Not many people know about the cult classic series, Wynonna Earp. However, those interested in strong female characters, a barrage of supernatural with a splash of ridiculous, and some excellent action-based horror-studded drama, will find this the perfect show to sink their teeth into. We don’t have too many shows that bring ‘cowboy culture’ into the 21st century, but Wynonna Earp is surprisingly addicting for something so bonkers. The rich narrative is cliché yet fresh, a great combination!
If you’re looking for Buffy-meets-Billy the Kid, there you have found the perfect match.
Taking inspiration from real-life incidents and people from the ‘Old West,’ this series brings a strange beauty to rural US town life. Many of the characters in the show come straight from the pages of history. The gunfight at OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, is a well-known episode in US history, where a 30-second shootout between cowboys and ‘lawmen’ became a chronicled event. One of the people present at the shootout was Wyatt Earp, a lawman, whose life and story become the basis of the conception of this show.
The show starts with a bang (and a murder!) If you are a fan of campy horror, this is sure to soon become your fix. Wynonna Earp crosses over into the territory of intentionally bad thus brilliant in many different ways. We can’t always be bothered to watch great TV, and that is exactly the expectation this show meets. The show is based on a sci-fi comic book series of the same name by Beau Smith, and the premise is a woman and her gun against hell’s spawn in the town called Purgatory. There might be a lot of western motifs and concepts threaded through the series, but the first few minutes take care of any misconceptions you might have vis-à-vis the theme of the show.
The protagonist of the show, Wynonna Earp herself, is one of the most interesting (if not the most innovative) characters. Introduced as a reckless miscreant, on the eve of her 27th birthday, Wynonna comes into the show – and our lives – as a strong, bullish, amazing young woman. Melanie Scrofano’s Wynonna might seem like your typical rebel with biker-chic attire, but as the show progresses it becomes painfully obvious that she is not an ordinary character. She is a strong woman, pitted against a mob of villagers with pitchforks and anger at her deviance from the usual, sunny, western gal.
Welcome to the Horror Camp
One of the best things about the show is that it does not take itself seriously. Media in our time has been flooded with many shows, films, and books that take themselves too seriously, thus getting carried away in their self-importance. While there might be some great, well-made shows that can carry off narcissism, many don’t. We are left to deal with moralizing, cloying characters, and a strain of seriousness that runs throughout the narrative. Thankfully, Wynonna Earp is above all that. The dialogue is punchy and hilariously cliché, and the occasional snazzy B-grade horror-flick lines delivered with utmost confidence elevate the situation and make most scenes unexpectedly enjoyable.
This is a show where dialogues like, “Eat shit, shit-eaters” coexist with something as profound as “I am my own damn weapon!” You will probably roll your eyes multiple times, but the smile is going to stay fixed on your lips. Coupled with a ton of bad CGI, campy acting, and absurd themes, this show promises to be a great filler for those hours when you do not have the emotional capability of watching something new and good but want to keep Netflix going, even if your attention is not going to be at a 100%.
A shotgun blast succeeded by the characters looking aggravatedly at each other and saying, “For once, I just wish we could take a demon that isn’t such a talker, you know?” is the whole premise of the situation, and it is glorious!
Meet Some Strong Women
Another very important reason why Wynonna Earp is a brilliant show is because of the women on screen. There are some fantastic and strong female characters in the series, as you might expect given the title. However, it is not only Wynonna who is an intriguing and interesting player. We have many other women – as main characters, side characters, as well as antagonists – who are well-written and explored. The top among these would be the character of Waverly Earp, Wynonna’s sister and confidante. A lot of shows have strong women characters, but strength does not always mean being ‘badass’, wearing leather and punching things. Wynonna might be your stereotypical strong female character, but Waverly Earp is interesting because she is canonically ‘soft’.
An exemplar illustration of the usual, sunny midwestern gal, Waverly Earp bursts onto the scene with pizzazz, as well as a shotgun waving into the face of her boyfriend’s ostensible mistress. Over the episodes, however, you understand the nuance of her character. A young girl, abandoned by her family, and trying to do her best, Waverly encompasses the heavy resentment of being left behind, which interacts with her accommodating and cheerful personality. Though she is not like Wynonna, the ‘wild child’, Waverly possesses a soft determination and strength that often put the eponymous heroine to shame. Her feminine, erudite attitude is in no way seen as a negative, and she is just as strong as Wynonna’s hard-headed character – a fact that is reinforced multiple times through the series.
Shift Away from the Male Gaze
Another great thing about Waverly Earp (and the series) is that it portrays a female homosexual relationship without making it cringe-inducing and sexual. The series explores female bonds and is very open to alternative sexuality.
