Review: Our fave gunslinger expels her inner demons in Wynonna Earp finale
Demons are defeated, a long-running feud finally comes to an end, personal rifts are healed, and a hotly anticipated wedding finally takes place in the decidedly upbeat series finale of Wynonna Earp, SyFy’s supernatural Western/horror series. SyFy canceled the series earlier this year, although showrunner Emily Andras has not ruled out the possibility of additional seasons, should the series find a new US distributor. But for now, we must bid a fond farewell to the boozily irreverent, tough-yet-vulnerable protector of the fictional town of Purgatory.
(Spoilers for prior seasons below. All major S4 spoilers are below the second gallery. We’ll give you a heads-up when we get there.)
As we’ve reported previously, the series is based on the comic book series created by Beau Smith in 1996. Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) takes on “revenants,” the repeatedly reincarnated outlaws that Wyatt Earp killed. They won’t stay dead until the Earp heir—Wynonna—offs them with Wyatt’s famous 16-inch-barrel revolver, dubbed Peacemaker. Over the course of four seasons, she has battled witches, vampires, vengeful spirits, nutty sister-wife cults, possessed neighbors, demonic nuns, and killer trees, among other threats. She is not without allies, however, including the immortal being, Doc Holliday (Tim Rozon), with whom Wynonna becomes romantically entangled (and yes, it’s complicated). Then there is her baby sister, Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), who falls for local deputy Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell)—a popular pairing dubbed “Wayhaught” by shippers—and the local sheriff, Nedley (Greg Lawson), who becomes a father figure and demon-hunting ally.
In the first season, Wynonna sought out the band of revenants responsible for the deaths of her father and eldest sister, only to find her sister’s fate was something quite different. In S2, she wrestled with her mother’s mysterious abandonment of the family while contemplating her own impending motherhood, courtesy of Doc. At the same time, she discovered that Waverly might not be an Earp after all.
In S3, we got some answers, as Wynonna discovered that her mother, Michelle (Megan Follows), was a patient in a high-security psychiatric hospital, and Waverly—well, Waverly turned out to be half-angel, thanks to Mama Earp’s affair with an angel named Julian (Sebastian Pigott). Wynonna also finally had the chance to confront the demon Bulshar (Jean Marchand), the one who cursed the Earp family (and by extension the revenants) in the first place. The finale pretty much blew up the show’s original premise. The Earp curse appeared to be lifted, the revenants vanished, and Peacemaker disappeared after being used as a key to enter the Garden of Eden. Waverly was forced to remain in the Garden as its prisoner to keep the portal closed, and Doc volunteered to remain there as well, to keep her safe.
The fourth season aired in two parts after the pandemic shut down production mid-season. The first part focused, by narrative necessity, on getting Waverly and Doc out of the Garden of the Eden, with subsequent episodes dealing with the aftermath as everyone returns to a radically altered Purgatory. Wynonna must track down Peacemaker, learns about the darker side of her ancestor, Wyatt Earp, and encounters the rival Clanton clan—which has its own longstanding family curse and a revenge-fueled mission to kill all living Earps.
(WARNING: Major spoilers for the series finale below. Stop now if you’re not finished watching.)
Part 2 gave us some strong “case of the week” episodes. To celebrate her engagement, Wynonna takes Waverly to a strip club, where they encounter a disillusioned, heartbroken cupid named Demetri (Christopher Jacot, Eureka) who insists that true love isn’t real. He makes a bet with Waverly, and hijinks ensue by way of a magical glitter bomb. On Halloween, a demon named Rotten Jack goes on a killing spree just as Wynonna and Waverly stumble into a thick fog and lose their memories. There’s even a cynical, constantly texting amoral genie (Nikki Duval, New Eden) whose wish-granting threatens Trivia Night at Shorty’s. It’s a fun storyline in the same vein as the S7 X-Files episode, “Je Souhaite.”
Most of all, S4 gave us a killer character arc for Wynonna, exploring the toll being the Earp heir has taken on her, as her binge-drinking becomes more severe and she increasingly cuts herself off emotionally from family and friends. I noted back in 2018 that Wynonna is the anti-Buffy: “She’s a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, promiscuous, bar-brawling free spirit with a chip on her shoulder. She never even had a shot at being Homecoming Queen in high school.” That self-sabotaging bravado stems from her insecurity and feelings of unworthiness as the family black sheep; it serves her well as a demon hunter, but it’s also what keeps her from a meaningful relationship with Doc. Wynonna finally confronts her personal demons in the series finale and gets the happy “at least for now” ending the character has earned. Scrofano plays it to perfection.
The final season certainly wasn’t perfect. The storytelling got a bit sloppy in places; the usually crisp, sparkling dialogue was occasionally leaden; and the jokes sometimes felt more sophomoric than clever, especially in the final two episodes—which seemed unfocused and disjointed, as if the writers had to rush to wrap things up.
I mean, Waverly turns into a dark avenging angel with vague plans for ending life in Purgatory. She strikes Wynonna blind, but it wears off after ten minutes, so what was the point? Somehow Doc stops being a vampire—after turning a dying Mercedes into one, at her request (“We all know I was born to be a vampire”). He briefly becomes the Clanton heir with a mission to kill all Earps, but then he isn’t because—honestly, I have no idea, but Dark Angel Waverly eventually intervenes. Then she just as quickly reverts back to being Waverly, thanks to Nicole’s loving sacrifice.
Then we rush right into, “Hey, time for a wedding!” as if all that supernatural drama never happened. Props to the writers for coming up with a cursed wedding dress subplot that was more amusing than horrifying (despite its blood-soaked history). But it was introduced and resolved so quickly; it deserved a bit more time and attention before we jumped right back into the Wayhaught nuptials.
That wedding? That was pure fan service, and the diehard Earpers deserved it. There would not have been a S4 without them. Big speeches in big moments are the hardest to pull off, especially if there isn’t quite enough time to build up to them and make the words really sing, which was the case here. But I’d wager the Earpers were delighted.
We can always nitpick about the many loose ends, the cheesier elements, the completely insane plot twists, and so forth, but in the end, all that matters is that this series somehow always worked anyway. I chalk it up to the show’s big heart. Back in 2011, NPR’s TV critic, Linda Holmes, wrote an insightful review about why ABC’s lackluster reboot of Charlie’s Angels was so much worse than any number of other silly, cheesy, and/or trashy shows that nonetheless manage to find an enthusiastic audience. (She used the same network’s over-the-top soap opera, Revenge, as a comparison, which debuted the same year and ran for four seasons.) Holmes argued that nobody involved ever really loved the reboot. “You can always spot a show nobody loves or has ever loved,” she wrote. And she’s right.
The reverse is true for Wynonna Earp. Everyone who worked on this show, from showrunner Andras to the entire cast and crew, loves it deeply and passionately—”that bottom-of-the-deep-dark-well way,” as Wynonna says to Doc when she finally admits she loves him. It’s something you just can’t fake. It’s what has always given Wynonna Earp that special creative spark, despite (or perhaps because of) its flaws. That love always carried us through the rough patches. In the end, Wynonna Earp was just as endearingly imperfect as its titular heroine, and just as captivating.
Wynonna Earp is available on SyFy (on demand) and for purchase on Amazon Prime.