Wynonna Earp came on the television scene in the knick of time this year and hinted at queer, specifically lesbian, representation from the start. In this time where the “bury your gays” trope has become a hard-hitting subject, Wynonna Earp has been a saving grace. Let’s just hope it stays that way.
On Friday May 27th, episode nine of the SYFY show aired and in doing so, canonized a ship that had blown up amongst the fans within the first couple episodes. If you are unaware, WayHaught is the pairing of Wynonna Earp’s younger sister Waverly Earp and Officer Nicole Haught of the Purgatory police force. This show is made of hard liquor and puns and with a name like Officer Haught, the jokes are endless.
The scene in episode nine between these two women was beautifully perfect in so many ways and I am going to go through each of them. First off, this relationship or if that’s jumping the gun, this hook up, was not rushed at all and was given time to flourish and show the growth of two individuals before pushing them together. There are so many shows out there where people end up together without any cause and it is not believable. This often happens with queer relationships in media because the show heads either do not know how to handle this representation or are using queer content to gather an audience. For WayHaught that was not the case and it was a refreshing dose of understanding and acceptance.
Secondly, the horrible trope of the “lesbian predator” that has been in existence for many a year was not even considered and even unconsciously ripped apart. There was never pressure on Waverly from Nicole. Nicole had been ready to let it go when Waverly had told her they would just be friends. Nicole tells Waverly, “I’d never expect you to be something that you’re not.” If that is not the most appropriate and respectable response to someone who possibly does not return your feelings, I don’t know what is. And then during the scene, she questions Waverly, “What about friends?” Nicole gives Waverly so many opportunities to back out, to change her mind and does not make a move until Waverly decides kissing her is really what she wants. Nicole knows that this is new for Waverly and that she is still working through it and questioning. She just recently realized that she might not be as straight as an arrow and Nicole is respectful towards her. All she does is encourage and help Waverly with her confusion; there’s nothing malicious about it at all. One too many times, we’ve scene the lesbian character portrayed as a looming threat and here, all that is shown, is reality.
Next up is the brilliant performance by the two actors involved, Dominque Provost-Chalkley (Waverly) and Katherine Barrell (Nicole). There was an interview with Katherine Barrell in which she discussed how any sort of intimate scene is very much technical when you are on set. She told how her and Dominque Provost-Chalkley had conversations beforehand about how they should proceed and what they were both comfortable with. If that scene was anything to go by, that conversation did wonders. It was so comfortable for these two characters and warm and inviting and perfect for their first kiss. The scene itself was not rushed at all. You can see Waverly’s nervousness and her fidgeting and how Nicole just lets her work through it. There are so many little things in this scene that ring loud and true and show the chemistry that these two actresses were able to bring to the characters. The first example is Nicole calling Waverly, Wave. There was no hesitation; it was instinct. Waverly has built up some sort of confidence and basically throws herself at Nicole before explaining that, “It’s hard to be brazen.” Then the amount of affection and incredulity in Nicole’s voice when she says, “I scare you.” This is a girl who, yes, has made her feelings very well known, but who is also at this moment, very much powerless to her crush. Then there’s the honest nervous ticks and the rambling and the saying things that are awkward and don’t come out how you want them to. It is so real to life. The acting, the dialogue, everything about it is relatable.
Also a quick note, that dialogue was something out of fanfic but my god, did it work.
And last but not least, Wynonna Earp, as a show, is based on a comic about Wynonna Earp battling demons and how she deals with her destiny. Waverly, a character that people fell in love with from the beginning, is not in the comic that the show is based on; she was created to have a specific role in the show. Nicole and Waverly are not the main focus but I think that holds an even greater sense of equal representation. The show does not blatantly discuss either of these characters sexualities but lets the relationship evolve on its own. These two characters just happen to have fallen for each other. Their sexuality is not the most important thing about them; they are fully flushed out characters outside of their (hopefully) future relationship. They are two people being given the chance to fully be themselves. The writers have made it that simple.
I think fans of Waverly and Nicole and the WayHaught ship should read this interview with the two actors. But also, a part of this interview is what has fans already worried and hoping beyond hope that Nicole does not end up dead. At one point the interviewer asked, “…what can you tell us about the future of WayHaught and their relationship moving forward?” And Katherine Barrell stated that:
“We can reiterate that no one in Purgatory is safe from heartbreak or
physical pain. The world that these characters are dealing with is an
extremely dangerous place and will continue to be so for them. Nobody
is safe on the show.”
And how many times have queer fans heard this line, “The show is dangerous so really it could happen to anyone.” I understand the “no one is safe” idea but when there is this amount of harm coming to the characters, a lot of which they survive, it strikes the wrong chord when the one person who can’t survive it happens to be the queer character.
But I’m hoping for a change with this show. The Wynonna Earp twitter account has asked people to give the show a shot despite everything that has been going on this year. They are aware of the “bury your gays” trope, as I would think most networks and shows are, and putting such a statement out there and then killing off one of the queer characters, would cause a great backlash that would harm a show that has so much potential.
So take a leap of faith and give this campy, female driven show a shot.
NOTE: It should be taken into account that I did not refer to this as “the gayest thing I’ve seen on television” though that is exactly what it was.
EDIT (June 3rd): Emily Andras, creator and writer of Wynonna Earp has clarified in a recent interview, “But they [Waverly and Nicole] are both very much alive and very much in love come the end of the season.”