A disclaimer: this isn’t saying that between Michelle Lovretta and Emily Andras, they wrote all the strong female characters ever. We’ve had Root and Shaw from ‘Person of Interest’, Commander Lexa from ‘The 100’, the Danvers sisters from ‘Supergirl’, pretty much all of the women off ‘Orphan Black’ (have I mentioned how excellent Canadian television is right now?). And a butt-load more. But in discovering only three shows (‘Lost Girl’, ‘Wynonna Earp’ and ‘Killjoys’) with the first being a team-effort before the two split off to do their separate projects (the latter programmes listed).
And when you’re watching the work of these two women, you begin to find some familiar ground. Nobody’s going to like all three shows—though there’ll be a lot of exceptions, and I find I’m one of them.
Notably, ‘Lost Girl’ was a little further back in the history line behind ‘Wynonna Earp’ and ‘Killjoys’ but what makes this trio of shows so special is its subversive nature. Genre television is expanding and so are dark, gritty mini-series.
These shows are comparatively light compared to some, and that’s good because despite that label, Lovretta and Andras have shown with their shows their impeccable ability to delve into the psyche of a character. They don’t quite play ball with the other shows; they have a slight quirk. And it’s that slight quirk that’s become somewhat of a trademark of the two talented ladies. We hope that one day they produce a butt-load more television to a point where you can flick something on and say “this is so in the style of Michelle Lovretta/Emily Andras” as people have done with artists such as Bryan Fuller and Helen Shaver.
We can’t just hand it to the ladies—the guys are also written in supremely well. A tip of the Stetson to you, boys!
All three shows literally dump a bucket of snark over your head as you watch it. They have great male characters too, who support the lead females rather than serve as purely their storyline (aka their romantic interest). In ‘Lost Girl’ we have Dyson (Kristen Holden-Reid) in particular, Trick (Richard Howland) as well as the villainous but in such a fun way, Vex (Paul Amos).
In ‘Killjoys’, both the Jaqobis brothers serve as brilliant foils for the lead, Dutch. John’s the tech-boy, and D’Avin is the muscle (though arguably not as much as Dutch). Lastly, ‘Wynonna Earp’ has the wonderful Shamier Anderson, as well as Tim Rozon, who shines—particular in season two—with his portrayal of Doc Holliday. After reading up on the history of Doc, and all the supposed stories Wyatt Earp told in his (mostly fictional, according to historians) biography, I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Rozon rocking that moustache.
So we’ve skid around the supporting cast. The males are shamelessly objectified—and it’s not necessarily bad—it just happens. And you could see that in any other show about anything. An attractive woman will have an attractive, sexy scene—and what’s nice about these three shows is that they aren’t afraid to make their men sexy, too, and show it off.
In equal parts, the females on the show are just as sexy—again, arguably more so—and it’s not done in a way that’s misogynist. It’s expected, when you have feisty creators such as Lovretta and Andras behind-the-scenes, but what makes those sexy scenes distinguishable is that the female’s allowed to be sexy—because, let’s face it, they are an incredibly good-looking bunch (that’s an understatement).
A statement that truly stuck was one made by Bo’s no-strings-attached partner, a Dark Fae, Ryan Lambert. All the way through the episode he was shown to have a mischievous, playboy personality. He’s intelligent, good-looking and charming and he knows it. But he’s also been observing Bo when they team up and tells her:
Ryan: “You don’t want to be owned and that’s what’s amazing about you. When you go out trying to save the world, you’re not doing it for the Light or the Dark, you’re doing it for you. You put your ass at risk. It’s not because you’re someone’s puppet. You do it because it’s your ass to risk.”
About sexy-times: there are a lot of sexy-times when you think of these shows and mush them together, but explicit or not, they exist for a reason.
The most important part of this all is that you never feel it’s under the male gaze. Again, that’s easy to say with Lovretta and Andras as creators of the shows, but it’s such a simple thing. The females are hot. One of them on ‘Wynonna Earp’ is literally called Nicole ‘Haught’. The difference is, neither Lovretta nor Andras use their good-looking females for the sake of their good looks. One could argue that objectification of the females would not make you a feminist at all. Andras has even stated in a behind-the-scenes clip of ‘Wynonna Earp’, in which Waverly Earp (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) dances (knicker-less) to a smacking tune, in a tight cheerleading outfit, with some—well, ‘haught moves’.
