Welcome back to Vida, probably the best new show/the best show currently airing with potential to be a pop culture turning point that will be written about forever, I’m not sure.
Last week, Emma was on the brink of doing whatever she could to sell her mother’s and Eddy’s building/bar; Lyn was chasing her safe high school flame; Eddy was simultaneously being the sweetest human in the earth while also grieving hard for her wife; Mari was mad as hell about gentrification; and there was a ghost girl taunting (haunting?) Emma. This week, there’s still some of that stuff going on, but we don’t see the ghost girl.
This week, we open again with Mari on her bike on a beautiful morning, earbuds in, determination on her face. She cycles through a quiet neighborhood of large houses straight to the front of a hipster art gallery where she drops her bike, shakes a spray can, and paints “Fuck White Art” across the exterior. A skinny bearded white dude comes out to confront her but seems scared of her anger as she yells at him that no one wants the gentrifiers/colonizers there and to get out of her neighborhood.
She bikes away and stops in front of a big house where two Latino men are working on building a fence. She starts filming herself for her vlog, the workers in the background, and uses them as an example of how gentrification is making life a lot harder for the people in the neighborhood because they’re forced to work these jobs that are helping to displace them. Just then, a classmate of hers, Tlaloc, joins her in her rant. He tells her he’s subscribed to her vlog, and she films him as he articulates everything she wants to say about what’s happening to the neighborhood. Her hardness evaporated, Mari is clearly smitten. I smell a romantic storyline.
Speaking of romantic, Lyn’s boyfriend Jupiter is decidedly not that. He wants his truck back, so Lyn meets him at whatever hotel he’s staying at; she gives him oral-anal sex, then he breaks up with her. Luckily for us, we have some Strong Female Characters on our hands. Lyn is (obviously) pissed and minces no words in telling Jupiter what an asshole he is. Unfortunately, Lyn decides the best way to deal with her pain is to go running past Johnny’s garage in her sports bra, ask to use the bathroom and seduce him into sex again.
At first he stands up for himself, telling her to leave him alone; he doesn’t want to be in reserve for her. She’s broken his heart too many times, and now he’s engaged and about to be a father and happier than he’s ever been. It’s actually a very poignant moment and one of the few times in my life I’ve felt a lot of empathy for a male character in this situation. He was assertive and clear. So, I was kind of surprised when Mari (who we find out is Johnny’s sister) comes looking for him to help get their father to dialysis only to see him in coitus with Lyn. Uh oh.
After the sex, Lyn and Johnny are both emotionally destroyed. Lyn’s strong-woman, in-control facade melts into her crying with the realization that her mother is really gone.
Meanwhile, Emma is still being extremely cold and mean to everyone, most of all Eddy. Eddy continues to be the beating heart of the show, and yes I will die on that hill. She tries to get through to the girls by making them a huge gourmet breakfast, vegan for Lyn. Emma, however, is not about to be suckered into Eddy’s endless goodwill and charm, I guess. Lyn feels a little more warmly toward Eddy, so out of guilt she tries a bite. To her surprise and Eddy’s adorable grin, the food is delicious.
No matter, Emma has an agenda. An agenda to sell the building without Eddy’s input. So Eddy gently reminds her that actually, she owns a third of the place, and she will never agree to sell. Emma threatens to take Eddy to court and stomps off to meet Nelson, the shady developer who approached her at her mother’s funeral. He’s the one who is behind a lot of the gentrification that’s happening.
Nelson tells Emma in the most teeth-grindingly patronizing way possible that Vida had two mortgages and that he could *maybe* offer her enough for the building to cover her payments on them with nothing left over. Then he tells her that his group gave her a loan for 110% of what the building was worth in order to “help” her with the mortgage she already had and the building upgrades. Emma looks him straight in the face and says, “You gave my mother a predatory loan,” and dumps hot coffee on his crotch. It’s amazing, and it’s my second-favorite moment of the episode.
My third favorite moment is when Cruz gives Emma a pastry at their old hangout and they make love eyes at each other and Emma thanks her for “the sweet thing.” MELT. Please let these two have a sex scene that rivals Lyn’s straight sex scenes.
My first favorite moment happens at the end of the episode, when Emma and Lyn come home to Eddy digging into one of the giant flans left over from the funeral. “It’s got to get eaten,” she says. Emma grabs a fork and sits down next to Eddy, taking a bite. Lyn sits too and looks dejectedly at the flan. “Flan has, like, milk in it and stuff, right?”
