There are a lot of parallels between Wynonna Earp and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – being the Chosen One/Heir, being a bit of a troublemaker, having a younger sister and, oh, yeah, being tasked with slaying evil supernatural entities.
The primary big differences are: not having Joss Whedon writing/producing her exploits; having a much smaller budget, and being more a Western in Purgatory rather than a High School is Hell scenario.
Though it’s not as polished and smart as Buffy, Wynonna Earp is a series that is a lot of fun on its own terms – with a mythology that’s different enough to be surprising.
I admit coming to Wynonna Earp late – death, illness and eye surgery have put me well behind on all fronts – but better late than never (especially for a Canadian series with a glorious B-movie feel to it).
The mythology says that all those killed by Wyatt Earp have returned to life as demons and that they can only be returned to Hell by a bullet from Earp’s famous Buntline Special, Peacemaker, wielded by an Earp heir.
The present heir is Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano, The Listener, Gangland Undercover) recently returned to her hometown of Purgatory and inheritor of the legendary pistol. She’s been drafted by Deputy Marshall Xavier Dolls (Shamier Anderson, Defiance, The Next Step), a by the book type who is more than he appears to be.
Over the first nine episodes of the series, Wynonna – with the support of her genius researcher of a sister, Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley, Brittania High) and John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday (Tim Rozon, Being Human, Schitt’s Creek) – has faced off with several revenants, led by the charmingly named Bobo Del Rey (Michael Eklund, Bates Motel, Continuum) – who has just bought the Earp family’s bar, shooters to give himself a base in town (and to tweak Wynonna).
Waverly has just decided (after breaking up the hunky but not adorably brainless town jock) that she wants to pursue a relationship with town cop, Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell) – who works for Purgatory’s Sheriff Neadly (who is far brighter than he seemed at first).
This week’s episode, She Wouldn’t Be Gone, finds Wynonna and Dolls on the trail of the one revenant that actually scares Bobo, Lou (Gord Rand, Orphan Black) – whilke Doc makes a fateful decision (he learns to drive…).
Under the name Jysk, Lou has founded a sweet little cult and has collected a group of followers composed of young runaway girls. When one of them displeases him, he casts her out – marking her forehead for a wolf to chase down and kill (but not before torturing her). Next to him, Bobo almost seems like a sweetheart.
Unfortunately, Wynonna and Dolls become the hunted and find themselves in the cult’s house in the woods (turns out Dolls has a bit of a problem with forests…).
There’s lots of stuff going on in this ep – beginning with a girl begging for help as a wolf chases her down before cutting to Wynonna and Waverly storming into Shooters in a seeming rage before retreating in mock frustration (Waverly has planted a bug so they can listen in – but the revenants don’t talk about much – except for a mention of Lou, which kicks things off).
There’s no point in not mentioning that Wynonna Earp, the series, makes do with somewhat cheesy effects (cheaper and less time consuming to create) it’s obvious every time one of the revenants shifts to his real face. What matters though, is context. (also, there’s a certain charm to them…)
Like other Canadian supernatural series (like, say, Lost Girl or Bitten, for example), the sheer velocity of the storytelling zips us past the effects to one emotional high (or low) to another. I’m sure there are continuity gaffes but they’re passed so quickly that it’s easy to just get up in the fun.
Where the series shines is in its main characters – all of whom are variations on ones we’ve seen before, but are given life by a cast that is totally committed to them. Cast chemistry is another positive factor – these people play well with each other and their enjoyment comes through onscreen.
I haven’t read the graphic novel (by Beau Smith) that the series is based on, but given how much fun the show is, I might have to pick it up.
Final Grade: B+