Wynonna Earp Season 3, Episode 1 Review “Blood Red and Going Down”
As usual, Wynonna Earp came out swinging. The several months long hiatus was more than worth it for this rip-roaring, boot-swinging, guns a-blazing, yet still moving, emotional, creepy, and campy premiere. Or should I say vamp-y? The stakes are high, and Wynonna may have bitten off more than she can chew. I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that purgatory sucks. Sometimes literally.
We open on Pussy Willows, where a drunk and “relentless” Wynonna lures a couple of Revenants into attacking her outside the strip club in an attempt to get intel on Bulshar. She and the rest of the gang take them out, but none of them know where the demon is. Outside town, a stripper bus filled with Eurotrash fabulous vampires charm Nedley into inviting them into Purgatory. As Nedley put it, it’s about time we had some vampires in Purgatory. WayHaught get some snuggles and a chance to joke a bit about the being married/kissing a hot revenant thing. They’re interrupted by the sound of…something…coming from the barn. That something is Wynonna and Doc sparring. But all is not well
“I don’t need grace, I need steely soviet precision.” —Waverly
Nicole gets a call from Nedley to come down to Pussy Willows, and she brings the Earps along. Inside the club, it’s a literal massacre. The bodies of sixteen people killed with a serrated blade artfully arranged in a pattern that Nicole recognizes. The massacres belong to the cult of Bulshar and have been occurring since the 20s. Nicole sees a symbol carved into a body that triggers a panic attack, and Wynonna sees a suspicious man dressed in military gear flee the scene. In the midst of giving herself a pep talk in the bathroom, the vampire Petra glamours both her and Nicole. In Shorty’s, Doc finds Jeremy in the basement tweaking Dolls’ serum and listening to One Directon. The vamps arrive, Doc gets lassoed, and Jeremy is glamoured by a male vampire. Wynonna, meanwhile, heads over to the prison to talk to Mama Earp.
“Her name is Petra, and I love her.”—Nicole
Wynonna asks Mama Earp about the cult of Bulshar, and she tells her daughter that ‘the voice’ tells her things. Worried Wynonna will get Waverly killed, Mama Earp leaves the interview and tells ‘the voice’ that her daughters are off limits. Doc finds himself tied to the stripper pole in the vampire’s bus where one of the crew invites him to join them, but only if he is Doc Holliday. At the prison, Dolls and Wynonna get access to Mama’s files, but they’ve been heavily redacted. Wynonna drives off and the vampires attempt to glamour Dolls. Doc’s captor admits the vampires are in town to offer tribute to Bulshar in order to survive his rising. During the conversation, he recognizes her, calling her “Contessa.” At the homestead, Wynonna finds, and kills, one of the vampires. A glamoured Nicole, Jeremy, and Waverly knock her out and plan to deliver her to their lieges in a coffin.
“Sometimes you just need a cheeseburger, you know?”—Dolls
At the vampire feast gala, Nicole and Waverly flirt shamelessly. Waverly tells Nicole she’s not sure she can see her get eaten or be a victim. This triggers what seems like a memory for Nicole, who speaks about being “the survivor.” Dolls finds Wynonna trapped in the coffin, frees, her, and the two crash the party and kill off the vampires. Doc frees himself from his restraints just in time to meet Contessa busting into the van to try and free him? Regardless of her intention, she runs and Doc chases her, shooting at her, but missing. He joins up with the rest of the team just in time to kill a vamp and flirt with Wynonna.
“I’ll tell you what you can eat, a dick.”—Wynonna
Wynonna frees the final vampire, sending him back to Bulshar with the message that she’s coming for him. He kneels before his demonic master, who then places what looks to be wrinkly old nutsack—or maybe a seed?—in his mouth. At Shorty’s, Wynonna and Doc meet up for a drink that Wynonna dedicates to Alice. Doc then kisses her, seemingly rekindling their romance. Next, the gang recovers with take out and Dolls subtly urges Wynonna to talk to Waverly about Mama Earp. On the drive home,
Favorite One Liner: “Hungary to eat di–” – Wynonna Earp
I Gotta Say…
The theme for the season shone through clearly this premiere: everyone has something in their past that haunts them, and it’s coming to get them. For Wynonna, the haunting is a quite literal one in that she has to face down the demon who placed the curse on her family, back from the grave he was buried alive in and ready to cause problems in Purgatory. It’s the showdown we’ve been waiting for since we first learned about Sheriff Clootie/Bulshar, but it’s more than that.
