Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sleepy Hollow 3x18 Review: "Ragnarok" (Too Angry for a Subtitle) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

Original Airdate: April 8, 2016

Usually when I write reviews, I re-watch the episode I’m reviewing so I can get the plot down and direct-quote stuff, but nah. That’s not happening this time, kids, so forgive me if I’m a little fuzzy about the plot specifics. I mean, does it really matter? I don’t care about the plot in this episode — I’m actually finding it really hard to care about this show at all right now, frankly, so here’s a rundown: something something, Pandora needs her box to kill The Hidden One, blah blah The Catacombs, Betsy Ross is really pointless and ships Ichabbie, whatever, things go down, Abbie gets her soul sucked away and dies to save the world, taking her dignity and the show’s value down with her.

I’ve restrained myself from swearing in this review because I’m not supposed to and also because if I started swearing the whole thing would be unsuitable for a general audience. Just, suffice to say that if you imagined a few four-letter words sprinkled throughout the page at key moments, you probably would not be too far off the mark.

I have so many questions for the writers about what they’ve done, on topics ranging from the sloppy application of plot in this episode, to dangling threads that have to be left dangling forever because they killed off the main character of their show. But the most prominent question I have is just, “Why?” Why would you dismiss such a remarkable, interesting, vital character as Abbie Mills? Why couldn’t you see the amazing gift of this character, bestowed upon you by the writing gods and a fantastically-talented actress, and use said gift to your advantage?


I don’t know who or what — beyond the vague, conglomerate entity of Sleepy Hollow — to focus all my anger toward. I just know that I’m angry. I’m angry because they took one of my favorite characters in anything I have ever watched and killed her off without much fanfare or grace, and made her tell her co-lead that “[her] job was to carry [him] forward.” They made her equate herself with a long line of partners and guardians who solely existed to make sure that Ichabod Crane survived as the Most Important Witness, the savior of the world — the only one who mattered.

Her job was to carry him forward? In what universe, show? What were you watching? What were you writing? Abbie’s job was to be a Witness and a hero and a partner to Ichabod Crane, not to support him or “carry him forward” — are you joking? Because I’m really starting to feel like a horrible, elaborate joke has been played on me by investing so much love and effort into supporting what I thought was a creative, wonderful show full of talent and endless potential.

All this time I thought I was watching Abbie and Ichabod as equals: two Witnesses meant to fight together to save the world, destined to find each other against all odds and unite against evil. And you’re basically telling me no, they’re not equals. They were never equals. It was always Ichabod first, with Abbie there to guide him and “carry him forward.” The show I’d invested my time into was a facade, the character I loved was never really there and never really who I thought she was, and the partnership that worked as the ballast for the entire premise of Sleepy Hollow was a lie you told me to keep me watching. A bit of sleight of hand, an illusion — a terrible, terrible trick.

Sleepy Hollow caught my attention as a unique show with a uniquely creepy, clever look and tone. It had charismatic lead actors with tons of chemistry together, who handled the dual protagonist roles remarkably well and balanced each other perfectly. During the first season of the show, I never doubted for a second that the characters of Abbie and Ichabod were anything but a true team. Then season two happened, and maybe that should have clued me in on what the writers really wanted, which was Abbie pushed aside so that Ichabod could take the spotlight more fully. I didn’t take the hint, though, and thought that the writers had just lost the plot a bit. That they were spending a little too much time trying to establish Ichabod’s story and would be moving on to Abbie eventually (since, you know, I thought they were equal partners at the time).

Boy was I wrong. Now I feel like an idiot, like I want to ignore everything after the first season — when the trick-of-the-light “equal partnership” vibe was at its strongest and, seemingly, most deliberate. Except I can’t ignore everything past the first season because you jerks ended season one on a freaking cliffhanger.


I’ve always loved stories. Not just, you know, characters and words and whatever. I’ve always loved the way that elements of a story could come together and form a cohesive whole. I love when those little clues from ages ago in the narrative fit perfectly into the big finale, when I get that magnificent “eureka” moment upon understanding how it all made sense and fit. A well-crafted story is pleasing perfection, an accomplishment even when I’m just an observer — it’s the completion of a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, picture-perfect and satisfyingly whole.

The lack of this completion in Sleepy Hollow hurts me as a lover of stories, not because the show is incomplete and I’ll never be able to complete it (because, as if I would watch this show without Abbie Mills), but because it’s finally dawning on me that it could never have been complete. I’m realizing now that the thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle I’ve been working on for the last three years is not only missing pieces, but all those missing pieces have been replaced by the pieces of a completely different puzzle.