Waverly goes through her sexual awakening on screen as she falls in love with Officer Nicole Haught. The tender, confused, and realistic portrayal of a lesbian relationship on screen is a definite tick mark on the series’ roster. The relationships are not vilified and the couple gets a good amount of support and love from their peers, but the show does a great job of subtly portraying the antagonism that same-sex couples face in small towns.
Homosexual relationships that move away from a masculine worldview are rare, and many succumb to fetishization and over-sexualizing of the characters. While this show does make the relationship sensual, it is done tastefully – far away from the line of sight of the male gaze.
Feel the Sisterhood
The female solidarity in the show is another plus point. There are many female relationships, romantic and non, and these are often brilliantly represented. The bond between Wynonna and Waverly is the epitome of sisterhood. Even when blood and the family-bond are questioned, the alliance and the sisterhood stay unbreakable. The relationships between Nicole, Wynonna, Waverly, Rosita, and others are complex, intricate, and profound, and they form the bedrock on which the show balances.
The relationships are not as cut-and-dry as mere friends, lovers, sisters, etc. They are layered and multi-faceted. Rosita and Wynonna are technically mortal enemies, but that does not stop them from working together and respecting one another till the very end. Waverly Earp is best recognised as Wynonna’s sister and Officer Haught’s girlfriend, but she is much more than that. Her sunny disposition allows/enables her to make friends in every clutch within the series. She befriends, and trusts, Rosita, at par with any of her family members. This theme of female solidarity is refreshing and powerful.
Even the antagonists, mostly women, are well-developed and emotionally rich. From the witch, Constance Clootie to the Widows – Mercedes and Beth Gardner – the antagonists are interesting and hauntingly supernatural!
Call Out Some Misogyny
In general, the relationships in the series are well rounded and thoroughly thought out. But what is striking is that despite the many love affairs, convoluted triangles, and unrequited feelings, women in the series are not defined through men.
Wynonna is unapologetically flawed, emotionally complex, and refuses to allow men to shape her life, even though there are many whom she respects and adores. As Doc Holliday professed emphatically, “She ain’t nobody’s but her own!” Despite being set in what can only be called an agonizingly narrow-minded geographical location, Wynonna Earp is overtly feminist and boldly calls out misogyny and prejudice.
Explore Morality and Ask Hard Questions
The show delves into some of the grey areas that most shows of this calibre don’t dare touch with a pole. The morality of murder and taking lives is heavily championed, especially when it comes to revenants and their lives. Are these demons worse than humans? What makes them less?
There is a horde of red-eyed demons who are itching to spread their fire and brimstone thinking all over the land, but there are a couple of revenants who make the trigger-happy Wynonna (and the audience) pause. Bobo del Ray, the main antagonist of season one, is shown through a human lens. As we go into his history we can’t help but wonder, which other revenants have been painted red and black by virtue of being something they cannot help being.
Rosita, Levi, Fish all are victims that one cannot but feel sorry for despite them sporting blood-red eyes and having hellfire coursing through their veins.
Lament Over the Stereotypes
There are a few token characters that bring a little bit of an annoyance factor (cue the ‘bullies and bitches’ of Purgatory and the vehement champions of the ‘Earps r Weird’ banner). The women who vilify the Earp sisters in Purgatory deserved better. In a show which has written many wholesome female characters, introducing antiquated stereotypes seems like a bit of a cop-out.
From Waverly Earp’s childhood friends who come with barbs and stingers to Wynona’s overbearing aunt – many great characters with great potential to be well-written negative figures in the girls’ tale were sadly typecast into gaslighting, hollow personas. There were many routes that the show could have taken with these women, especially after creating a deep and rich emotional background for the Earp sisters.
Debate Over the Excess of Firearms
Another one of the things that might not be great about the series, especially in the present climate, would be its views on gun control. It could be argued that the west, especially a small town like Purgatory, would probably not have any problems keeping their firearms close to their heart. But with the other, very progressive views that can be seen through the show, this aspect does let one down a little.
There are many excellent shows online, and new ones pop up every other day. Online streaming platforms have become a manufacturing unit of experiences, innovation, and novelty. While watching new things and keeping up with the wave of social media is important, sometimes, you do not have the emotional and mental capacity to start something new. With every new piece of media we consume comes the unknown, which means a free reign to emotions. In this new-age atmosphere of watching ‘new’ every day, emotions can get exhausted, and we need palate cleansers – shows that could offer an emotional regulation.
Wynonna Earp is the perfect palate cleanser. It does not excite unduly, and while the experience is pleasant, the show does not agitate to the point of negative impact. With Wynonna Earp, you can experience bold topics without your heart aching. With laughter and oft-repeated maxims, great characters, and good representation, Wynonna Earp will make its way into your ‘favourites list’ soon.
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