So the second season of Wynonna Earp is over. Yet again it raised two, technically at one point three if you like counting, fingers at the Bury your gays trope. But, to paraphrase a line from Orphan Black, it’s sexuality is not the most interesting about it.
Don’t get me wrong, being a safe space for gay characters, while giving them drama - some of which a group of fans don’t like because for any form of drama (not only involving gay characters but especially involving gay characters) there’s a trope and it’s BAD!!! - is a significant part of this show just not necessarily the most interesting thing. I would, to be honest, rather the characters have some sort of realistic drama - and I felt it was realistic - and live than have no drama and become very boring or weird, concocted drama that doesn’t make any sense, or just get killed off. But maybe that’s just me.
In other news, Wynonna, or more accurately Melanie Scofano, the actress that plays the part, reported back for the start of Season 2 pregnant. There are a lot of ways this could have been handled, particularly since Wynonna is blatantly, happily single. Canadian TV is, fortunately, a bit more liberal than US TV but this is jointly funded. But they went for it, embraced her pregnancy and told the story of a pregnant, demon-killing, whisky drinking (although not so much after she found out she was pregnant) crazy chick with a gun. It helps, of course, that they’re filming in Alberta in winter - Wynonna was in big coats (and not really showing) until they decided (ep 5) to do the big reveal, and carried on in big coats after that. Being a fantasy-based show, they had a time-stop, courtesy of a demon that could make everyone sleep for months but keep time outside from passing - for some reason Wynonna and her baby were immune to his spell - so she went from not showing to showing “overnight” as far as the world went. Some other shows have more or less embraced this, The X-Files and Xena both spring to mind, but not in their second season, and not as a single mother who is still really a wild-child with a totally unplanned pregnancy and no obvious means of raising a child. But real women face these sorts of choices and it was brought through in the show quite wonderfully.
I’m not sure how much this news resulted in a major rewrite of what we saw - I know it did but the details of what haven’t been made public. The end of season 1 had Gooverly - goo-infected Waverly - potentially set up as the big bad for season 2, finding a cure that left her alive being part of the season’s arc. But that was wrapped up by episode five and a big bad that had sort of been introduced as a likely MOTW to come stepped up. Now, I have to say I totally suck at predicting Emily Andras’ storylines. Maybe this was the plan from the start and I just misread the runes - I do that more than often enough it’s entirely possible. Writing it, it sounds like the series is disjointed but actually it flows smoothly. Because we’ve seen the widows, seen the seals and so on, all of which are rather critical to the second half of the season through the first half it went along smoothly with more or a sense of an established long arc and two shorter arcs, the Gooverly arc and the pregnant Wynonna arc fitting under the longer arc.
What Wynonna Earp sells itself as is “Crazy chick with the big ass, demon-killing gun” and that’s true, to some extent. And, to that same extent, this forms much of the basis for the comparisons with Buffy the Vampire Slayer because the parallels between Wynonna and Buffy as young women the inheritor of the power to send demons back to hell are clear. (There are clear differences too, the Earp heir must be 27 to come into their power and doesn’t have to be female, and so on.) However, the difficulty in assigning clear Buffy analogues to the other roles (they tend to be a bit of a mashup of other characters and even then it doesn’t quite fit properly, for the most part) makes it clear that, while there are similarities, the matches aren’t perfect. And part of that is because, while the overt tag line might be the demon slaying, what this show really does brilliantly is show three different models of strong, young women and the relationships between them.
- There’s the sister bond between Wynonna and Waverly, and Goddess help anyone who gets in the way of that.
- There’s the lovers bond between Waverly and Nicole and while it has its ups and downs and a running gag of being vag-blocked (usually by Wynonna) these two are the show’s definitive OTP, even in it’s AU episode they find their way to each other.
- Finally there’s the bond of acceptance, friendship and respect for each other that grows between Nicole and Wynonna. Are there problems? Between an insanely protective sister and the person (it doesn’t matter that it’s a woman really) that is dating her sister? You bet. But Nicole is also clearly a fundamentally good person and loves and is loved by Waverly. Even cynical Wynonna can see that and can respect Nicole for what she’s good at so they grow to trust each other for doing the hard things that need to be done because they know the other will come through.
But remember when I said this show’s sexuality was not the most interesting thing about it? This idea of the these three strong women and their relationships, and the men taking a back seat to that is what is most interesting and wonderful about the show, at least for me. Other shows have done this too, of course. Orphan Black springs most readily to mind, with the sestras and Delphine working together but Wynonna Earp brings a million more giggles and laughs that OB did, and whips the emotions from high to low and back again in a way that is never quite too much. Don’t get me wrong, I still love OB and the darker, heavier tone but WE has a different place in my heart.
That is not to say Wynonna Earp is all light-weight froth. There is a (well-earned by the writers) feeling among the fans that every word, every image, every choice in every scene is important. What in a normal show would be a throw-away line in episode 1 is the pivot in the season finale. A line in season 1 is repeated, almost word for word, in the season 2 finale (to the tears of many fans). The writers know what they’re doing, and the fans are looking out for it. Those of you who know me IRL will be reminded of how I talk about Babylon 5 and the long-delayed easter eggs where a throw-away character in season 1, is suddenly important 3 seasons later and so on. Wynonna Earp hasn’t had the length of run to do that yet, but it’s going that way.
Adding to that, this season could fairly be described as a video essay about choices and consequences, intended and otherwise. Or, equally, the idea of heroes with feet of clay. Everyone, and I think I do mean everyone of the main cast and the recurring stars, makes at least one bad choice this season or has at least one bad choice from their past revealed. Several of them make more than one. (Most of them make a lot of good choices too - they are heroes by and large after all.) Sometimes the bad choices have consequences within minutes, or within the episodes. Sometimes they come back to bite them several episodes later. Sometimes the worst consequences aren’t directly visited on them but on someone else. And this, I think, is new. I’m sure we’ve all seen shows were a single episode has the concept of “there’s no good choice, no good outcome” and that’s fine. But this is the first show I can remember where people are tired, really stressed, backed into a corner, or just plain short-sighted and stupid and they regularly make bad decisions because of that and we see the consequences play out. Good triumphs, but we’re left counting the cost, more than a little. It’s not directly in the body of our heroes but in broken promises, broken lives, ugly secrets, uglier truths exposed and more.
Wynonna Earp looks like froth on a Friday night on Syfy. It does great things for queer representation, yes. But it does some extraordinary things for showing a variety of strong women, strong in ways that both Joss Whedon and James Cameron don’t seem to get from recent news about both of them. And it does some wonderful basic storytelling about humans too. There’s only 25 episodes over two seasons so far, so dive in and give it a go!
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