “You are my sunshine” emblazoned across it, has to be one of the most poignant scenes in TV history. I cried good tears that night.
I did not understand how important Abbie Mills and Jenny Mills were to WOC fans until I truly started listening to them. And even though I am a hapa women (part-Hawaiian), my skin in white and my eyes are blue. I have experienced people not wanting to recognize being Hawaiian as relevant, but my white skin has shielded me from other types of prejudices. I’ve learned so much through fan interaction. And here’s another place Sleepy Hollow let the fans down – they forgot just how special the Abbie Mills character was to at least half of their fandom. I will not try to cover that ground here because other fans are doing a great job of it, but I will tell you about our #HollowHangout that has been getting together every Friday after the show with @SleepyAddicts. Our panel is roughly half white, half WOC and sometimes we get international participation. I treasure the friendship I have with these women. We have very frank conversations. I’ve learned to see Abbie Mills through their eyes. Through their real-life experiences as women of color who have faced the kind of prejudice I have only read about. I’ve had great discussions with Monique Jones of Colorwebmag.com and Jamie Broadnax, founder of Black Girl Nerds on what Abbie Mills meant to them. We dedicated a Hangout to Nicole and Abbie at the beginning of S3B because as a group of steadfast viewers, we all agreed, there was no character like her on TV. She was cause for celebration. And now she is dead.
The Reason Doesn’t Really Matter
Slowly, word is leaking out that Beharie wanted out, for a long time. When she chooses to disclose her reasons for leaving, I’ll be happy to hear them. But right now, we only have conjecture. And we have to keep in mind that she may be legally restricted as to what she can say at this time. In any case, if the writers knew she was indeed leaving, why not give her a more dignified exit? Instead, the producers gave us hope for a Witness pairing comparable to Scully and Mulder. The writers started the season with Crane moving into Abbie’s house and they gave us that memorable scene with Crane finding Abbie’s camisole, which later became great fodder for fanfic. They had Bones tell Crane about the joys of sex with one’s professional partner. They gave Ichabod a jealous character, (not just protective), and created love triangles with Zoe and Danny, that we now know were meaningless. But in the end, in a manner of minutes, they killed her. No wake. No funeral. No reaction scenes with other characters. And perhaps the Star Trek reference at the beginning of the episode was a foreboding. Abbie became a red shirt. The lack of respect given to this character has not gone unnoticed. I don’t know what kind of consolation will ever bring back the fans that were so inspired by this truly remarkable actress and ground-breaking character.
Three of the four original leads from S1 are gone. If there is a S4, Tom Mison will be surrounded by the unfamiliar, once again. I love Tom. I want to watch him on TV every week. But the next Sleepy Hollow will surely not be the one he signed up for and if he is still negotiating his contract, he may want to think long and hard about what he wants before he steps back into that strange, new Hollow without Nicole Beharie.
Beauty tip: In an act of desperation – because of all the crying – I reached for a tube of Preparation H and dabbed it under and over my eyes – and it does indeed relieve puffiness.