Feature image courtesy of NBC Universal
Spoilers below for the pilot episode of Wynonna Earp.
A brown-haired bad girl in a leather jacket — running from her past, hiding from her mistakes, staying away to protect the people she loves — gets coerced into sticking around to fight bad guys because she has a hidden hero’s heart to complement her superpowers. Am I talking about Jessica Jones or Lost Girl? Neither, actually! I’m talking about Syfy’s new drama, Wynonna Earp, a show that feels like Jessica Jones and Bo Dennis had a super Canadian baby, designated Buffy Summers her godmother, and raised her deep in the heart of Texas.
Based on the IDW comic book of the same name, Wynonna Earp tells the story of Wyatt Earp’s great-great granddaughter, who left her home town of Purgatory as soon as she was old enough, but is drawn back on the eve of her 27th birthday to attend her uncle’s funeral. His isn’t the only death Wynonna has to deal with; on the way into Purgatory, her bus breaks down and her seat mate gets dragged into the woods and decapitated. Who’s doing these dastardly deeds? Demons, duh. The 77 people Wyatt Earp killed with his gun, The Peacemaker, are reincarnated when the heir to his firearm turns 27. It was the fate of Wynonna’s father to destroy them, and now it’s her own destiny. (It’s a little more complicated than that, successor-wise, but I don’t want to spoil all of Wynonna’s angst.)
Wynonna is, of course, joined by a ragtag team of demon-hunting wannabes. There’s her frenetic younger sister, Waverly Earp, who has put in the research and is ready to get down to business. There’s the supremely archetypal Special Agent Dolls from the U.S. government’s Paranormal Research Division, who basically blackmails Wynonna into joining his team after he catches her retrieving The Peacemaker from the place she buried it a decade ago and witnesses her taking down two demons with it. There’s Officer Haught (pronounced Officer Hot), who, rumor has it, is going to make this show “hella gay.” And then there’s Doc Holiday. Or the ghost of Doc Holiday. Or the good guy demon of Doc Holiday. Of all the Canadians doing random Southern accents, his is by far the worst and my favorite.
Like all pilots, this one is full of introduction and exposition, but it elevates itself above Syfy’s usual paint-by-numbers premiere episodes. Wynnonna also knows exactly what shows audiences are going to compare it to, and leans into those similarities with a perfect mix fondness and camp. That second thing links it most closely to Lost Girl, a series that never took itself too seriously, and it makes sense that Wynonna Earp would embrace that part of its potential because former Lost Girl showrunner Emily Andras is at the helm here too.
Despite the fact that I was able to call up three female-fronted pulpy action shows to compare this one to, there’s still a dearth of lady-led series in this heavily male-dominated genre, and there’s never been a woman heading up a paranormal western. And this one has a female showrunner who has a long history of understanding what makes queer fandom’s heart go KABOOM. There’s a good balance here between humor, heart, and the supernatural monsters Syfy requires to make the whole thing worth their time. In fact, the amount of gore — accomished through inevitably low-budget CGI — is pretty shocking. There’s a human head on a pike in the middle of a forest, and some dumb schmuck gets his literal tongue yanked right out of his mouth! (The landscape, however, is real and wonderful.)
If Wynonna Earp can juggle that balance and continue to trust their engaging, kickass heroine to shoulder the show’s most important emotional moments, we won’t be able to leave Purgatory either.