'Sleepy Hollow' showrunner talks fan reaction to season 2: 'Just trust us'
Has Sleepy Hollow lost its groove?
The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Ratings for season 2 have been down across the board; fans (and, er, recappers) have become fond of grumbling about the show’s perceived shortcomings, from the unfortunate marginalization of Nicole Beharie’s Abbie Mills (Sleepy‘s co-lead, though she’s largely taken a backseat to the action this year) to the mishandling of Katia Winter’s Katrina, a witch who’s always in need of rescue.
That said, plenty of folks would argue that season 2 is as bonkers-brilliant as ever—chief among them Mark Goffman, the supernatural dramedy’s showrunner. EW chatted with Goffman, briefly about last night’s episode—an hour that had the breakneck pacing, urgency, and “twistory”-based shenanigans of vintage Sleepy Hollow—but mostly about season 2 as a whole, and specifically how fans have been responding to it. Goffman’s main takeaway? “If people just trust us—if you keep watching, things will change in a way that you won’t expect.”
See the first part of our conversation below—and check back after Dec. 1’s midseason finale for more intel from Goffman about a few shocking twists and what’s coming up next.
EW: In Monday’s episode, I was very excited to see what might be history’s first badass shofar.
Mark Goffman: Oh yeah! [laughs] We did some research, and felt that it was an appropriate instrument to put in. It was really fun working with the props department, picking the shofar. This episode actually shot right around the time of the Jewish holidays. That was interesting. It’s pretty loud.
Oh, it works?
Yeah, that’s a working one.
I want to focus on season 2 generally. There’s been a lot of criticism this year, some of it by me. What’s your response to the fan response?
Sure. You know, we started this season really early. We started in February, so we’d [completed] the first nine episodes before we’d started airing. And I actually love that we have a very honest relationship with our viewers. We cultivated that in season 1; there’s a real dialogue going on. To us, it’s actually a sign of how much people care, and how passionate they are that they’re so willing to be so vocal about how they feel. And we welcome that kind of feedback and actually engage in that dialogue.
But you have to understand—every show is a living, breathing entity, and it’s growing, and it’s constantly evolving. Last season we were 13 episodes; this season we went to 18. So we’re growing. We’ve done some things differently this year; we have new cast; we have tried some different storytelling. We take a lot of really big swings on this show. Some of those work really well—and we’re adjusting and evolving as the season goes.
Do you think if you’d still been in production after season 2 had premiered—and you started hearing the criticism—you would have changed its direction?
The exciting thing for us is that everything changes at the season finale. And that was always by design. So look, we’ve definitely—every show I’ve ever been on, as you’re writing and you’re learning what’s working and what you can do differently, that’s just part of the evolution of a show. I guess what I would ask everyone is just, I hope they’ll trust us as they did in season 1. We have a plan that I think is really exciting, and as we get to our midseason finale, things will change dramatically.
Fans have a certain expectation from last season of what the show was; this year, some episodes are going to be real fan favorites, and others are more for casual viewers. I think that that’s part of the fun and the thrill of doing this show, is anything can happen. You pointed out that there’s some repetition—in 18 episodes, you know, our mythology deals with a man who’s from 250 years ago, we have revisionist revolutionary history, we have demons. We have so many elements that we just wanted to make sure that everyone was able to follow along the way. And it’s something we’re also adjusting as we see it. But our goal was just to make sure that everybody was able to follow and stay on board.
So do you think the criticisms people have been making—about Abbie being sidelined, for example—have been premature?
Well, it sounded like a lot of people really responded to Monday night’s episode, with the Mills sisters, and we loved doing that. That was an episode we had planned to do very early in the season. We’re excited to tell a lot more stories about both Jenny and Abbie.
Have you clicked through the “Abbie Mills deserves better” hashtag?
Of course. We look at everything. This show, it was really built for fans. So we’re very engaged in the social media atmosphere. Obviously it’s more fun when everybody is telling you that everything’s perfect, but I don’t know if that’s ever the case. We have a plan we put together, a really fun season arc, and when we get to next Monday, things are going to be thrown into flux in a way that I think is really exciting—leading to a whole new trajectory for the back half of the season.
I know Katrina’s been kind of a sticking point for a lot of people this year—what are your future plans for her?
Yeah. What are the future plans for Katrina? Well, that’s a big question—that’s one that’s probably been the most talked about. We like to surprise on this show, and I think we will continue to. There are a couple of episodes coming up where you think one thing is happening, and she’ll be featured, and then something completely different will—so nothing is as it seems.
So, fewer damsel in distress stories?
[laughs] That was never our intention. She’s an incredibly strong character, and she has, I think, a very storied history, being both a powerful witch and a spy. We have a great episode coming up in which we learn about her history with the Salem witch trials. Not that she was involved, but her lineage was. That’ll bring her into a whole new light.
So we’ll get to see her do some cool magic?
I think we’re going to see her do a lot of things that we don’t expect. But again, keep in mind, these are episodes that were shot long before—just to give you an example, I’m writing the season finale right now. So the things that have really started to come up are things that have happened in the last two weeks, and we’re already writing the season finale of the show. But that said, I think that we have some really fun episodes coming up. We’re trying to give each character on the show their due.
Is there anything you’d do differently, if you could go back?
Oh, gosh. Everything I’ve ever worked on, I want to…you know, the challenge in television is the deadlines and the schedules. From a creative point of view, you always want to do more, bigger, better.
Not that I can think of. It’s an epic show with a lot of moving parts. We put a lot of time into our creature work, we put a lot of time into the period work, into the research and the history and putting fun and different twists on American history. All of that comes together in a crazy mashup, a tone that’s vascillating between humor and horror and action-adventure—it’s a lot of pieces. We take big swings, and there are a few of them where definitely… I would like to keep swinging.