This finale was a mess. It was rushed and provided no answers and — even if Abbie Mills hadn’t been horribly killed off in the most insultingly unfulfilling way possible — no dangling plot threads were tied off in a satisfactory way. They even went so far as to contradict their established canon (remember when the Witnesses weren’t destined to bury each other?) in order to make this episode happen. Hey, and let’s just go ahead and add some more insult on top of the awful, awful sundae that is this show: we learn that not only has Abbie been killed off unceremoniously, but her soul gets transferred over to some stranger because she’s an immortal Witness! Oh, hurray, Sleepy Hollow! Abbie didn’t matter to you so much that you’ve made her canonically replaceable! Ugh, what a load of bull. If I found out that “Ragnarok” had been the result of a last-second rewrite, I would not be surprised.

There was so much build-up for this finale, so many clues laid down for us, ready to be slotted into place. The tablet with the word “destroyers” written in Ancient Sumerian? The turn of Pandora from villain to ally? The emphasis on the partnership of the two Witnesses, and their destiny, and the dual nature of their destiny as an equal team, not a hierarchy? All of it amounted to nothing; just a scattering of misshapen, mismatched puzzle pieces that will never and can never fit.


I said earlier that the character of Abbie Mills is one of my favorites, in all the television I’ve ever watched, and I mean it. Nothing about that can change. Because even though the show has played its trick and left me feeling dumbfounded and upset, I still can’t help but see Abbie as the hero and co-protagonist that I loved, not the supporting role they tried to make her in “Ragnarok.” They accidentally created a true champion with this one, a complicated woman with a painful past and a looming destiny, with equal parts weakness and strength — fear and courage, humor and seriousness.

Abbie’s life was one of hardship and she had a habit of compartmentalizing her feelings to the point of callousness with those around her. She felt fear and terror — not because of the monsters and demons that loomed in the shadows, but because she didn’t know how to relate to other people, to her sister, to her family and friends. Still, in spite of her uneasiness around others she was fiercely loyal, endlessly brave and powerful when those she cared about, but had trouble communicating with, were in danger.

Goodbye, Abbie Mills. You were fantastic.

And, finally, thank you, Nicole Beharie. Thank you for putting so much humanity into this character. Thank you for making her terrible at talking about her feelings without looking away in embarrassment, but capable of shooting a gun without blinking. Thank you for making her multi-layered and multifaceted, with all the beloved contradictory behaviors we encounter while living life and being flawed, beloved contradictory people. You made a hero, a character we all can look up to, a person whose story deserved to be treated with more consideration, respect, and focus. You did wonders, you created someone great, and you made Abbie come alive.

Other Things:
  • The good things in this episode: a reference to one of my favorite Star Trek episodes (“The City on the Edge of Forever”), Shannyn Sossamon’s death scene performance, and that’s pretty much it. Everything else was painful or associated with something that was painful.
  • Since I have nothing else to put in this section, I’m going to run down an ending for this show that would have made more sense with the clues and plot elements we were given, plus the title of “Ragnarok”: Ragnarok is the apocalypse of Norse mythology, it’s the death of some major Norse gods and the destruction of all life, except for two humans who are meant to repopulate (i.e., save) the world when everything’s said and done. The show’s been emphasizing the pair of Witnesses and “destruction” and the end of the world, so what if they kept the idea of the Eternal Witnesses and changed one, little tiny thing: Ichabod dies, too. This would tie together the various hints we’ve gotten over the course of the season, including “destroyers” (because Ichabod and Abbie would be destroying themselves) and the parallel of the two world-saving Witnesses as the two world-repopulating Ragnarok survivors. Boom. Conclusive ending. Apocalypse averted, foreshadowing fulfilled.

1 comment:

  1. I think the show ultimately had three things to do in a single episode: wrap the season, send off Abbie (because the actor wasn't coming back), and hold out hope of a new path forward without Abbie if they get a new season, which might happen given the loss of Amrerican Idol. The result was a clunky, and mainly it failed because the show has been held together under the premise of two witnesses, and they had no way to maintain the cast as it was. You are right on every level otherwise. This was a mess, and it stands, hopefully, as the enigmatic ending to a show that constantly danced with promise, but could only shuffle its feet.