‘Wynonna Earp’ is Revolutionizing Westerns

Sure, it’s a Western with outlaws, tumbleweeds, a beloved saloon, liquor for breakfast, and a central lawperson wielding a gun, but it’s revolutionizing how we look at this genre of TV and comics.

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Waverly and Nicole in Season 3

Twenty-four years ago, the first issue of Wynonna Earp was published as part of a five-issue series by Image Comics. Comic book writer Beau Smith told a crowd at Wondercon that he drew inspiration for the series from his childhood idea of the legendary Wyatt Earp battling monsters instead of western outlaws. Rather than set the comic in the Old West, Smith opted for a contemporary setting because it felt more realistic to the supernatural battles brewing in his mind. This time jump was what ultimately led Smith to fictionalize a family tree for childless Earp. And so, the U.S. Marshal and Earp’s great-great-granddaughter Wynonna was born. Her story continues in subsequent series, anthologies, and graphic novels published in the early 2000s. In 2015, Syfy acquired the rights to bring Wynonna Earp to television.

 

Wynonna Earp Season One Promo

Wynonna Earp Season 1 promo photo | Via Amazon.com

I’ll admit that I had my reservations when I first came across the show in 2016. Horror, demons, and Westerns aren’t exactly on my list of go-to favorites. I’d heard of it in the first place because one of the show’s central couples, Waverly Earp (Wynonna’s baby sister) and Officer Nicole Haught, was getting a lot of attention and praise from the LGBTQIA+ community. Good representation, especially for queer women, is exceedingly difficult to find on television. Our characters are often minor, stereotyped, or dead before the finale—and perpetually barred from happiness. Just for good measure. The promise of seeing an actual, authentic depiction of myself on screen was enough to for me push my reservations aside. I was far from disappointed.

 

 

As someone who typically watches comedies and cooking shows, I figured that my attention would revolve around Waverly and Nicole (#Wayhaught or bust). The other plot lines would just be necessary background noise to get through for the prospect of some rainbow-filled content. However, the first episode proved me wrong—and it doesn’t even include Waverly and Nicole. We meet former juvenile delinquent and all-around walking disaster Wynonna Earp as she travels back to her brilliantly titled hometown of Purgatory for her uncle’s funeral. It’s there that she learns she’s become the new Earp heir destined to end her family’s curse. On her 27th birthday, Wynonna inherits Wyatt’s old gun: Peacemaker. This magical pistol allows her to send revenants, the reincarnated souls of the outlaws Wyatt killed, back to Hell.

She is swiftly recruited by U.S. Deputy Marshal Xavier Dolls of the Black Badge Division for his cross-border task force. Their job is to investigate supernatural activity in the territory surrounding Purgatory, also conveniently known as the Ghost River Triangle. Waverly joins the team as an expert researcher and local history expert, with Nicole soon following suit as a connection to local law. Doc Holliday rounds out the original squad after a brief, 130 year stay at the bottom of the well. Wait until you hear how Wyatt’s former best friend and fastest gunslinger in the West survived to see the twenty-first century. And so, the adventure begins. Buckle up folks. You are not at all prepared for the wild ride ahead.

 

Wynonna, Wavery, and Doc

Waverly, Wynonna, and Doc | Via Eonline.com

 

Season one follows Wynonna as she aims to track down and condemn every revenant who attacked her family’s home when she was a kid. The ambush killed her father and led to her sister Willa’s kidnapping. She continually goes head to head against Bobo Del Rey, the leader of the revenants who has a strong affinity for Macklemore-thrift-shop-esque fur coats. The second season poses two new antagonists, specifically a pair of face-snatching black widows who are determined to bring their demon husband back from the dead. It’s Sister Wives like TLC never could’ve imagined. Season three boasts biblical implications as Wynonna and her team fight to keep demons out of the Garden of Eden. Add in two fallen angels and another born to protect the literal Stairway to Heaven and this modern Genesis will have you on the edge of your seat. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has halted production for season four, but the first six episodes have already been released and address the aftermath of the biblical battle. More episodes can be expected in 2021.

Wynonna Earp surprised me. Sure, it’s a Western in the sense that it features outlaws, tumbleweeds, a beloved saloon, hard liquor for breakfast, and a central lawperson wielding a gun. At the same time, it’s revolutionizing how we look at this genre of television and comic books. This show, despite its rugged, darn tootin toughness, is about human struggle at its core. Wynonna constantly questions if there’s more to her than being the Earp heir and how she can make up for her past. Waverly grapples with different aspects of her identity throughout each season, whether it be her sexuality or her sense of place in the Earp lineage. Nicole has to face the scrutiny of being an outsider, and Doc is forced to confront mortality. Dolls’ struggles do err on the side of supernatural. Even still, his storyline and character development humanize them.

 

 

I’ve been with this show for four years now, and it truly is unlike anything else on television. Melanie Scrofano is an absolute delight as Wynonna and will make you genuinely laugh out loud at least once per episode with her one liners. You never know which way the plot is going to turn—and frankly could never guess—due to the creative quality of the writing. The monsters and demons and ghosts get more ridiculous in the best of ways as the seasons progress. So much thought is put into bringing each character to life and carrying them through their own, complete story arc that you want to see through until the end.

Then, there are Waverly and Nicole. I would argue that they are one of the best female queer couples on television. At the very least, they are the best I’ve ever seen. Wynonna Earp does justice to every important step in their relationship. From the second they meet, the chemistry is palpable. You can watch them flirt and blush and smile and ultimately develop feelings that are too strong to not address. Their relationship flourishes as they support each other through real life challenges and take on the Earp curse side-by-side. The writers give you those tender, private moments that are often reserved solely for the partners who get to experience them. It’s impossible to not see the love in Nicole’s eyes every time she looks at Waverly, and vice versa. Their relationship is real and mature and given the time and space it deserves in the series. Depending on where you are in the world or what situation you may be living in, being queer can be incredibly isolating. It’s reassuring to see them find each other in the most unlikely of places and still get to have a beautiful and fulfilling love story. It gives you hope.

 

Waverly and Nicole

Waverly and Nicole | Via Showbiz cheatsheet

 

Smith himself has been inspired by the show and launched a reboot of the comic series at the same time of the television series’ production. He told Fandom that collaborating with showrunner Emily Andras has helped him build ideas for the reboot and ultimately incorporate both the humor and darkness from the show into the comic’s storylines. Picking up Wynonna Earp Volume 1: Homecoming and Wynonna Earp Volume 2: Legends may be the perfect way to pass time until we’re gifted with the rest of season four.

Feature image via Den of Geek