Wynonna Earp Season 2 Episode 1: THE REVIEW

Wynonna Earp is very much back and it would feel wrong not to blog about it. Without further adieu, here are my top five highlights from the season two premier:

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Scoobies

1. B-Movie Monster Magic: The major cliff-hanger of last season was did Waverly shoot Wynonna or Doc? Turns out, she shot a fairly gnarly looking monster that was about to pounce on her big sister. Wynonna Earp has always embraced its silliness and may I just say that it is so refreshing to see some old school style monstrosities onscreen? CGI is all well and good, but sometimes a dude in a mask does a much better job. Purgatory’s latest inhabitant looked like Admiral Ackbar had fallen into a blender and I freaking loved it! Wyonna Earp has a very specific aesthetic to it and polished, computer generated bad guys just don’t seem to fit (phallic evil worm snake from last season not withstanding – I’ll watch Wynonna outrun a giant penis devil any day). Here’s hoping we get to see lots more bad guys in this style throughout the season. I would much rather Wynonna Earp look like the original Star Wars trilogy than the prequels. More masks. More makeup. More fake blood. BRING IT.

2. Doc’s Missing Hat: I don’t say this lightly, but Emily Andras just one-upped Steven Spielberg with the hat gag. Indiana Jones is one of the most influential franchises in my world. I would not be who I am without it. So the idea of losing a signature hat is worrisome. Except Doc losing his hat made for a hilarious situation that never felt over-played. Tim Rozon’s comic timing is perfect and Wynonna saying Doc’s head looked naked was perfect and it was all just perfect. I’m sorry, Indy, but that was lit.

3. Melanie Scrofano: It’s hard to imagine a time when Melanie Scrofano wasn’t twirling Peacemaker around her finger. And I realize that Melanie Scrofano only plays Wynonna on TV, but what a miracle of the perfect actor in the perfect part. Keeping up with Wynonna is half the battle of watching the show – it’s a fun battle though so no complaints. And poor Wynonna is probably feeling every feeling there is to feel. She just killed her sister, her baby sister is in danger, her man is locked up, her other man lost his hat (and is a self-sacrificing romantic, damn him), she was bested by a lamp, she’s now had to sign a blood oath, and there are still revenants trying to get her. Watching Scrofano is like watching an Olympian. She’s just the best at what she does. And bless this show for pausing during an otherwise action-packed hour to let Wynonna just have some time to cry. Emily Andras, just…uuuugh stop.

4. Nicole Haught: Last year my fascination with Waverly’s characterization knew no bounds. This year I’m already writing a thesis on Nicole Haught. Kat Barrell is one of those rare actors that can do everything with her eyes. Those are some dangerous eyeballs. So Nicole is expressing EVERYTHING without saying much and it’s all kind of heartbreaking? I shake my fist at you, Kat! How dare!

No, but seriously – Nicole Haught wants to belong. She’s wanted to belong since last season. Remember when she wasn’t invited to Waverly’s party? And then she was only “kinda” Waverly’s girlfriend? Then there was the small problem of everyone in town lying about Purgatory’s supernatural inhabitants. Nicole wants the truth. And she wants to understand her place. And she wants to be included. The beginning of a relationship is hard on anyone and it’s no different for Waverly and Nicole. Nicole wants to understand where she fits into Waverly’s life and Waverly’s life is full of danger and a ‘ride or die’ sisterhood and a whole lot of supernatural research.

And now Waverly has been goo’d (which is much better than Goop’d) so Nicole is trying to figure out why her brand new girlfriend tastes different (Andras, I see you) and has lost her ability to handle weapons in a safe manner. She needs her identity affirmed by Doc because she’s an Agent, not just an Officer, she’s an Agent – except only Doc and Dolls were around when that promotion occurred. And now she’s been left out of a blood oath. Nicole Haught wants to be part of the Scooby gang. She wants to know how she fits into all of this. In the meantime, it’s like she’s on the margins of the cool kids at school. Sometimes they invite her to the sleepover, but sometimes they forget she even exists and it’s hurtful and confusing. So hurtful and confusing that she managed to do the impossible and turn her cheek to a Wavery Earp kiss. My goodness. The willpower! I’m not going to mention any underboob here because I am a lady and this blog is a classy place.

