WYNONNA EARP: The Girl Is Not So GONE

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Season 1, Episode 10: “She Wouldn’t Be Gone”

Written by Brendon Yorke
Directed by Peter Stebbings

If you read my review for last week’s episode, you know that I found it to be something of a mixed bag, although it seems I’m somewhat in the minority in that opinion. (Not the first time that’s happened, I can tell you.) I loved #HaughtWave coming to fruition, Neadley being a character to actually like, Doc getting emotionally savaged by Constance and the willingness to upend so much of the status quo — seriously, so much happened there that other shows would have left for mid-season finales or series cliffhangers.

I hated that the Stone Witch was a whole lot of nothing in the end, the timelines that made no sense, and worst of all, Haught and Waverly being caught in bad romantic comedy mode.

Pretty much all those complaints get pushed into the background here. This may have something to do with the way it looks at a significant amount of what the last several episodes have done to both the characters and the overarching story and either makes reference to or advances some pretty important — and one critically important — elements of the infernal mythology of the show.

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We’re halfway through the episode before Wynonna and Dolls actually go out looking for the Revenant Bobo is actually afraid of, and I don’t care, because somehow, somehow, this episode manages to cram so much of everything that makes Wynonna Earp the breakout show it is into the first 20 minutes, and that really shouldn’t work as well as it does, at all.

I mean, take a look at my notes here:

Waverly and Wynonna drop by Shorty’s, and it goes about as well as can be expected.
Dolls bugged the bar? Nice.
Oh miss, he’s not the savior you want.
Interesting… what new thing is this that scares Revenants?  Aaaaand that’s gonna itch like hell when it heals.
Demon small talk: Dick size and how much one can drink. Riveting stuff.
Yep, Bobo has you guys in a bind. The public makes a good shield. But…
“Lou” scares Bobo. Interesting. And oops, so much for the bug.
Yeeeaaahhh, nice try Wynonna. Dolls is so not amused.
Hey you two. You know you’re going to get caught, oh hai Wynonna.
Waverly is apparently the actual last to know about WynDoc. DocWyn?
Awkward relationship discussions about awkward relationships.
Seriously Dolls. Could you pick a worse place to stash your pet?
Ah, the sweet eyes and sneaky hands of Wynonna Earp.
Looking good, Jim. Um. Lou sounds like a pleasant fellow.
Has anywhere called “The Pine Barrens” ever been a good place?
Ah, I love these little Wynonna/Dolls exchanges, don’t you? (WynDolls? DollWyn?)
Useful tips for surviving the elements.
Doc’s automotive dilemma is another example of his terrible planning skills: He can’t see a use for the car without Waverly suggesting that he learn how to drive.
Also: Waverly kinda wants Doc and Wynonna to be in love, yet is kinda creeped out by the thought of them having sex. Huh.
WE ARE ONLY HALFWAY THROUGH THIS EPISODE.

And that leads me to a somewhat different style this week, because we’re only a few episodes out from the season finale, and we’re seeing a LOT of things build here.

A digression: There was a time, not so long ago, where pretty much all TV shows — outside of soap operas, but especially genre shows — were episodic. You’d have your weekly story where things of various kinds would happen, but by the end of the episode you’d be more or less back to status quo. It took shows like 24, Murder One and Farscape to break that trend and open up the stories to series-long arcs, and the need for the audience to watch every episode in order to get the whole story.

It opened up real character development for genre shows, too. If you watch the entire run of the original Star Trek, Jim Kirk is… pretty much the same guy from beginning to end. He’s an iconic character, but that character doesn’t change, not really. By the time Next Generation and especially Deep Space Nine rolled around, we were getting deep dives into who those people were, and over the run of those series, they changed.

That’s been a model that has served genre shows well, allowing arcs and character development that just wasn’t there before. Allowing a story to build over multiple episodes or a season arc gives characters a space to grow and change in, and that leads to richer stories like Penny Dreadful, The Walking Dead, Emily Andras’ Lost Girl, and of course, Wynonna Earp.

Here’s the point of that digression: Half of this episode, on a show about a kick-ass female action hero who shoots demons in a Weird, Weird West, was all character moments, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I think Wynonna Earp works as well as it does, and has the fanbase that it does. Yeah, we tune in to see Melanie Scrofano be awesome and funny and sexy and badass; Tim Rozon and Shamier Anderson be awesome and funny and sexy and badass; and Dominique Provost-Chalkley being awesome and funny and sexy and badass. (Katherine Barrell is awesome and funny and sexy too, by the way, if Haught hasn’t really had a chance to be badass… yet. Michael Eklund is also awesome and funny and badass too, although I can’t say that Bobo is sexy… it’s probably that damn coat.)

