There’s an image I stumbled on, while scrolling Tumblr’s Wynonna Earp tag after Friday’s big series finale. It’s of Waverly Earp (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) from early in the series’ run, mouth stretched wide in a powerful roar, subtitled (loud gay screaming). And honestly, if you haven’t been keeping up with Syfy’s indomitable Weird Western lovefest since it first premiered back in 2016, I think that’s as good a summary as you’re likely to find—that it’s more like fan art than an official screenshot is even better. Apart from being extremely loud, a bit nonsensical, and totally gay, the biggest legacy Wynonna Earp has now left behind is the fact that, until the last, it was made one hundred and sixty-nine percent (nice) for its fans. And its fans, in turn, were one thousand and sixty-nine percent in. Like, “pool our money together to buy 100+ billboards around the world to save the show from cancellation” in; like, “organize homemade fan art for a second billboard campaign to #BringWynnonaHome for a longshot fifth season” in.
(Loud gay screaming), indeed.
Telling a story with fandom front of mind isn’t, of course, the way most creative teams want to operate, even if our current era of fan-saturated social media is structured to incentivize just that. But while other fan-favorite projects have chafed under the weight of those expectations in recent years (looking at you, The 100—and you, too, Supernatural), series creator and showrunner Emily Andras made her peace (pun intended) with her show’s role as fan fairy godmother early on. Other shows could put their storytelling objectives ahead of their audience’s love for the characters doing the telling, but Wynonna Earp was happy to be the shit-show its family of fans (and crew) could call home.
This is lucky, as—and I say this with all the love in the world—it’s been a long time since the supernatural story Wynonna Earp was telling made much sense. Sure, when it first premiered in 2016, its premise was fairly straightforward. A Weird Western procedural-meets-Chosen One epic, the show set its early narrative sights on the Ghost River Triangle’s sexiest prodigal daughter, Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano), as she reluctantly returned home to take up her family’s gunslinging, wise-cracking, demon-fighting mantle. The latest in a long line of cursed Earp heirs, Wynonna was obliged to hunt down the demonic revenants of the 77 outlaws her great-great-grandfather, Wyatt, had put down back in the days of the O.K. Corral—revenants who were themselves cursed to resurrect every time a new heir reached their twenty-seventh birthday. Fighting alongside her originally were little sister, Waverly, humorless Black Badge agent from across the U.S. border (Shamier Anderson), and Wyatt Earp’s mysteriously immortal best friend, Doc Holliday (Tim Rozon). By the end of the first season, both Deputy Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell) and Sheriff Randy Nedley (Greg Lawson) had become a part of Wynonna’s demon-fighting crew; by the start of Season 2, nerdy Black Badge scientist Jeremy Chetri (Varun Saranga) had made the family whole.
At the same time as Wynonna’s found family was growing, the relative clarity that underscored the show’s original premise started to muddy; the straight line between Peacemaker (Wynonna’s demon-killing gun) and the revenants’ demonic skulls shattered at the end of Season 1, with the thorny question of who gets to be considered a hero, and who a villain, taking its place. Black Badge was revealed to be as big a bad as half the demons that plagued Purgatory, while the other half of those self-same demons proved to be more or less decent people just trying to make a new start. Deputy Dolls (Anderson) was revealed to be part dragon; Waverly was revealed to be half-angel; Doc became a vampire. As the seasons rolled on, just what it was that Wynonna was meant to be accomplishing in the Ghost River Triangle in her role as Earp heir/hero became harder and harder to discern—a fact which the series’ multiple, protracted breaks in production certainly didn’t help.
By the time Season 4’s long (long) awaited premiere finally hit the air last summer, opening with a wild two-part episode that found Wynonna rescuing Waverly from a snowy Badlands Heaven and Nicole adopting a teen girl (Martina Ortiz-Luis) whose family’s “ancient Mayan princess” heritage teased the idea she might become a second Chosen One, it was honestly impossible for anyone not just steeped in the fandom to keep track of the various supernatural narrative threads the show was still working with.
But you know what? It really didn’t matter. Like Supernatural before it, the what of the series’ splashy demonic arcs never counted for as much as the thornier, more deeply satisfying emotional arcs that developed between the characters. That Wynonna found her way home, to a family that saw her for exactly the hot mess she was and loved her for it, desperately, is what mattered. That Doc, like Dolls before him, found his own path to being a better man, who loved and was loved in return, is what mattered. That Waverly found her way to her inner truth, ultimately getting to marry the woman of her dreams, that, maybe more than anything, is what really, truly, genuinely mattered.
Which is why it made total sense that, to close this (probably) final season out, Andras and her team dispatched with its last Big Bad supernatural arc in its penultimate episode—an episode that included, in no particular order, Wynonna and Doc Holliday standing off for a gunfight in a modern-day O.K. Corral, Waverly being taken over by her sexy dark angel alter-ego, and Mercedes (Dani Kind) being turned into the sexy vampire she was always meant to become—and left the finale wide open for the most joyous shit-show of a blow-out Purgatory wedding Earp fans could possibly have dreamed of, surprise pandemic or not. There was cake. There was a prairie flower pergola. There was a cursed wedding dress soaked in the blood of a dozen doomed wedding parties. And there was, ultimately, a happy ending—or rather, a series of them.
A happy ending for Nicole and Waverly (and the #WayHaught fans that stanned them since Season 1), as they finally, officially tied the knot. A happy ending for Jeremy, who found the hint of new love at the same moment as he got promoted high enough in Black Badge (courtesy of an Easter Egg cameo by Emily Andras’s voice) that he might finally be able to do some good. A happy ending for Rachel (Ortiz-Luis) as she finally embraced the hope her new found family represented. And, most importantly, a happy ending for Wynonna and Doc, who at long last accepted not just that they were worthy of each other’s love, but that Purgatory was finally in safe enough hands that they could take off together on the open road to go meet the infant daughter they had to send away at the end of Season 2.
Of course, with a fandom as ferociously passionate as Wynonna Earp’s has proven itself to be, it’d be foolish to bet everything on the certainty that this really is the end. But while official reports suggest that Andras and crew have been actively been searching for a new home for the series, the fact that they had the foresight to film a mini behind-the-scenes documentary of Friday’s big wedding finale, that Syfy aired as a kind of celebratory retrospective immediately after the final scene rolled, suggests that they’ve all made their peace with saying goodbye to Wynonna and the rest of her Purgatory family. More than that, they’ve given Earpers the gift of the permission to make their own peace with saying goodbye, too.
To which I say: Thank you, Wynonna Earp, and goodbye. There truly will never be another glorious, deliriously love-filled shit-show like you.
Seasons 1-3 of Wynonna Earp are streaming now on Netflix. Season 4 can be found, at least in the U.S., on the Syfy app.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.
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