This review contains spoilers.
3.3 Colder Weather
In some ways, death is simple. It’s final; as Wynonna spits out in this episode, it’s forever; it is maybe the only things in existence that resists shades of grey. But how those who are left behind deal with death? That‘s complicated. It’s messy and unpredictable. Sometimes, it’s silly and awkward, sometimes it’s sober and precise. Always, it’s heavy, all-encompassing, impossible to see past. Grief is a filter that coats all things, saturating the world and everything in it with its own, unique, terrible color.
Wynonna Earp has always taken emotional truth as one of its foundational tenets and never is it more accountable to that value than in the aftermath of Dolls’ death. There is little plot to be found in this episode because how could there be? Life may not stop when someone you love dies, but the lesser causes and effects do fade into background noise. There’s only one effect you can think about: the absence of the one you loved. For a little while, their death is the only cause that matters.
“Colder Weather” takes it time in checking in with all of its characters, post-death, and, while Dolls might not be there, his presence is felt in every frame of this episode. We learn about Dolls from others’ reactions to his absence. Their grief is as much about who he was as it is about who they are.
Waverly’s grief takes the form of planning—she makes sandwiches and picks out coffins because, yes, she is a planner, but also because Dolls asked her to take care of Wynonna before he died. Waverly is honoring Dolls’ wish, and, in her caretaking, she is honoring the man he was. As we saw so clearly in the Season 3 premiere, Dolls was somehow, despite his trauma, the emotionally-stable adult here. He was the person Wynonna leaned on to be there, regardless of what was going on in her life.
Nicole’s grief manifests in guilt. “He was helping me and I couldn’t save him,” she cries to Waverly. “None of us could,” Waverly tells her, filling that caretaking role like Dolls would have, too. The episode focuses on Nicole and Dolls bond in the context over their shared identity as law enforcement. As people who chose this specific, institutional path of justice-seeker as a vocation, they got each other in a way no one else in their found family could. And when Wynonna needs some tough love, Nicole fills that role in a way that Dolls so often did, too. “You don’t get a monopoly on the grief we all feel,” she tells Wynonna, and Wynonna listens.
It’s Jeremy who gets the brunt of Wynonna’s anger following Dolls’ death. Wynonna can’t get Bulshar, she can’t slay death, so she’ll punish Jeremy instead, angry at him for keeping Dolls secret when he didn’t trust Wynonna with it, too. (Dolls knew she already had so many burdens. He didn’t want to put another weight on her already tired shoulders.) In Dolls’ death, we learn how much he trusted Jeremy. He trusted Jeremy not just with his life, but with his secrets. In losing Dolls, Jeremy lost his best friend, too. When Wynonna puts her arm around Jeremy at the funeral, she is acknowledging that.
And then there is Doc, who is plagued with the memory that the last thing he told Dolls was that they were all going to hell. We know from his conversation with Kate that he doesn’t believe that—he claims to know where Dolls ended up, and it isn’t hell—but his statement tastes of hope more than certainty. Death was never cheap, Doc tells Wynonna. He knows the weight of living and dying better than anyone. It’s a habit by now: mourning the dead. That doesn’t make it any easier, though. Just more familiar. He can use that familiarity to comfort Wynonna. It’s the thing he and Dolls shared, after all: loving this woman more than anything else in the world.
There’s a new face in town to mourn Dolls, as well: his former squadron member, Staff Sergeant Ramon Quinn, come to town to mourn the last of his friends taken out by Black Badge’s experimentations. His complicated appearance on the scene reminds me of the Firefly episode “The Message,” which saw Mal and Zoe’s soldier buddy shipping his corpse to them for a proper goodbye. Like Quinn, his motives are more complicated than that, but the relationship he calls on is not. Quinn has watched all of his buddies die. Dolls was the most stubborn, and therefore the last, but it is no easier for its inevitability.
“They were or are all dead.” “Isn’t that convenient?” “It’s not convenient. It sucks.”
In the end, Dolls’ family—the family he chose—celebrate his life as well as mourn it. They burn his body to ensure it will never again be used as currency, as Wynonna puts it. They say goodbye with one last message from their friend: Keep going. Keep fighting.
Dolls doesn’t leave Wynonna a note, but photos he took, and it’s the perfect goodbye. The saddest photos aren’t the ones of your missing loved one. They are the ones your missing loved ones took because the thing you miss the most is not their memory, you still have that, it’s how they saw the world and how they saw you. In Wynonna, Dolls saw a fierce, complicated, beautiful woman. That’s the person he wants her to continue to be.
“So what are we supposed to do?” Waverly asks her big sister. “Live,” Wynonna tells her. It’s the only choice we have in the face of death and, if we’re lucky like Dolls was, we’ll see that life as a blessing.
“No teeth, Kate.” Doc finally gives the Contessa (aka his wife?!) what she wanted: he calls her by her name.