Wynonna Earp - Season 2
Wants to be in the room where it happens…

5. Character, Character, Character – A good plot is great, but good characters? That’s a show. Waverly Earp is one of the best and the addition of the mysterious goo is intriguing. I will admit to being nervous about the goo. I didn’t want Waverly to suddenly have no control over her own actions or do things that she wouldn’t want to do. So I’m sorry, Emily, I shan’t doubt again! I shan’t! But Dominique Provost-Chalkley may actually be human sunshine. Also, Waverly, I’m not sure if Neosporin works on bruises, but eye on the prize, girl. Eye on the prize. Special shout out to Shamier Anderson too – I don’t know what Dolls is, some kind of lizard dragon thing – but I really want to know. And that smile at the end? Oh, Xavier. Somehow Wynonna Earp has me shipping a heterosexual love triangle. This is unheard of. I’M DISTURBED. But also, MORE PLEASE.

Basically, season two already feels fantastic because these characters are so fantastic. They could all sit on chairs and start reading the phonebook and, hell, that would be really weird, but it would somehow work too? That’s the mark of a stellar show. And the Wynonna Earp troupe is second to none.

On a personal note, Wynonna Earp has brought a lot of good into my life. Last season inspired me to write more than I’d ever written before (since years in graduate school where I was forced to write a lot of very boring, very soul crushing, content). I was incredibly lucky to meet Emily and the cast during Fan Expo last August and it felt very much like a homecoming of sorts. Conventions are strange places that can harbour false familiarity, but despite the major drama of the day (lining up is a lot harder than it looks), the cast could not have been more lovely and welcoming. Many Earpers have made lasting friendships, raised a lot of money for good causes, and actively made the world a better place through their hard work. I don’t talk about my personal life on the blog, but I can say that this show has made me very, very happy for many reasons (thank the nerd gods for chance meetings and Freudian slips).

While it doesn’t seem like Wynonna Earp will be attending any Canadian Cons this year, I wish the cast and crew all the best for season two. Thanks for signing my comic books. Emily, thanks for letting me name Nicole’s cat. It feels good to be back in Purgatory.

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You Can’t Go Home Again: Twin Peaks Reviewed

The trick with the new season of Twin Peaks is not to analyze it, but rather, to just let it happen. Returning to Twin Peaks was always going to be an interesting task for David Lynch and Mark Frost because for twenty-five years, fans and critics alike have built a perception of what the show was, flaws and all. Any new show set in a small town, be it even the slightest bit quirky in nature had to deal with the comparisons. Even the CW’s Riverdale, a dark take on Archie Comics, has been called Twin Peaks for teenagers. There is the Twin Peaks of the mind and the Twin Peaks of reality and the chasm between has been untouched for twenty-five years. Until last night.

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The original Twin Peaks aired on ABC, it was Primetime TV, so David Lynch had to work within certain parameters. The show’s controversial second season was only controversial because the network forced Lynch’s hand, rushing the reveal of Laura Palmer’s murderer and leaving the show in creative limbo. So it should come as no surprise that given the chance to work with a cable network in 2017, Lynch was not going to produce something that looked like ABC’s Twin Peaks. The new Twin Peaks is Lynch undistilled. For some, that will be a welcome change. For others, it will cause confusion and disappointment. Nostalgia is a tricky beast.

 

There is no point in analyzing the new season, at least not yet. Lynch is obviously building numerous storylines here, they may or may not intersect at some point, but it’s too early to know where he’s going. The glimpses we get of Twin Peaks are welcome, there is something comforting in knowing that despite Dale Cooper’s mysterious disappearance twenty-five years ago, that small town in Washington State has continued to exist. It didn’t go away with the TV show, Shelly and James and Dr. Jacoby and Hawk have all been busy living their lives. The brief glimpses of the late Catherine Coulson’s Log Lady are especially poignant. Each time Hawk ends their phone calls with “goodnight, Margaret,” it feels like a heartbreaking click of a closing door.

 

We’ve had twenty-five years to look at the original Twin Peaks. It makes some of the show’s more bizarre moments familiar. We’re used to the weird because it’s an old weird. Disappearing white horses? No problems. Endless close up shots of logs and coffee mugs and traffic lights? We get it. The Red Room with its dizzying flooring? Iconic. So it’s no wonder that the new Twin Peaks is somewhat jarring. It’s uncanny – it looks the same, but it’s not – much like Dale Cooper’s evil doppelganger running about South Dakota.

