Wynonna Earp has me all up in my feelings* after episode 3×03 “Colder Weather” and I’m not really sure how to, well, feel about that.
Like lots of people out there in the world, especially creative types, I tend to be emotionally affected by the entertainment I enjoy. Especially when it comes to crying. I’m a crier. There’s no doubt. If people are feeling things, I tend to feel them too. Which, I guess, is a good thing, right? But there’s this thing that happens to me as a writer and there are times it’s really frickin’ annoying.
I feel something and then I want to write about it. But then I’m left asking myself all these questions: Who cares? You’re all up in your feelings, so what? Are you going to say that’s going to be unique or different or somehow impactful or are you being self-indulgent? No one needs to read about your emotional state over a TV show.
Except it’s been days now and I’m still here thinking about the death of Xavier Dolls and the different varieties of grief left in the wake of his passing.
No one teaches you how to grieve. Well, I don’t know. Maybe they do. I’m sure there are books on the subject and all sorts of people have opinions on how you should grieve, but my experience is that most people just sort of figure it out as they go and no one’s ever truly ready for it. Because loss is something that happens whether you want it to or not. It’s sort of the nature of loss itself.
Even if you know it’s going to happen or you’ve planned on it and you think you’ll be fine, you never really are. There are emotions to process and emotions are a general pain in the ass when they hurt. So you sort of think about the “what if?” of it and then you tend to move on because it’s hard to function out in the world if you’re scared of losing people on a daily basis.
Which means having someone you love turn into a dragon and burn himself up along with the bad guy in order to save people’s lives has got to be a real kick in the teeth when you realize what it all means and what kind of sacrifice that is.
And in the case of Dolls’ death, there are so many reactions to take into account: the fans watching, the characters in the story, the actors playing the roles, the writer telling the story, the director guiding all of it. Not only was Dolls gone but Shamier Anderson was saying goodbye, as well. There’s a lot happening all at once.
Which may be one of the reasons Xavier Dolls’ death on Wynonna Earp hit me so hard. It cost something. It cost something dear and the price was exacted in front of our eyes and in very real human terms.
Character deaths on TV shows aren’t new. They happen. Especially around Sweeps Week and at the end of the season. Most of the time, they’re recurring characters — people who aren’t series regulars but who have been around long enough to get people invested. Or they’re leaving the series but you know it’s coming because it’s been talked about or teased or you know some actor is moving on. But sometimes, you lose a character who’s beloved and it comes pretty much out of nowhere. One day everything’s fine and the next minute you’re trying to figure out what the hell happened.
You know it can happen. After all, Joss Whedon taught an entire generation of fans that no character, no matter how beloved, is safe.
But it sucks. And it catches you off guard. And it hits you in numerous ways. And suddenly you’re grieving about a fictional character and you don’t know how to feel or who to yell at. Often times, the other characters seem to move on or they jump forward in time, or some mechanic is used to create a distance between that character’s death and the rest of the characters and story.
In the case of Wynonna Earp, however, we got something rare. An actual grieving period in the aftermath that honestly looked at the numerous types and stages of grief people feel when they lose a loved one. From Wynonna’s deep pain and confusion to Doc’s anger to Waverly’s need to care for everyone even as she’s hurting, it’s all recognizable and relatable.
Not to mention, Jeremy’s guilt or Nicole’s fear and loss, and Ramon Quinn’s (Peter Mooney) need for revenge. Even Nedley’s feelings were taken into account as an entire episode took the time to check in on its people and brought an entire fandom along for the ride.
I don’t know if any of that was intentional or if Emily Andras has an understanding of her show and story that had all of this happen organically, but whatever it was… it was perfect.
Because it does hurt when you lose someone. And you don’t ever know how to feel. No matter how old you are or how used to it you might be or how prepared you think you are, there’s no true escape from grief if you have a heart that loves people.
If you love, you hurt when you lose someone. Sure, some people choose not to love in order to avoid that very pain but most of us love other people in some way whether we choose to or not and that means we’ll grieve in our own way and in our own time.
It may not be pretty and it may not look like we think it should. It may not even look like it looks on TV a lot of the time.
But in the case of Wynonna Earp and the death of Xavier Dolls, it looks and feels very real and very, very human. Which is what made it so very special.
*terminology credited to Carly Lane who has a way with words.