Eddy nods. “Y eggs,” she says. (For those who don’t know Spanish, ‘y’ means ‘and.’)
Lyn’s face shifts and she says, “Fuck it,” grabbing her own fork and taking a bite. As her face breaks into a smile, she says, “It’s impossible to be vegan around here anyway.”
This bonding moment between Eddy and the girls is my favorite thing and makes my heart so happy. I’m already so invested in these characters and can’t wait to keep going on this journey with them.
That’s it for this week! Here’s to more great storytelling next week!
Images Courtesy of Starz
Summer TCA Say Much About Fall TV
Second to Upfront presentations in May, the Summer TCA (Television Critic Associations) press sessions and show panels held for 15 days in the end of July through the start of August are my favorite time in the TV press schedule. Networks have chosen the shows surviving to and starting in the next season. They’ve sold shows for international distribution and advertisers have bought much of the time available. So the Summer TCA give anyone who pays attention to this stuff learns a ton about the state of each of the networks present, their present, and future.
This year, however; two networks sat out the expected executive session where the network’s execs offers remarks and takes questions. ABC (not ready to handle questions about Roseanne?) and NBC (word is Greenblatt just dislikes the TCAs).
On the other hand, CBS. which is embroiled in legal problems after a recent article on CEO Les Moonves’ behavior with women still held its exec session with Entertainment Pres. (CBS also has a lawsuit against its majority shareholder) Kelly Kahl knowing the questions were coming. Of course none of his answers were really all that helpful, but he showed up and that’s sadly still a big deal.
Still, we got a lot of tidbits on returning and new shows! (I’ve listed the networks in the order of their days at the TCA.)
Surprisingly FOX was the most normal of exec sessions this year with discussion of bringing back Last Man Standing and the real news: what the heck happens now that Disney’s acquiring so many assets and the studio FOX makes (made) TV with most! CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman spoke about working more with the indie studios and bringing them back into the fold after the last few years of networks choosing to pick up series from their vertically aligned studios.
Which makes sense, 16 new series came from outside studios five years back, with only six this year. NewFox will go for partial ownership for new series. And is currently aiming to have the same mix of scripted, sports, and live offerings. Though starting fall 2019 for a large part of their regular season will only have four days for scripted offerings due to TNF and WWE Smackdown (the latter airs every week year-round).
As far as the show panels, I think Aisha Hinds (911) talking about how she was once shot in the back and then later also revealing that she lost a kidney is the wildest thing to happen this year.
Otherwise, I was really pleased to learn more about The Passage, the father/daughter relationship that exists both on screen and behind the scenes with Mark Paul Gosselar’s Brad and Saniyya Sidney’s Amy. Event TV that succeeds is rare and I’m hoping this show does it for broadcast.
CBS is finally moving towards more inclusive casting on their shows after years of not doing so. Which is great. Sadly the folks in charge though, and at least at TCA were still white dudes. Except for one white woman, Diane English from Murphy Brown. And a question about the Magnum PI reboot’s writer rooms doesn’t inspire hope about the writers rooms. Both EPs Eric Guggenheim and Peter Lenkov responded in an unsatisfactory manner when asked about Latinx writers. At the time, they stated the show had none among four men and three women! And that it was “hard to find writers.”
As Kori said to me, “you probably could’ve run up ODAAT” and they would have pointed Guggs and Lenkov in the right direction. Or you know the super popular and successful Vida which did it in about a week. The best (worst) part about all of this is that on Sunday, Lenkov tweeted that they do in fact have a Latinx writer, an alumnus of the CBS Writers Mentoring Program. So either they forgot she’s Latinx (for whatever reason) or they just forgot she exists entirely. Even so, Jay Hernandez should not have to advocate for his own character’s Latinidad and heritage!
On the flip side, The Neighorhood‘s writing room is inclusive as it should be for a show focusing on a white dude moving in next to Cedric the Entertainer! Both of CBS’ fall comedies (Happy Together, Neighborhood) this year center on Black families being disrupted by a white newcomer so if they can revive the currently dead Monday comedy block…well, success! (Actually, so does the comedy slated for spring, Fam.)