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Lynch captures the tone of Twin Peaks almost immediately; it’s confusing and foreboding and uncomfortable. His aesthetics continue to fascinate as characters appear to be pulled from 1970s fashion catalogues or 1980s soap operas. There’s a lot more violence and a lot more nudity. And there’s also a sense that Lynch will not be rushed this time. His camera lingers on the mundane. Scenes cut in and out that seemingly make no narrative sense (yet). For those looking for an identifiable plot, it’s going to take some time to appear. And for those wanting to immediately understand the show’s imagery, it’s mystery, my guess is that it’s going to take time. A lot of time.

 

The third season of Twin Peaks feels less like Twin Peaks and more like a David Lynch film. Which makes sense, given the artistic freedom that cable must provide. Those small glimpses of the original cast feel like comfortable touchstones, but Lynch is obviously not in this for a reunion. Whatever this version of Twin Peaks is, it’s Lynch unfiltered, which makes it must watch television. He has eighteen episodes to reveal his vision and it will likely take the full eighteen to ‘understand’ whatever it is that’s going on. Last night’s episode featured a tree with a talking brain. It also featured an unfortunate mullet wig on Kyle McLaughlin. Some will say it’s just being weird for the sake of being weird, but when it comes to Twin Peaks, it’s always been best to just lean in, let the weird wash over. Let it happen. Let it unfold. Don’t fight it.

 

Twin Peaks isn’t a show to be solved. Not yet. It’s an experience and judging from last night’s offering, a dark experience at that. Best to charge up a flashlight and take Lynch’s hand. The woods are dark and the owls, even after all of this time, are still not what they seem.

Arthurian Dysfunction: Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur Reviewed

Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur is nonsensical tosh. I’m not just saying that because my medievalist sensibilities have been offended. I’m far from a purist; give me high-fantasy Arthur onscreen any day. But what Ritchie has done to the Arthurian legend is place it in a blender, feed it to a dog, let the dog vomit on the floor, and then (somehow) sell it to Hollywood executives.

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Whenever I teach students about Arthurian literature, I always remind them that the stories of Arthur are a patchwork. There is no linear Arthur tale. Instead, the Arthurian materials consist of numerous stories told over hundreds of years in many different languages. The aspects of Arthur that have become legendary – his sword, Camelot, his relationships – are all the result of centuries of writers adding to and editing the mythos. That’s why working with Arthurian literature is such an exciting prospect. One tale can be a tragedy, detailing Arthur’s death at the hands of his own, illegitimate son. Another can be a comedy, about one of Arthur’s knights that befriends a lion and travels about the realm like Han and Chewbacca on adventures. So Arthur on film should be equally exciting. The material is so rich. There is so much of it. And yet Ritchie fails so completely that it makes one wonder why he wanted to make an Arthur film in the first place.

 

King Arthur could just as easily be about a man named Bob that finds a magic sword and saves a pseudo-medieval kingdom from an evil king. The characters in King Arthur have names like Mike and George – it’s not like Ritchie seemed concerned with accuracy. But by making this movie a “King Arthur” movie, Ritchie tied his material to a pre-existing legacy, which forces an interpretation through that lens. So let’s be real here for a moment. King Arthur is not about Arthur or Camelot or even an invasion from Saxons. King Arthur is about Guy Ritchie’s fixation on penises. Or…one penis in particular.

 

In the film, Excalibur is an object of worship. It is big and it vibrates and it cannot be tamed. Only the trueborn king can wield it, and even then, poor Arthur has a difficult time with his birthright. In order for Ritchie’s Excalibur to work, it must be held in two hands and so there are countless close up shots of Charlie Hunnam sensually curling his hands around the sword’s handle. The slow-mo captures Ritchie’s gaze and that gaze is firmly set on Hunnam clutching his sword. Anytime Arthur grasps the sword with both hands, he is overcome by its power and passes out, falling to the ground in an unconscious, post-orgasmic swoon. The following shot is nearly always of Arthur bathing himself, washing away the messy result of Excalibur’s untameable release. He is a sweaty, exhausted mess, who cannot handle the power of his own sword.

 

Until he can handle it. And then Excalibur, in the capable, double-handed hold of Arthur, becomes a weapon able to annihilate entire armies. The final shot of the film is not of Arthur, but of Excalibur, clutched in Arthur’s hand as the multitudes cheer in worship. Despite the fact that Charlie Hunnam is clearly a grown up, Ritchie’s King Arthur is a coming of age story about a man that discovers he owns a powerful sword and, in order to master it, must play with it endlessly as those around him become increasingly impressed with his prowess. Impressed enough to make him king. The patriarchy is strong with this one.

