Sleepy Hollow has received a lot of criticism lately. If you’re not caught up with the end of Season 3, I definitely want to warn you there are SPOILERS AHEAD. Season 3 ended with the death of beloved female protagonist Abbie Mills, as her actress Nicole Beharie wanted to leave the series. Many people were shocked that they decided to continue the series for another season at all after Beharie’s departure. There has been rampant speculation that the series will majorly go downhill, and some people are even calling for boycotts. I’m gonna be honest with you about where I’m coming from. I tapped out of Sleepy Hollow and stopped watching at the end of Season 2. I was sent to cover the NYCC panel because someone else was sick, and I really expected to be not into it. I felt totally blown away by the panel and the preview footage, and I walked out of there hyped as hell for Season 4. Everybody in the room seemed crazy pumped, and in love with this show, and in love with these nice hilarious people who make it. I feel like I have to go back now and catch up because the new stuff they’re doing looks so awesome.
The panel had the cast out in full force. Returning cast members Tom Mison (Ichabod Crane) and Lyndie Greenwood (Jenny Mills) were there, in addition to new cast members Janina Gavankar (Diana Thomas) and Jeremy Davies (Malcolm Dreyfuss). Producers Albert Kim, Clifton Campbell, and Raven Metzner were also in attendance. Plus Evangeline Lilly showed up for no reason? Apparently Jeremy Davies just invited her to crash the panel? Anyway, they talked a lot about where their characters were and what we could expect to see in the upcoming season.
Rather than trying to recapture what the show was with Abbie & Ichabod, the series is completely uprooting itself and moving to Washington, D.C.. Ichabod and Jenny will become part of a “secret government organization” established by George Washington to combat supernatural threats. Their new base of operations is a location called “The Vault,” much bigger than the “Archives” from their Westchester days. The exclusive five-minute sizzle reel we got a preview of in the panel made it look almost like they’re doing Men in Black or The X-Files. The series is definitely staying true to its roots, the macabre supernatural horror, the passionate love affair with weird corners of American history, and the “fish out of water” comedy with Ichabod. The producers said one of the reasons they chose to move to D.C. was that Ichabod had gotten ‘comfortable’ in Sleepy Hollow, and they wanted to take him out of his comfort zone again.
Janina Gavankar and Jeremy Davies were both announced as cast members awhile ago, but they finally both elaborated on the characters they’ll be playing. Davies will be playing the season’s “big bad” villain Malcolm Dreyfuss, the first “big bad” of the series to be completely human. In his words, his character will be more “polymorphously monstrous than any creature out there, because, as you said, he is a man.” He described Dreyfuss as “Steve Jobs giving in to his dark side,” then added that he was “part Lex Luthor” and a “dash of Hannibal.” Lyndie Greenwood has apparently nicknamed him “Antibod” because he functions as a direct nemesis for Ichabod. They are both men very used to being the smartest person in the room, so when they meet it’s a battle of wits and a battle of egos. Despite worrying this might be a spoiler, Davies told the audience that Dreyfuss “may very well win” at the end of the season. The producers were quick to chime in, “not in the traditional sense, but in the Sleepy Hollow sense.” Davies also talked about his personal thoughts that went into creating a villain like Malcolm Dreyfuss. He remarked that when we see truly evil people, we like to think of them as monsters. But “the scariest thing isn’t that they’re a monster,” it’s that they remind us of people we know, ourselves, our loved ones. We desperately want to consider people like that to be “other” while it’s often frightening how similar they can be to who we are.
Gavankar’s character “Diana Thomas” will be a Homeland Security agent who is completely new to the world of the supernatural. Diana Thomas is described as a mother whose biggest priority is the safety of her daughter. During the Q&A someone asked what religion her character was, and Gavankar gave an interestingly detailed response about Diana identifying as Christian. Gavankar explained that she wasn’t sure they should even make her character Indian (like herself). “We’re all very complex people and we don’t have to talk about our race.” She didn’t feel like the character needed to be Indian and have a stereotypically Indian last name just because she is Indian. The decision to make her character a Christian came out of a desire to portray different types of Indian people than the singular stereotype seen in most media. “There are millions and millions of Indian Christians on this planet people don’t talk about.”
The producers elaborated on this conversation when a later question asked if the show’s diversity was intentional. Albert Kim specifically said that writing diverse characters from different walks of life has always been important to him. Raven Metzner commented that their show is diverse because the real world is diverse, and said he was proud to be on “a show that looks like life.” Tom Mison also jumped in to talk about the philosophy of the show’s casting in his experience. He shared a story where a character written with a Hispanic last name was changed to something more neutral, because they felt like they shouldn’t be limiting their characters by race. Characters shouldn’t have to be “the black one” or “the white one” or “the Asian one.” “Whoever is right for the part should get the part.”
The producers also teased a LOT of things that are coming up this season. If you’re the type to avoid trailers this is where you should cut out to avoid SPOILERS, but this list definitely got me hyped. The biggest announcement was that the Headless Horseman, absent last season for creative reasons, will be returning. We’ll also see John Noble coming back to the show, in a time-travel story where Ichabod is put on trial for murder. The producers teased adding new areas outside of the Revolutionary War to the show’s “twistory.” The previews showed a demon-possessed John Wilkes Booth, which means they’ll be expanding up through Lincoln and the Civil War. The producers were very excited to announce that historical figure Benjamin Banneker would play a huge role in this season, since they believe he deserves more recognition. Banneker, a free African-American in the 18th century, was instrumental in establishing a lot of the D.C. metropolitan area. He will be introduced as a friend of Ichabod’s. The producers went on to list some of the biggest developments that will happen for Ichabod this year. Ichabod will sign his first apartment lease, which (SPOILER ALERT) is haunted duh. He’ll discover “the truth” about the Lincoln memorial. He will make his first social media post. He will also discover a “truth” that fundamentally changes one of the most iconic moments of the series. Oh, and he’s gonna try his first slushie! Tom Mison was asked whether Ichabod will ever bring back his long-hair look, which was popular with some fans. He responded “It’ll take awhile to grow, so maybe by season 9.” The producers also confirmed that they are not approaching season 4 like it is their final season. They are approaching it like Sleepy Hollow still has many years to come.
Sleepy Hollow will be returning in early 2017. At the time of the panel on Sunday, Mison said they had just finished shooting the sixth episode.