It’s easy to pre-judge this show by its cover. Wynonna Earp? A Western? On Syfy? But cast aside your doubts about Wynonna Earp, Emily Andras’ adaptation of the comic by Beau Smith. It’s both a fresh and familiar take on zombies, the Wild West, and gunslinger culture, starring Melanie Scrofano as Wynonna, a present-day decent of Wyatt Earp. Over the course of its first two episodes, the series lays the groundwork for a story wherein the Earps have a curse to contend with: as each new heir turns 27, a group of zombies (demons called revenants) created by Wyatt’s kills come back for a haunting. They can then only be killed by Wyatt’s gun, Peacemaker, which sends them back to hell.
The Earps and the revenants are caught in this struggle in the town of Purgatory, fittingly, which is essentially a hellmouth. Genre TV fans will already start drawing parallels to series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural, and those instincts are correct. Wynonna Earp is, like these other series, full of humor and quirky appeal, as well as plenty of badassery. When Wynonna is confronted by a particularly pesky revenant who — like the others — dismisses her because she’s a girl, she sneers, “I’m the girl with the badass gun,” before blowing him away.
Like any good demon hunter, Wynonna doesn’t work alone, even though she’s introduced as a loner who tends towards the dark side of things (she’s also wickedly sarcastic). She teams up, warily, with her younger sister Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) who is as sunny as Wynonna is sour. The Earps are also aided by a helpful but humorless member of a covert branch of the U.S. Marshals Service, Agent Dolls (Shamier Anderson), and over in the neutral zone is Doc Holliday (Tim Rozon), a sexy, mysterious figure who isn’t a revenant, but is also not a ghost (and seems to be playing both sides).
Wynonna and her sister both have a lot of personal scars over the deaths of their father and older sister (the original heir), as well as the disappearance of their mother, which happened at the hands of the revenant, although those events are also very closely tied with the Earp sisters’ personal decisions. But even the most harrowing moments (like when Wynonna finds Waverly strung up and struggling in a noose) are always counterbalanced with humor, however dark, with Scrofano and Provost-Chalkley exuding unbelievable amounts of charisma in their roles.
Is Wynonna Earp high art? No, and who cares? So far it’s fun, and has done an excellent job of explaining what can be a fairly confusing setup, as well as introducing a great mix of humor and violence (with decent if not spectacular effects). And not only is it a show that features several badass women in lead roles, it also incorperates a particular love interest that suggests some sexual fluidity.
The premiere episode jumps into the action and atmosphere immediately, though it takes a little while for the show settle in to what is a very fast-paced story. But by the second episode, it’s already found its rhythm, with Scrofano in particular giving a very natural, funny and engaging performance as Wynonna. (Her facial reactions alone are a joy to behold).
Wynonna Earp is something different for Syfy, and something that also feels different to anything we’re seeing on TV currently, thanks not only to its setting, but its prominent placement of so many strong, profane, kickass female characters. Just like Wynonna herself, the show is the heir to series like Buffy, Jessica Jones, and others. Granted, it’s not close to those heights yet (like Wynonna and the legacy of her gunslinger great-great grandfather), but it — and she — are only just getting started.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good — A promising start
Wynonna Earp premieres Friday, April 1st at 10 p.m. on Syfy