“Sleepy Hollow” angered many fans on Friday night when the Fox show killed off one half of its lead duo during its third season finale.
The show’s two main stars are Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane and Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills, who together are known as the Witnesses. Amid on ongoing conversations about the frequent deaths of minority characters, Beharie, a black woman, had her character killed in a way that furthers the storyline of her white male counterpart.
Fans have cited the chemistry between Mison and Beharie as a major draw to watching the Fox show. And Beharie’s role on the show was seen as an important one — so much so that Viola Davis referenced the actress during her celebrated speech at the Emmy Awards last year, the one in which she declared “you cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
On Friday and throughout the weekend, fans tweeted their disappointment.
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) April 10, 2016
Worst part of #SleepyHollow – that Abbie's whole role in life was to guide Crane & that was it. Way to rob a great character of her identity
— Amy Rowan Sach (@amyrowan) April 9, 2016
Among those tweeting was Orlando Jones, who left the show ahead of its third season.
"The white male lead should totally sacrifice his life to protect the *dark skinned* black girl" said no development executive EVER.
— Orlando Jones (@TheOrlandoJones) April 9, 2016
Over at Vulture, writer Nichole Perkins details the show’s overall derailment:
The first season of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ was charming, fun, and special. It took a familiar story from American literature and gave it a fantastical twist, complete with one of the most diverse casts on air. The chemistry between the two leads, Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison as Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane, was remarkable and undeniable. Then season two happened. Everything that attracted fans to the show was dismantled in a series of perplexing creative choices. And now, at the conclusion of season three, Abbie was killed off in one of the most unsatisfactory goodbyes in recent memory, sending fans reeling.
Perkins also notes that Beharie’s departure is the latest in a string of decisions that have caused fans to question the show’s treatment of minority characters. Jones reportedly saw significantly decreased screen time before he was asked to leave.
“I don’t think Captain Irving is coming back,” Jones said in a fan Q&A on his YouTube channel, referencing his character, Frank Irving. “And what led to me leaving is they changed the show. It’s a different show.”
Beharie also saw less screen time in Season 2, as the show pursued a storyline focused on Mison’s character and his family. In an Instagram post that was later deleted, Beharie said she was not invited to do audio commentary for the show’s Season 2 DVD. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Beharie had been unhappy and trying to leave the show for some time.
Days after the controversial finale, fans are still tweeting about the show, with hashtags such as #iamabbiemills and #abbiemillsdeservesbetter. The latter first surfaced during the show’s second season as some viewers felt Beharie’s character was being underutilized.
“Sleepy Hollow” has not yet been renewed for a fourth season, though Fox says it’s still possible. Whether fans will return remains to be seen.
— Kim Boyd (@aproclivity) April 9, 2016
So far, Fox has not responded to questions about minority characters on the show, but did release a joint statement with the show’s executive producers after the finale:
“The finale featuring the tragic death of Abbie Mills was a very dramatic ending and a bold move for the show, but ‘Sleepy Hollow’ has always been known for its shocking finales. We feel we provided a wonderfully poignant conclusion for Abbie and showed some of the best moments between the Witnesses that we’ve seen on-screen. We thank Nicole Beharie for bringing Abbie and ‘Sleepy Hollow’ to life. We are currently discussing Season 4, and should the series be picked up for another season, we have some exciting scenarios and new avenues we want to explore.”
An earlier version of this post misspelled Nichole Perkins’s first name. This post has been updated.