Returning to exec sessions (skipped Winter) Mark Pedowitz did not give us much more about the fall DCTV crossover introducing Kate Kane (Batwoman). He did reiterate that it won’t include Legends of Tomorrow in the sprawling and schedule intensive episodes. And Batman won’t be appearing. Of their 17 shows, twelve(!) are executive produced by some combination of women and men of color though with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and JTV ending that will drop to ten of 15 pending new pickups for fall 2019. And! By my count we’ve got at least 20 LGBT series regular and recurring characters on the network with 8 coming this fall which is pretty cool.
Other interesting tidbits included a comment that both Warner Bros. and CBS are happy with how The CW is growing (it functions to advertise the produced shows) and MP expects that to stay the case with new AT&T ownership (which acquired Time Warner). Added to their game plan is more scripted in the summer for more year-round programming. Of course, this bode well for the shows that are old and even by CW’s standards are not doing as hot!
For Charmed, one of the shows I’m looking forward to most, the panel sounded like a ton of fun even if it involved answering a ton of questions about the backlash against it. More importantly the showrunners emphasized that we will see the sisters’ Latina heritage, especially since various cultures approach witchcraft differently and because all three sisters have a different dad. (Though the latter understandably has some folks concerned.) Good thing they’ve got a Latinx witch on the writer’s team!
It might be cheesy but at least it’s accurately cheesy! (Hopefully the cheese melts down a bit after the first few episodes.) At this point, anything premiering above a .7 is probably something to call home about.
Warning for brief mention of suicide in an upcoming fall ABC show. Skip to FOX if necessary.
I reiterate again how it’s totally bull that they didn’t hold an exec session. You made your bed, now you gotta lie in it. No panel for The Connors either which is unfortunate. Especially considering it as the launchpad for their new Tuesday line-up which has for years plagued them at 10pm (now filled with The Rookie). Pres. Dungey was around to take questions and a few articles are now up, but they should have just held the dang session.
Though their panel for A Million Little Things which follows a group of friends after one commits suicide does indicate that the writers have put a lot of thought into the show. Especially since its inspired by creator DJ Nash’s own life. Hopefully the show will start conversations like This is Us has (a comparison they’re complimented by) and unlike The Big Chill see what happens to the friends after the funeral. AMLT is the only show I’m planning on watching from ABC this fall. Plus it’s got Grace Park in her first role lead role since leaving H50 and I’m super excited to see the cast working together. From a ratings perspective, clearly this is ABC’s hope for their next The Good Doctor (also a strong performer at 10pm).
Like I mentioned earlier, NBC had no exec session. They only brought one of their truly new fall shows, I Feel Bad to panel. Though Manifest‘s exec producer was part of the NBC showrunner panel. Highlights from I Feel Bad were that the show wasn’t written for an Indian lead. Rather after Sarayu Blue’s casting, they based other casting on her. Additionally with Aseem Batra running the place, the show will reflect experiences she’s had as sometimes the only woman in a writer’s room. Comedies on NBC are a mixed bag but this is airing after Will and Grace so anything could happen.
Overall, the press sessions during this TCA were another indication of how far broadcast TV has come in regards to “representation” and how far it has to go. Having folks on screen isn’t enough. Shows need to have representation behind the scenes to write the characters well and realistically! POC on screen is an easy metric to pass, but it shouldn’t be the only one. As for where broadcast stands in the overwhelming offerings of Peak TV, well it’s not going anywhere yet.
Images courtesy of the networks
Killjoys Remains the Only Show About Parental Issues That I Get This Excited For
Content warning for discussion of attempted suicide
This week on Killjoys: Dutch is baaack! And D’av is now a D’ad.
Kendry goes into labor, and since she’s Hullen, she can’t feel pain (lucky). Zeph figures out that the baby is too big to deliver normally, thanks to Hullen regeneration, and they’re going to have to attempt a C-section—which fails, also thanks to Hullen regeneration.
Dutch wakes up and finds herself locked in her cabin on Lucy. Worried that this is all part of the Lady’s illusion, she overrides the lock on the door and breaks out. Once out, she wanders into the cargo hold, and demands to know where Johnny is.
Dutch is less than happy (okay, she’s furious) that Johnny is Hullen—though, in all fairness, it reads like she’s mostly upset that Johnny is so obviously not alright. Regardless, D’av reminds her that it really isn’t fair for her to act like the decision and the fallout was somehow easy for him.
