This Wynonna Earp review contains spoilers.
Wynonna Earp Season 4, Episode 6
You can love a narrative choice that a show makes without loving what it means for a specific character. If I knew Wynonna Earp in real life, I, like Doc Holliday, would be seriously afraid for her following her choice to shoot Sheriff Holt in the back, after he agreed to try to work towards ending the long-running feud between the Earps and the Clantons. But, as a fan and reviewer of this show, I love this choice that the Wynonna Earp writing team made. It implies a kind of ambition in this series’ Season 4 storytelling that is all-too-rare in genre TV, and I hope this show finds the narrative time to devote to it. Let’s talk about this bittersweet, amazing, accidental midseason finale…
Doc’s storyline last season was one of the weakest part of an otherwise pretty great Season 3. It wasn’t always clear what his motivations were and the TV show never really justified the decision to turn him vamp. While I’m still worry that turning Doc into a creature of the night was one twist too many for a character who already has a history of delicious knots to untie, his arc in Season 4 has been a good one, especially in the last few episodes as he begins to seriously question if his loyalty to Wyatt Earp, most often proven through killing at Wyatt’s side and in his stead, was worth the pain that it has caused himself and others. Actually, he’s not really wondering at this point. He’s coming to the realization that it was not, just as Wynonna is coming to the assumption that shooting first and asking questions later is the only way to ensure the safety of her family.
These are two characters who obviously love one another, but who can never quite get the timing right. To see them head in different directions again, ones that will presumably keep them from being together in any honest, healthy way for the near future, is both heartbreaking and excellent storytelling. This division works because it is led by their characterization, not by an arbitrary plot mechanic. Do I believe that having the Clantons back in town, a family whom Doc chose to kill for Wyatt all those years ago, adding fire to a war that would continue on for more than a century-long war, has Doc rethinking his past choices? Absolutely. Do I also believe that Wynonna, in the wake of finding out that the Clanton family tried to buy her baby, and after years of fighting to keep her family safe, would shoot Sheriff Holt in the back rather than trust that anything would change, after a lifetime of learning the lesson that bloodshed and betrayal is the norm? Of course.
I understand both of their choices, even as a grieve for Wynonna as she takes a step down a path that will surely lead to more pain, for herself and for others (because the two are always inextricably intertwined, even if our culture of toxic individualism would have us believe otherwise). As we see in the final scene, it already has. Wynonna is crying for the rift in her relationship with Doc, sure. She’s crying because Waverly is so happy, and that’s all she wants for her baby sister. She’s crying because she’s tired, because how could she not be? But you better believe that she is also crying for herself. Because she just shot a (human) man in the back, as he was walking away from her. Because she just chose fear over hope. And that’s a very lonely place to be.
This agonizing middle for Wynonna hits extra hard because it is juxtaposed with a #happymiddle for Waverly and Nicole. After months of being separated and weeks (how much time has passed since the time jump?) of Nicole being terrified that Waverly would reject her after finding out what she had done, these two finally got the timing right in a way that Doc and Wynonna are nowhere close to doing. Waverly kills Margo “Mam” Clanton and it will no doubt stay with her in some traumatizing ways, but it was a very different situation. To save Nicole, a good person and the love of Waverly’s life, Waverly has to kill Margo, a woman who more or less murdered her own, teenage son, has no qualms with letting Nicole die, and has made it her life’s purpose to make the Earps and anyone who loves them suffer. To say that killing someone would ever be an easy choice for Waverly Earp would be oversimplifying the situation, but I don’t think for a minute that Waverly regrets her decision. Not in the way Wynonna seems to.
Earlier in this episode, Wynonna tells Rosita that sometimes the hero has to kill, and, in the context of supernatural TV, I don’t think she’s wrong. Too many shows that have violence as part of their narrative formula, from superhero television to other kinds of high-stakes genre storytelling, pretend that death isn’t often a natural consequence of violence. They pretend that a character presented as a hero, someone like Oliver Queen or Bruce Wayne, could have the kind of god-like control that would allow them to enact violence against those who “deserve it,” but always be able to stop short of death, and that this distinction absolves them of all accountability. This is often done as a way to draw a simplistic line between the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” so that stories that use violence don’t have to dive into a more earnest exploration of the hero’s violent methods and the harm they cause to both themself and others in their doling out of “justice.”
