Wynonna Earp season 3 episodes 11 & 12 review: Daddy Lessons & War Paint

Team Earp faces the end of the world in the season three finale. Spoilers ahead in our review...

This review contains spoilers.

3.11 Daddy Lessons & 3.12 War Paint

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Holy moly, a lot just happened in the two-hour Wynonna Earp season three finale. To be fair, it was technically two episodes—two episodes that were not written to be viewed back-to-back like that, with nigh even a moment for us to catch our breaths. Then again, Team Earp didn’t have much of a moment to catch their breaths as they barrelled closer to the inevitable apocalypse, so we can’t be picky now, can we?

While things may have seemed dire at the of last week’s episode, Daddy Lessons demonstrated just how little Team Earp really has going for them in the face of the coming apocalypse. Wynonna can’t even properly rally her spirits and ammunition to face Bulshar without getting taken hostage by a rather pathetic squad of Revenants. Without Peacemaker or friends—after forcibly sending Waverly away with a newly-resurrected Charlie, Nicole busy evacuating the town, and Jeremy hard at work examining Bulshar’s arm for a miracle cure—Wynonna has very little.

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Well, she has gumption. But gumption is not going to cut it this time, which makes it relatively easy for Team Revenant to deliver Wynonna into Bulshar’s waiting hands. She’s dressed up, all curls and ruffles like she’s on her way to a Westworld-themed prom,  and presented to Bulshar as fealty at what, I’m going to be honest, actually looks like a pretty sweet dinner party. (I am a sucker for romantic lightning choices.)

Bulshar is gathering his followers for an end-of-the-world feast (technically put together by Team Revenant), and he has all of his chief grovellers there, including Mercedes, who delivers what may one my favorite speeches in the history of supernatural drama (no joke) when she tells Wynonna: she probably loves her and all, but she is going to do whatever she has to do to survive the end of the world. It’s kind of amazing, just how Chaotic Neutral Mercedes is through-and-through, and how Wynonna reacts.

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Wynonna might be disappointed, but she doesn’t judge Mercedes, not when, for so long, Mercedes was one of the only people who didn’t judge Wynonna. Besides, Wynonna probably gets it. Like Mercedes, she has her own priorities and, guess what, #1 is not saving the world—it’s saving her family. In one of the most powerful moments of the episode, Wynonna gets on her knees and begs for the life of her family. She will do anything, she will become Bulshar’s lieutenant and fight for him to the end of the world if it means saving her family.

I’m not sure I believe Wynonna would actually turn her back on the entire world, not even for her family (she’s more of a hero than she thinks she is), but we never get a chance to properly find out. Bulshar doubts Wynonna’s commitment, too, instead throwing her into a cell. The interaction is enough to give Wynonna a vital piece of information in the fight against Bulshar, however: he can’t be touched by Wynonna or something bad will happen. It’s the cost of the curse, so it seems.

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Having literally any semblance of a plan is enough for Wynonna to convince Mercedes and Team Revenant to let her out and join her cause. They see the writing on the wall: Bulshar’s not the type to bring a large party through to the end of the world. If the world ends, so, too, will they. In a pretty amazing plot twist, Wynonna manages to rally the revenants to her cause. Purgatory isn’t going down without a fight.

While Wynonna was getting all gussied up and going out on the town, Waverly was making some pretty major revelations about herself and her family history—namely, that she can resurrect people (or at least angels) with the help of the ring, and that Charlie is really Julian, aka her father. It’s a pretty twisted situation to find out that your half-sister slept with your father who was also the love of your mother’s life, but, for the Earps, it’s far from the worst thing that has ever happened to them. At least everyone meant well!

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Waverly, saint that she is, is able to get past the Jerry Springer of the situation pretty fast, instead focusing on the fact that she has met her father, and Doc is out to get them both. So… I was very wrong in my reading of the whole Doc/Charlie situation last week. I thought that Doc had been possessed by Maeve, and that was why he sucked the blood out of poor Charlie.

Actually, it was all Doc, driven mad by his bloodlust. I’m not a huge fan of this plot twist, but I am even less of a fan of how little time we viewers and, more importantly, the other characters have to process all of this. Doc’s storyline this season has been an ambitious one, but it has not worked for me. Between the lack of articulation around what vampirism looks and feels like specifically in this world, as well as the breakneck (all puns intended) pace of Doc’s transition from mortal to vampire to vampire with bloodlust to vampire driven mad by angel’s blood, the point of it all got lost somewhere along the way.

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If Doc was going to struggle with his darker side, I would have much rather seen him do it honestly, freed of any supernatural influences like vampirism. The experience of going to hell and the psychological damage that would have done, coupled with the loss of a child not to mention all of the trauma Doc has already previously survived, is more than enough to fuel a crisis of confidence, heroism, and even family in this character. We didn’t need an ill-advised turn to vampirism for that.

Who knows? Perhaps Doc’s vampirism will be the gift that keeps on unexpectedly giving. After all, it did allow Wynonna to survive a seemingly fatal bite from Bul “The Snake” Shar. Doc wrangled out of the trap Wynonna left him in (because love is a powerful motivator) and came upon the stairs to the Garden of Eden right in the nick of time, saving Wynonna and then following Waverly into the Garden so that she wouldn’t be alone. It was quite a moment of redemption for the character, though not one that was particularly surprising, given that he has always maintained that he has made all of his (dumb) choices for Wynonna and Alice and the rest of his found family. I have never doubted Doc in that regard.

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Doc’s heroic motivations don’t take away from the fact that Wynonna just lost the two people who are closest to her. Sure, she and Nedley are on the case, but where do you even start looking for the Garden of Eden when both of your angel leads are either dead or already in Eden? It’s a big problem, one that Wynonna Earp season five will no doubt solve.

This episode could have used a bit of a denouement. I would have liked a little longer to sit with the revelation of Bulshar’s defeat and the loss of both Waverly and Doc. In general, the pacing for the second half of this season, in particular, has been a bit frenzied for my taste.

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There was much more time to breathe in the first episodes of the season, and the narrative was stronger for it. That’s not to say that the latter parts of the season were not special in their own ways… just that I would have liked more narrative space to appreciate all of the nuances and complications and feelings that came with every plot twist, every character choice, every quippy one-liner.

This show churns through story like it’s afraid it will never get enough—which fair enough. When you are using narrative and representing culture in ways that no other show on TV is, you’re going to be desperate to do as much of it as fast as you can while you have the chance. It’s a sign of ambition, of the show perhaps biting off more than the season can chew, and I much prefer that ‘problem’ to the other end of the spectrum.

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And, sometimes, Wynonna Earp gloriously pulls it off: it plants, grows, and appreciates the blossoms of its plot seeds like the necessary miracles that they are, and it makes it all look easy (it’s not). Other times, it skips some of those steps and the show is the poorer for it. Yet, through it all, Wynonna Earp holds onto character and emotion as guiding lights. This show cares so damn much, it feels so damn much, and there aren’t enough stories like that in our culture. Keep feeling and hurting and loving, Wynonna Earp. We’re with you.