Dutch goes to the cockpit to “think”, and changes their course for the nearest Green pool that isn’t the one she came out of. Rightfully, we all start to worry that maybe this isn’t Dutch, or that something happened to her in the Green.
Dutch claims she’s looking for a Green pool to Cleanse Johnny. D’av points out that they need some of Johnny’s source plasma, which is most likely going to be on the Armada, not some random pool. Dutch only squeaks past that bit of logic because Lucy announces that this pool, and all the other pools on Johnny’s plasma map, are just as solidified as the one Dutch came out of. Even the Green that Zeph took from the Necropolis is solid.
They tell Johnny, who is pretty upset that he’s not going to be able to either be Cleansed, or reach critical Hullen mass. We get a little more insight into what kind of pain he’s been in, being in limbo between his human connections and Hullen detachment, and he’s had enough. Instead of waiting for another possible solution, Johnny opts to attempt suicide by breaking his own neck.
While they’re trying to heal him, Zeph realizes that the Hullen parasite almost died completely off when Johnny’s spinal cord was severed. She inserts a knife into Johnny’s spinal column, waits for the parasite to die off, and then heals Johnny’s spine with her regeneration… lamp? As fast as she can. This gives her an idea for how to deliver Kendry’s baby. (That whole plot point makes me more and more uncomfortable the further out from the episode I get.)
Kendry is, understandably, unwilling to go through with this, since it means she won’t be Hullen anymore. She’s on a ship full of people who have every reason to want to kill her; being Hullen is survival, since she’s not a combatant. She’s alone, and Aneela, her protection, has disappeared. She handled it like a pro last episode, but now, she’s a lot more vulnerable, and she’s running out of options.
She corners Dutch and demands to know where Aneela is, reminding Dutch that the Lady wants to use the child to escape the Green. She also doesn’t quite manage to avoid saying that she wants Aneela to be there when the baby is born—and, as far as emotional moments go, this was one of my favorites for the episode. Kendry might be scathingly sarcastic and totally done with everyone around her, but she is absolutely terrified—of going through this surrounded by people who don’t care for her at all, of the reminder that her agency was subverted and that’s why this baby exists in the first place; of the fact that the Lady will undoubtedly try to claim the child somehow. And the only person who has a chance at preventing that is Aneela. Dutch realizes this, and tells Kendry that she had to leave Aneela in the Green, and reveals that going back in and saving Aneela is something she was already planning to do.
Once the procedure is performed, there’s an obligatory scene with the crew and “D’av’s baby”, which is funny and sweet, though I still feel obliged to point out that, like Kendry says, D’av had very little to do with the creation of this child—really, Aneela is the one responsible for the baby existing at all, and she’s not there. D’av “contributed” his DNA by getting beaten up. It is completely in character for D’av to find out that this baby has his DNA and compulsively care, though, and he seems happy about becoming a dad.
We also get to see Dutch get all doe-eyed watching D’av hold a baby, and it’s surprisingly nice that, even though D’av is nominally her love interest, they haven’t tried to shoehorn her (with all of her trauma around her training as a child) into parenthood alongside him.
While they’re having a drink to celebrate (and Kendry is presumably taking the longest nap ever), Dutch fills her family in on the Lady, including the fact that the Lady showed her a vision of the future in which they lose the fight against her. Zeph asks why they don’t just leave Aneela and the Lady in the Green. Dutch replies that Aneela trapped the Lady in the Green with her, but that Aneela can only hold out for so long, so they should do their best to save her and stop the Lady.
With Dutch returning to the land of the living, the emotional core of the show locks back into place. The other characters have carried the show incredibly well for two episodes, but the shift with Dutch back in the driver’s seat shows exactly why this is Dutch’s story more than it is anyone else’s (not to mention that Hannah John-Kamen played three separate characters this episode). Without her and Aneela, the Armada, the RAC, the Killjoys themselves—they just turn into so much of what “clever” contemporary sci-fi tries to be: Somewhere on a spectrum from blatant fanboy nostalgia a la the CW, to something like “Sherlock” or “House”, but in space. Clever, maybe (rarely), but ultimately ungrounded.
