(Spoilers for Wynonna Earp and Once Upon A Time ahead.)
Our main character is a badass woman in a leather jacket, with past childhood trauma and a history of institutionalization. She is forced to travel to a small town that contains clues about her origins – apparently, one of her ancestors (or two) were legends. She teams up with a man in law enforcement. Her greatest wish is reconnect with her family. She’s the chosen one who has to save the tiny town she and her loved ones live in by fighting supernatural forces.
I used to love the TV show Once Upon A Time. Emma Swan was everything I wanted in a strong female character. But ever since…ohhhh, around season 3, the show’s been on a downhill tumble. It got so pathetic that I straight up quit watching after a while. There comes a time when you realize a show isn’t going through a bad spell–it’s just not good anymore.
Wynonna Earp, like OUAT, is about a woman who is the descendant of a famous hero. The show is based on the mythos of Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Wynonna is a complex anti-hero who teams up with her sister and other characters to protect her town and break her family’s curse. I’ve watched the first season and man, is it good. But I can’t ignore the more than passing similarities to the fairytale show I used to enjoy.
What Once Upon A Time Did Wrong: when OUAT began, it promised a show about strong women, family, and the power of true love. The main story was about Emma and her strained relationship with her son, her journey to believing in fairy tales–and herself, and Regina Mills’s attempt at redemption for the sake of her beloved son and her struggle with her dark side.
Unfortunately, Emma and the rest of the cast are quickly overshadowed by Captain Hook, a straight white man, and Emma gives up all her strength and agency when she bewildering falls in love with him. Their relationship isn't healthy either: Hook is manipulative, he lies to Emma constantly, and he never listens to what Emma wants.
And this is to say nothing of how the show has completely exhausted its vault of ideas, despite having the entire Disney pantheon at its disposal, or that only one of the main cast is a POC, and that the LGBT community has only one rushed, undeveloped arc shoved into one single episode.
TL;DR: Bad character development, stale plot arc, practically no representation for anyone who isn’t white and straight.
What Wynonna Earp Did Right: Wynonna is a well developed character, clever, strong, and flawed. Her relationship to her sister outshines either of the relationships she has with her two love interests. The cast is significantly more racially diverse than that OUAT, and the lesbian relationship between Waverly and Nicole easily gets as much attention as Wynnona and Dolls or Wynonna and Doc.
(Doc Holliday being an immortal sassmouth is probably the coolest thing about this show, to be totally honest.)
Also, Doc and Dolls are both great guys, complex in their own right and vastly different from each other but still utterly lovable, and they both adore and respect Wynonna. And her character isn’t sacrificed for the sake of her relationship with either of them. A female character who isn’t defined by her relationships with men! So refreshing.
I have strong hopes for Wynonna Earp. I just hope I won’t be disappointed again.