Two of my favorite things that continue to be way too rare in media are women who are Chosen Ones and Jerks with Hearts of Gold. So I kind of can’t believe that it has taken me so long to write about a new little show called Wynonna Earp, which concluded its first season a couple months ago. It features a great sisterly relationship, queer women, and several great female characters, one of whom is the Chosen One and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. There are a couple of problems with it as well, but let me delve into all of it below the cut.
Some spoilers about the show to follow.
The show is based on the comic of the same name, which I unfortunately know nothing about. But the show begins as Wynonna Earp, a descendant of Wyatt Earp, returns to her hometown Purgatory, which is swarming with demons. These demons are called revenants and are the criminals that Wyatt Earp killed in his life. The revenants return with each new generation of Earps, and the Earp who is chosen to wield the mysteriously-powered gun Peacemaker has to kill them all over again. The current generation of Earps are three sisters: Willa, Wynonna, and Waverly. After Willa’s disappearance the night their father was killed by the revenants, Wynonna, as the eldest sister now, becomes the one who can use Peacemaker.
Wynonna is a great character. She reminds me strongly of John Constantine with her reluctant and reckless attitude. However, her personal history is more like that of Jenny Mills from Sleepy Hollow. For most of her life, people didn’t believe Wynonna about the revenants and she used to act out a lot. She is also very protective of her friends and family. One the other hand, her character is also allowed to be dorky, silly and clingy. Wynonna gets openly excited about getting a motorcycle, she gets powdered sugar on her nose when she eats a donut and, while she mostly walks around with a “I don’t care” attitude, she also seeks validation that people in her life (Waverly and her boss/partner Dolls) care about her.
Another thing that captivated me about this show is the sisterly relationship. I always love seeing sibling relationships on TV, but most of the relationships we see are between brothers or brothers and sisters. The relationship between the three Earp sisters is nuanced and complicated. I especially liked the exploration of Waverly’s jealousy and hurt toward Wynonna that the latter is the Chosen One, while Waverly is the one who has been researching history of the revenants for years in hopes of breaking the curse. When Willa reappears, the dynamic gets complicated again: Willa is affected by her abduction and appears to have a violent streak; she and Wynonna have no trouble reconnecting, but Waverly is excluded.
Speaking of Waverly, I just love her. I love that she feels that she should have been the Chosen One since she spent years researching the curse, because that is just so real. That is how I always feel when I see yet another mediocre guy become the Chosen One while the female character did all the training for the job and is there to simply support the guy. Except in this case, at least the Chosen One is another woman. However, Waverly’s feelings are still valid and are validated by the show, as well by Wynonna agreeing that Waverly should have been the one.
Another great aspect of Waverly’s storyline is that during the course of the season she discovers and embraces the fact that she likes women. At the beginning of the show, Waverly is dating a man, but there doesn’t seem to be many real feelings or much of a real connection between them. However, then officer Nicole Haught shows up, and their chemistry is off the charts from the moment they meet. It smells a bit like Mandatory Queer Dating, but Purgatory is a small town and their feel-inducing interactions are straight out of fanfiction tropes, so I don’t care too much. Additionally, while Waverly is just discovering her attraction towards women and Nicole is the one who flirts very openly, Waverly clearly doesn’t mind, and there isn’t much “gay panic”. And in the end, it’s Waverly who first takes the plunge from flirting to kissing/relationship. My only complaint, as in most cases, is that neither Nicole nor Waverly explicitly identify themselves with any labels. Nicole is most likely gay since she tells Waverly that she dated a “boy-man once” and “it was the worst”. However, Waverly could be bisexual, although her relationship with her boyfriend seemed somewhat forced and like she was only dating him because she had no other option. As it stands now, though, we cannot be sure what either Nicole’s or Waverly’s sexuality is, only that they’re both women who like women. While seeing such a sweet and passionate relationship develop between two women on TV is great, having them use labels for their sexualities would make it even better. Seeing labels such as lesbian or bisexual used in a positive context fights negative ideas associated with the labels, helps people find their identities and communities, and promotes normalization of the labels.
Wynonna Earp does have another, more serious, problem—diversity. Most of the characters are white. The only major character of color is Wynonna’s boss/partner Xavier Dolls. The only woman of color of note is a fascinating mysterious witch called Blacksmith who lives in seclusion but helps Waverly out. She only appears in two episodes and is gruesomely and needlessly murdered in the second one.
Overall, I really love Wynonna Earp. It has great female complex characters, including the Chosen One and queer women. They are smart, funny, kickass, are allowed to be jerks and be jealous. However, it does have a problem with racial diversity and has a real lack of sexuality labels. But the show was renewed for a second season, so here’s hoping these issues will be fixed in the future. Check it out if you haven’t already!