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Wynonna Earp S1E1: "Purgatory" Review

meagangoeswine meagangoeswine Wynonna Earp borrows heavily from similar shows, but a charismatic lead, hints at character depth, and a sun-washed Western feel lend it enough charm to give the season a chance.

Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano) is going back home. Not that she wants to, of course, but what would the Reluctant Hero genre be without an exasperated hero returning home on family business?

Home for Wynonna is a dusty town named Purgatory, where her great-great-grandfather, the esteemed Wyatt Earp, settled. She’s his heir, and on her 27th birthday—this episode, in fact—she inherits the powers to fight “revenants”, zombie-demons resurrected from past Earp-family kills. Hot on her heels is Agent Xavier Dolls, a U.S. Marshal of the Black Badge division, sent to recruit Wynonna into helping them fight supernatural baddies.

There are things that go bump in the…well, amber-tinted Western afternoons. The "revenants" are out to find Wyatt Earp’s lost gun, Peacemaker, and as the episode unfolds more and more of them come out of the woodwork. By the end they’re having a “war party”, and one can only assume that they’ll be plaguing Wynonna for the foreseeable future. Doc Holliday also makes an welcome appearance, played with gravelly charm by Tom Rozon, and Wynonna's sister, Waverly (Dominque Provost-Chalkley), becomes her enthusiastic partner.

If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Wynonna Earp trades heavily in several genres, mostly Westerns and crime procedurals with a dash of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It would fit right at home amidst some of the early Supernatural episodes, especially with the Winchester motto of "Saving people, hunting things." Flashback scenes from Wynonna’s childhood explicitly recall the pilot of Supernatural —children trapped in a house on fire while demons hunt their parents—as does the magical Colt .45 that can vanquish enemies.

On the technical side, Wynonna Earp is suitably proficient, though the special effects are lacking. There are log cabins and sunflowers and mountain vistas, a smoky saloon and friendly barkeep and charming and/or grumpy locals. Shots are well framed and use the setting to its natural advantage. The dialogue comes off stilted and clunky in some places, and the episode is cohesive enough but also has a rote, paint-by-numbers feeling. It does Wynonna Earp no favors that it comes so soon after Jessica Jones, which also features a hard-drinking brunette badass fighting villains. It feels similar—sometimes too similar.

There are hints of depth that offer interesting potential. Gus, a family friend to Wynonna, mentions that Wynonna is “off her meds” and “manic." Hopefully that’s not the show engaging in harmful tropes, but instead giving us a glimpse into a more complicated character. Jessica Jones managed to do this with sexual assault, rape, consent, and trauma much to its benefit. If Wynonna Earp explores those issues to deepen the character as well as the story, that will make it more than worth watching.

I'll check back in for a Pilot + 3 episodes review to see how the season is progressing. Until then, you can find the first episode of Wynonna Earp for free on ITunes. Wynonna Earp airs on Fridays at 10/9c on the SyFy channel.


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