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But here’s the thing about Excalibur. In the original legends, the sword is useless without its scabbard. It is the scabbard that holds all the power. If the scabbard is not present, Excalibur is just a sword. There are many tales where Morgan Le Fay, Arthur’s problematic sister, steals the scabbard, thus stripping Excalibur of its power completely. She doesn’t steal the sword, she steals the scabbard. And, yes, Mr. Ritchie, sometimes a sword is just a sword. Except in this instance, it’s really not.

 

Here’s another factoid. The Latin word for scabbard is vagina. The power of Excalibur has nothing to do with its phallic worth or symbolism. In reality, without its vagina, Excalibur is a useless, impotent, hunk of metal. Is Guy Ritchie aware of this? The fact that he gleefully murders women left and right throughout King Arthur makes me wonder if yes, indeed, Ritchie is quite aware. Aware and obviously offended or scared or uninterested. Because just as Excalibur is nothing without its scabbard, King Arthur lacks the necessary ingredient to become anything but the deformed offspring of Ritchie’s imagination. The only female character to play a significant role is “the mage,” Ritchie’s stand-in for Merlin, who spends the entire film with darkened CGI eyeballs wielding a massive snake. Yes, a snake. We get it, Guy.

King Arthur manuscript to be auctioned
This is Lancelot. He is stabbing himself in the thigh. Which is symbolically a penis. Medieval literature is strange. 

King Arthur is, unsurprisingly, a massive box-office failure. As it should be. Excalibur is nothing without its scabbard and given Ritchie delight in sacrificing female characters for the ambition of their male partners, the film deserves nothing but ridicule and loathing. For those needing a cinematic Arthurian fix, stick to the superior Excalibur, John Boorman’s 1981 Arthurian classic. Guy Ritchie’s outing is flaccid, at best.

The Wynonna Earp Hiatus Guide!

Greetings Earpers!

 

Did we all survive Comic Con weekend? Unless you’ve been trapped in a well, the news of Wynonna Earp’s renewal should be widespread by now! Yes, we’re getting more Purgatory. More Peacemaker. More Nedley’s couch. More Team Doc and Team Dolls. More. More. More. TV gods be praised!

 

To the Earpers in attendance at SDCC, thank you so much for your tweets, your videos, your enthusiasm, and your generosity in sharing the experience on social media.

 

To the cast, you are kindness and giving and love all wrapped up in some truly wondrous humans. Thank you, thank you, thank you! What a class act (yes, even you Scrofano with the fart jokes).

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To my fellow Comic Cants, led by our illustrious leader, Emily Andras, as I say every Passover, next year in San Diego.

 

It’s going to be a long hiatus, my people. And I thought I’d put together a little Hiatus Guide for your entertainment. So, without further adieu, here she be:

 

First things first. Last night in my search for all things Wynonna, I found a password protected tumblr account that I thought we should all take a look at.

 

http://theroadtopurgatory.tumblr.com/

 

I mean, sure, it could be an underground evangelical gateway to the afterlife’s waiting room. But, what if it’s not? What if it has to do with our beloved Wynonna Earp? I spent some time trying to crack the password using all the usual suspects (Earp, Wayhaught, Peacemaker, ShitTicket), but so far no luck. Any guesses? Any clues? Have at it, Earpers! There might be something cool beyond that password. Let’s use our hive mind and break it open.

 

Please remember to continue your support for Wynonna Earp on social media. Yes, we have a second season, but we want to grow the fandom as much as possible and begin a very early push for season three. Tweet away. Email SyFy (demand some merchandise – we need action figures!). Tell your friends. Tell your grandma (if your grandma is also your friend that would be convenient). Spread the word as much as possible because while we won our very first battle to save Wynonna Earp, we need to keep up the good work. Re-watch the show. Buy it on iTunes. Tell your UK buddies that Wynonna Earp is coming to a TV near them (Friday, July 29th at 9PM on Spike TV!). Do the thing!

 

More password guesses: Clootie? WyattEarp? Doughnuts?

 

Be sure to support your fandom artists and writers! Share their work, comment on their work, talk about their work! The more media we produce, the bigger the show gets. And I’m not just saying that because I write fanfic (under WrackWonder on AO3). This fandom is wonderfully supportive. Let’s try to keep that up during the hiatus! Inspired by the show? Unleash your talent, your imagination, and your enthusiasm! Let’s see more cosplay at Cons. Let’s swamp tumblr with pretty art. Let’s make AO3 buckle under the weight of our WayHaught collection. We can do this!

