As we mourn the cancellation of Marvel’s Agent Carter, Syfy brings us a TV adaptation of Beau Smith’s modern-day Western comic-book series Wynonna Earp.
Melanie Scrofano takes on the titular role, a descendant of iconic lawman Wyatt Earp, who comes back to her hometown (amusingly called Purgatory) after spending some time in a juvenile correction facility. Our gunslinging heroine Wynonna Earp finds out that she is pretty good at taking out the red-neck demons who roam the city with the ultimate goal of freely feasting on all the living. In a decidedly Buffy turn of events, only she seems to be able to get rid of them since she owns her great-grandfather’s Smith & Wesson revolver which has the power to send the undead back to Hell.
Other main characters include Wynonna’s sister Waverly Earp (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), Agent Xavier Dolls (Shamier Anderson) and Doc Holliday (Rim Rozon). Dolls is the US Marshall who hires Wynonna to help rid the town of all its supernatural baddies and he’s easily one of the most consistent and likeable characters in the show. The same can’t be said for the lead who is first introduced to us as a troubled badass in the pilot but who is soon turned into a Starbucks-drinking, sarcastic wise gal with the odd serious moment thrown in just in case she turns into too much of a joke. This isn’t so much the actress’ fault as it is the writers/filmmakers failure to settle on a valid tone right away.
As for Waverly, some will no doubt find her antics charming but there’s something distractingly over-the-top about Provost-Chalkley’s take on the character: it’s like she was lifted from a completely different, much more light-hearted show. In the end, she mostly comes off as trying too hard to be cute. As Doc Holliday, in contrast, Rim Rozon plays it straight throughout and he’s the only one, including the bad guys, who looks like he was lifted from a gritty Western. Speaking of Earp’s foes, while they are entertaining, look adequately freakish and have silly names like Bobo Del Rey, they never feel like a genuine threat since, more often than not, they are gotten rid of quite easily. Only a mysterious shadowy figure that inspires fear in the undead manages to be intimidating.
The short but sweet opening title sequence promises a Grindhouse-style, blood-soaked Western with a high contrast, Frank Miller look but the show itself is visually much more standard, which is a little disappointing. Really, the show should have kept the deadpan tone of the pilot and made it look more like a graphic novel because, as it stands, it just makes you wish you were watching The Walking Dead instead. The premise is interesting and definitely has potential but with a somewhat cheesy title like “Wynonna Earp” and a plot that involves mummies and yetis (in the graphic novel, anyway), you’d expect something a tad more vibrant and fun.
Further issues the series struggles with include special effects ranging from acceptable to below-par, a forced romantic subplot, far too much talking and writing that’s much too full of bad jokes and plot-holes for its own good. Having said that, it’s good to see another show willing to give its female characters centre stage, especially after Agent Carter was so rudely interrupted recently. Perhaps the series should have given us a reason why this Wynonna Earp is such a badass besides giving her a gun/MacGuffin, an incidental blood link to Wyatt Earp and making her say the odd one-liner. How about taking a page from Michelle Rodriguez in Machete, Sharon Stone in The Quick And The Dead or, more recently, Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road? Butt-kicking gals you wouldn’t want to find yourself messing with. Another concern is the show’s validity anywhere but in the U.S. as the Wyatt Earp name won’t bear much significance in most other countries.
There is a good show in there somewhere with its story allowing for a lot of potentially fun moments and characters but where the comics were colourful and violent, this series is a bit bland and unconvincingly tough. Thankfully, this isn’t one of those Syfy shows so beyond help that you watch the pilot and forget about it instantly. But the comic book adaptation is unlikely to go far beyond its 13 episode run unless it delivers something special and unique either visually or cliffhanger-wise.
Wynonna Earp can be found Fridays on Syfy. Although it won’t turn you into a fan right away and it’s by no means essential viewing, the show’s certainly watchable enough that you’ll want to give it a chance.