Sunday, January 26, 2014

I've just made the weirdest discovery of all time.

SPOILERS for Sleepy Hollow season 1, Doctor Who series 5 and 6, The Vampire Diaries season 5, Torchwood season 2, and, perhaps most saliently, Angel seasons 3 and 4.

Okay, so I just finished the season finale of Sleepy Hollow, and I have a problem. For those of you who didn’t watch (and yet decided to read a blog post full of spoilers), the first season of Sleepy Hollow ends with Ichabod and his wife Katrina’s long-lost (thought dead by everybody but the viewers) son, Jeremy, turning out to be the second Horseman of the Apocalypse, played by John Noble. In the very last scene of the episode, Jeremy, having broken the second seal of the Apocalypse, buries Ichabod alive in the same coffin in which Jeremy himself had been buried alive 200 years before (magic having accounted for his slow aging and failure to die).

Now, I have no problem with this plot development per se. Actually, when you get right down to it, I have no problems with Sleepy Hollow whatsoever, because although it is insane, it’s a lot of fun. My problem is that I have seen this plot development before. In fact, the more I think about it, the more “long-lost child turns up, having aged considerably, and buries their parent alive” looks like it is having a bizarrely specific heyday as a sci-fi/fantasy trope.

For instance: Consider The Vampire Diaries. At the very end of season 4, Stefan gets locked in a safe and dropped into a lake by his doppelganger, the very evil Silas. At just around the same time (about two episodes later), Katherine discovers that this witch/gypsy chick named Nadia who’s been hanging around is actually the daughter that was taken from her 500 years before, who grew up, got herself turned into a vampire, and went off in search of her mother. Naturally, Nadia is kind of evil (Katherine is her mother, after all). Okay, I’ll grant you that it’s not exactly the same—the parent isn’t the one buried alive, and the child isn’t the one who did it—but it’s a little coincidental.

So let’s look at another case: Torchwood. In Torchwood season 2, the immortal Jack Harkness’s long-lost (thought dead!) little brother, Gray, shows up—I don’t remember how, considering Gray was born three millennia in the future, but whatever. Gray, naturally, has aged considerably, and one of the first things that he does upon reuniting with his brother is to take Jack two millennia back into the past, and bury him alive under what will one day be Cardiff. Because of course, Gray is evil. See? That’s like, exactly what happens in Sleepy Hollow, except it’s a brother, not a child.

Then, to stay within the same fictional universe, we have Doctor Who, series 5 and 6. It’s well known by now that Amy and Rory’s baby, stolen from them pretty much the second we find out she exists at all, turns out to be River Song, who is of course considerably aged from babyhood. She’s also, it transpires, kind of evil. River Song never buries anybody alive, but in series 5, both the Doctor and Amy get essentially buried alive in the Pandorica, and though I can’t for the life of me remember how, I’m pretty sure it’s somehow because of River. Or the Doctor’s name. Or something.

Finally, we have my personal favorite and (in TV Tropes parlance) most triumphant example, Angel. In Angel season 3, Angel and his vampire ex-girlfriend Darla have a baby, named Connor. It’s never really explained how two vampires had a baby, except possibly because an evil god decided they should in order to end the world. I don’t know, Angel got really confusing after a while. Anyway, Connor gets kidnapped like three days after he’s born and taken to a Hell dimension, so everybody’s pretty sure that he’s dead. But then like a week later, he shows up, aged considerably from babyhood, and then he locks his father in a coffin and drops him into the ocean. Because, y’know, Connor’s kind of evil.

All of these examples are from the last 15 years, and I’m starting to become concerned not just that “long-lost, thought-dead child shows up, aged considerably, and is evil” is a trope, but that for some reason, it seems to be linked to live burial. But that’s still not really my problem.

My real problem is that of the five I’ve listed, Angel is the one that happened earliest (in 2002). This leads me to fear that for the past decade, sci-fi/fantasy television has been looking to season four of Angel for its tropes and devices. I don’t know how many of you have seen the fourth season of Angel, but if I’m right, that means that sci-fi/fantasy is on the path to becoming a very strange, nonsensical, and infuriating place.

So please. If you can think of any example of the long-lost child trope that is connected to live burial that happened earlier than 2002, let me know in the comments. I would love to have my faith in the future of sci-fi/fantasy restored.