There’s some temporal switching that happens, because we need to fill in the backstory, but we can’t fill it in too fast, otherwise this would be a very different episode: Everyone is asking what Dutch’s secret is, including Dutch, and the audience is on the ride with them. Practically speaking, maintaining a level of suspense around Dutch’s intentions is good, because we’ve seen just how interacting with the Green can change people, but they don’t draw it out unnecessarily long. Creating a sense of mystery around Dutch is something this show has done well since the beginning, and I’m still enjoying their use of it—mostly because they don’t go back to the same “mystery” over and over again, and when it comes down to it, they drop the pretenses, tell you what’s going on, and deliver on the emotional fulfillment that that kind of build-up needs.
Dutch and Aneela
In an episode drowning in themes of parenthood (not usually my thing to begin with), the line that actually made me tear up was this one: “You shouldn’t be doing this on your own, Yala. I didn’t give you life just so you could throw it away.”
The Lady tries to imitate the care that Aneela radiates in this moment, and I love the play between the two bookending scenes: In Dutch’s first encounter with the Lady, the Lady (wearing Aneela’s face) says, “You matter, too”, trying to lead Dutch to think about how to get out of the Green. She also provides the kind of awkward-yet-oddly-sweet interaction that we might expect from the Aneela that we saw in the season premiere: Aneela trying to help Dutch, but not really knowing how.
But at the end of the episode, we get this reveal: In a flashback to the scene that was teased in the season premiere, where a hooded figure approaches Dutch’s collapsed form in the forest, we find out that that figure is actually Aneela. She wakes Dutch up and tells Dutch to go, to leave the Green, in words that sound very similar to what the Lady said earlier.
The difference is entirely in the delivery.
Dutch has spent her entire life being shaped into a weapon. She spent the last third of Season 3 preparing to die, knowing that if she killed Aneela, her “source”, she would die, too. It’s why she keeps hunting the Lady, even when wounded; she’d already made peace with dying, with the fact that Aneela wants (or at least wanted) to “put her back” in the Green, to close the door that might allow the Lady to escape. The only difference was that she was going to die fighting a different enemy.
In this episode, Dutch does what she always does: Run headfirst into the fray. Unlike usual, she’s beaten, badly. The Lady, with her vision, reveals that Dutch’s sacrifice could be for nothing. And then Aneela rescues her in the forest, and tells her to go; that this isn’t what Aneela wanted for her, living through the same psychic torture that Aneela’s endured, over and over again. You see Aneela’s words get through to Dutch for the first time in this interaction: Regardless of how wrong things went for them, Aneela wanted Dutch to exist. She wanted Dutch to live, and she still does, and while Khlyen was perfectly content to “fix” Dutch’s memories so that everything wouldn’t be lost when the Lady overcame her, and send her back out alone, Aneela isn’t.
Dutch wasn’t meant to be a weapon. Or a distraction. Or a pet. Aneela doesn’t view her as dispensable; Aneela views her as her child, someone she created—maybe for not the best reasons, but she didn’t create her just to watch her die. And even though Dutch has every reason to be angry with her, Aneela doesn’t waffle or struggle to express how she feels. And when Aneela tells her to go, you can see Dutch’s eyes go wide: She understands, after her experiences with the Lady, what Aneela is volunteering for—The Lady has threatened to trap her in her worst memories, to take away the experiences at the core of her being, and this is maybe the one arena that Dutch truly can’t fight in. No one can. “They’re who you are,” the Lady says, and Aneela has already lived through the Lady’s mental manipulation—and emerged all the worse for it.
Given that we’ve had a total of (maybe) twenty minutes of them actually interacting, it’s mind-blowing how Aneela has shown far more care for Dutch in that short time than Khlyen ever showed for either of them.
The fact that Aneela made a decision to leave the ruins, go out, and find Dutch also feels incredibly significant—instead of allowing Dutch to play the role she’s always played, Aneela puts her mind and possibly even her life on the line to keep the Lady from Dutch. Aneela has picked a side, and it doesn’t matter whether or not “no one is coming” to save her—she’s decided. And it makes even the Lady a bit nervous.
Of the two semi-decent parental figures in this episode, I also feel obliged to point out that D’av shows a lot of promise (and remains the eye candy, looking pretty and cuddling a baby), but it’s Aneela who takes action.
This might be going too far, but this episode made me want to jump up and down and go “THIS. THIS is how you talk about how powerful motherhood/fatherhood can be without lapsing into the sanctification of motherhood.”
Next week on Killjoys: It’s gonna be real hard figuring out what Khlyen’s “message” is when Johnny and Dutch have very different recollections of how they met to begin with.
