There’s a lot of history following Wynonna Earp around. First there’s her great-great-grandpappy, the famous Wyatt Earp, a gentleman of equal fame and notoriety whose many occupations during his eighty years on Earth included, gambler, lawman, buffalo hunter, saloon keeper, bouncer, miner, pimp and boxing referee, but whose name is forever tied to the shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, in October 1881.
Within her own lifetime there’s her juvenile criminal record, not to mention her not too stable mental health, no doubt tied to the early death of the death of her father and elder sister Willa. In short, she’s a colourful character, a mite unpredictable, certainly not popular with the law, but make no mistake, things ain’t ever dull around her.
And the one thing she said she would never do? Go back to the town of Purgatory where she grew up. But when her uncle is killed, his funeral taking place on her own 27th birthday, that’s exactly what she does, but even before she gets to the town limits one of her fellow passengers, stepping off to heed the call of nature as the bus stops for a moment, is attacked. Nobody else will help, so Wynonna runs into the night towards the screams, and pity help anyone who gets in her way.
It was in 1996 that Image Comics launched Beau Smith’s Wynonna Earp as a five issue series; she returned via IDW for three issues of Home on the Strange in 2003 then The Yeti Wars in 2011. Now, twenty years later, she’s making her new home on the SyFy Channel in a thirteen episode season developed by Killjoys and Lost Girl‘s Emily Andras.
The Listener‘s Melanie Scrofano plays the title character, heir to both the Peacemaker, the six shooter owned by her legendary ancestor, and the family curse where every outlaw who was killed by Wyatt Earp remains tied to Purgatory, the town she grew up in and that they died in, rising from Hell again and again looking for revenge.
Immediately energetic and entertaining, the show and the character demonstrate their take-no-prisoners attitude in the opening nocturnal encounter with a fiery eyed revenant which she resolves with a tyre iron before walking the rest of the way to town, the bus driver having abandoned her to her fate in the woods.
The fight scenes – and there are many – are ambitious rather than refined, the darkness hiding the limitations where it can though not so much in the final high noon shootout, and nor is the digital work top of the line, but when the whole is so exuberant such minor failings are forgivable.
Arriving late for the funeral of her uncle Curtis (“Is it legal to bury your husband in the garden?” she asks her aunt), she’s suspicious about the circumstances of his death, and she’s not the only one. Investigating the attack in the woods, the passenger who Wynonna failed to save is the third dead girl in the past six months and “black badge division” US Marshall Xavier Dolls (Defiance‘s Shamier Anderson) doesn’t believe the local sheriff’s claim of coyotes.
Where Wynonna is a reluctant demon hunter, her awkward relationship with younger sister Waverly (Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s Dominique Provost-Chalkley) who she left behind is exacerbated when it becomes apparent that she’s positively giddy at the idea, having researched their family history and the curse. Wynonna has already lost one sister to that dark world and she doesn’t want to lose another.
While their aunt sees Wynonna as a bad influence she would as soon have gone, her birthday gift a handful of cash to buy a ticket back where she came from handed over with the words “I love you, Wynonna, but you’re as broken as they come,” nor is Wynonna impressed by Agent Dolls’ plan to recruit her to the “black badge division.” “I don’t do authority, alright?” she responds. “These days I barely do sober.”
Coming across as nothing so much as Supernatural’s country cousin, Wynonna Earp is a little bit unpolished, a little bit rushed, as pilot episodes have a tendency to be, but that’s half the charm of it, and if the production finds its stride and comes together as quickly as Wynonna’s skill with the Peacemaker improves the show could swiftly move from a mess of fun to genuinely engaging and exciting viewing.
With a solid start and the world Smith has created to play in full of trailer-trash vampires, hillbilly gremlins and zombie mailmen there are plenty stories to be told on that wide prairie under the big sky, and the handsome well-dressed stranger in the bar (Being Human‘s Tim Rozon) who knows all about Wynonna’s family history seems only the starting point. “Crazy,” it seems, “runs in the family.”
Wynonna Earp airs on SyFy channel in the US and CHCH in Canada; a UK broadcast has not been confirmed