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article imageReview: 'Wynonna Earp' is a gleefully fun supernatural western Special

By A.R. Wilson     Mar 31, 2016 in Entertainment
New Syfy/CHCH series 'Wynonna Earp' is a rollicking supernatural Western that should reel in 'Buffy' and 'Lost Girl' fans.
Here's the lowdown: Wynonna Earp is a blast.
From its reluctantly gun-slinging heroine to its witty dialogue to its unapologetically silly historical-supernatural premise, the series — which premieres Friday, April 1 at 10 p.m. on Syfy in the U.S. and Monday, April 4 at 9 p.m. on CHCH in Canada — is wall-to-wall fun.
Make no mistake, the fingerprints of other shows are all over it. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, and Lost Girl are the most obvious references, but if viewers squint, they may also see the hazy influence of Justified, The X-Files and even Sons of Anarchy. But that's not a complaint. In the competent hands of showrunner Emily Andras (Lost Girl, Killjoys), Wynonna Earp — which is loosely based on the IDW Publishing comics by Beau Smith — extracts the most enjoyable parts of those series and produces something that feels both comfortable and new.
Like Buffy Summers and Bo Dennis, Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) is burdened by a supernatural legacy and uses witty one-liners as a defense, but a rough backstory gives her a hard-drinking edge that's closer to Jessica Jones. Well, if Jessica Jones was also bit of a lovable dork. The show doesn't take itself seriously enough to linger on the doom and gloom, leavening Wynonna's badassery with ample amounts of awkward charm.
Like most pilots, the premiere episode wades through a ton of exposition, but scrappy Scrofano shows up ready to play and keeps things intriguing while Andras erects Wynonna's world. The gist of the story is that Wynonna, the great-great-granddaughter of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, returns to her hometown of Purgatory for a funeral and gets roped into the family curse, which allows all the Old West baddies Wyatt gunned down to return and wreak havoc in demon form. She discovers that she can use Wyatt's old Peacemaker pistol to send the Revenants (as they are called) back to hell, but that means staying in the town she ran away from, a town whose residents — aside from her plucky younger sister Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) — don't seem all that eager to welcome her back. It also means teaming with Agent Xavier Dolls (Shamier Anderson), who believes Wynonna's kickass skill set makes her perfect for his shadowy government agency, the Black Badge Division.
Things get breezier in the second episode, as Wynonna tries her unsteady hand at investigating with Agent Dolls and the other townsfolk get fleshed out a bit. Officer Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell) drops by the local bar to flirt with Waverly and offer up some friendly LGBTQ representation (I hope she has a bullet-proof vest), and the inscrutable and scruffy Doc Holliday (Tim Rozon, almost unrecognizable from his role as Mutt on Schitt's Creek), skulks about various locations with murky motivations. Finally, Bobo Del Rey — brought to chilling, charismatic life by Michael Eklund — is introduced as the show's Big Bad.
Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) and Agent Dolls (Shamier Anderson) don t always see eye to eye.
Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) and Agent Dolls (Shamier Anderson) don't always see eye to eye.
Courtesy of Syfy
Shot in Calgary, the series makes conservative use of its surroundings, but that works in the context of the storyline. The town of Purgatory looks the way it sounds: It's a dusty waylay. It's not dressed up to appear either quaint or spooky. It's just a bland, middle-of-nowhere hamlet with plain brick buildings and sprawling railroad tracks that seem to tease the town's inhabitants with the possibility of better places just over those gorgeous Alberta mountains. As for the special effects, well, those fall on the campy side of the genre spectrum. But if the glowing eyes and scars of the demons seem a little cheeseball, just remember how silly those lumpy vampire foreheads in Buffy seemed during the first season. There's a homey sense of familiarity in the hokiness.
Wynonna Earp has a lot going for it, chiefly Scrofano's rough-and-tumble likability and the production's near-gleeful sense of fun. Assuming the 13-episode season lives up to its early promise, genre fans as a whole should enjoy the series, but fans specifically in the market for another smart, complex, human heroine should find the show — and Purgatory — downright heavenly.
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'Wynonna Earp' airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Syfy in the U.S. and Mondays at 9 p.m. on CHCH in Canada
Note: Canadian viewers can live stream 'Wynonna Earp' on the CHCH website at 10 p.m. on Fridays and again at 9 p.m. on Mondays
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