 

Has anyone cracked that password yet? CalamityJane? Shortys? TheBlackSmith?

 

Fan Gatherings and Cons: If you’re like me, you’ve started a one-woman crusade to get Wynonna Earp to Fan Expo Canada. Or you can organize a fan meet up in your city! The name of the game is fostering community and supporting our favourite show. Reach out, use that social media, make some new friends, keep the fires burning!

 

Further password guesses: PinkCadillac? Geoduck? DocStache?

 

However you choose to spend the hiatus, just remember to keep on doing what you’re doing. Talking about the show. Creating for the show. And most of all, spreading good will and happiness, like a feminist, gun-totting, whisky-swilling, leather-jacket-wearing, demon-killing, questionable-life-choices-making Santa Clause.

 

In the mean time, let’s crack that password, shall we?

 

Unicorn?

 

BoboNoNo?

 

Boobs?

 

Come on, http://theroadtopurgatory.tumblr.com/

 

REVEAL YOUR SECRETS!

To Wynonna Earp: Thank You!

Tomorrow marks a full week since the first season of Wynonna Earp ended and I needed that time to gather my thoughts. It’s always hard to know how personal to get on this blog. I created the blog as a space for me to drop my thoughts about popular culture. Occasionally I’ve ventured into personal opinions, especially when it comes to the mistreatment of certain fandoms, but over all, it has not been a place that I feel is particularly personal.

 

Wynonna Earp popped into my life during a time when I very much needed it. Like many fangirls, I turn to fandom when things get rough, when life becomes unpleasant. And for numerous reasons, life has been rough lately. For nearly twelve months, life has been rough. So when Wynonna showed up it felt like at least once a week, no matter what was happening in my world, I had an hour to just relax, sit back, hang out somewhere safe, and stop worrying.

 

TV shows, any media really, are open to criticism and judgment from all over the world. There are likely people that watch Wynonna Earp and see it as bubble gum, something light and silly and without much depth. And that’s fine. Those people are allowed to feel that way. But for me? Wynonna was like watching a puzzle come together, a complicated, beautiful, hilariously fun puzzle. I love that Wynonna can wield a gun and cry at the same time. That is not weakness. To be vulnerable, to admit to vulnerabilities, to stand in front of someone and reveal those vulnerabilities? That is bravery. And Wynonna is heart-stoppingly, admirably, stubbornly, brave.

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To see Wynonna fiercely love her sister, both sisters. To see her fight for them, protect them, laugh with them, and ultimately, sacrifice a piece of herself for them is beautiful and unique and something that’s just not on TV. I have a little sister. Wynonna Earp captures our dynamic in a way that both delights and surprises me. Because while I’m not the town pariah, the love between my sister and I, the respect, the selflessness, that was all there between Waverly and Wynonna. And it’s important to me to see two women celebrate their bond. Both the kinship bond, but also, their friendship. Female friendships on TV are so often fraught with jealousy over men. Wynonna Earp destroyed the Bechdel Test repeatedly. Because it could. It obliterated the need for such a test. If anything, Wynonna Earp is arguably post-Bechdel. About time.

 

And then there’s Waverly and Nicole. It’s been a bad year for queer representation on TV. And I don’t know if Emily Andras has prophetic powers, I don’t know what kind of magic elixir she downs each night, but the finale felt like healing. It felt like a cure. It felt like something we’ve been waiting for. To see Nicole shot, to see her reveal a bulletproof vest with nonchalance because obviously she would be wearing one, to see logic and sense prevail against cheap thrills and offensive tropes? It felt like the show reaching out and giving the LGBT+ community a reassuring hug. It felt like someone saying that our relationships are valid. That love is better than darkness. That even on television, where a happy couple is a boring couple, there are ways to create drama and suspense and fear without destroying queer characters. And to see Kat Barrell and Dominique Chalkley-Provost rise to the occasion, to see their support, to see them as strong, proud allies? It’s been a gift. A gift that I can only repay in watching the show and supporting it through social media and (hopefully) future merchandise. It feels hollow, I wish I could do more.

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I want to talk about something specific, however. Something that may have been overlooked in all the action and angst of the finale. There’s one scene that’s stuck with me since it aired. One scene that I find myself coming back to. And it’s so simple. So fast. The first time I saw it, I didn’t even notice. It wasn’t until someone on tumblr pointed it out that I paused and said, oh…OH.

