4 out of 5
Created by: Shawn Simons
covers season 1
Boy – Wayne (Mark McKenna) – incites a bloody fight, purposefully opening himself up to take some licks while he grins a bloody smile. Later, Girl – Del (Ciara Bravo) – approaches Wayne and somewhat sorta coerces him into buying some Girl Scout cookies, all with a hefty Boston accent and plenty, plenty of swearing. Wayne invites her inside to listen to some music; Wayne pogos about to some punk tunes while Del stares on incredulously; Wayne asks Del to be his girlfriend. She’ll think about it.
Ah, okay, so this is to be a boy-meets-girl tale told with violence and cursing. And it is that, to a degree, as the ten episode first season charts Wayne and Del coming together and apart and together, but it’s more rightly a story about Wayne, and about Del, and about people – on a sliding scale of how broken they are.
The show gains shape and trajectory when Wayne’s single father (Ray McKinnon) passes away from cancer, lamenting the one that got away – a car, that was stolen by his ex-wife’s boyfriend. While Wayne has been shown to be full-on anti-social already – notorious at school as a bully; ready to mete out bloody justice with a beating whenever needed – it’s also clear that he’s guided by a twisted morality system passed down by his father, and it becomes a quest to rescue the car… which is somewhere in Florida. Del, meanwhile, seems to be trying to find her own way out of an abusive family of single father Bobby (Dean Winters) and her two doofus twin brothers, and accepts the invitation from Wayne, tearing by on a motorbike, to come along on his quest.
Also, before leaving, Wayne punches out his landlord, burns down his house, and assaults Del’s family. Also also: Wayne is a comedy.
And it is often funny, though I think its biggest struggle is finding a balance between its relative realism and its cartoonish violence, and its celebration of the latter. The cleverness the show displays throughout of juxtaposing white trash caricatures like Wayne, and Del – and the various folk they meet on their journey – against the reality of putting two brash, young kids on a road trip is where the series’ writers and directors display incredible skill: often we’re dumped in to a comedic-ish setup, and it seems like Wayne is going to win the day by getting pissed off and beating someone up, but then the story will veer toward having actual consequences and appropriate responses. It’s off-putting in the best fashion, and by keeping Wayne and Del as relative “innocents” throughout, and learning more about themselves and the world at a believable cadence, the show avoids being too syrupy or too reckless. Flashbacks to either’s pasts opens up our understanding of them even more, and as other characters get involved – Wayne’s school principal (Mike O’Malley) and a Boston cop (Stephen Kearin) – we get different flavors of cynicism and optimism from different ages and backgrounds, building up to the establishment of – pardon the phrase – Wayne’s World, in which almost everyone exists on a sliding scale of fucked up, but meaning well.
However, scattered throughout this landscape and trek are those who are at the bottom part of that scale – solely fucked up – and it’s there where the juggling act can stumble. Wayne takes a lot of abuse throughout the show; both he and Del dish it out. There are hammers, and flamethrowers, and crowbars, and guns, and bruises and blood. For the most part, the show builds in a sort of framework for this stuff that remains within the realm of the believable for the show’s heightened tone: injuries require recovery; wounds hurt. And there’s the aforementioned way it often swerves from actually suggesting that might makes right. But that’s “for the most part,” and “often.” ‘Wayne,’ the show, does seem to think that casual beatings are pretty funny, and the system of abuse in the series, as perpetuated by these relative cartoon characters, is silly in its all-out machoism and aggression – something that the show is backhandedly picking on at the same time – but it nonetheless lets that slip at points and wants to cheer on some especially vicious moments. And towards the end of the show, when stakes are raised for various reasons, it removes the constraints of that framework and starts allowing implements of torture to fly about without much consequence.
But this is definitely the exception and not the rule. On its surface – with its bevy of heavy metal soundtrack songs and swearing and blood – it seems like Wayne will be all ’bout that exception. Thanks to great performances from McKenna and Bravo, transforming two cartoon characters into sympathetic people with a lot of depth (and heavy Boston accents), and adding a lot of appreciative nuance and spot-on timing to their portrayals, we’re able to look past that surface; fleshed out by smart and careful writing, Wayne is a different kind of exception, as compared to its TV peers: able to maintain its badge of badassness and attitude and quirk, but also be quite deep and touching.