Wynonna Earp S1E1 – Purgatory | Starring: Melanie Scrofaro, Shamier Anderson, Tim Rozon, Dominique Provost-Chalkley | Writer: Emily Andras | Director: Paolo Barzman
We live in a glorious time in television history. On any night, one could surf through hundreds of channels and find dozens of shows that cater to a plethora of interests. It’s gotten to the point now that we can record multiple series at once and keep them stored indefinitely; until Brenda finally gives us three consecutive days off and we can binge until our eyelids feel like lead. In spite of the plethora of shows on network, cable and streaming, the call for diversity and representation – though heard – has been answered, albeit in a languid pace.
Thankfully, 2016 has been off to a promising start in regards to showcasing formidable women in lead roles throughout television. The influx continues with Syfy’s latest genre series, Wynonna Earp. Featuring an energetic cast that’s chomping at the bit to make their mark, the supernatural western has all the promise of being a satisfying New West actioner, with equal parts of flair and drama from showrunner Emily Andras.
The series premiere engages the viewers with breakneck speed, quickly introducing the titular character (Melanie Scrofano) who is reluctantly returning to the scene of the crime home due to the sudden passing of her uncle. In the first five minutes, we’ve a general feel for the dour nature of Wynonna. She’s a woman with a lot of baggage and no shame in letting it spill out. Despite her peevishness for others (especially authority figures), way way way deep down inside she’s called to protect those who cannot help themselves. The only problem is whether they want her help or not.
Now stuck in Purgatory (ohhh, I get it!), the welcoming Wynonna receives from her immediate and distant family is about as warm and loving as a pack of rabid raccoons. Granted, she’s never been the most doting daughter and everyone is present for a funeral, but come on now… show a little decency! The only person to exhibit genuine excitement to see Wynonna back in town again is little sister Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley). The rapport between Chalkley and Scrofano isn’t forced or hammy in the slightest. The two display a relationship that is easily relatable and true to siblings who don’t always see eye to eye. There is no question that the Earps have monopolized the market on family drama. While Wynonna remains sullen and defiant in accepting the responsibility of dispatching demonic vermin, Waverly is actually jealous of her sister for being bestowed with a gift (curse… whatever) and is dead set on joining the family business in spite of being a plain ol’ human.
What could be a bit jarring to viewers is Earp doesn’t open like most shows and lay everything out from the beginning. Don’t be afraid… this is actually a good thing. You’re on this journey in a similar fashion as Wynonna: she knows what the deal is (family curse) and what’s possibly ahead (kill or be killed) but not everything is known to her. For example, early in the premiere when facing a revenant in the woods, Earp unintentionally taps into the powers she inherited after her uncle passed. It was a strange sequence if only for the fact that she suddenly becomes an asskicking master for five seconds after getting knocked on the head. If only we were all so lucky.
Wynonna’s presence – and the peculiar evidence left in her wake – doesn’t escape the keen eye of Agent Xavier Dolls (Shamier Anderson). A man of great reserve and little humor, Dolls is tasked with investigating the odd happenings within Purgatory and hastily deduces Wynonna is the sole reason for the huge surge in shenanigans. As the only credible law enforcement in Purgatory, Dolls has a long fight ahead of him in eliminating whatever this unnatural threat may be. Given his covert nature, it’s likely Xavier already knows what’s going down on the outskirts of town.
The crazy antics continue with the sudden appearance of “John Henry”, played with grand panache by Tim Rozon. With a honeyed drawl and a biting wit, the mustachioed stranger is mistaken and casually dismissed by the Earp sisters as a nut who’s really into westerns. Rozon’s rendition of Holliday is a real pleasure to watch; this character exudes the poise and etiquette one expects from a Southern gentleman but it’s clear there’s a rage inside him for whatever reason, and it’s barely restrained. Without a doubt he’ll become a fan favorite. Unfortunately for the Earps, Mr. Henry will be a constant presence in their lives, simmering in a profound hatred for the long-dead Wyatt and his descendants. Secrets and mysteries abound!
With the revenant stronghold growing in number, Wynonna and company will have plenty of opportunities to cut down their ranks in 13 episodes. If Wynonna Earp manages to raise the level of action, humor and intrigue (AND sexual tension!) every week in its inaugural season, everyone is in for a damn good time.
Wynonna Earp S1E1 = 8/10