Friday saw the premier of another new show on SyFy, but Wynonna Earp arrived to little fanfare. The thing is, it’s not a bad little show, as far as I can tell. Sure, it’s got some kinks that need to be worked out, but there’s nothing wrong with it that justifies the nearly complete lack of promotion I’ve seen for the show. It doesn’t even seem to be getting reviewed by any of the regular places that I go to for television reviews, and that doesn’t bode well for the show going forward. We’ll see. In the meantime, let’s pick it apart a little.
Good: Showrunner Emily Andras also ran Lost Girl, another show that I liked quite a bit.
Bad: Andras describes Wynonna Earp as “Frozen meets Buffy” which is just unfortunate-sounding. I know that what she means is that it’s a show that centers on the sometimes complicated relationship between sisters while they fight demons, but there have got to be better examples of sister-driven media than Frozen, and the last episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer aired almost fifteen years ago. It’s starting to just be sad that Buffy is still the go-to reference for girl-powered urban fantasy shows.
Ugly: While I haven’t read the comics, the source material looks like garbage. The cover art alone makes me want to go take about fourteen showers.
Good: That said, the show doesn’t reproduce the grossly objectifying imagery of the comics, and Wynonna is dressed perfectly sensibly so far.
Bad: The aesthetic of the show is, still, nothing particularly special, however. Wynonna is in the mold of other urban fantasy anti-heroines like Bo or Faith or, more recently, Jessica Jones, to whom I’m sure she’ll be compared ad nauseum. The rest of the characters likewise fall neatly into the looks of well-established genre tropes.
Ugly: The special effects in the first episode are mostly terrible. Wynonna’s first encounter with a demon, in particular, is hideous to look at, with everything obscured by a sort of blurry gloom that doesn’t manage to convey much of anything other than that the production of the episode was fairly cheap and lazy. I would say that this forest scene owes something to Ash vs. Evil Dead, but Wynonna Earp doesn’t have even a fraction of that show’s panache.
Good: Melanie Scrofano seems well-cast as the eponymous lead character, playing her as a decent amalgam of Jessica Jones and Lost Girl’s Bo, and she’s nicely supported so far by Dominique Provost-Chalkley as younger sister Waverly.
Good: We don’t get to see much of him, but Tim Rozon looks great as Doc Holliday. I can see the fanfic already.
Bad: Shamier Anderson is a little wooden and somewhat superfluous as Agent Dolls. The only bright side is that I think this is a bad writing problem, not a bad acting problem, which means that it would be easy for things to improve for Dolls as the show goes on.
Ugly: With the exception of Anderson, the cast is entirely white. In 2016, there’s really no excuse for this sort of tokenism.
Good: The first episode works nicely as a neatly self-contained origin story for Wynonna, with no mystery about or obfuscation of her history. The whole premise of the show is very straightforward, there’s a coherent mythology so far, and Wynonna Earp seems to be very aware of what it is. Some might consider it unambitious, and its admittedly someone derivative, but I find it refreshingly unpretentious.
Bad: The flip side of the above point is that there’s not a lot going on under the surface, at least not yet. Wynonna and Waverly are engaging enough, but they aren’t exactly compelling in this first episode.
Ugly: While the revenants that Wynonna is tasked with killing are supposedly part of a curse against her family, what they apparently really want to do is murder girls in general. Yuck. The brutal murder of Wynonna’s fell bus rider, Kiersten, in the first minutes of the episode was later confirmed to be at least the third such murder in recent months.
Good: The big fight scene at the end of the episode mostly worked, and there was even a glimmer of style (and none of the very silly special effects of the earlier scene) on display as Wynonna finally accepts her destiny and takes up the Peacemaker to step into her Chosen One role. It’s a bit of same old story at work, but it feels earned here, the end result is satisfying, and the episode ends exactly where it ought.
My final verdict?
Wynonna Earp is fun so far, and with twelve more episodes in the first season there’s plenty of room for it to get better. I’m not always a huge fan of urban fantasy serials like this, but the Western setting is just fresh enough to be a nice change of pace, and Wynonna is a type of heroine that I generally like. It’s not a show without flaws, but I can deal with some cheesy production values if the characters and story are good, and so far those aspects of the show are, overall, promising.
Wynonna Earp airs Fridays on SyFy at 10/9c.