A welcome, utterly unexpected fireball whizzed onto our television screens amidst a bleak period, and exploded into quite the social media storm.
In the sombre aftermath of some creative decisions on television that left social media reeling, a small show on Syfy named ‘Wynonna Earp’ aired. Slowly it trickled, crackled and then exploded. The premise is this: the eponymous protagonist, Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano), returns to her hometown, Purgatory, after years. Purgatory’s two things. One: Wynonna’s home. Two: the host to a freaky gathering of demon ‘Revenants’. No, this wasn’t the simple prodigal sister story. This was ‘Buffy’ impregnating ‘Charmed’ and Clint Eastwood and expelling a steroidal, quick-witted beast.
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Originating from the graphic novels by Beau Smith Ranch, it was adapted for television by Emily Andras (‘Lost Girl’, ‘Killjoys’). Boasting both a grin-inducing, enjoyable thirteen episodes as well as an immensely talented cast, if ‘Wynonna Earp’ wasn’t a winner it was certainly a charmer at least. Bluntly, the show is imperfect. It is jagged, bumpy and production effects were questionable sometimes (note: not bad). But it depends on what you look for shows. Do you want another unnecessarily grim show that lacks substance apart from ‘grim’? Or another flavour?
Lastly, do you want Melanie Scrofano on your television screen? (Hint: the answer’s an unequivocal ‘yes’).
Though it took some time to lay the foundations of Purgatory, the latter half (especially post episode seven) rocketed into pummeling, enjoyable drama.
Weekly, Wynonna hunted down the Seven with help from Dolls (Shamier Anderson), Doc Holliday (Tim Rozon) and Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley). Easily, the season could’ve been split into a procedural 1A and a serialised 1B. After episodes seven and eight, the nature of the series changed drastically. The pacing upped by miles and it became a tight, entertaining ride.
It was both a pro and a con. The mythology and background of the story had to be set by Wynonna’s hunt before Willa’s (Natalie Krill) rushed introduction. But in doing so, it meant the first half did slack. Perhaps if Willa had been more prominent in 1A, it might’ve helped in solving a difficult problem.
For example, if Waverly’s story about walking across the beam had been told to Wynonna, Willa’s clues into being someone not quite as pure as her memory would’ve gelled into her reveal. It wouldn’t have ruined the facade. But hint-drops along the way for a hugely re-watchable season could’ve given many “ahhh!” moments.
The pacing did pummel thus. It was particularly show-cased in the two-part finale where the finale was so rammed, some of it could’ve gone in the much slower episode twelve. Bobo’s arc all season was resolved in a singular episode. Yet if this season were split into 1A and 1B, it provides the argument of its lack of cohesiveness, and also a problem. If ‘Wynonna Earp’ had gassed it from the beginning, nothing would have made sense. Especially in a condensed thirteen episodes.
It was entirely #TooFemale, and that was absolutely perfect.
Wynonna, played to perfection by Melanie Scrofano was a joy to watch. An unpolished diamond, Scrofano shone as the protagonist who made mistakes. She was vulnerable. Who was angry, who drank. A damaged soul. And the show allowed that. It allowed for Wynonna to kick ass, to deliver a dumpsters of snark, to be a hero—and still nurse a wounded heart behind steely casing. If the famous phrase was ‘eyes are the gateway into the soul’ then Scrofano nailed it. Rather, it was a miracle somebody hadn’t uncovered Scrofano’s insatiable talent before, because she didn’t just portray Wynonna. She was Wynonna. Wynonna was like a second skin she slipped into, knew inside-out. And it showed.
Backing this up was Waverly, who presented the other side of kickass. It’s hesitancy that withholds the phrase ‘strong women’ in this, because what is a ‘strong’ woman? Waverly was the stark opposite to Wynonna’s brooding, gun-toting fighter. She was the intelligent, charming and painfully adorable younger sister. She was brave, facing the Stone Witch. Brave, taking the leap with Nicole. She was Dominique Provost-Chalkley, who kidnapped the souls of the fanbase with the “smile and wave”.
In addition, Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell) was confident, clever, sexy. The female Fitzwilliam Darcy post-brooding. The Blacksmith, traditionally a very masculine title, was the brilliant Rachel Ancheril. Constance Clootie was enchantingly, terrifyingly played by Rayisa Kondracki. Courageous Gus was Natascha Girgis. Even Doc liked a bit of lady country music in his pink Cadillac. ‘Wynonna Earp’ was delightfully too female and it was a triumph, not a setback.
Did we mention Ms. Emily Andras?