But what’s so great about Lovretta’s and Andras’ work is that they’re taking these stereotypical, heterosexual tropes and twisting them so they’re something else entirely. Even if Andras wants to just have Provost-Chalkley cheerleading with jaw-slackening slow-motion, then paradoxically there’s a reason for having no reason: why shouldn’t an attractive woman embrace her sexuality? Just like the guys? Waverly isn’t performing her sexy dance or walking down a staircase ala prom style to her handsome boyfriend—it’s for her girlfriend, Nicole (Katherine Barrell).
Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen) from ‘Killjoys’ has a practice sequence with a topless D’Avin (Luke MacFarlane) that’s steamy but you get the impression they do it all the time. None of it is cliché—in fact, it takes away the clichés and stomps all over it. Dutch and D’Avin kick each other’s asses (and D’Avin doesn’t hold back, because Dutch is Dutch).
Lastly, we have ‘Lost Girl’, arguably the sexiest of the lot. There’s actually so much sex in it that it’s borderline ridiculous, and the grin-inducing thing is that the show knows it. The show knows everyone’s just banging each other. The show knows that a slow-motion car-wash scene is a slow-motion car-wash scene. But that’s the partial content. I mean, for goodness’ sake, the lead of the show is Anna Silk’s irresistible succubus, Bo, who literally sucks the life out of humans when she has sex with them.
Oh, they know Nicole or Dutch or Bo (or anyone on any of these shows, seriously) are ridiculously good-looking, and they flaunt it. But it’s not about objectification. It’s about these women embracing their sexuality and being unafraid of it. Why should they? Because they’re women? Not in Lovretta’s or Andras’ worlds. What each show delivers well are its self-awareness and its relevance to today’s society. Television viewers aren’t idiots, and they aren’t treated like idiots when they watch it. They are treated to endless fun but enormous heart.
As we briefly mentioned, the shows share a lot of themes. One of the major ones is that at the centre of all three shows is a strong, flawed, raw, richly-played main female.
The best thing about having the honour to watch a female-centric show is knowing that it’s written and produced by strong, flawed, raw, kickass females too. Lovretta and Andras know how to write their snarky heroines because they probably feed off everyone’s dry humour (they’re Fae?).
In ‘Lost Girl’, we have perhaps one of the strongest females I’ve seen on television in a long time. My favourite thing about ‘Lost Girl’ turned out to be its theme tune, with Anna Silk’s Bo narrating over it:
Bo: “Life is hard when you don’t know who you are. It’s harder when you don’t know what you are. My love carries a death sentence. I was lost for years, searching while hiding; only to find that I belong to a world hidden from humans. I won’t hide anymore. I will live the life I choose.”
In all three shows, that’s such a major theme. Bo simply summarising her story is the very essence of ‘Lost Girl’. Forget the sex (oh, well—forget it briefly) and the snark and the gore and the various Fae and factions and Zoie Palmer’s jawline: ‘Lost Girl’ has its ups and downs and corkscrews and curveballs, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. A ‘lost girl’ is going to live the life she chooses, because she’s been hiding for so many years, and she’s got no idea who she even is (or initially, what she is).
Even in ‘Killjoys’, you get the sense with Dutch. Dutch and Khlyen (Rob Stewart) are the epitome of sheltered girl (slash assassin). Though he seems to have his noble intentions in the end, he essentially grooms her to be an effective, trained killer. He is her possessive parent-of-sorts (think that and then times it by a thousand) who she breaks free of—yet cannot completely, because a part of her still loves him. Then there are the red boxes. Yet Dutch is utterly independent. Even without the Jaqobis brothers, Dutch would’ve made it across the Quad successfully, albeit with less banter owning the boys on a frequent basis.