Images courtesy of SyFy
Wynonna Earp Questions Reality with Murder Trees and Mama Earp
Wynonna Earp Season 3, Episode 4 Review “No Cure for Crazy”
After the death of a major character, it’s not always clear how a show will move forward. Sometimes, it will linger or carry a through line of heaviness for a while. Other times, it will screech to a halt, do a one-eighty, and speed off in the other direction. This week, Wynonna Earp chose the latter, to mixed results.
We open on Wynonna and Doc tracking down the last revenants who stole Dolls’ serum. A tree literally jumps in his way, but when Wynonna tries to shoot him, Peacemaker stalls. A young man sticks his finger in a mysterious hole in a tree weeping red goo; the ‘sap’ turns out to be blood. Elsewhere in the woods, Nicole talks with Waverly about surviving the Bulshar cult. She mentions there not being a fire there when she escaped—meaning Black Badge burned the evidence—and ponders the fast growth of the trees. They run into the young man from earlier—Robin, one of Waverly’s old friends—who asks to be taken to Nedley. Nicole tosses Bulshar’s ring in the woods.
“This is why you don’t do dragon drugs; jacking other people’s prescriptions can cause hallucinations.”—Wynonna
Doc and Wynonna discover they’re fresh out of bullets for Peacemaker, as Dolls, their supplier, is now dead. Nicole and Wynonna get into it about keeping secrets (the Bulshar cult and Mama Earp being in prison, respectively), but Waverly resolves it. Wynonna promises to take Waverly to see Mama in prison after they find more bullets. We cut to the prison, where Mama writes “Never ever get out” on the walls of her padded cell with what appears to be the blood of her cellmate.
“Just give her a minute, her purse is bigger than my vehicle.”—Wynonna
Wynonna and Doc flirt their way through piles of old things looking for bullets and/or something to sell to fund the team’s work. Wynonna finds a cradle Doc made for Alice and feels guilty, which gets her thinking about Mama. Flashback to seven years ago when Mama makes Wynonna promise not to let Waverly know she’s in prison or to ever come back. In the present, Nicole grabs Wynonna on Nedley’s behalf while Waverly plays matchmaker with Jeremy and Robin. On the way out of the lab, she gets a call from the Ghost River institute, so she heads down to finally see Mama Earp. Jeremy and Robin flirt about the murder tree? It’s fine. At the prison, when Mama sees Waverly, she freaks out, screaming “Get out!”, “I’ll kill you!”, and “Kill the demon.”
“I guess it’s only fair me walking in on you for a change.”—Nicole
Jeremy and Robin can’t find the murder tree in the woods. At the sheriff’s office, Wynonna tries to help Nedley defend the sheriff’s department from budget cuts and inadvertently makes matters worse by mentioning the marshals. Wynonna encourages Nedley to step down so Nicole can take a crack at heading up the police department. Waverly arrives and tells Wynonna that Mama tried to kill her. In the woods, Robin and Jeremy get lost in dense fog and find a creepy stone staircase. Wynonna heads to the prison, threatens mama for threatening Waverly, and then inadvertently lets Mama escape when she grabs Peacemaker. The guards then lock up Wynonna for being “an accomplice.” Nicole digs up the old, and incomplete, police report for Mama’s arrest; Nedley fills in the details: Mama was arrested for burning down the Homestead barn while Waverly was in it.
“The one available guy in town and he’s probably a murderer.”—Jeremy
Jeremy tries to direct Doc to find him and Robin, instead Doc hears the sound of a baby crying, then the sound of flames. Bulshar arrives and tries to threaten Doc into working for him. Before Doc can answer, Jeremy and Robin show up, the mysterious staircase is gone, and so is Bulshar. In the institute, one of the guards, a revenant, suggests killing Wynonna to cover up Mama’s escape. Nedley opens up about the night Mama Earp set the fire. Wynonna and the revenant fight, but she decapitates him with her handcuffs and gets the Warden to set her free.
“Does your car have seat warmers? Because I ripped my pants while decapitating, it happens.”—Wynonna
Jeremy hits upon the idea of a shared delusion being the source of the staircase he and Robin saw; when Robin leaves the lab, he coughs up black blood. Waverly listens to tapes of her mother’s therapy with Nicole. Doc stumbles in and hears a third voice on the tape. Looking for whiskey for Doc, Waverly finds Mama in the barn setting up the same occult paraphernalia from 10 years previous. A demon then shows up, one who had come “for Waverly.” Robin goes to visit his sick father and gets attacked by a large vine. Wynonna arrives at the Homestead to find everyone happily (scary happily) eating desserts baked by “Jolene,” who forces a brownie on Wynonna and jokes about them all ‘dying’ without her.
