Wednesday, April 6, 2016

All my problems with Sleepy Hollow's Danny have nothing to do with him

Warning: This is salty.

Danny Reynolds is a good guy, and he recently took the whole "there's monsters in the world and we fight them" speech really well, but I have some Issues with him in this show. None of them have to do with his character, and all of them have to do with how he's being used.

1. He's not Crane
I've made no secret of the fact that I adore Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills as a team, as a couple, as a pair that cannot be divided. But that's because the show literally casts them in that light at every turn, but refuses to treat them that way.

It's not Danny's fault that he's not Crane, and if he'd been handled better, maybe he could have made up for not being Crane in a real way, but with Abbie and him moving toward couple-dom while Crane still looks at Abbie like the sun rises in her face, it makes her look oblivious at best and callous at worst. Does she not see that Crane cares about her more than just a normal friend while she's literally supporting his butt and he's making her lavish dinners? If they are actually committed to fully platonic Ichabbie, they're doing a piss-poor job of it, and meanwhile, Abbie is over here making out with her boss in a federal law enforcement job while Crane is at home, waiting for her. I don't like how it puts this layer of weirdness in how Abbie deals with the world, and how no one is pointing it out to her on the show.

2. All his development with Abbie happened off screen
Look, if a main character is going to have a relationship that is not with another main character, that other relationship needs extra attention. A relationship between two characters who both headline a show needs a lot of attention, but if you're gonna hook them up with someone else, it's going to need even more. You've got to show the steps. Show that he's worthy. Show that he's an actual interesting character with real traits and not just a list of starting points for them. Show why they like each other and how things progressed--not just come back from a season break with a time-jump and an ex we never knew at all, and assume that we'll just buy it. That's insulting. And it immediately places that poor new character that has nothing wrong with him in the position of acting on things that never happened so that it's all talk, no proof. And being very obviously a distraction from the relationship that HAS been developed for her--and that, in this case, TPTB have been super shifty and ship-bait-y about.

Look, if Ichabbie is never going to be a thing, have that talk, on screen. Have them kiss and feel nothing, or properly address the fact that literally everyone thinks they're together. Have them confirm for real that they're not in love--and for the love of all things holy, stop putting them in romantic situations that are played out romantically. How can we buy Danny as a love interest, not just a distraction or a second-best, if we've still got all this Ichabbie stuff happening and never being addressed, and everything that would have convinced us to like Danny more happened in a season that never existed? A season that was effectively a different show, if Abbie and he were in Quantico like normal people and not fighting monsters?

3. He's too little, too late
Because of all of that above. This is the third season, and there's no guarantee of a fourth. Through all of season 1, it was the Ichabod and Abbie show, then through all of season 2, Abbie was effectively dislodged from her own starring role and treated as if she didn't need connections or love or anything. It was alarming. She hardly had anything to do, unless it was a totally terrible stereotype of a thing to move the plot along, regardless of how her previously-established character wouldn't be treated like that without saying anything. And now she comes out of it, seeming miserable and hardly laughing or looking like she enjoys either of her jobs, and they're finally going to tell us NOW that she actually does deserve to be loved...but not by the man she's spent three years sharing her life with?*

4. He's the "getting back with your ex" trope embodied
Even worse than off-screen relationships is getting back into one for real with the person we-the-viewers don't know from Adam. If they'd had a previous on-screen relationship, that would be annoying enough, since exes are exes for good reasons, but introducing an ex just to get them back together when we never saw them together before? Nah. Lazy. You're shorthanding the relationship and stealing a lot of the power from it. The whole strength of any relationship on TV, of any variety, is how well that relationship can move the audience, and it feels like they just assume we'll be on board just because it's a relationship, rather than actually building one with emotional weight for us to actually feel. They're doing the same thing on Blindspot** right now, and it's just as annoying there.

Every time a show does that, it comes across as cheap. They're underestimating how much the show means to the fans and willfully tossing all that previous emotional weight out the window without even bothering to go through the steps to change the associations. Just handing us a new ship like it doesn't matter, like they're interchangeable, and like saying they have a past we never see (and they don't even really get enough into to make feel real) is as good as actually experiencing it. They did the same thing with Katrina in season 2--a lot of talk that never was proven, and it fell flat, but at least she got flashbacks and context.***

5. Who even is he?
The show is built on two wildly different people figuring out how to save the world together. It's literally about different strengths and skills defeating evil. Danny is a good guy and might be a good addition to the team, but he's also a lot like Abbie, and we already have Sophie being a lot like Abbie****, except he's barely sketched out. We don't need her being paired off with someone so much like her when it's pre-established that working with, living with, and being drawn to Crane made her better. Especially when he's like her in such broad strokes: they want to help people, they were top of the class in Quantico, they're both stubborn. Where's the actual character development he deserves?

It makes it seem like she's scrabbling to regain the past, but they're not really dealing with that (beyond a few lines in like one episode at the beginning of the season), and not committing herself to the future, no matter how much she says she is. It feels like she's trying to keep some sort of normalcy that she never actually had, because going to Quantico was always about not being who she is--not the delinquent that saw demons and lost her mom, not the Witness that fought the end of the world. It makes it look like she's rejecting Crane and Witnessdom again, or trying to have it all in that destructive way that means you aren't really fully doing any of it.

He's a symbol more than a character, and he's set up like a mirror image that never got to reflect anything. If they'd put more effort into building his backstory, giving him the screentime to have adventures and reactions of his own, maybe it would have been different. Right now, he's charming and good looking, but all we have is: ambitious, in the FBI, didn't exist before the time-jump.

Danny could have been a nice foil. He could have been someone new who is what she wants to be--or what she thinks she wants to be--and forced her to properly decide between being a full FBI agent and being a Witness. He could have made her stop trying to separate all the parts of her life (and there's still a little time for that, now that she's told him her Big Secret). He could have been using his own skills to actually find out about all this weird stuff that's going on, NOT just sitting back being a bad boss while she disappears and lies and is shifty as crap about it, and then stumbling upon the crazy with no forewarning. Think how having the FBI as more of an actual part of the story and not just that place Abbie goes to sometimes could have unified her scenes at work and at Witnessing.

Unfortunately, though, Danny has fallen into another of the many fumbles on this show, and he's doing his best with hardly any screentime and contradictory actions and lines. They made him someone she met while she was not being herself, away from the destiny that the whole show is about, and has been mostly avoiding and lying to. Now we're supposed to just believe that she's loved him all along. Shame. Poor Danny.

I'm getting too salty about him. Danny deserves better! And so does Abbie! Not this half-ass addressing the issues she had last season, a real devotion to the story!

*Not to mention that it's feeling racist? Like, I don't like getting into that, it's a loaded subject, but when there's multiracial leads, with a great built-up potential and great chemistry, and they force them apart to match up with same-race random others? It feels like putting people back in their place, and it's very uncomfortable.
**Twice! With the addition of the "clearly you're only sleeping with me because you can't have her" discussion that makes Weller look like a liar AND the "I used to know you and I still love you even though I have no idea who you are now" thing with Oscar and it's gross and it's the first thing I've hated on that show that I otherwise love.
***Even if they couldn't decide what her purpose was or what her story actually was.
****Tho so far, Sophie being the daughter of two archaeologists is more interesting and more definitive backstory than we have on Danny, and more useful to the story here...though there's literally never been enough backstory on any of the side characters on this show. Sophie came in with all these Corbin skills, and they never came back to the potential for Jenny to have just been one of many like her and what that could have done for her characters AND the world she works in.
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