Of relationships, Wynonna Earp spun a wide web of interactions as every actor held their own.
Firstly, to speak of the cast’s acting would be to write the Odyssey. The wide range of chemistry was startling. From the instantly winning Wynonna/Waverly bond to Willa/Wynonna, Waverly/Nicole, Nicole/Wynonna, Dolls/Wynonna, Dolls/Doc, Doc/Wynonna, Willa/Bobo, Waverly/Bobo—you get the point.
This wasn’t a show limited by the same pairings every single week. Memorably, the top shelf ‘Walking After Midnight’ shook that up by unexpectedly pairing Nicole and Wynonna on a case. It spoke volumes of the tight-knit cast as every actor for every pairing absolutely held their own no matter who they interacted with.
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Furthermore, honourable mentions both go to Waverly for her relationships with Doc, Bobo and the conversation with Dolls. It goes especially to Waverly and Doc, who forged an unexpectedly captivating relationship. Simply, Provost-Chalkley with Tim Rozon was magical. It’s promising to set up a spider-web, rather than parallel lines, of interaction and chemistry. It propels us forward to a hopefully green-lit second season. Hence there isn’t a pairing that isn’t watchable. And it saves the show from viewers who watch simply for one character, as could be the case for a lot of other shows.
We want to root for this mismatched family. We want them to persevere. All of them.
‘WayHaught’: a ‘ship’ on the surface, a lot more to the LGBT fanbase if you delved beneath.
Firstly, fandom-lore dictates Waverly and Nicole wouldn’t be widely loved by all. It’s acknowledged the build-up would’ve been better spaced out. In a thirteen-episode order, it was always going to be difficult to do that pacing and that level of depth justice. It didn’t stop ‘Wynonna Earp’ tackling it with gusto, though.
It should perhaps be noted that the series was wrapped before the lurking history of the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope exploded (and before Ms. Barrell presumably got flooded with pictures of bulletproof vests on Twitter). Nonetheless, this was a story of Waverly and Nicole, both independently great characters.
Waverly, who abided to what was expected of her. Waverly, who confessed to her fears, and immediately shoved those aside for her heart’s desire. Nicole, who was alluring and self-assured of her sexuality from the moment she swept into Waverly’s life (and stole the fanbase’s hearts). The chemistry between Barrell and Provost-Chalkley is palpable, yes—but ‘WayHaught’ wasn’t just about that. It was the joining of two souls who had perhaps been blindly searching for each other, but more importantly, two characters that were already independent of each other.
Finally, it provided an interesting narrative too. Champ (Dylan Koroll) was disgusted by the relationship in an fit of internalised homophobia whilst Nicole had always been proud of who she was. Wynonna immediately accepted Waverly’s feelings for Nicole. A “smart one” at last. It was hope. There are Champs in this world. However, there’ll always be Nicoles (albeit…not quite Ms. Barrell) and Wynonnas (see last point). There’ll always be light.
Final Verdict: Imperfect, unpolished and jagged—just like our eponymous heroine—Wynonna Earp isn’t your brooding ‘True Detective’, but if you want a mega-dose of courageous fun to make you grin rabidly after each episode, it may be the show for you.
To come full-circle, this show is imperfect. However, it’s so subjective. The acting has been consistently brilliant. The production values have been commented on. The music was spot on every time. In addition, the writing has always been zippy and wry. Lastly, the cinematography offered some beautiful shots, from slight parallels to Doc watching the empty police car drive past to Waverly watching Doc leave Purgatory. There was a lovely pan-out of Willa and Wynonna in the finale. One sister shrouded in darkness. The other bathed in light.
Imperfection, as Wynonna has shown, doesn’t mean bad. It means that there’s a season two waiting, hopefully. It can be blisteringly fun. Imperfection can be perfectly cast. It can be a thoroughly enjoyable ride that we’ve been privileged to cling onto. It can bring hope and rejuvenate young viewers with a smile. ‘Wynonna Earp’ won’t be winning Emmys any time soon, but it’s sprouted a fun, beautiful community. Its humble cast and show-runner have cheered many, globally, for their genuine social media engagement. Television isn’t just on television anymore. It’s within our hearts. On the Internet. On after-show hangouts and podcasts.
‘Wynonna Earp’ isn’t a pretender. It isn’t something without its writing and production value issues. But that aside, the effects on Peacemaker were beautiful. It inspired a fanbase. Inspiration, community, adoration. Isn’t that television now? Otherwise, I’d lament the answer.
Therefore, all that is left is “thank you”. It’s always an honour to watch a nut-cracking show fire-up social media again.