Then we have ‘Wynonna Earp’, everyone’s favourite sleeper hit of the moment. Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano) is the cursed heir of Peacemaker, a demon-killing gun used by the real-life Frontier legendary lawman Wyatt Earp. Based off its comic book series, it’s entirely bonkers, and Wynonna has developed into one of the most intriguing and underrated characters on television.
None of these shows are perfect. They all have their flaws. And so do these leading ladies. Wynonna is perhaps the prime example. She’s initially selfish, sometimes arrogant, often narrow-minded, hilariously oblivious to her sister’s evolving lesbian relationship, and what Emily Andras proves in season two is that Wynonna’s snark and steeliness cages a fragile heart. A demon even calls her weak.
It’s not the assessment I’d come to, but it shows that Wynonna, try as she may, is not always the hot shit. She’s vulnerable, sometimes lonely, often lost. She needs the people she stays within circles of—and coupled with Scrofano’s impeccable acting, she’s easily one of the most interesting characters on television. She’s a doughnut-addicted, insulting, rule-breaking badass—we know it, Emily Andras knows it, and she knows it. So she owns it.
As well as representing strong female characters, each show is largely accepting. And that means it can be a staple for the LGBTQ community.
Set in worlds were Fae exist, or where bounty hunters in space exist, or where Wyatt Earp’s resurrected demons exist (in a town called Purgatory!) this allows greater room for creativity. It also allows for something usually abnormal to be seen as the new normal. We’ll even reach out to ‘Supergirl’, in which Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) comes out to her mother, who embraces her because think about it—her sister is Supergirl (Melissa Benoist)…so what’s so strange about being gay?
The worlds Lovretta and Andras have so carefully knotted together are expanding and absorbing. It’s utterly enjoyable, and you could excuse them for their inclusivity just because of the above. Aliens can exist on ‘Supergirl’, so why should homosexuality be strange? Isn’t it just an easy way out because it’s in a weird world? Alas, I’d argue the opposite. What Lovretta and Andras have excelled at over the years is bringing an overwhelming, warm sense of humanity and community to our television screens—a sense of acceptance and a reassurance of ‘you’re okay’ or ‘you’re not alone—even when their worlds are rammed with supernatural beings.
These ‘weird worlds’ aren’t foreign to us despite demons and Fae and bounty hunters in space. The humanity in these shows don’t just represent the good but also the bad—and exactly how many people have felt alienated in a world that just feels like the community around you is made up of otherworldly jackasses? And maybe, just maybe, they are lumped in the minority group where they’re actually aware that the world exists of just more than handsome white males and their attractive female assistant.
I don’t think ‘Lost Girl’ or ‘Wynonna Earp’ needs any further comments on how utterly gay it can be or indeed how it’s okay to be so. Nicole Haught’s hand dangling off her belt-buckle is supremely gay. But even with ‘Killjoys’, we’ve seen stories of neglect of ‘hack-mods’ from ‘normal’ society and, well, Pree (Thom Allison). Arguably, one of the greatest love stories is between John (Aaron Ashmore) and Lucy… a ship (Tamsen McDonough). If you don’t believe me, watch the damn show and try not to cry at the end of season two.
The supporting cast get their own stories too—and this is important especially with the females—because they don’t just exist to boost the main character’s story or be a romantic love interest. They are human and they have their own stories.
In female representation, you’re probably getting the idea that I supremely enjoy what these wonderful women have gifted to television. These shows are flawed and cheesy and melodramatic at times, but they’re also seriously fun, enjoyable and an hour of your life you’d never regret. These shows have stories and characters that reach out to multiple communities and inspire them, create love, create bonding over the show—and any show that inspires should be defined as ‘amazing’ in my book.
You get great characters like Lauren (Zoie Palmer) and Kenzi (Ksenia Solo) that are charming heart-throb love interests and the comedy foil of the show. Yet they get their own back-stories, current stories, and depth to their characters. John, D’Avin and Pawter (Sarah Power) from ‘Killjoys’ do, too. In season one, D’Avin had a story arc of his traumatic military past and season two it grew into his connection with ‘Level Six’. John grew from simply being the youthful and cute nerd and Dutch’s best friend to having his morals questioned as he drifted into a relationship with Pawter. And even then, Pawter is not just John’s love interest. She is of royal blood who shamed her family and was sent to grungey Westerley. She uses her mind and intelligence to save her family, claim her position as Lady of the Land, save the people of Westerley in the gap between season one and two, and also sacrifice herself ultimately for the safety of Westerley by bringing down the wall. Arguably, she’s one of the bravest people in the ‘Killjoys’-verse.
