Friday, July 27, 2018

REVIEW: 'Wynonna Earp' - Wynonna and Dolls Are Willing to Sacrifice Everything for the Team in 'When You Call My Name'

Syfy's Wynonna Earp - Episode 3.02 "When You Call My Name"

The demon who cursed the Earp heir reveals himself in a shocking turn of events that will leave the team forever changed.

The war with Bulshar already has its first major casualty in "When You Call My Name." There is no talking around the fact either. At the end of this episode, Dolls is dead. He goes out in a literal blaze of glory in order to save his team. It's a fitting conclusion for the character even though it also feels very abrupt. This is the first episode where his instability issues are even mentioned. In fact, it's unclear if it's a direct result of the formula that Rosita and Jeremy concocted for him or if he was always a bomb waiting to go off after the Black Badge experiments. These are important questions that need to be asked. The show got in so many great and humorous moments out of proclaiming Dolls as a lizard or a dragon. He was a different creature entirely. And yet, he was a key member of the team. He grew so much over the course of the series. He started as the by-the-book investigator who wanted to keep things strictly professional with Wynonna even though they were working together to hunt down demons. Over time, he became such an invaluable member of the team because of his expertise and logical leadership skills. And now, he is gone. It's the same kind of story that occurred at the start of the second season. Wynonna and company had to cope with a life without Dolls in it. He eventually came back to them while experiencing no repercussions from Black Badge because they too mysteriously vanished. Again, there is so much in the backstory of this character that wasn't completely examined. The show never had enough time to further dig into the experiments done on him or his own crush on Wynonna. But at the end of the day, he was still a very entertaining character on the show and his death absolutely means something to the audience and for the larger stakes of the story this year.

This is the most significant character death Wynonna Earp has ever produced as well. It's a decision that the show has always flirted with. It has lived in these life-or-death stakes for three seasons now. There has always been the fear that the latest demonic threat would be the one to ultimately kill Wynonna or anyone on the team. It's not surprising that one of them has actually died. It's just a shock that it's Dolls. It's a death that will resonate with the rest of the characters as well because they all came to trust and rely upon him over the course of the series. He was a stable presence in their lives who understood the value in teamwork even though he was keeping his own secrets. His death needs to hit the characters hard. It is more profound than Wynonna needing to kill Willa in order to save the world from supernatural destruction. That arc came together very suddenly at the end of the first season. Until this point, Willa has been the death with the most personal baggage for the other characters to unpack. Of course, it now seems like everyone has gone through their feelings on her and what her shocking return meant to them. As such, killing Dolls now is a new way to escalate this threat with Bulshar. It was already going to be a very personal and complicated conflict because the show brought Mama Earp into the mix. But now, Dolls is dead. It's directly because Bulshar rose from his imprisonment and has a cult of followers who are eager to work alongside him to enact whatever his crazy plan for the world is. Dolls goes down as a hero. But his death will also fuel the desire for revenge as Wynonna further investigates Bulshar and his plans for the world.

"When You Call My Name" even starts as a regular episode of the show as well. For the first two thirds of the episode, it's basically just the team dealing with the latest supernatural threat of the week. Sure, things are very dire as both Wynonna and Waverly find themselves in some horrifying and ominous circumstances. It's strange how Wynonna conveniently gets stuck down on that ledge after being flung from the car during the accident. It seems a little too neat. But it also allows the show to depict a different side of Mama Earp. Sure, she just appears as a hallucination to Wynonna here. But their interactions do so much to better inform the relationship that they have. Up until this point, their dynamic has always been about the secrecy and the devastation that would come from telling Waverly the truth. Now, it's clear that Wynonna always knew where her mother was but didn't see her until Bulshar became a threat she had to take seriously. She is only remembering her now because of the personal connection that Mama Earp has to the demon. That connection is still unclear. Plus, she is such a radically different character here. Sure, she is still constantly looking over her shoulder. That informs Wynonna and the audience right away that her current reality is still seeping through this coping mechanism that Wynonna is using in order to survive. But it's also just so heart-wrenching to watch Wynonna yell at her mother for abandoning the family and then be confronted with the same accusation. Wynonna believes she's doing what's best for Alice. But the argument can still be made that she is being forced to grow up without her mother because she too is busy fighting demons and not having a good handle on the world around her.

