Wynonna Earp, Syfy’s premiere gun-slinging, lady-loving, demon-hunting hootenanny, closed out its short summer season late Sunday evening, and holy Purgatory was it a blast. There were frog exorcisms; there were demon nuns; there was reconciliation; there was betrayal. Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) got back her gun. Doc (Tim Rozon) said his peace. WayHaught (Dominique Provost-Chalkley + Katherine Barrell) got engaged. And that was just the mid-season finale! Blink at all six episodes that made up Season 4A’s protracted run, and you’ll see the afterimage of another Earper miracle.
Premiering in the Spring of 2016, just as The Magicians (RIP) was wrapping up its first season run, Emily Andras’ lady-ballsy Chosen One Western has long been the little engine that could. Not only have its fiercely dedicated fans brought it back from the brink of ruination more times than an outlaw revenant come back from Hell—this summer’s hard-won fourth season, snatched from the jaws of ex-post-facto-cancellation after a fan campaign that included literal billboards in Times Square, is just the latest victory in the Earpers’ trophy case—but, as the good gay will of all of tumblr underscores, Wynonna Earp has, season after season, been the kind of show that makes watching (and writing about!) television fun. If the finickier bits of its plot haven’t always held together perfectly, so what? The brassy, fuck-the-man confidence with which Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) and her ragtag Purgatory posse—family, friend, and celestial demon-slaying weapon alike—have stormed across the television landscape these last four years has more than made up for it. Well, that, plus the scorching hot chemistry that from the start has been smoldering, with increasingly graphic intensity, between Waverly and Nicole, Wynonna and Doc Holliday, and Doc and, well, everyone he and his pistol have ever crossed paths with. As Saint Andras who gave the world WayHaught is my witness, that’s all, uh… definitely helped.
That isn’t just prurience talking. As the half dozen episodes of this summer’s run proved, Wynonna Earp returned from the almost-dead with an almost eerily complete understanding of all the ways in which its most intimate relationships—carnal and not—make it the shit show it is. (That’s a good thing.) These relationships have never not been central to the series’ foul-mouthed charm, of course—Wynonna and Doc’s semi-casual Season 2 sexytimes, recall, resulted in an actual baby whose fate has guided their actions, good and bad, ever since—but for six straight Sunday nights this summer, starting with Waverly and Nicole’s internet-breaking stair sex and ending and ending with Wynonna shit-talking her way back to Peacemeker (well, and with Waverly and Nicole’s engagement), they seemed to gain even greater narrative importance. Like, sure, that stair sex was realistically hot. But it also served the dual storytelling purpose of preemptively paying off the desperate deal Nicole made with the Swamp Witch (Paula Boudreau) during Waverly et al’s eighteen-month absence, and of setting up the murderous surge of angelic power the comes over Waverly when she finally connects the dots and finds herself willing to perpetuate the Earp/Clanton blood feud if it means being able to save her one true love. Similarly, while Wynonna and Doc’s sexy moments are more or less limited to a single barn make-out sesh with Wynonna in a set of high-waisted lingerie that seems entirely inadequate to the task of keeping her warm in a barn bedroom on a cold winter’s night and, like, a few charged looks across a bisexually lit demon bar, the emotional intimacy of their generations-long connection is tested again and again, until finally Wynonna shoots a man Doc had hoped to make peace with in the back and it breaks for good.
While less sexually charged than these two primary relationships, the importance of intimate connection holds across the rest of the characters in Wynonna’s motley found family: Their love of Nedley (Greg Lawson) saves him from an eternity roaming the woods of the Ghost River Triangle as a Bigfoot-esque mold monster; their love of Jeremy (Varun Saranga) gives him enough self-confidence to stand up to the new and decidedly not improved Black Badge so he can rejoin the team on the other side of the supernatural DMZ; and their love of dirtbag teen orphan Rachel Valdez (Martina Ortiz-Luis) assures she’ll have a safe(-ish) place to call as long as she needs one—and if she turns out to be a supernatural Mayan warrior princess heir ready to fight alongside them whenever the series returns in 2021, so much the better.
Most critical of all platonic intimacies this season, though may be the surprisingly unbreakable friendship between Wynonna and Nicole, which both are nearly too stubborn to fully recognize at the very beginning of the season—that is, until Nicole has broken multiple bones, and Wynonna’s unleashed a swarm of zombie scientists on their way to finding and alternate entrance to the Garden to track Waverly down once and for all. As Wynonna notes with gratifying self-awareness when fighting Rosita (Tamara Duarte) for a demonic nun’s amusement in Sunday’s mid-season finale, she didn’t grow up learning to, you know, get along with other women. That she can have cultivated an emotional bond deep enough with Nicole that they can let rip with each other without fear of damaging their connection is a lovely development. (Rosita, left un-shot by Peacemaker when she and Wynonna finally part ways, surely agrees.)
Where these relationships will land when the series comes back for Season 4B in 2021 is anyone’s guess. Given the gift of WayHaught’s long-awaited engagement in this summer’s final act, one would hope a wedding (and, for their sake, wedding night) is somewhere on the horizon. But given that it is Wynonna Earp we’re talking about, and this summer did leave off without resolving the storylines it set up about Eve’s escape from the Garden, Rachel’s warrior legacy, the endgame New Black Badge has in mind with its uncomfortably familiar quarantine protocol for all of the Ghost River Triangle, the Clantons’ last (and most unpredictable) heir, and what Ma Clanton wanted with baby Alice in the first place—never mind the fact that Wynonna just shot the Sheriff in a town that’s already shown itself willing to hang its neighbors in the town square for who knows what petty misdemeanors—our favorite shit show still has a lot of BANG to deliver until a happy ending of any kind can happen. What we can be sure of, is that while the world waits, Earpers will be out there, getting ready to fight for Season 5. Things are bleak right now; let’s hope they win.
The latest season of Wynonna Earp is available to stream on SYFY.com. Earlier seasons are available on Netflix.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.
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