The first thing I ever saw of Wynonna Earp was an article on why the series needed a 2nd season—the first one currently airing. It was this article, in fact, which made me look up the new supernatural western TV series. The article headline had an image of the eponymous protagonist, Wynonna Earp, and a man dressed like a cowboy, which I hoped was the ancient lawman himself, in ghost form or something similar—which sadly wasn’t the case.
Wynonna Earp opens with the character returning to her hometown of Purgatory, for the funeral of her uncle. On the way, the bus she’s on breaks down and one of the passengers walks into the bushes for a little pee, despite Wynonna’s warnings not to leave at night. Obviously something appalling happens to her and while the driver and passengers take off, Wynonna braves the night. Something attacks her, moving too fast for human senses.
But because it’s merely the start of the series, the creature doesn’t kill her as it did the other girl but instead knocks her to the floor at the exact stroke of midnight, at which point Wynonna’s family superpower kicks in, allowing her to not only see but also fight the creature, stabbing it in the eye. It’s the first of many “chosen one” moments this series has and which frankly annoy the living hell out of me.
Turns out, Wynonna is the black sheep of the family, now forced to return to deal with the troubles that curse the members of the Wyatt family, to fight off dozens of demons, all tied to Wyatt Earp as they died at his hands but returning to life as demons in every generation. It sounds like an interesting concept, but to be honest I’ve seen it before, many times.
Still, the series seemed to have the potential to tell some great stories mixing historical fact with supernatural elements, which as I’ve mentioned in the past is something I quite enjoy. But then the series fell through on its promises by not using real historical facts but the popularised version of Wyatt’s life, such as the OK Corral—the gunfight did not happen there, but in a lot some distance away—and the damn Buntline Special Colt, the long-barrelled one that one author said Wyatt favoured above all weapons—for which there is no historical fact at all.
If I can thank the show for something it’s reigniting my love for true western histories and as I watched the first two episodes and saw what they did with Wyatt’s history, I did some fact-checking, to confirm that what I knew was correct and it was, which made me feels disappointed at Wynonna Earp like you wouldn’t believe. This was no long an alternate history series, with supernatural elements to further spice what is already the story-rich life of one of the most famous lawmen of the old west, but a show with lazy writers taking the easy road to build a mythos around Wyatt Earp and his descendants.
I have seen all the elements before. A town with a recurring curse—Haven. A family with a supernatural ability and destined to vanquish evil: too many to count, but let’s use a game reference, Castlevania. Then there’s the black sheep of the family as the unwitting hero. There’s very little in Wynonna Earp that is truly original. The historical elements are the only real draw but they’re tenuous at best.
To make matters worse, they added a stupid US Marshal belonging to an offshoot branch no one knows about and which Theodore Roosevelt formed to handle “the unexplained.” They could’ve called it anything, something unique, fun, mysterious and interesting but they opted simply for “Black Badge,” because creativity is dead. And by adding in this ridiculous character, the series instantly becomes a police procedural, with the weekly revenant responsible for some murders.
I could’ve forgiven this bland “organisation” if only the US Marshal character was any good, but it’s the typical hardass all-business character that has as much personality and charisma as a wooden spoon. Also, he has absolutely no chemistry with the rest of the cast and it’s a shame because I do love Melanie Scrofano’s portrayal of Wynonna and you can feel how much she’s trying to create that rapport with her co-star, and it just doesn’t work. He’s an emotional void.
The rest of the secondary cast is pretty good though and they have lovely scenes with Wynonna, though the lesbian sheriff deputy Haught, of course pronounced hot, is a bit over the top and is only there to give Wynonna’s sister Waverly—all their names start with ‘W’—some bi-curious feels, which I wouldn’t really mind if it weren’t so incredibly obvious and frankly a bit forced. It’s amazing how characters can “come on too strong” in series and we’re just supposed to go with it. That’s not how it works in real life. Push too hard from the outset and no matter your orientation, you’re going to get a resounding “back off!”
Then we come to the McGuffin in the series, the Peacemaker, the Buntline special that is apparently the only thing that can kill the revenants. They call it “the Peacemaker” but not “The Colt” and why is that? Because then it sounds a bit too much like Supernatural, where The Colt is iconic. In fact, at times, it felts as if the production of this series had come from someone saying, “Let’s give The Colt its own show and make it Wyatt Earp’s gun!”
Personally, I would’ve used the Smith & Wesson that Earp had with him during that historical gunfight. It would’ve grounded the show much more in ‘reality’ and that would of course help the supernatural elements as well.
So far, after two episodes I can say Wynonna Earp has left with this opinion: “Meh.” I’ve seen all the elements in this series before, and I can’t really say this series nails any of them. I’ll continue to watch it—the season ended last month so all episodes are available—hoping it finds its feet and can tell its story without so many “chosen one” references, which always annoy the living hell out of me.
Also, the main character is genuinely good.
I’ll be back with a review when I’ve completed the season.