You Are My Sunshine
Is this the episode so many of us have been waiting for this season, where Abbie is front and center like she was in Season 1? Will Katrina, Henry, Abraham and Hawley overshadow Jenny and Abbie? Or will the the Mills sisters get their full due in a family-devoted episode where we get to learn more about their mother? I’m happy to report that we can worry less…at least for most of this episode. Abbie is back, and so is Jenny. And welcome home, Mama.
But before I dive into the episode, there’s something I need to get off my chest. It’s no secret amongst fans that the straight jacketing of Abbie, and the perception that she’s been sidelined as a character has been an issue. The Crane family has been getting A LOT of attention, while the Mills have fallen by the wayside. It’s taken nine episodes to get to the heart of what matters just as much: Abbie’s past and family history. This delay in dealing with the black side of the equation has been problematic. This is not supposed to be the Crane show. It’s the Abbie and Ichabod show. By putting white characters either first or foremost, the show slips into the same pitfalls of so many other shows written by a roomful of white writers. Even when there are key black characters, the white characters’ point of view takes priority. The writers probably won’t appreciate the critique, as I understand they have gotten offended by the Twitter Sleepy Hollow fan hashtag #AbbieDeservesBetter. It would be helpful for the writers to consider their approach to the season, the episodes and characters in the the context of a world that continues to sideline, ignore, neutralize, minimize, trivialize, infantilize, criminalize, sexualize black people.
The fact that the executive producers’ and writing team’s hearts and minds have created such a diverse and potentially powerful cast is great. How that wonderful idea is executed and realized makes all the difference. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the Asian and Latino characters have also faded away from the show. It’s begun to feel a bit like a bait and switch, where we get some great diverse characters dangled in front of us, and then the seasons settle into a show about the Cranes, Hawley and Abraham, with Mills and all other ethnic characters filling in here and there in an increasingly ancillary way. (i.e. Abbie offering to make tea for the Cranes last episode…really?) The light at the end of the tunnel is that at least one of the writers seems to be listening, or the team is finally getting around to what was planned all along. In “Mama,” they get things (mostly) right.
In episode 9 we’re treated to a prelude of Abbie’s dream of her mom. Shortly thereafter, Ichabod is conveniently kept out of the way with a bad cold. Wait. Does the white man have to be sick to give Abbie focus? That might not be a good sign, because it’s temporary and offers us that horrible sense that a black character can only have power when the white man is weak. Sorry, perhaps I’m taking the Mills Mom’s advice too literally: “Eyes open, Head up, Trust no one.”
Abbie meets up with her sister at Tarrytown Hospital. They go to visit Captain Irving, thereby creating a rare trifecta of an intelligent scene between three black characters. Another good sign is the casting of Aunjanue Ellis, a fine actress, as Abbie and Jenny’s mother.
Back to sick Ichabod, and enter Hawley. What? Why? Because if one white man is sick, there’s gotta be another one in the picture? And then, do we stick with Abbie? Oh, no. Cut to Henry Parrish, little baby Moloch and Katrina. Eww, that nasty ass thing at Katrina’s shoulder…
Back to Abbie and Jenny. And yes, Hawley (aka Ichabod Substitute), is joining the journey, because the black women need a white man on the scene. (Please make it stop.) If Hawley had to be involved, I would have liked to have seen him sidelined and utilized for research and relegated to remotely feeding Abbie and Jenny the info they needed to make discoveries at the mental hospital, while the women stayed on the case, alone. Hawley does not need to be in the hospital scenes. It throws off the dynamic.
The hospital takes on an American Horror-ish life of its own with funky lighting and abandoned wards (I don’t trust that nurse, do you?), and it starts to get interesting. I want the story to get nightmarish, build the tension, and to stay here. Alas no, we jump back to Katrina. Then we jump back to the sisters. This is not working for me. It would have been stronger to just give Abbie and Jenny the episode. Believe me, we would not forget about Katrina or Henry or Hawley or baby Moloch.
Back to more creepy hospital scenes with Captain Irving trying to off himself, under the influence of what is truly haunting the mental ward. I think the show would benefit from more showing and doing, and less telling. “Oh look, this is the box with mama’s stuff. Oh look this is her journal. This is a West African incantation” etc etc. Let’s just SEE IT. Let the story build some real tension and scares. The audience for this show is bright enough to follow the story and to connect the dots.
And please, can we take a break from incantations for a while? That nurse was defeated way too easily. There are other ways to defeat Evil. How about the powerful strength of the Mills women united in love? And why Why WHY do we need both Hawley and Ichabod when Abbie and Jenny are trying to help their mama? They don’t need no white witness to take care of their mama. Let the ladies have that very lovely, emotional moment. (Yes, it made me cry.) And thank you for making Mama smart, strong, powerful and NOT just crazy.
Anyway, Captain Irving is outta there (Thank God). Let’s hope we get the Trifecta in action again.
Coda? Back to Katrina, looking a little worse for wear (but still wearing those jeans and that corset).
My Favorite Things
Focus on Abbie (and Jenny).
More than two black people in a scene.
Two women in conversation in a scene more than once. (We’ve gotten this before. Nice to see again).
An African incantation.
My Pet Peeves
It’s okay to leave the white male characters in the intro and give the rest of the episode to the ladies. Really.
Most of what I mentioned above in the review.
Another incantation.(Yes, I know Abbie and Jenny are probably witches, but still.)
Coming attractions seem to throw us back to the Cranes Center Stage With Abbie as Sidekick mode. Pray it isn’t so. Hopefully, the good faith and continued loyalty of the staunchest fans will be rewarded by more episodes like tonight’s.