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Credit: SYFY

Why the quiet heroism of Wynonna Earp's Nicole Haught is so important

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Sep 22, 2020, 6:00 PM EDT

The world of Wynonna Earp is one in which the impossible becomes pretty darn possible on the regular. This is a universe in which dragons and vampires are real, intergenerational curses exist, and magical guns have the power to destroy demons. The nowhere-small town of Purgatory is actually the secret gateway to the Garden of Eden, and Wyatt Earp isn't so much a cultural icon as an albatross around the necks of his descendants due to the ongoing blood feud that still haunts their lives (both figuratively and literally speaking).

This absolutely bonkers premise is why it's such a surprise that the show's most normal, relatable character has quietly emerged as one of its most important: Nicole Haught.

Warning: Spoilers for Season 4 of Wynonna Earp below.

To be fair, Nicole has always been an important and necessary presence on Wynonna Earp: A no-nonsense deputy-turned-sheriff who's always worked her butt off to do the right thing and risks everything to protect those she cares about. But for the bulk of the series' first three seasons, Nicole's most significant subplots have been romantic ones, centered on her growing relationship with Waverly Earp. Now, since we all ship WayHaught that hasn't exactly been a huge problem — thinking about their proposal scene in the midseason finale still makes me smile like an idiot — but it has often meant that Nicole hasn't had a ton to do on her own.

Season 4 has changed all of that in just six episodes, firmly placing Nicole's character at the center of the story and doing so by allowing her to be who she's always been: An ordinary woman who nevertheless chooses to do extraordinary things.

Credit: SYFY

Nicole is one of the few characters on Wynonna Earp who really is just a regular human being. She has no supernatural abilities to speak of, she's not part-angel or all vampire, and she has absolutely no connection to Wyatt Earp besides the fact that she loves a woman who shares his last name. At this point, the very fact of her normality is rather remarkable, given how "special" everyone around her has turned out to be. (Thank goodness for Nedley, I guess?)

But instead of suddenly giving Nicole a magic gun or making her immortal in some way, Wynonna Earp instead chooses to double down on what makes her character so compelling in the first place: That she is so very, very human. And by stranding Nicole in the real world on her own, we as viewers are reminded how valuable her most human traits — her loyalty, her heart, her intelligence — have been from the very start.

A lot of genre shows would have probably taken the easy way out here and used Nicole's 18-month separation from her friends to backburner the character and focus on the Eve subplot unfolding in the Garden of Eden where Wynonna, Doc, and Waverly were trapped. Instead, Wynonna Earp utilizes Nicole's time defending the Earp homestead to showcase precisely why she's so special and to illustrate that she's probably the only character who could have survived the things she did.

Nicole spends eighteen months in a near-constant state of panic and worry, isolated from her entire support system and forced to watch her beloved Purgatory disintegrate around her as monsters creep closer to her home. She has no idea if the people she loves are even still alive, let alone whether any of them will make it home to her.

And on a different kind of show, that might be the end of Nicole's arc for the season, as her character is inevitably left to literally keep the home fires burning, languishing as she waits for the show's more interesting elements to come back to her. Instead, her fear helps make her stronger and more capable than ever before and reminds viewers that Nicole Haught is many things but she is first and foremost a complete badass.

Credit: SYFY

While Waverly is gone, Nicole gets the chance to show off her abilities as a leader, a fighter, an investigator, and a mentor, all on her own terms. She patrols, creates a complex system of traps, and guards the homestead against monsters both human and supernatural. She teaches Rachel, mourns Nedley, and even mounts a doomed campaign for sheriff in an attempt to keep the rival Clanton family from taking over the town. Nicole truly is out here doing her best to hold things together and it's wonderful to see the show openly acknowledge how much work her efforts require.

And her story doesn't end just because Wynonna and Waverly make it back home, either. Sure, she's over the moon to have her found family back at last — and Wynonna Earp makes sure to give us the romantic (hot!) WayHaught reunion we deserve to see. But the show also doesn't pretend as though Waverly's return erases Nicole's trauma, and it spends the rest of Season 4's first half showing us the consequences of her choices, complete with lingering PTSD, anger at Jeremy for abandoning her when she needed him, and guilt over her decision to turn to the Clantons and their weird blood magic to try and bring Waverly home.

Here's hoping that Wynonna Earp will further dig into Nicole's story when the series returns, allowing her to really unpack the lingering trauma of the choices she made at her lowest point and the consequences that came from them. After all, Waverly killed a woman to free Nicole from the deal she made in her absence, but only after Nicole briefly killed herself to try and make things right again. These are not problems that go away overnight, and Nicole is not the same woman she was 18 months ago.

But Season 4 has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what she's been through — or will have to face in the future — Nicole Haught is nothing if not a survivor that's capable of coming out stronger on the other side. She may be just a regular everywoman when compared to her celestial, demonic, or destiny-toting friends, but she's every inch the hero that Wynonna, Doc, and the rest of the Ghost River Triangle team are — and she's more than earned her spot at the center of this show.

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