'Sleepy Hollow' Shocker: Series Star Exits After Major Twist

Sources say the Fox drama is likely to return for season four.
Courtesy of FOX

How's that for a season finale?

Fox's Sleepy Hollow did the seemingly unthinkable during its third season finale Friday when series star Nicole Beharie's Abbie Mills shockingly was killed off of the genre drama.

"The [season] finale featuring the tragic death of Abbie Mills was a very dramatic ending and a bold move for the show, but Sleepy Hollow has always been known for its shocking finales," producers 20th Century Fox Television and showrunner Clifton Campbell said in a joint statement to THR. "We feel we provided a wonderfully poignant conclusion for Abbie and showed some of the best moments between the Witnesses that we’ve seen onscreen. We thank Nicole Beharie for bringing Abbie and Sleepy Hollow to life. We are currently discussing season four, and should the series be picked up for another season, we have some exciting scenarios and new avenues we want to explore."

The character's death marked the exclamation point in a season that featured Abbie and Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) teaming up to defeat big bads Pandora (Shannyn Sossamon) and The Hidden One (Peter Mensah). Abbie ultimately went out a hero, as she sacrificed her soul — and her life — in a bid to finally bring down Pandora. The finale came after Abbie was nearly killed off earlier this season, when her soul was taken to the catacombs — an alternate realm between life and death. But Ichabod was ultimately unable to rescue her this time, after Headless returned and Pandora confirmed that there was no bringing Abbie back.

For her part, Beharie has been a key part of Sleepy Hollow's success. Many attributed the show's first-season hit status to the chemistry between Beharie and lead Mison. Sources tell THR that Beharie had been unhappy and actively was trying to exit the series for quite some time. The character, sources say, originally was supposed to be killed off during the midseason finale, but insiders are said to have gotten cold feet.

News that Beharie will not be returning to the series comes as the Fox drama remains on the bubble as it awaits news on a potential fourth season. Sources tell THR that talks are underway to renew Sleepy Hollow, which is produced in-house by 20th Century Fox Television, with the studio already poised to turn a profit on the series. A renewal — which sources say is highly likely — would come as Fox is facing a sizable hole in its 2016-2017 schedule without juggernaut American Idol. Sources say Mison is in the midst of renegotiating his contract for season four after the actor successfully negotiated a reduced workload in season three. (Sources stress there has been no talk for a potential fourth season to be Sleepy Hollow's last.)

Moved to Fridays midseason and held to a lower set of standards, Sleepy Hollow's recent ratings on the night have been weak. The latest episode averaged only a 0.6 rating among adults 18-49 and 2.6 million viewers on the night it aired. Season-to-date ratings, which include its more robust showings on Thursdays at the top of the TV calendar, paint a slightly prettier picture. The show is nearing the end of its third season with an average 1.5 rating among adults 18-49 and 4.9 million viewers, per Nielsen's live-plus-7 returns.

Beharie's exit caps a rebooted third season of the series, which underwent a number of changes, including adding new showrunner Campbell (The Glades). Lance Gross and Zach Appelman (whose character also was killed off last week) joined fellow new series regulars Nikki Reed — as Betsy Ross — and Sossamon, among others. The series also moved from North Carolina to Atlanta in a bid to take advantage of tax rebates, as producers at 20th TV sought to reduce the costs associated with the genre drama.

Sleepy Hollow caps a deadly week on the small screen that featured multiple series regulars and recurring guest stars being killed off, as broadcast and cable networks alike use the plot point to draw eyeballs and make headlines. Gone are Arrow's Laurel Lance (played by Katie Cassidy); Vikings' Yidu (Dianne Doan) and Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey); Empire's Camilla (Naomi Campbell) and Mimi (Marisa Tomei); and The Americans' Nina (Annet Mahendru), as well as one of 11 stars on AMC's The Walking Dead, which ended with a massive cliff-hanger.