YouTube Original 'Wayne' Review: Love, civilization and a bruise-fest with a heart of gold
So what makes Wayne such a standout character in a genre full of larger-than-life, bruised and battered antiheroes like Ray Donovan, and Lip Gallagher?
Warning: Spoilers ahead
How do you define 'Wayne', the YouTube Original show that has captivated audiences around the globe? Is it a coming-of-age comedy? Maybe a roadtrip show? Or is it an ultraviolent philosophical treatise on the state of civilization if told by Conan the Barbarian? Neither of these do the show justice and therein lies the magic.
At the heart of 'Wayne' is love, and just underneath that is a thin, bloody veneer of sarcasm, brutality, and the titillating scent of optimism being trampled upon. The storyline has been discussed here, so there's no need to get into that again, suffice to say that it's about a troubled young man (Wayne, played by Mark McKenna) on a journey from Massachusetts to Florida to take back his father's car that was stolen by his estranged mother and her boyfriend. Wayne's partner-in-crime, as it were, is Del (Ciara Bravo), an equally troubled girl. Both are running from demons, and the snarling horde are breathing down their necks.
But within the chasing mob, baying and snapping at their heels, is a group intent on saving them both. 'Wayne' is full of characters that personify either ends of humanity's spectrum. From the dimwitted carnage perpetrated by Reggie, and Del's brothers Teddy and Carl, to the surreal second-chance philosophies of Brockton's finest, Sergeant Stephen Geller, the characters weave their way through the story, knitting a tapestry so vivid and violent, yet strangely comforting in the fact that it's irrevocably real.
'Wayne' doesn't fuck around, it gets down in the dirt and stays there, only briefly allowing the viewer to dream of a better tomorrow, only to snatch it, rip it to shreds and replace it with a nightmare wrapped in a blood-soaked rag.
Wayne himself isn't evil, hell, he probably isn't even bad. He simply has no filter between his heart and his fist (and on a fair few occasions, the ends of his trusty ball-peen hammer). Wayne's hammer is his cut-price Mjölnir, and his innate sense of morality means it's invariably a bad guy at the receiving end of his beatdowns. He's a regular Avenger, just so much more interesting.
So what makes Wayne such a standout character in a genre full of larger-than-life, bruised and battered antiheroes like Ray Donovan, and Lip Gallagher? It's that Wayne never strives to control his or anyone else's destiny, like Ray does. He doesn't wallow in self-pity and regret like Lip. Wayne lives for the present, he's the here-and-now of humanity, warts and all.
And in Sergeant Gellar he finds a knight who sees a grail in Wayne that could not only save the young man, but maybe save himself too. Gellar, who is played immaculately by Stephen Kearin, is one of the two pillars that prevent the roof from falling on Wayne's head. The other, of course, is Del. Ciara Bravo has delivered a tour de force of such sass, vulnerability, and brutal focus, that it puts most performances on TV right now in the shade.
But most of all 'Wayne' is about family and the fact that invariably families are a shit-show. It's about absent mothers, deadbeat dads, and children standing in doorways watching the shadows of their idols fade away over the horizon. As Jason Isbell sang in 'I'm Stopping By', for both Wayne and Del, the best of them is probably still standing in the doorway of their youth. In each other they see a similar trajectory, a lonely ballistic arc soaring into the distance. Neither one knows where the impact crater is, just that they need to be together when it all goes to hell.
'Wayne' is not going to make you feel good. There are no good guys in 'Wayne', just misfits, sociopaths, and journeymen with a story to tell. What 'Wayne' will do, however, is make you stand on your couch and cheer, not just for Wayne and Del, but for every person who had enough and refused to take the shit life dished out lying down.
'Wayne' is a show about retaliation against injustice, but it's also about throwing a punch and damn the consequences. Most of us may not be able to relate to Wayne's stoic willingness to take a beating, but we will certainly empathize with his need to deliver one.
And there's a reason why this writer believes that 'Wayne' could well be the best show of the year (screw those dragons). It's founded in reality. The reality that dark clouds are the rule, and those silver linings just bullshit we're led to believe encircle them. But that's ok, because if you spend enough time in the darkness, you can just about make out the figures waiting for you at the end of the road with open arms. Wayne and Del saw them, and reached for them. Let's hope that in the end they're the right arms.