 

In episode 12, Waverly walks down the stairs to a waiting Nicole. Heteronormativity is so ingrained in our culture that when the episode first aired, I didn’t blink twice. Because people like me? We don’t get that moment. It’s not for us, it never has been.

 

It didn’t occur to me that this tiny moment of a woman walking down the stairs, in a pretty dress, to her girlfriend, was a trope that I’d seen over and over again featuring the girl and her waiting boyfriend. But Wynonna Earp gave me that moment. It gave it back to me. And I can’t stop thinking about who I would have been if I’d had that on my screen at age thirteen instead of Freddie Prinze Jr and Rachael Leigh Cook from She’s All That. I’m almost in tears writing this just thinking about how life changing it would have been, how much pain could have been avoided. That scene placed me back in the narrative. It told me, and more importantly, it told young queer people that we can have that. We get those tropes. We get those silly smiles and the formal wear and the blushes. Our love is worthy of cheesy romance and well-worn motifs. Our love is worthy. Period.

 

Thank you Emily Andras and the writing team. Thank you for crafting a show that somehow combines trauma and humour and magic. Thank you for the bulletproof vest.

 

Thank you Beau Smith for creating Wynonna.

 

Thank you Melanie Scrofano for giving us Wynonna. For giving those of us living with trauma and mental illness, she is a shining light. Wynonna is a hero that may not always succeed, but who always gets up. No matter how many times she’s knocked down. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

To the gentlemen, Tim Rozon and Shamier Anderson. Guys, you have me supporting a heterosexual love triangle. What sorcery do you possess?

 

To Dominique Provost-Chalkley and Kat Barrell: thank you for the grace, dignity, and passion you have brought to Waverly and Nicole. Thank you for being allies. Thank you for being present. Thank you for understanding that your work has meaning beyond what may be in the script or even what may appear onscreen. Thank you for taking Waverly and Nicole seriously, for supporting their love. Thank you. Individually, Nicole and Waverly are extraordinary. Together? They’re a quiet revolution. A subtle crusade. And for that? You have my sword, eternally.

 

This show has inspired me in numerous ways. It has me writing. It has me thinking. It has me obnoxiously tweeting David Ozer and Fan Expo Canada every day. I do hope that Wynonna Earp and its cast get to appear at a Canadian convention soon just so I can say thank you in person. Again, it feels hollow, but the cast and crew have made us, the fandom, feel so included through social media, that it would be nice for them to see our love and support (in a safe, controlled, Comic Con environment!). But if that’s not in the cards, thank you. Again, just…thank you.

 

And a thank you to the Earpers. For the retweets. For the lovely notes on my writing. See you all for season two (it’s not an ‘if’ it’s a ‘when!).

From Hell: Wynonna Earp Meets Jack the Ripper

TW: Sexual violence

Earpers, shall we review a little history?

 

This week Wynonna came face to face with the worst revenant yet and the show made no secret of his real identity. Jack the Ripper (in the flesh) showed up and gave us an episode that would make Hannibal Lecter himself queasy.

 

But what is the significance of introducing a figure like Jack the Ripper? As I’ve noted before, Wynonna Earp treads the line between silly fantasy and serious examination of PTSD extremely well, but adding Jack to the mix changes the game in interesting ways.

 

Jack the Ripper is arguably the most notorious serial killer to ever live, mainly because he was never caught. This notoriety has led to his celebrity. Not to generalize, but we, society, love Jack the Ripper. He represents all of our worst fantasies about Victorian-era crime. Jack appears in everything from comic books to tourist attractions, with tours of London’s Whitechapel neighbourhood a popular evening delight for many a traveller.

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An image of Jack from Punch Magazine, 1888

Jack’s macabre work, and the fact that he got away with it, makes him tantalizing. He is fetishized – his crimes, his letters, his mystery. He’s become sexy in the sense that he is no longer remembered as a murderer, but someone smart and cunning, someone who beat the game and has, therefore, earned his place as a name to be remembered and even revered. Who was he? Why did he do what he do? It doesn’t matter anymore, all that matters is he’s the boogieman, the bump in the night, the cloaked man in the shadows.

 

But what is so often forgotten in our fervour for Ripper stories are his victims. Jack the Ripper murdered five women. Their names were Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. All five were sex-workers and in 1888, a man now known to history as Jack the Ripper brutalized them in ways that defy any possible understanding and, because of his criminal success, cursed them to an eternity of anonymity.