Violence is such an accepted, uninterrogated part of so much of American culture, we often accept its unexamined inclusion in so much of our mainstream storytelling as our status quo. (And, while I know this is a different situation, seeing a character shoot another character in the back as they are walking away has a particularly loaded meaning in American culture right now.) I’m eager to see Wynonna Earp walk a different, more difficult yet more rewarding path when it returns, and to dive into a more complex exploration of what it means for a character like Wynonna, ostensibly our hero, to kill someone outside of the justification of self defense. What a bold storytelling choice. What a way to head into our midseason hiatus.
Peacemaker’s back, baby! (Now I feel conflicted about this, though. I missed Peacemaker and I want Wynonna to have a sense of purpose, but I don’t want her to think that killing is all that she’s good for, you know? Maybe Peacemaker could transfigure into something else besides a weapon and reveal Wynonna’s new purpose as a… something.)
Real talk? I don’t think what Nicole did was so bad, especially as she didn’t ever seem actually willing to hand Doc over to the Clantons.
Last episode, Nicole’s situation was all Ron Weasley in Chamber of Secrets. This week, it’s all Olivia in Fringe.
The Ghost!Nicole/frog shenanigans first part of this episode was fun, but didn’t totally work tonally for me. The episode started out by taking Waverly’s distress over Nicole’s (temporary) death seriously, and then tried to transition into a “goofy shenanigans” vibe. It stressed me out that Jeremy and co. didn’t seem to go through the plan in a little more detail before they, you know, drowned Nicole, and felt out of character for this crew. (Nedley was perfect, though. Never change, Randy.)
That being said, Nicole was a straight-up ethereal ghost. And I loved getting to see Waverly be the hero in this episode, though I hope we see some processing of the fact that she killed Margo in coming episodes.
At first, I was worried that Wynonna Earp was going down the “mean girls” path with Rosita. (I never should have doubted you, show.) While the episode plays with the idea that society wants to pit Rosita and Wynonna against each other in a petty “catfight,” the story eventually subverts that trope, having these two complex women band together to take on Mother Medea, a very scary demon nun. I don’t believe that these two would be friends after what Rosita did, but I also don’t think that Rosita is without complexity or that Wynonna’s soft spot for “scorned women” wouldn’t work in Rosita’s favor in this case. I’m glad the show landed somewhere in the complicated middle, as if so often the case in real life and so rarely the case in mainstream storytelling (written by men).
I hope we get to check back in with Rosita and the nuns in future episodes. As much as their current situation is better than their previous deals, I wouldn’t exactly call it a happy ending to be stuck in this nunnery for all time.
I’m not sure if this show knows what to do with Jeremy as a character. He really did ghost Nicole, and I hope the show delves into that a bit more.
“2 Becomes 1” is a highly underrated Spice Girls song. Yes, I am listening to it right now. Yes, I still know all the words. Yes, I am always here for this show’s subtle agenda to celebrate pop music that is loved by teen girls and therefore derided by “mainstream” culture. Yes, Nedley is the best and canonically loves Pretty Little Liars and Spice Girls. Yes, that demonstrates how at home he feels in his various identities. Yes, this kind of representation is important too.
As painful as it is to see Wynonna make her choice, it is so heartwarming to see Doc choose himself and the healthy path in a way we haven’t seen him do before. Especially because it puts him in a better position to support Wynonna moving forward, should she ask for his help. It has been Doc’s instinct to put his relationship with the Earps before his own sense of morality, and that hasn’t helped anyone really.
It seems redundant at this point to talk about how talented this cast is, but special kudos to Melanie Scrofano and Tim Rozon in that final scene, having to balance the sorrow they were feeling for themselves and one another and the joy they were feeling at seeing Nicole and Waverly so happy and at being part of this family.
See you all on the other side of the hiatus, Earpers. It’s sunnier there.