Wynonna Earp (Part 2)
In the desire for something a bit different, today I’m returning to Graphic Reviews with a little media comparison! Before I left on vacation, I talked about the graphic novel series Wynonna Earp and while I was gone, I started watching the show. Now that I’ve consumed both media, I return to deliver judgment! Or you know, just a comparison. If you haven’t previously read Wynonna Earp (the graphic novel series), I’d suggest doing so (or reading my previous review) as I will be jumping straight into the comparison here. The graphic novel series was written by Beau Smith, the original run published by Image Comics in the 90’s with a stereotypical buxom blonde, and the newer run with IDW in 2016 which was meant as a tie-in to the show. The latter series is the one that I read and reviewed previously. The show was developed in Canada by Emily Andras (known for her work on Lost Girl and Killjoys) with a cast including Melanie Scrofano as the lead character. The show has recently been approved for a third season but since only season one is on Netflix, that’s what I’ll be talking about here.
I will start this by noting that I generally try to not get upset about little changes when a book is adapted to film or television. There many reasons why the creators may choose to change elements and as long as the adaptation captures the overall setting and experience of the book, I tend to be happy. So I won’t be doing a minute by minute comparison of every little thing that changed with Wynonna Earp. I will say that I think the television show is not so much adapted from as it is based on. Aside from names and a few plot points, many of the elements in the show have changed from the book. I don’t think this is inherently bad but it’s worth noting that viewers should expect not to see an exact reproduction of the book. While the book series focused more on Wynonna’s take no prisoners attitude and commitment to her family’s legacy, the show puts Wynonna in a more vulnerable position as the returning prodigal child who would have preferred to ride off into the sunset.
In many ways, Wynonna Earp is much of what any reader and fan of the graphic novel series could have hoped for. Instead of relegating Wynonna to a backseat role (as I personally was concerned about), the show puts Wynonna front and center. While she is less skilled in combat (particularly shooting) in the show, she’s more relatable as someone who cares deeply for her little sister Waverly and damaged by the events that happened in her childhood and which drove her away from her hometown of Purgatory. She relies significantly more on the guidance of Doc Holliday and her boss Agent Dolls, but she still kicks ass in her own way and refuses to back down from any challenge. Best of all, the wry (often dark) humor of the graphic novel series is perfectly translated to the show. The humor of the show has much the light, funny touch in dialogue that Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series did. More than anything, I was pleased to see that as being so central to the show.
Alas, Wynonna Earp is very much a SyFy show. What kills me about SyFy shows (and has in damn near every show they’ve ever done) is that you know it’s SyFy. They’ll start with an intriguing premise, a good (sometimes great) cast and immediately get you interested, only to have unbelievably silly moments that completely break your suspension of disbelief. While Wynonna Earp never quite gets as bad as shows like Defiance in terms of pacing and style, you know when your villain is named Bobo and looks like a hipster trying to be a Viking, you’re gonna have a few credulity problems. While I liked that Wynonna was more vulnerable in the show, I missed the take no prisoners attitude in the books. That “shoot first, ask questions later if you feel like it” attitude was a large part of why I enjoyed the graphic novel series as much as I did. I’m hoping to see more of that as the series progresses because I think the series shows promise.
It’s not a perfect adaptation by any means and I really hope they get better villains, but it’s at least an intriguing take on the series and one that still stays true to the spirit and the experience of the graphic novel series. I’m hoping that some of the less than desirable SyFy elements will be slowly phased out as the series continues and will certainly both continue watching and recommend it to others who enjoyed the graphic novels. If you get a chance, Season 1 is on Netflix and seasons 2 and 3 will hopefully become available for US viewers before long (they’re currently broadcast on the Canadian network Space). This is also the first shot at this particular type of review so if you like it, let me know and if you don’t, also let me know!