 

Wynonna Earp has been a refreshingly sex-positive show. Wynonna enjoys sex, she speaks often about sex, and she makes no apologies for any of it. As with so much on this show, it’s exciting and a much needed addition to TV when so many shows prefer to characterize women as ashamed of their bodies, ashamed of their desire, and ashamed of their sexual histories. But Wynonna Earp also sets Wynonna in a world where she has to be somewhat defensive of her actions. Slut-shaming is very real and it’s something that Wynonna subtly negotiates in nearly every episode. She may not apologize for her decisions, but the citizens of Purgatory won’t let her completely ignore their poorly veiled disdain.

 

So Jack the Ripper choosing Wynonna, a man that specifically victimized prostitutes, is especially eye opening. Why Wynonna? What is it about her? Could it be down to her physical appearance? Perhaps. The show’s version of Jack seems to have a flavour for brunettes. But if we dig a bit deeper, it’s fairly obvious that Wynonna fits Jack’s appetites in a very particular way. Her sexual history, her sexual positivity, makes her a perfect Ripper victim. She is not a sex-worker, but her sexual freedom (and, at times, her questionable sexual decisions) mark her as the perfect specimen for Jack’s macabre delights.

 

Her violation is stomach churning. The choice to dress her in a hospital gown is a powerful statement because there is nothing that erases identity more than a hospital gown. On one hand, the gowns make access easier. On the other, they also remove characteristics that may make it difficult for doctors to inflict pain. The gown makes us all a blank slate and we see Wynonna struggle with her loss of self. Her necklace is removed. Her clothing. Her boots. Peacemaker is gone. And these items all signify Wynonna Earp. Without them, she is still Wynonna, inside she is always Wynonna. But her clothing? Her talismans? These are part of her being. And Jack removes them, taking from her the symbols of self. His desire to remove her organs, to penetrate her with his nails, needs no further explanation. She is violated externally and, nearly, internally. There is nothing subtle about it.

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None of this was okay.

Jack’s desire to cut her open, his spreading of the gown, is massively violating, and I must commend Melanie Scrofano for an mesmerizingly nuanced performance. Jack’s presence, the implication that he is Jack the Ripper makes his decision to victimize her less about the fact that she’s the Earp heir, and much more about her sexual activities. There is no question that she’s violated, horribly, but it is a testament to her strength that she survives. That she does not apologize.

 

The moment Peacemaker is returned to her is the moment Wynonna regains her agency. Yes, Peacemaker is the only weapon capable of sending Jack to hell, but Peacemaker is also so intrinsically connected to Wynonna that she treats its return as a return of identity. She grasps it, holds it to her chest, cradles it in her arms. She kisses it with great affection. On Jack’s table, she is a slab of meat, a carcass for him to toy with and dispose. In his attempt to make her the perfect victim, he tries to take away all that makes her her. Off his table? With Peacemaker by her side? She becomes the only known survivor of Jack the Ripper. She embraces Peacemaker like it’s a lifeline and, in many ways, it is. She is Wynonna restored. Wynonna reborn. And despite the troubling news about her father, it’s her experience on Jack’s table that leave her truly shaken. It’s doubtful this trauma will soon leave her.

 

Once again, the writing of the show is powerful in its subtle examination of trauma. Using Jack brings with it the fun of his macabre reputation, and the dire implications of his crimes. He, like so many before and since, targeted sex-workers, some of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society. He brutally murdered women, treated their bodies and their organs like playthings, and it is a testament to the strength of Wynonna Earp’s writers that his presence was not treated entirely as a carnival sceptical, but rather, a reminder of the evil that men do to women.

 

There is also the very interesting addition of Nicole to this mix. Perhaps Jack did not choose her because she does not fit his physical requirements (the red hair does not match his MO). But because Nicole is queer, and because we know nothing of her sexual history to this point, it’s worth asking, was it only Nicole’s hair that kept her from Jack’s knife?

 

Let me end by once again repeating the names of Jack the Ripper’s victims. And let’s not forget them: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.

 

Bring on episode 9!

On Queerness, Safe Spaces, and Wynonna Earp

It feels appropriate on a day like today to talk about Wynonna Earp again. For those not living on social media, CBS passed on its Nancy Drew adaptation because although it played well with test audiences, the network deemed it “too female” and decided not to order the show to series.

