Life is never boring for Wynonna Earp.
Whether she's being strung up on the street and subsequently arrested for murder or participating in a chili cook-off for her freedom or even being kidnapped by shady government operatives, we never know what life will throw at Wynonna next.
Unfortunately, the writers threw one too many things at our favorite badass heroine, which, in part, made Wynonna Earp Season 4 Episode 3 just like her chili: somewhat of a hot mess.
After the revelation that 18 months had passed at the end of Wynonna Earp Season 4 Episode 2, the sky seemed to be the limit.
There was so much to be explored -- how Nicole had fared during the year and a half, what exactly happened to Purgatory since Wynonna, Waverly, and Doc had been gone -- and while the episode did touch upon those issues, we never got firm answers.
Wynonna: This is a Russian doll of suckage. Inside an arbitrary border, there’s a hellmouth. Inside that’s a demon bush party. Inside that is a jail, and inside that, I’m at the mercy of a Dukes of Hazard reject who wouldn’t know justice if it spatowed him in his butter sculpture face.
Clayborne: Ms. Earp, you have a visitor.
Wynonna: Good. Give me a heads up next time.
Casey: You were in the zone.
It's still pretty murky how Purgatory ended up becoming something out of The Handmaid's Tale.
Casey, Wynonna's half-demon cellmate, did a decent enough job giving a broad overview of what befell Purgatory, but there are just too many unanswered questions.
Yes, those questions will most likely be answered as Wynonna Earp Season 4 continues, but adjusting to this new reality was like getting whiplash.
Part of the problem was the sudden emergence of Cleo and Sheriff Clayborne as the season's new "Big Bads," or at the very least enemies for Wynonna and co.
Maybe it's because I'd gotten my hopes up about Eve, but Cleo and Clayborne can't hold a candle to the psychopath we met in the Garden.
That storyline had so much promise and material to be mined, so it was a complete letdown when Eve was nowhere to be found.
Then we got introduced to the new power players in Purgatory, and they seem like a complete joke in comparison.
Cleo is certifiable, but unless she's Eve in disguise, it's hard to be invested in anything about her at this point.
She's not scary enough to be threatening, so unless she has a demon army at her disposal, it's hard to understand how she gained control of the city.
Cleo: You think that our jails are too crowded and our courts are too slow. Think there’s nothing to do in this lame ass town, think we need a little bit more junk in our trucks?
Wynonna: Is she asking me?
Cleo: And as always, we aim to please, and we’re here to fix any problem you might think that you have. So, lock up your daughters and lube up your saucepans. All our jailbirds will be competing for one – yes, one – get out of jail free card in the first-ever Randy Nedley Memorial Chili Cook-off for Freedom.
Waverly: Is… is this real life?
Wynonna: Might be for you, but I’m dead.
And even if she did somehow manage that, the question becomes why hasn't anyone usurped her or even made a play for her hold on control.
It's not like she's hiding out somewhere, protected by a bunch of security.
She's out in the open, being the most obnoxious version of a person possible.
Cleo is the human equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard, so it'd have been great if the gang had killed her this episode, purely to put us out of our misery, as opposed to any threat she might be for our heroes.
Clayborne, at least, had the decency not to make our eardrums bleed and was slightly more menacing.
His thin-veiled threats to Nicole seemed to carry some weight, and he seems to be a person or demon, you don't want to cross.
Clayborne alone would have made a better villain, but it's hard to deem him a threat when he seems to be under Cleo's thumb.
Sure, it could all be an act, but Wynonna was right in that Cleo doesn't seem to be an outright threat, or else Cleo would have killed the Earp heir rather than try to feed her to
the troll ogre monster Nedley.
Cleo's grudge against Wynonna and her family also doesn't make a lot of sense. However, it was always going to be unlikely we'd find out about a new villain's motivations so soon after the introduction.
Wynonna: People will find out, about the contest, about you not keeping your word.
Cleo: One, how are they going to find out, and two, what does an Earp know about keeping their word, huh? That is priceless. You are a hilar…
Wynonna: So this is personal.
Cleo: No, see this? This is hereditary, daughter of Earps. Besides, I have to keep feeding something to this monster or whatever it is to keep it out of town. You see, Sheriff Holt and I, we know what it takes to get dirty jobs done, and if that dirty job happens to be you, bonus. Now scream.
Wynonna: Eat my vegan seitan.
Cleo: See, they lied. You’re not even fun.
That, at least, can be understood, just based on the simple structure of storytelling.
However, with that being said, it doesn't make us any more invested in Cleo and her vendetta, as we have no idea about her motives.
Understanding that would also give Cleo more depth, hopefully making her less of a cartoonish caricature.
Maybe it's unfair to take these frustrations out of such a new and underdeveloped character, but the introduction of Cleo marks a drastic shift in the tone of the series, in that the show doesn't seem to know what to do with itself.
Now that Wynonna has broken the Earp curse, where does the series go from here?
Even after the series expanded the universe's mythology and shifted its focus from revenants, the Earp curse always remained at the forefront, with even the villains for the second and third seasons connecting to larger and ever-expanding mythos around Sheriff Clootie/Bulshar.
