This Wynonna Earp review contains spoilers.
Wynonna Earp Season 4, Episode 2
Damn, Wynonna Earp. That sex scene. In the context of the show, the Wayhaught love scene was gorgeous, sexy, and one of the most romantic scenes of the entire series so far. In the larger context of television history, it was one of the most explicit and beautiful sex scenes between two women that I have ever seen on network or basic cable TV.
In many ways, Wynonna Earp follows a tried-and-true genre TV formula: a snarky-yet-sentimental narrative path laid out by shows like Buffy and Supernatural. But it also has done some seriously revolutionary things when it comes to the inclusion of (white) (queer) women in the supernatural TV genre. From the casual, normalizing ways the series mentions subjects like lesbian sex or menstruation culture (both tampons and pads have featured as an episode’s ongoing gag) to the enthusiastic incorporation of Melanie Scrofano’s real-life pregnancy into Wynonna’s Season 2 storyline, Wynonna Earp is pushing back against the idea that just because something has to do with an experience of specifically womanhood, doesn’t mean that it can’t be part of the supernatural genre TV world.
For so long, feminist storytelling in genre TV has meant showing how women can do the same things as men. How petite, blonde, sometimes ditzy Buffy (when given the powers of a Slayer) can be stronger than any man (or vampire). Wynonna Earp isn’t interested in reenforcing that idea, in putting Wynonna or Waverly’s supernatural strengths in the context of a gender binary. Not only do we assume that the show understands the concept of the gender spectrum, we know that it isn’t interested in contextualizing its characters’ qualities as in relation to either an abstract idea of manhood or a specific dude. Wynonna isn’t as strong as any man, she’s just strong—full stop, without qualifiers. Her strength isn’t a fact that exists in spite of her womanly experiences but as equally-important aspects of her that exist inside of the same human.
Wynonna is unabashedly a woman, and the show is neither going to qualify that, nor represent her heroism as exceptional amongst her sex and/or gender. This kind of celebration of womanhood in storytelling is only possible if there is a plethora of woman characters, which Wynonna Earp has. In “Friends in Low Places,” Wynonna’s comrades-in-arms are Nicole and Rachel. She isn’t the Smurfette saving the day amongst a screen majority of men, on both sides of the good guy/bad guy divide; she is just another lady, amongst other ladies and the occasional dude, getting shit done.
In this episode, Doc is the exception to this onscreen world of women (Jeremy doesn’t actually appear in this episode, though Eve does take his form), flipping the usual gender breakdown on its head in what is still (sadly) a revolutionary way. It’s why Wynonna Earp is able to get away with lines like “Save your heteronormative hero hogwash for humanity, sweetie.” Delivered by a woman baddie (if we can give god-demons a gender) to another lady character in reference to the lone man in the episode, it is telling rather than frustrating in its winking irreverence, which is how these kinds of lines often play: as a tongue-in-cheek way of commenting on the quality of gender representation in media within the same, tired kind of man-minded story rather than coming as part of series that imagines a new kind of narrative, one that doesn’t care what dudes think about it because it’s not explicitly for them.
Lesbian sex is another experience that only women can have. It has nothing to do with men, and never will. It’s something that women don’t need men for, and that makes it an outlier when it comes to representation in TV and film, which is so shaped by men that most mainstream stories can’t imagine a conversation between women that is about something other than a man. We need a whole test for it. Depicting beautiful, emotional, passionate, hot lesbian sex on TV that is not for the male gaze is a radical act. It picks up the low bar that is the Bechdel Test, paints it in glitter, and holds it up for everyone to see.
Women deserve more stories like this one. Not just queer stories or white stories or cis stories, but stories that give all different kinds of women the space to escape from the traumas, big and small, that come with living in patriarchy. Stories that aren’t all explicitly about those traumas, and therefore allow women to let go, to celebrate, to have fun. Stories that don’t make women push aside the specific joys and pains of womanhood in order to enjoy genre TV storytelling.
Oh, and there was a time jump in this episode. Did you like that abrupt review transition? It was meant to mimic the experience of unexpectedly finding out that the viewer (and Doc and Wynonna and Waverly) has missed 18 months of Purgatory goings on. As far as time jumps go, 18 months is a relatively minor one. So far, all we know about what was missed is that Nicole’s hair has grown out and there are dead bodies hanging in downtown Purgatory. Jeremy isn’t with Nicole at the homestead, which suggests he might still be in Black Badge custody, and there is no sign of Nedley or Mercedes either. We’ll have to wait until next week to see how bad things truly are in Purgatory and how the rest of our friends are faring.
All in all, “Friends in Low Places” would have worked as a season finale, and been the best one yet. It was both an epic conclusion to main dilemma of the Season 3 finale and a thematic end to the three-season Curse Arc around which this show has been structured so far. “The Curse is over, Waves. It’s time to start living for ourselves,” Wynonna tells her sister as she saves her from a self-sacrificial commitment to life on The Garden’s throne. I’m not sure what Wynonna Earp‘s future looks like—Eve is still out there, Black Badge is always up to something, and living and loving is always messy—but it sure does look glittery.
Um, but are they officially engaged now?