Favorite One Liner: “If I’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s that evil wears many faces.”—Waverly
I Gotta Say…
I find myself once again ambivalent at the end of a Wynonna Earp episode. On the one hand, the demon-of-the-week plot this episode was better than the last two. Woods are a prime liminal space, and this episode used it to its’ full effect. Nicole’s comments about how quickly the wood grew back and the bleeding tree with a person’s eye inside set the tone right away. Rather than focus on fast-paced action with this demonic force, the show took a more eerie, atmospheric approach that worked well. I much prefer a creeping sense of horror and mystery to punching demons, so this episode gripped me. I’m invested in finding out the truth behind the walking forest of murder trees, the background with Bulshar, and how it’s related to the vine that grabbed Robin and Jolene.
At the same time, you can see the problem: there were a bit too many plot threads this episode to keep track of. Is the murder tree related to Jolene, the demon after Waverly, and/or the mysterious plants and vines outside Robin’s father’s place? How are any or all of these related to the stone staircase, Doc’s auditory hallucinations, and Bulshar? Any one of these threads could have worked as the primary demonic force for the whole episode, instead, we got multiple mysterious creatures and forces that could all be related or disconnected plus Wynonna and Waverly coping with everything to do with Mama Earp.
Thematically, the idea of not knowing what’s real or a hallucination ties everything together, and I don’t hate that as a unifying thread. In a town like Purgatory, one never can be sure what’s real. Is the past real or a delusion? Is the present stable or shifting? And if memories are unreliable, perception even more so. Doc’ has auditory hallucinations, as does Mama. Robin and Jeremy seem to believe they hallucinated the staircase, and the latter seems to think the murder tree might not be real either. And until we actually see the demon, we think Mama might be having visual or otherwise perceptual hallucinations about Waverly. Are our ‘demons’ real, imaginary, or some combination of both real and metaphorical? As an overarching theme, I can see what the episode was going for, and I like it.
Still, this episode was packed. Overfull, if you ask me, especially tonally. Mama Earp’s scenes and the murder forest are both eerie on their own. When juxtaposed without the proper resting period between them, it’s too much tension. Both ought to elicit a deep sense of horror. Together in one episode, I don’t think either had the full impact they should have had.
Plus, the cold open included multiple lines of dialogue ripped straight from song lyrics in a way that seemed flippant after last week. I know shifting direction after the death of a major character is tough. And I applaud the team for not making Dolls’ death a joke even as Doc and Wynonna cracked jokes. A generous viewer could read the situation as Doc and Wynonna coping the best they can: if you don’t cry, you laugh, and they got most of their emo out last week, so…irreverent jokes it is. I can see that, and I’m not mad at it as a direction. I’m not sure it was the best choice narratively, but it wasn’t the worst either.
I will say this: they haven’t just ignored Dolls’ death even if the emotional weight of it isn’t the primary emphasis right now. Focusing on the more tangible effects of Dolls’ death provides space for the show to continue grappling with the loss of his character without every episode being an emotional slog. I’m talking, of course, about the sudden cash flow problem. Theoretically, it works as a means of various characters coping with Dolls death. Even in practice, I find it an interesting narrative choice that creates space for metaphor. The lack of money is an analogy for Dolls’ absence, so frustration or anger or sadness about the former is a means of representing the latter.
Still, I have so many questions. Was it established that Peacemaker needed special bullets and I just forgot? I always assumed it was the gun that made Peacemaker special, not the bullets. How would the past Earps have gotten these magic bullets? Are we to assume BBD has always been the supplier or did they make their own? And if it just needs regular bullets, why would BBD need to supply them and is the team really such poor planners that they don’t have a stockpile larger than a quarter of a box? You’re telling me neither Waverly, Jeremy, nor Dolls know Wynonna well enough to not have a cache of bullets?
