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Sleepy Hollow: The Katrina Problem

I don’t blog about TV nearly as much as I used to (although I do still post about TV shows quite a bit on my Twitter and Google+ accounts), but I wanted to talk a bit about Sleepy Hollow, a relatively new show I’ve been watching and enjoying. It can be goofy at times, but generally its Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets National Treasure vibe works for me. (Although, as a friend pointed it, it’s hard to imagine our nation’s Founders actually having time to fight the Revolutionary War when there was all this secret, magical conflict with demons and the Four Horsemen going on at the same time. Also, I will admit my eyes roll a little whenever the show mentions “Benjamin Franklin’s secret notebook” or “General Washington’s [magically annotated] Bible.” There’s only so much secret history even I can swallow.)

But it’s not just the vibe that I enjoy so much. The main core of characters is great. Ichabod Crane, Abbie Mills, Jenny Mills, and Frank Irving are all vividly drawn and compelling people, wonderfully portrayed by their respective actors. (I am less taken with Nick Hawley, a recent addition to the show. At this point, I actually groan whenever he turns up, which is pretty much every episode now. He’s utterly extraneous, as if he’s only there so they can set him up for a spinoff. I would be completely in favor of that, by the way, if it meant I would never have to see him again.)

And then there’s Katrina. If I groan whenever I see Hawley, I give a long, exasperated sigh whenever I see Katrina. Don’t get me wrong, I think Katia Winter, who portrays Katrina, is great, but Katrina is currently sucking the air out of this show. It’s not all bad, there are things I like about Katrina. I like that there are elements from Crane’s past that have come forward in time with him, like Headless and his wife and his messed-up son. I like that Crane and Katrina are in love — like, established-from-the-start in love — rather than meeting cute and having sexual tension and going through all the will-they-or-won’t-they machinations that so many TV shows rely on to keep their viewers invested. (These days, it’s actually quite rare to have two characters begin a series already married and in love, except for parents on family sitcoms.)  I also like that there are complications to their love because Katrina kept so many things from Crane, including the facts that she’s a witch, was a secret spy for Washington, and that she and Crane had a son he never knew about. This is all good stuff — but it’s also all Crane-centric stuff. What about Katrina herself?

Ever since she was rescued from being Moloch’s captive in Purgatory, Sleepy Hollow has been struggling — visibly struggling — with what to do with her now. Worse, every plot line they’ve given her so far has been frustratingly gender-specific: Headless is in love with her and wants to marry her; she’s magically impregnated; she has to play mother to a demon baby. Yawn. I expect more from this show, which managed to create two incredible female characters (of color, no less!) in Abbie and Jenny Mills. So why can’t they do the same with Katrina? Why aren’t we getting plot lines directly related to her being a witch? Or being a Colonial spy? It’s lazy writing. #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter was a recent hashtag on Twitter when it seemed like her character was being sidelined earlier this season in favor of a billion other, lesser plot lines, like Henry Parrish’s evil plot of the week. I agreed with that hashtag, and at this point I think we might also need a #KatrinaCraneDeservesBetter hashtag.

I really liked the recent episode “Heartless,” not so much because of the silly succubus plot, but because they actually let Katrina join the group for once when they took on the threat. I was all, “Yes! Katrina is finally doing something active! And by including her, our heroes are building their army against Moloch!” But my excitement was short-lived. At the end of that episode, Katrina decides to go back to being a spy in the house of Headless — a role that has basically required her to sit at a table or skulk in doorways for entire episodes — only this time, she is presented with a demon baby to mother. It’s hardly a step up. Sad trombone for my hopes for Katrina taking a more active and interesting role in the series.

There are so many better plot lines they could give her. Katia Winter is a good actress, she can handle it. So how about you throw away the traditional-gender-role plot generator, Sleepy Hollow, and start getting creative instead? After all, it’s your creativity and ability to create compelling characters that drew me in as a viewer in the first place. I know you can do it. All you have to do is try.

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