And then there’s ‘Wynonna Earp’, which has a supporting cast that somewhat resembles Emily Andras’ vomit: glittery, cool and badass. That may not be the exact definition of ‘vomit’, but—keep up. Waverly isn’t just Wynonna’s little sister—she’s independent and strong. After her bigger sister left home with her so young, she remained in Purgatory and also used her intelligence for research—which the Black Badge Division use with gratitude eventually. She can handle a rifle at will. She’ll tell you:
Waverly: “Eat shit, shit-eaters!”
Like Pawter, Nicole is the love-interest here with Waverly. A nod to the LGBTQ community: she’s awesome representation. She isn’t representation (now that’s another article entirely but that’s why ‘Wynonna Earp’ nails Nicole’s character) but it’s made clear she is a lesbian from the start. Her appeal is not her sexuality; her appeal is that she’s drop-dead gorgeous, she’s kind, she’s considerate and she’s smart—among other things. Her intrigue is not that she’s Waverly’s love interest (though shippers will be swooning over her for days); she’s a valuable asset to the team. Her boss, Sheriff Nedley (Greg Lawson) even admits her brains would be good for the ‘BBD’, and that he wants her to be Sheriff when he’s done. And she’s so young. She’s ambitious, driven and she has a big heart. Her growth is independent to her romance with Waverly. She isn’t just Waverly’s charming arm-candy; she is her own woman. Every female in these productions are their own, and that’s why you cannot deny the earnest heart in these shows.
I’ll be the first critic to say they are imperfect. But they’re addictive, and what Lovretta and Andras both excel at is creating superheroes of their own worlds. Superheroes we, as audiences, can relate to—because you don’t need to have heat-vision to be one.
Canadian television is gonna rule the world someday, so be ready for awesomesauce.
Canada’s a growing hub of excellent television and film, and the media world knows it. More and more shows are shifting filming to locations like Vancouver and Toronto. And it’s not just regular shows, either. It’s your shows with the big, passionate, loud fanbases. Why are they loud and passionate? Because they want to be heard. Why would they like to be heard? Because ‘normal’ television has suppressed their stories for so long; it’s about time we heard stories about trans, gay, lesbian, bisexual, disabled, mentally ill people, and people of different ethnicities.
The country’s giving us shows like ‘Orphan Black’, ‘Lost Girl’, ‘Killjoys’, ‘Wynonna Earp’, ‘Vikings’, and ‘Murdoch Mysteries’. If we’re going to grab the elephant in the room, too, it’s also given us a monster of a web-series in ‘Carmilla’, which is actually how Canadians say “this is how you make a web-series and turn it into a beast“.
It’s strange how Michelle Lovretta and Emily Andras’ shows are garnering so much attention now, when they definitely should’ve been a long, long time ago. I suppose they could say “I told you so”, so there’s always a silver lining…
Imperfection is rife, but so is awareness and improvement.
‘Lost Girl’ was by no means the benchmark for any television series. Neither will ‘Killjoys’ or ‘Wynonna Earp’ be. But does that actually matter? Does it matter who gets an Emmy and who doesn’t? Sure—when Tatiana Maslany finally won (and justice dispensed) everyone did a celebratory dance. But in terms of prestige, does society hold it in such regard anymore? Ask a film-maker or television-creator what they do their art for, and if anyone comes back with the answer “to win an Oscar/Emmy/Golden Globe/Tony” then it’s time they quit the profession.
I’m not trying to be blunt (well…I am, a bit) but what a jury of judges picks as the winner of Best TV series of the year will not equate to hundreds of thousands of fans of [X] television show. Last year, I’d written that as enjoyable as ‘Wynonna Earp’ was, I didn’t find it Emmy material. It wasn’t meant as a criticism, but I’ll remember the comment in reply saying ardently that it indeed was.