Secondly, why is the sheriff’s department suddenly short on cash, too? Was BBD funding their payroll? But how? Wasn’t BBD dissolved in season two and the team had to find a way to make things work on their own then? Suddenly, this is all feeling familiar. Plus, Moody revealed that BBD had never even been a government organization, so where did the money Dolls was supposedly bringing income from? I’m so confused.
Speaking of confused, holy whiplash, Docman! Look, I’m here for promiscuous Doc. I love that both he and Wynonna make no apologies for not being monogamous. My issue with the heavily suggestive dialogue and flirtation this episode stems from how rushed him jumping into bed with Kate last week was in the first place. The show barely spent any time establishing Kate as a potential sexual partner for Doc, rushed them into bed together, then rushed him back to verbal foreplay with Wynonna. Jeremy mentioned Doc’s sex afterglow right in the middle of Doc flirting with Wynonna. That just feels weird to me.
Delete that one comment from Jeremy and Doc sleeping with Kate last week and you have a seamless arc for Doc and Wynonna’s complicated sexual chemistry and history. The night with Kate might as well not have happened based on Doc and Wynonna’s characterizations. But it did, and I’m not sure why.
I’m also confused regarding Doc’s feelings about Alice. He’s either guilt-ridden or has a sense of peace about it, depending on the needs of the story. When Wynonna needs comforting, Doc evinces little to no guilt or pain. Yet when he’s the one in need of internal conflict, Alice’s loss and his descent to hell suddenly exist again. I suppose I could be generous and say Doc is coping better with his emotional struggles than he has in the past, but the more critical side of me says he’s just not being written consistently. I really like these as struggles for his character arc; I just want more. Which brings me back to the sense of the show trying to do too much, so there’s less space for characters’ consistently grappling with their internal struggles.
The one thing Wynonna Earp has done consistently well this season is the Mama Earp storyline. To my mind, this is the primary focus of the season, and it shows. The Mama Earp plot was truly horrifying. Believing that she was trying to kill Waverly the whole episode shook me to my core. (Can Waverly have one parent who actually gives a shit about her and is nice to her please and thank you?) Megan Fellows acted her face off, and Nedley played the role of the reluctant informant with heartbreaking accuracy. I look forward to seeing if his beliefs about Mama not having a mean bone in her body are correct.
As for what this episode means for Waverly’s heritage, I’m on the fence. I like the character work and internal conflict the plot creates. Wynonna defending Waverly is everything, and seeing Waverly struggle with Mama’s reactions to her broke me inside. Complicated family dynamics are my jam, and this episode delivered on that score.
Nevertheless, I don’t like the idea of Waverly being a demon as much as I did when last season’s arc with Bobo Del Rey started (Speaking of whom, where is he? What’s he up to?). After resolving the concern over her being a revenant in the season two finale, dangling the idea of Waverly being a demon feels too much like a rehash of last season. Same with the sheriff’s office having to once again deal with not having BBD support…BBD support they didn’t actually have because BBD was dissolved last season. Like Jeremy and Robin, the show feels like it’s walking in circles.
Maybe it’s because Mel’s pregnancy forced the writing team to change direction last season and we’re getting where certain plot threads ‘should’ have gone last season if they hadn’t have had to include the pregnancy. However, since these plot threads were dealt with last season—even if not fully to the writing team’s liking—revisiting them feels repetitive. I hope we get out of the woods soon, because there are some genuinely good things here to explore that feel like they’re being bogged down.
Overall, there are some elements I really liked on their own, yet they didn’t all gel together the way Wynonna Earp is usually so good at making happen. This episode juggled a lot of balls, and I’m not sure it caught them all.
I see you, Andras
- Lots of song lyric references this week. Ngl, it got irritating after the first one.
- New guy really needs to not put things in his mouth; he’s apparently also the infamous “potato licker” from this season’s teaser trailer. Guess no one told him to never touch the goo.
- Nice to hear Wynonna say, “Make your peace” again. How long has it been?
- Weird how quickly the WayHaught tension regarding talking to their parents was resolved with a joke about sportsball… the show reaaaaally isn’t allowing anything to last long? Not longer than an episode is one thing, but barely 10 seconds?
- Flashback Wynonna looked on point.
- The #MeToo line felt a bit too forced and weird tonally.
See you next week for “Jolene” (Jolene, Jolene, Joleeeeeeeene!). With Bobo back, it looks like I’m getting at least one of my questions answered, and I’m excited to see Mama Earp in a different context!
Images Courtesy of SyFy
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