Wynonna Earp and the power of growth

Let’s hear it for Wynonna Earp, the lawbreaking heir of Wyatt Earp, killer of revenants, drinker of drinks, and all-around delightful trainwreck. If you ever wondered what might have happened to Buffy Summers had her powers not kicked in until she was suffering from PTSD in her late twenties after a series of personal tragedies, the answer to that played out on SYFY for four whole seasons.

Following the adventures of Wynonna, sister Waverly, Waverly’s girlfriend Nicole Haught, a magically-still-alive Doc Holiday, and a whole crew of demons and friends, the show quickly developed what is referred to as “the nicest fandom,” pushed boundaries for queer characters, and changed lives, to the point where even now the campaign to find a new network for the series continues unabated.

Indeed, when it comes to creating believable, likeable, but highly flawed characters, nobody can beat the creative team behind Wynonna Earp, which may be the biggest part of why this show struck such a chord with its fans. Even as the final season drew to a close, Wynonna Earp was truly the story of a little show that could.

Image credit: SYFY

It’s not where we begin…

Season 4’s first episodes featured the core group of characters thrown to the winds, with the hero having drugged her friends to spare them the danger of confronting a literal demon and two of the central protagonists trapped in the extradimensional Garden of Eden. Wynonna (Waverly Earp’s sister) and Nicole (Waverly Earp’s future wife) go in search of Doc and Waverly, but crossing the borders between dimensions is no small feat. Nicole is grounded with delightful newcomer Rachel Valdez, and Wynonna is forced to go it alone. She brings Waverly and Doc back, but eighteen months have past since they’ve been gone.

By the mid-season hiatus, Wynonna had shot one of her enemies in the back, causing a rift between her and Doc, Rachel’s boyfriend had become a tortured demonic wraith, and the surviving Clanton, Clio, was ready to do anything it took to get out of town. Yet, the final note before the break was for Nicole and Waverly to get engaged in the presence of their chosen family. Despite Jeremy’s residual heartache from losing his boyfriend to a memory-eating fog, and the tension between Wynonna and Doc, everyone is able to take a moment to be happy with their friends, leaving a somewhat broody first half-season on a much-needed hopeful note.

Image credit: SYFY

…But where we end up that matters

When the series returned for the rest of Season 4, we had a few mostly light-hearted episodes, featuring a wacky Cupid adventure and a fun identity-swap Halloween story, but tensions between Waverly and Wynonna grew. Even in the wake of a particularly ugly argument between them, when Waverly ended up lost in the fog and face-to-face once more with the demonic Jolene (Zoie Palmer), Wynonna made it clear she’d do anything to get her back. Yet, she showed important growth in that, this time, she put her faith in her friends to help rather than once more going it alone.

One of the most endearing things about Wynonna Earp is its general hesitance to completely villainize some of its primary antagonists.

This season was unique in that much of it was about the importance of friends and family sticking together, but ended by emphasizing the seemingly conflicting need to take time alone. Yet, it is through the combination of these themes that much of the emotional resonance of the series overall has been found. Though the sisters part ways at the end of the series, there is no question it will be temporary, and Wynonna will finally be able to focus on living her own life with the knowledge that her sister is safe.

One of the most endearing things about Wynonna Earp is its general hesitance to completely villainize some of its primary antagonists, and there’s no better example of that tendency than Season 4. Underrated icon Rosita returns, and though Wynonna is justifiably sore that she betrayed her back in season two, they part as complicated friends. Likewise, Doc’s ex Kate, who turned him into a vampire, leaves town in hopes of finding a less toxic relationship. Clio is set up at every turn to be an irredeemable villain but quickly becomes not only incredibly entertaining but also at least mildly relatable. Mercedes is a sincere friend to all, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s self-serving in a way that can sometimes hurt and sometimes help the group. Billy transforms into a demon but finds his way back again with Rachel’s help. Even villains that aren’t given redeemability are still likeable, like Amon the vampire and Ginny the genie, and it’s easy to feel a pang of remorse for them as they meet their respective ends.

 Wynonna Earp
Image Credit: SYFY

And finally, growth

Another incredibly vital note in the success story that is Season 4 is the saga of Wayhaught, who begin the season in separate dimensions and end it married and committed to an endless staycation with one another due to a wonky magical promise Nicole makes in order to save her love. Wayhaught is the rare ship that can easily fluctuate between world-shaking tragedy, life-or-death situations, and goofy declarations of love. Season 4 showed all the sides of the Wayhaught ship, from their charged sexual attraction to the spiritual connection between them to their capacity to inspire one another. Though they each underwent individual growth, the sense of peacefulness that they find by the end of the series is nothing short of beautiful.

Though the surrounding characters of Wynonna Earp are what gives the show much of its life, there’s no overstating the incredible importance of Wynonna’s journey over four seasons. She spends so much of her time reeling from trauma, covering it up with jokes, taking everything on herself, and feeling incapable of confiding in others. Here, faced with the gentle assurance that the town might not need her for every second of the remainder of her life, she crumbles. Accepting that her own happiness matters is the scary thing she’s spent much of the series avoiding even while running headlong into bloody feuds with demonic forces. It’s important that it’s Waverly that tells her to go after Doc, to go find their daughter Alice, and to choose her own happiness, because Wynonna never would have listened to anyone else.

Nicole and Waverly’s love story is deservedly highlighted for its incredible heartfulness, but there is no understating that the trials Doc and Wynonna underwent over the course of the series were likewise character-defining. Doc began as a roguish bad boy with a heart of gold, but by the end he’s naturally progressed into Wynonna’s moral compass, while Wynonna is forced to finally confront her own feelings. Learning to trust one another took years, and it made for one of the best love stories in TV history.

Wayhaught is the rare ship that can easily fluctuate between world-shaking tragedy, life-or-death situations, and goofy declarations of love.

Cast and crew have not been impervious to the feeling of growth and accomplishment that many fans took from the final season. Over the course of the series, Melanie Scrofano and Tim Rozon co-wrote an issue of the Wynonna Earp comic, Scrofano directed her first TV episode with Season 4’s acclaimed “Look At Them Beans,” Dominique Provost-Chalkley wrote a beautiful coming out statement, Katherine Barrell came out as well, and showrunner Emily Andras said that the series “made her braver in every way.” Watching the extras that come along with purchasing the season, there are countless interviews that affirm this show was truly something special.

Fans and critics alike were here for Wynonna Earp’s final season, and it delivered at every turn. For many, the ending of the series feels painfully premature, but there’s no question that it found an undeniable groove in its final episodes. Fans are rallying to find this show a home on another network and we can only hope that this campaign succeeds, but even if this truly is the end, there’s no denying that it was a wildly satisfying conclusion. Here’s to Wynonna Earp, the cast and crew, our beloved hero’s chosen family (and even her enemies) for giving us one of the best, tragically short-lived shows ever to grace our screens.

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