Wynonna has always been haunted by more than just literal demons. The demons she battles represent more than just evil entities; they’re the embodiment of family darkness, of generational trauma and inherited suffering for choices made by parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. At least in this episode, the more metaphorical demon appears to be both the decision to send Alice away at the end of S2 and the conflict that will no doubt arise over the return of Mama Earp. Suffice to say, there’s plenty of intergenerational and inter-familial (both found and biological family) conflict to parallel the demonic big bad headed her way.
Plus, there’s the Bulshar cult that worships him, though that’s got more resonance with Nicole’s storyline, which I’ll get to.
On the surface, Wynonna is back to the way she’s always been after her pregnancy. But once you look closer, you see through her façade. Wynonna has a frenetic, avoidant undertone to her wisecracking and sexual energy now. While she’s trying to keep Doc training and angry, she’s doing the same for herself. She just hides it better than he does. Doc may snark with the best of them, but he wears his heart on his sleeve. Wynonna stuffs her feelings deep down, hiding behind walls of sarcasm and a projection of blasé indifference. But she feels. Deeply. We saw that on full, heart-wrenching display last season.
This season, we’re seeing the walls she put up to protect herself, and everyone else. She’s got a world to save, vampires to kill, demons to send to hell, and a team of people relying on her to be the leader and core. My question moving forward is, how much pressure can she take? I don’t know how Andras and Co. will come at Wynonna’s emotional journey in the coming season, but I can tell you I’m so looking forward to seeing it.
Which brings us to Doc. By the end of the episode, he’s let off some steam and opened up to Wynonna, but I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll see of his sorrow. He lost his immortality last year, and with that came a certain reckoning with his human, meaning finite, nature. He’s far more emotionally vulnerable now that he can’t call back on the cynicism and distance that long-livedness (and being thrown down a well by your bff) brings.
Alice’s loss haunts him. We see it I the very first scene where he’s sparring with Wynonna. He won’t touch her unless they’re training or talk to her unless he’s angry. So, she keeps him training and angry. Just because he’s in a slightly better place at the end of the episode doesn’t mean he’s worked it all out. He knows exactly how many weeks it’s been since he’s seen his daughter. My bet is he knows down to the minute. (Three cheers for Jeremy bringing up male postpartum depression by the way.) How much can he take of being the one to visibly grieve? Will he begin to resent Wynonna’s more closed off approach to dealing with the loss of their daughter?
And how will the Contessa throw a monkey into the relationship? She’s the literal ‘demon’ haunting Doc this season. They clearly have a…complicated past together—one that involves a lap dance and torture. Seems about right. Chantel Riley already won me over with her portrayal of the Vampire “Contessa” Kate, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing her and Doc interact.
— Chantel Riley (@chantel_riley) July 17, 2018
Waverly’s haunting revolves around her mother, and likely her father, whoever he is. For most of her life, she’s believed her mother abandoned her. Her experience as an outsider in her own home thereafter left her feeling bereft and unwanted. To find out not only that she’s not an Earp as she did last season—thus confirming her sense that she doesn’t belong—but also her mother is still alive and didn’t abandon her? That’s going to be, ah, complicated.
Even if she did reach a point of acceptance as an Earp by the end of last season, even if she isn’t one biologically, she’s going to have questions for her mom. Least of which being who her father is. She’ll also likely have questions, and choice words, for Wynonna for hiding the truth all these years. And, as she confessed to the mirror this episode, she might have to do a lot of it alone emotionally. Wynonna has her own literal and metaphorical demons to fight and Nicole, her rock, will be preoccupied with the demon cult.