All of this highlights the similarities between Wynonna and her mother. It shows that the two of them have a special bond just like Ward and Willa did. Ward was stern and preparing his eldest daughter to be the Earp heir. He pushed her hard which ultimately pushed her too far away to ever be saved even by her own family when the time came for it. And now, it's clear that Mama Earp bonded with Wynonna and tried to make her strong in her own way. It's the lessons that she taught Wynonna that are most vital to her survival in this moment. She has to find the strength in order to access her injuries and climb back to safety. Sure, Mama Earp is still absolutely terrified about the threat from Bulshar and not wanting her daughter to get caught in the crossfire while injured. But Wynonna still makes the decision to go rescue Waverly. That sisterly bond is so important and meaningful to her. That too shows what Wynonna thinks of her mother. She doesn't assume that this woman who gave birth to both of them actually loves Waverly. She is just the third daughter she abandoned. And now, Waverly is absolutely devastated by the news that the family has always known where Mama Earp was - even if Wynonna doesn't know the exact specifics of why she is in jail. But right now, it's more important to actually save Waverly from this demon who has the power to steal voices. That leads to such an amusing moment where Waverly and Wynonna have to do charades in order to communicate with one another. That's very hilarious while also keeping the threat from this booby-trapped bunker imminent. They are doing whatever it takes to protect and save each other. And in the end, it's the traps that lead to the demon's undoing. Of course, it's slightly strange how it's him being impaled that frees Waverly's voice instead of Wynonna sending him back to hell. In fact, Wynonna never actually fires that bullet from peacemaker. So that demon is probably still there in that trap.

But the location of peacemaker is so crucial to the final act of the hour. Wynonna needs to abandon it as she climbs to safety because there's no way that she can do both. She understands the value of peacemaker. It's the greatest weapon in her arsenal against the demons of Purgatory. Here, she has to deal with the demonic threat without it. She still prevails even though she too gets caught in a trap. But it's because Nicole has to rappel down the cliff to retrieve the weapon that Bulshar and his demons have the opportunity to strike. It's during that moment that it becomes clear that something major and life-changing is about to happen that will forever alter the foundation of the show. This demon happens to be incredibly fast. That informs the team that he is the creature behind the ritualistic murder at the club from the premiere. In fact, Jeremy worries that there's no indication that that kind of mass violence will end anytime soon. As long as Bulshar is alive, he will continue to kill as many people as possible for his grand goals. That makes this demon more of a threat than the typical ones because it is also faster than Doc. The famous gunslinger isn't able to get a good shot at the beast. He is dispatched quickly with Wynonna being the only person keeping Nicole from plummeting to her death. It's entirely up to Dolls in that moment to be the hero his team needs. He understands that he is about to die because of the instability of his condition. But it's also clear that he has peace with that decision. He is dying on his own terms. He's not afraid of what might happen next for him like Doc is. He has the clarity that this is the life that has been handed to him. He believes he made the right decisions. It's just so emotional to the team as they now have to deal with this looming threat without him. That's paralyzing but Wynonna gets the support she needs from her family - both from Waverly who is present and from Mama Earp who is still just a hallucination.

Some more thoughts:
  • "When You Call My Name" was written by Caitlin D. Fryers and directed by Paolo Barzman.
  • Of course, the most logical question that must be asked at this moment is if Dolls is truly gone for good? There seems to be a fair amount of finality to his appearance here - with Shamier Anderson already doing interviews where he's saying he's moving on from the show. But the show has brought characters back from hell before. As such, there is precedence for Dolls to return. It's at least something the audience should be aware of.
  • Moreover, the audience should also be wondering if the appearances from Mama Earp were hallucinations or some other ability that she may possibly have? There is still so much about this woman that we don't know about yet. It's clear that she has resentment for the Earp name. But she has clear connections to Bulshar. Stranger things have happened after all. But she seems to be a crucial asset to Wynonna in this moment as she copes with everything.
  • There is so much power in hindsight to the moment between Doc and Dolls at the bar where Doc is detailing how much he hates the prospect of being sent back to hell. He sees himself as the hero now doing the work that must be done. But it's still all going to end in the same destination because of a previous lifetime's sins. He doesn't know how to reckon with that just yet while Dolls only wants to prove that they don't think the same way.
  • Jeremy is the only person who is aware of Dolls' ongoing issues. As such, he could afford to offer more clarity in the future as to when exactly Dolls started becoming unstable. That could be a direction the show explores moving forward. Or this could be all there is ever said about why Dolls needed to die in this particular way. More of an explanation would be nice. But is it all that necessary?
  • The characters understand each other so well that they can just sense when something is bothering them or being kept a secret. Nicole understands that not everything is alright with Waverly when the demon speaks on her behalf. Moreover, Waverly knows that Dolls is about to make a huge sacrifice for the team because of his health. She is just too weak to actually stop him from doing so. She understands but that still isn't enough to save him.