 

Once again, Wynonna Earp feels like a beacon of light in these moments. A lot happened in Friday’s episode, a lot of fun, campy, silly things. But Wynonna Earp is also really good at being subtly unsubtle in its feminism. It’s unapologetically “too female.” It celebrates its female characters. It elevates them to positions of power so that the people controlling the Wynonna Earp universe – for good or for evil – are all women. The show also manages to surprise at every turn and it is on this topic that I feel I owe the writers an apology.

 

I assumed that I knew where the Waverly/Nicole relationship was going. I assumed that once Wavelry broke up with Champ, we would get an increasing number of interactions between these two characters. Instead, the show did something new and interesting and, honestly, surprising when in Episode 7, it let Wynonna and Nicole take centre stage.

 

In order for an ensemble show to work, it has to be, well, an ensemble. The problem with characters introduces solely as a love interest is that they are often written into a corner. Who they are, what motivates them, why they’re onscreen? It usually becomes all about the romance leaving them poorly formed and, at times, disposable. I honestly thought Nicole was going to be “Waverly’s love interest” and, in a television landscape where queer relationships are still hugely lacking, that would have been enough. The decision to have Wynonna work as Nicole’s sounding board, to make Wynonna and Nicole scene partners, just strengthened not only the ensemble, but also any future for Waverly and Nicole.

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Bros

We learned a lot about Nicole Haught in this episode and because Wynonna did too, Nicole can now take her place as a fully realized character, not “just” a love interest. It’s a crucial distinction and it’s so rare to see that happen on TV. I noticed a few people in the fandom refer to these scenes as fanfiction, and they did not mean that in a negative way at all. Fanfiction was invented to fill in gaps, to allow marginalized communities to insert themselves into narratives where too often, they are left out. A scene between a potential love interest and that love interest’s sister? Unheard of. Most shows have little interests in building such relationships. And the decision to juxtapose those scenes with moments of Waverly’s own personal growth? Incredibly powerful.

 

Nicole Haught is a queer woman in a small town, working in a male dominated field. She does not need to elaborate on any of that, nor does she need to expressly spell it out for Wynonna (or the audience). We can read all of that from what we already know about her. But after this episode, we also know that she’s incredibly observant, brave, a sass master if there ever was one, and unapologetically tough. She knows all about Wynonna’s history, but she’s also smart enough to see that there are two sides to every story. She also knows that Waverly is just coming into her own and it is so important that Waverly is given the space and time to do this. Had Nicole showed up to rescue Waverly, had she pushed her into a conversation too soon, the romance would have felt rushed and unearned. Instead, we get to learn about both characters separately so that when they finally do come together, it will feel rewarding. They deserve each other now, they fit well. The writers show us this by giving both characters an identity beyond “love interest.” And damn, does it work.

 

Nicole and Waverly mirror each other throughout this episode. Nicole is obviously a bit lonely and left out and when examined through a queer lens, which the show very much invites its audience to do, it removes the necessity of explaining to Wynonna why she is lonely and why she is left out. We know. We understand. Again, queer woman in a small town.

 

But Waverly too is going through a similar experience and the language used by her friends is, once more, subtly unsubtle. They call her “weird” and “strange.” They imply that she is “not normal” and in light of Nicole’s scenes, Waverly is facing what feels an awful lot like metaphorical homophobia. She is not normal. She is strange. She is Other because of her house and her throw pillows and her sister and her dead father. Nicole is Other too. And it’s this similarity, this shared experience that makes their final longing glance so powerful. It is a pregnant moment and although they do not exchange a word in the episode, they have unknowingly shared an experience. With Wynonna as witness, Nicole is now firmly integrated into the group, which will only make her eventual romance with Waverly that much more fulfilling.

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Zombie Prom

Wynonna Earp increasingly feels like a safe space. When Nicole tells Wynonna that her ass is top shelf, Wynonna doesn’t act with fear or revulsion. She does not treat Nicole like a predatory lesbian vampire (thanks for that one, nineteenth century), instead, she just nods. Nicole is safe with Wynonna, which means the queer audience is safe with Wynonna Earp. It’s refreshing and welcome and the show feels like a much-needed safe haven.

 

“Too female”? “Too queer”? These are the words of gatekeepers. Time to storm those gates, my sisters.

 

Keep Wynonna Earp on TV: watch LEGALLY.

 

Shout out to Melanie Scrofano, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, and Katherine Barrell for one hell of an episode. I would doff my hat if I owned a hat (and, also, I think only Officer Haught can really pull that off). Instead, I shall say thanks for portraying these characters and thanks for the safe space. Decorate at will.