Speaking of which, we’re finally getting Nicole’s backstory! Fans, myself included, have been speculating about it since S1. We know precious little about our favorite bulletproof lesbian cop other than her having an ex-wife. After this episode, her being the lone survivor of the Bulshar cult seems all but confirmed. And the set up was perfect. Why else would she recognize the name Bulshar and the arrangement of the bodies? Why else would seeing one symbol cause the normally rock steady Nicole to have a full blown panic attack? And, most damning of all, why else would she think of herself as “a survivor, the survivor”? Then she confesses her fears to Dolls, and I totally believe it.
That’s quite the ghost to be haunting anyone, much less someone as gentle and empathetic as Nicole. Of all the storylines, this might be the one I’m looking forward to most. Surviving trauma, indoctrination, and conditioning to become a kind, altruistic is a huge draw for me in storytelling. And I trust Wynonna Earp will do it justice. The depth of emotion and face acting Kat Barell brings to Nicole is phenomenal, so I know she’s going to knock it out of the park playing all the horror, tragedy, and fear that’s coming for Nicole. I seriously can’t wait. I’m so ready to suffer.
Thus, only Jeremy and Dolls so far don’t seem to have a ghost from their past haunting them, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get one. And it doesn’t mean I didn’t miss that “You always make the right choice, Earp. Most of the time,” from Dolls. He’s clearly unhappy with Wynonna’s choice of rekindling her relationship with Doc. That may not be a haunting, but it is mildly annoying. Why can’t we just have the WynDolliday ot3 we deserve? (#GhostRiverTriangle will rise!)
Uh, I should probably talk about the plot, right? What was it? Oh, right vampires. Had you told me vampires were coming, I would have been skeptical. I also would not have expected what we got. However, I found the 80s German pop aesthetic utterly delightful. Everything about it both poked fun at more romanticized notions of vampires while still being creepy and campy: the sexy fog, the Eurotrash vibe, the NECK kits that killed them. The explosion into pink glitter was a nice head nod both to the sparkling version of the demons in Twilight and Buffy’s version that exploded into dust.
This brings me to tone and pacing; Wynonna Earp continually blows me away with the delicate balance it maintains between camp, horror, and true emotional depth. It’s one of the few, if only, shows I know that can balance glamorous Eurotrash vampires with one of the characters being the child survivor of a mass murderous, demon-worshiping cult and have a third character literally counting the weeks since he last saw his newborn baby daughter. And all this takes place while the lead character cracks dick jokes and thirsts over Jason Momoa.
When you put it all on paper instead of watching it, it sounds like a convoluted mess. But it works, and it works fantastically. I’m thoroughly engaged and invested when I watch. Only once or twice in the show’s run have I ever felt tonal whiplash, and it was fairly mild. Almost all the episodes are like this one—truly impressive feats of tone balancing in a well-paced, action-packed narrative that still somehow manages to leave space to breath and truly feel the emotional weight of the more tragic elements.
Finally, Mama Earp. When they announced Megan Fellows over the hiatus, I had nothing but excitement. This premiere delivered and then some. For one, she’s believable as the genetic parent of Wynonna, Waverly, and Wylla. In fact, her resemblance to Waverly is downright uncanny. More than anything, though, I’m intrigued by the tiny crumbs we were given about where she’s been and what got her put in prison. I am, however, still confused given that the end of last season showed her sitting on a cliff somewhere but last night we learned she’s been in prison for years.
Here’s hoping that gets cleared up, because it was a bit jarring. Overall, though, it was really a minor, minor blip on the radar compared to everything else, which is damn fantastic. This is the ‘season of answers’ according to Andras, and I, for one, am really excited for the ride that’s coming.
I see you, Andras
- Did the Bulshar groupie really have a wrinkly old nutsack shoved in his mouth? With Wynonna Earp, I wouldn’t be surprised.
- Wynonna holding Doc at knife point and nibbling his ear is so hot. Hoo boy.
- I really enjoy Waverly being a regency book nerd. Girl after my own heart.
- Kate’s bejeweled veil seriously gives me Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer vibes, and I have to wonder if the styling is intentional.
- Heh, love the joke about taco Tuesday.
- Nicole in that pantsuit, tho.
- The cinematography, music editing, and art direction for the crash was freaking gorgeous.
See you next week for “When You Call My Name,” where it looks like Bulshar or one of his cronies may have been the one to take Waverly!