Bulshar is dead, and the natural flow of the story is interrupted, as the series has seemingly decided against following Eve as she wreaked havoc on the human world.
The entire setup was there, ripe for the taking, and the writers didn't.
Instead, The Powers That Be chose this path, and along with the weak villains, the show doesn't seem to know what it is now either.
Doc: Someone has been handing out hemp neckties.
Wynonna: That’s a clear fashion don’t. Who the hell and why?
Doc: Frontier justice: Retribution must not only be paid. It must be seen to be paid.
Wynonna: The old timey version of ‘pics or it didn’t happen.’
Is this a show that focuses on driving the demons out of Purgatory one by one with a 'monster of the week' theme?
Or is it a series that has the characters face 'Big Bad' after 'Big Bad' with no rhyme or reason?
We have no clue, and it seems the series doesn't either.
It's a shame because this off-kilter storyline detracted from some of the better parts of the episode, namely Nicole.
Though no time has passed for Wynonna, Waverly, and Doc, Nicole has spent the last 18 months alone.
Though I theorized Nicole may have resented Waverly for her absence, it seems Nicole instead is dealing with insurmountable guilt over not having found a way to rescue Waverly and her friends sooner.
And it's not like that was her only concern, for when she wasn't searching for her friends, she was defending the Homestead and playing parent to a sarcastic teenage girl.
None of that was easy, and though Nicole tried to convince those around her, she was fine, cracks began to show.
Those 18 months were so stressful and have taken their toll, and not even Waverly's return can undo everything Nicole endured.
Waverly: If they think they’re going to lock up my sister for the maybe murder of my favorite sheriff – present company accepted of course…
Nicole: Present company not the sheriff.
Waverly: Yeah, what the hell’s that about?
Nicole: Yeah, you haven’t met the ‘they’ yet.
Waverly: Nicole, I am going to go to town and I am gonna kick so much ass, I might go up a shoe size.
Nicole: God, I missed you, Waverly Earp.
Even with Waverly back, Nicole is still on high alert.
All of her problems didn't magically disappear when the love of her life returned; the town is still crawling with demons, and she still has to take care of Rachel.
There's a lot Nicole is dealing with, and making it all the more problematic is that she doesn't want to talk about it or even admit there might be some things she has to work out.
Pretending everything is OK will only make things worse for Nicole.
This new reality also poses a challenge for WayHaught, because while it's only been days for Waverly, it's been months for Nicole.
They're no longer the same people they used to be, and it may take Waverly a while to realize just how much as changed beyond the date.
It's a new obstacle they're going to have to deal with in their relationship.
And while we may not be happy about this new development, at least it isn't unnecessary drama thrown in to shake things up.
Lastly, the episode ended on the cliffhanger of who kidnapped Wynonna.
While there are plenty of possibilities, humans and demons alike, my guess is the shadowy government agency/black ops division that evacuated Purgatory in the first place.
Waverly: How could we have been in that Garden for a year and a half?
Doc: We were not. Time must be differentiated, fluid in some manner.
Waverly: Yeah, god, it’s such a mindfrog. I mean, how old even am I? Ah, I missed so many “Property Brothers.”
Doc: I feel that.
We still have no idea who or what was behind that, and Wynonna's kidnappers looked an awful lot like the guys who grabbed Nicole, Jeremy, and Robin on Wynonna Earp Season 4 Episode 1.
Who these people are remains a mystery, but the end of the episode did offer us a clue.
Remember how Casey said some government agency was making sure only humans, not demons or criminals, could leave the Ghost River Triangle.
Well, Jeremy could be the key to putting everything together, as he was one of those people working border security.
So whoever Jeremy's employers are, there's a good chance they're the ones behind all of this -- the evacuation, Wynonna's kidnapping, border security.
It's not exactly a concrete answer, but it is enough to start putting together a list of suspects.
Some stray thoughts:
Did anyone believe Nedley was truly dead? Chrissy's return had me thrown for a while, but then I realized there was no way Nedley, our beloved Nedley, would be killed off-screen. It took a little longer to piece together he was the troll/ogre/people eater, but it slowly came together.
The fight scene where Waverly, Nicole, and Doc "attacked" troll Nedley was great until the very end, and the icing on the cake was a tied up and very naked Nedley wondering what exactly had happened. God, I love the retired sheriff, and it would have broken my heart if he died.
Though the other characters had to adjust to Rachel's presence at the Homestead, the writers did a great job of effortlessly incorporating her and fleshing her out a little more as a character.
She's a kombucha-loving, snarky teen who fits in well with the rest of the gang and brings some fresh energy to the series. I also love that Rachel now lives at the Homestead and is part of the family. After everything she went through, it's nice that she found her people.
So what did you think Earpers?
What are your thoughts on the new 'Big Bads' Cleo and Clayborne?
Is the series showing its age or just hitting a rough patch?
Who or what took Wynonna?
Hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you happened to miss the latest episode, remember you can watch Wynonna Earp online at TV Fanatic.
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.