It’s not that I don’t think ‘Wynonna Earp’ holds some of the most enjoyable work I’ve seen in these years. And indeed this year, it pushed the limits and displayed one of my favourite ever television shots (the end-shot of episode six, season two). But there’s a line between being a fan of that and finding your critical voice, too. To ignore any flaws of a show would be a lie.
It also means that an uphill climb means you’ll inevitably plateau or you’ll fall. None of these shows started from the bottom. Their premieres are all typically fantastically fun and boisterous. But every one of these shows grow season after season; they expand their world, and they deepen their beloved characters. Both of these were set up so well in the first season that upon their growth, the audience is already captivated enough to follow the story with the cast of characters all the way through.
Imperfection isn’t a bad thing. If you’re perfect from day one, how do you progress? How do you look back in five years’ time and think: “wow, that was one of my favourite shows, ever”? How do you create an exponential upwards curve? These shows have and are, and to be frank, it’s a privilege to see.
Superheroes on television: going too far? I don’t think so.
Between ‘Lost Girl’, ‘Killjoys’ and ‘Wynonna Earp’, Lovretta and Andras have shown that main females can be kickass and simultaneously vulnerable. They can bash down doors and get their hearts bashed in return. Bo, Dutch and Wynonna are all complex figures who, yes, have romances; they are sexy and they own their sexuality; they cry; they lose. They pick themselves up and sometimes they can’t do it on their own.
These are women who are initially lost at the beginning of the story, and we’re on a progressive journey to find themselves as they’re flung unwittingly into a trajectory of heroism. They’re in extraordinary worlds (or space). They make a habit of bashing people about. But in the midst of it there is a big, beating heart: there’s vulnerability, weakness…humanity. What about all of that doesn’t make you think “superhero”? Heck, Dutch has a badass ship called Lucy!
Most recently, it’s been ‘Wynonna Earp’ with the big twist: Melanie Scrofano’s pregnancy. The way it’s been smoothly incorporated into the story as well as the respectful nature of the fanbase and the cast and crew is genuinely heart-warming. The way the pregnancy isn’t just your simple, clichéd storyline is finally approached—considering how many stories have been set in worlds fantastical with this twist. The love triangle between her, Doc and Dolls isn’t just a push-pull over the damsel between two macho-men. Doc and Dolls have established a friendship. They both respect Wynonna whether she wants them romantically or not. They don’t argue over her and let her be the object whilst they bicker over who should ‘have’ her. If anyone should have Wynonna, it’s herself. When Waverly realises she should start doing what she wants for herself, it’s a lightbulb moment.
And what we’d said about superheroes earlier is true, too. Wynonna Earp is the embodiment of one: she’s the silent protector of Purgatory, often ostracised—and she’ll take the brunt of it. The badass synonyms surrounding Wynonna are a staple now. But even the advert including her pregnancy pokes a bit of cheeky fun at it. What is wonderful about how Emily Andras wrote Wynonna’s pregnancy in is that she remains exactly who she is: a hero. She breaks down over it. She will, at a point, have to give birth or stop her Peacemaker act for a while. But does a pregnancy take away Wynonna’s heroism? Her willingness to save lives despite Purgatory’s ostracisation? No. It doesn’t. That’s why superheroes don’t just exist on the big-screen. When a show stirs up a community like ‘Wynonna Earp’ does, then you begin to realise superheroes exist on television too.
The same goes to ‘Lost Girl’ and ‘Killjoys’ too.
What’s the point of this ramble? It’s a discovery of my own, too—finding that three shows that interested me most were shared between two women I admired. And we end with a conclusion that why I find these shows and these women so incredible are that they’re putting plain badass superheroes on television. And if that isn’t awesome for aspiring audiences all around, then how much further do you wanna take it?
SyFy hit the jackpot. Plus, they’re developing cult favourites such as ‘The Magicians’ and ‘Dark Matter’ too. So well done, you Little Channel that Could. And thank you, Michelle Lovretta and Emily Andras. An experience of watching these shows? It’s worth a damn essay.
(Good job I wrote one, then).