Wynonna Earp redefines what a hero looks like

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Jul 19, 2018, 1:00 PM EDT

Wynonna Earp is back! As our favorite fated-to-fight gunslinger steps up to take on yet another wave of evil reincarnated demons (known as “revenants”), as well as any other supernatural beasties that might stumble into the Ghost River Triangle, it’s hard to believe that the show is now settling in comfortably for its third season. And yet, looking back on everything that’s happened to Wynonna and company thus far, knowing how far our leading lady has come and the sacrifices she’s made in pursuit of keeping Purgatory safe, Season 3 feels very much earned as we rejoin our favorite characters in the premiere.

Last season made waves about a year ago when it was revealed that Wynonna was pregnant in Episode 5, “Let’s Pretend We’re Strangers.” Behind the scenes, it was a story choice timed to coincide with actress Melanie Scrofano’s real-life pregnancy, but in the scope of the series, it changed the trajectory of Wynonna’s character — for the better. Given that genre hasn’t often depicted expectant mothers in the most positive light — most pregnancies in the supernatural realm tend to be the result of literal evil — the fact that Wynonna’s was the product of normal, true-to-life circumstances was a welcome change. But then another question became clear: How do you keep a tiny, helpless baby safe in a territory known for attracting dangerous entities? The right choice was devastating, yet clear all the same, and Wynonna gave up her baby (who she and the father, Doc Holliday, named Alice Michelle) to be raised outside of Purgatory by her Aunt Gus.

As a show, Wynonna Earp has received comparisons to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and while the parallels are there (a young woman finds herself the unexpected recipient of a supernatural destiny to fight demons), the SYFY series takes a page from its predecessor while also finding ways to rewrite the whole damn book. In fact, it could be argued that Buffy Summers walked so Wynonna Earp could run, ushering in the potential for a whole new generation of genre heroines who lovingly acknowledge what made their ancestors great while breaking the mold for the female-fronted future in genre. That aside, it’s probably more accurate to mention the names of two other famous titles that Wynonna Earp showrunner Emily Andras frequently drops when discussing her initial pitch for the series. There’s Buffy, of course, but also Justified and Frozen.

Wynonna Earp 205, Wynonna and Waverly

The latter is familiar to anyone who was raising small children within the last five years, and in the context of Wynonna Earp makes total sense. It’s rare that the most emotionally intense relationship on a show happens between family (and not in the Game of Thrones way), yet even as Wynonna and her sister Waverly navigate the complexities of their own individual romances, their strongest link is and always has been to each other. Even though last season’s finale dropped the bombshell revelation that Mama Earp is still alive, and that Wynonna knows about it, one gets the sense that nothing short of a natural disaster could ever drive a wedge between the Earp sisters for very long.

The former, however, is what really contributes to Wynonna Earp’s originality and potential longevity as a series. On Justified, deputy U.S. marshal Raylan Givens was known for being a contemporary gunslinger, equipping both cool confidence under pressure and a signature cowboy hat. And while Wynonna’s not necessarily rocking all of the same Western-inspired duds (although she has been known to rock an epic fringed leather jacket from time to time), she definitely exhibits a lot of the same personality traits that are frequently attributed to — and ruled defensible for — gun-toting male characters. She shoots first and asks questions later. She’s usually ready with a well-timed quip, but when the going gets serious she also knows when to buckle down and stand her ground, defending those she loves. There’s a lot about her that wouldn’t necessarily be deemed “likable,” but Wynonna’s made it plain on several occasions that she has never been concerned about whether or not anyone actually likes her. By extension, it’s the show’s willingness to not just showcase, but embrace the messy aspects of its lead that make her a brilliant protagonist for the landscape of genre television today. 

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But Wynonna Earp is a show that also prizes the importance of acceptance, regardless of who the person is or what kind of junk they might have in their past. It’s not until Wynonna makes her way back to Purgatory and forges bonds with the people around her that she even begins to address her own need to work on her sh*t, but part of her character evolution involves her realization that she needs to rely on others and open up to them in order to truly heal. She doesn’t need to change to become a hero; all she really had to do was acknowledge the truth of who she is — and all the f*cked-up, broken, crazy, sexy, strong-headed parts that combine to forge a truly badass champion. When we first encounter Wynonna in the Season 3 premiere, she appears to be back to her old tricks, complete with drinking too much beer and mechanical bull rides (sometimes together), but the reveal eventually follows: she’s still grieving the loss of Alice. She’s just processing in her own way — and the show gives her the space with which to do so, without judgment or censure.

Over the course of its airing, Wynonna Earp has attracted a legion of loyal fans (dubbed “Earpers”), who passionately support the show on a regular basis as well as foster a positive community within their respective fandom — and given the series’ approach to not only the outdated concept of “likability” in respect to its female characters, but also its dedication to showcasing a strong romance between two queer leads and avoidance of the stereotypical “love triangle” device, is it any wonder why? This is a show that is more than deserving of its accolades, and based on what’s been revealed from early teases of Season 3 Wynonna Earp is about to take its cast of characters into wholly new and uncertain territory, even though it’ll still take place between the boundaries of Purgatory. We're more than ready for whatever comes next.

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