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But what makes this show so good, so fun, is the way Wynonna and Doc and Dolls and Waverly and Haught all interact and grow and change, together. That first half of “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” is all about where these people have come from and where they are now in relation to each other. Dolls being jealous when he learns that Wynonna slept with Doc — and oh yeah, he’s jealous — works because we’ve watched the sexual tension grow between the two of them for the last 10 episodes, and more importantly, we’ve watched them grow together as friends over that time. It matters that he let slip that he’s “not exactly” sick, in the face of Wynonna’s concern for him, and that she is visibly concerned that he might think she is the leak in Black Badge. And don’t discount that moment when Dolls basically pleads with her to not give into the urge to shut down and become just a thing of vengeance.

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It matters when Doc’s face betrays his hurt when Wynonna tells him it’s “just” sex, because we’ve seen that there is more to the vengeance-driven gunslinger he pretends to be. By all appearances, the hard-drinking Lothario act that Doc wears like his hat falls apart when he’s with Wynonna, not because Doc loses who he is when they’re together, but because she makes him want to be better, despite himself. He is in active competition with Dolls for her attention, but whereas Dolls has the in of the mission to end the threat of the Revenants, Doc has achieved his vengeance and it changes nothing inside him or makes him any less self-hating… but Wynonna does.

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The #HaughtWave moments work, because we’ve seen Waverly pull away from the placeholder her boyfriend was while she found her new place in the world now that Wynonna has come home, and we’ve had time for the chemistry between the two women to sell us on the relationship. We’ve watched Waverly become powerful in her own right, and face up to the dangers of the Triangle with intelligence and bravery, and it matters that Shorty’s is in the hands of Bobo and his crew, because we’ve seen how much it has been a home to Waverly and Wynonna.

And, of course, it matters when the rug is pulled out from everyone by the reveal that Willa is still alive.

And that leads me to the story itself. There is a Revenant named Lou that has broken away from the Bobo camp, and Bobo fears him. Wynonna and Dolls seek him out to see if he is a potential ally of sorts, and find that Lou has set himself up as the patriarch of a little cult of women, and is connected to a series of deaths of young women suspiciously like the ones who follow him. In the end he’s like so many of the “scary” Revenants and no match for the Earp girls — especially the previously missing-presumed-dead ones — but his presence does give us a couple of very interesting revelations aside from the Return of Willa.

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The first is that while Bobo may have been right to fear him 100 years ago, Lou is much like the Stone Witch when it comes to being an actual threat to Bobo, i.e. not one at all. Bobo is far more powerful than any of his perceived challengers, and has done a pretty good job of playing, intentionally or not, a game of “let’s you and him fight” to his ultimate advantage. That we still don’t know the full extent of what Bobo is really up to becomes even more intriguing because of that, considering that the more we learn about Bobo’s relationship with Ward Earp and his hand in the paths Wynonna and Waverly have taken in their lives, the more Bobo’s true motivations seem… curious.

The second, of course, is the existence of other forces in the Triangle, in the form of Lou’s imprisoned and controlled first wife, who we learn is a real Skinwalker, capable of shapeshifting into animals through other magics. The Triangle is a very weird place indeed, and one that has new stories to tell aside from those of the demons Wynonna and Co. are fighting. Cool places to go for Season Two, yes?

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With all the seismic changes we got last week, the revelation that the woman who was always meant to be the true Heir is still alive blows everything out of the water, nothing more so than what it could mean for Wynonna, and who she has become over the course of the series. The guilt she has felt for being unable to save her sister and accidentally killing her father, and the mess her life has been since then… all of that has been alleviated, eased, healed because she came home and became the Heir. Who is she, if she is not the Heir? What happens to what she has come to believe is her purpose? What does it do to the friendships and strength that she has gained from them, if she no longer feels needed? We know she is struggling with her own self-worth issues and the traumatic aftermath of bringing down the Seven: What does it do to her if she loses the people she has come to trust and need and love?

Of course that’s not going to happen — it is, after all, a show called Wynonna Earp — but the thought that it could is what this show has succeeded at extremely well, by giving us characters to really care about. Yes, kick-ass action and sex appeal and dialogue that is smart and funny as hell are part of the mix, but it is the characters and the writers and actors who bring them to life that we really tune in every week to see and care about.

Wynonna Earp airs Friday nights at 10/9c on Syfy.

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Posted in Adaptations, Opinion, Recap, Review, Television & Film
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