Wynonna Earp: Brendon Yorke Previews “Holy War Part Two”

If you find yourself counting down the minutes until this week’s midseason finale on Wynonna Earp, we’re guessing you aren’t alone. Plenty of fans are going to be eager to find out what happens after Nicole (Katherine Barrell) asked Jeremy (Varun Saranga) and Nedley (Greg Lawson) to kill her in order to break the Clanton’s spell on her. In this week’s episode, “Holy War: Part 2,” written by Brendon Yorke and directed by Ron Murphy, the gang will be racing to save Nicole, but in true Wynonna Earp fashion, be hindered by some unseen forces along the way.

 Not intended to be a midseason finale, thanks to the global pandemic, shooting on Wynonna Earp Season 4 was halted after this week’s episode was shot as the world went into lockdown. However, the cast and crew of the series have resumed production and are currently shooting the last six episodes of the season in Calgary, AB. Writer and co-executive producer Yorke recently shared with The TV Junkies his thoughts on this week’s episode and the challenges of production resuming during COVID. He also reminisced about starting work on Season 4 and what it was like to conceptualize the Garden, as he also wrote the Season 4 premiere episode, “On the Road Again.”

The TV Junkies: I’ve talked to a few of the other Wynonna writers about their feelings surrounding returning for Season 4. What about you? How did you feel when you all finally got to get back at it and could move forward on Season 4?

Brendon Yorke: Wow – would you believe this happened almost exactly a year ago? Having been alongside Emily [Andras, showrunner] for the entirety of the “Fight For Wynonna” campaign and all the ups and downs that went along with it, what I felt mostly was disbelief. After the show being on life support, then gradually coming back to life, when at any time Emily could have got a call saying ”Nope, it’s done done,” were we actually about to start brainstorming how the hell we get our characters out of the Garden? It was like a gift that could have been snatched away at any given moment. But once we were in the writers’ room (technically the dining room of a house Emily and I rented during a renovation) it started to feel like it was probably going to happen.

TTVJ: You also tackled the Season 4 premiere episode. What were the biggest challenges for you in writing that episode?

BY: Challenge #1: Remembering what happened at the end of Season 3! It had been a while. But once we got down to it the biggest challenge was figuring out the practicalities of what the Garden would look like, and how Wynonna would manage to bring her friends back from another plane of existence. Obviously shooting in January in Calgary meant that the concept of a lush bountiful Garden of Eden type look would be impossible. We conceptualized it as sort of an anti-garden: A cold, sterile landscape which would be the exact opposite of what people might expect. I mean, since the original Garden of Eden is completely made-up, why couldn’t we make up our own version? What was on the page was fairly loosely sketched out, and when Emily, Paolo [Barzman, director] and the Art Department got their hands on it, the details of the look and feel took shape. 

The second biggest challenge was to figure out who or what “Valdez” carved into the side of the stairs referred to. Obviously it was a reference to a character in Beau Smith’s comics, but we had to figure out what was best for the show. I’m really happy with how it played out through Rachel, and Martina [Ortiz Luis] is a wonderful addition to the cast.

TTVJ: What did you think when you saw what they did with making the Garden come to life? How did it compare to what you envisioned while writing that episode?

BY: For the longest time it was really difficult to envision what the Garden would look like at all. The writers and producers were, shall we say, “concerned” about it since the end of Season 3. It was always going to be a massive challenge to film a satisfying version of the Garden in winter, and on our budget, so I was thrilled with how it all came together. The starkness of the landscape (actually a frozen lake) combined with the Soviet-brutalist style architecture they came up with, gave it a very specific feel that really sold the idea that we were in another metaphysical realm.

TTVJ: Speaking of the premiere episode, it was chock-full of some pretty epic lines. But what does it feel like to know that you wrote what some people call the best Wynonna Earp joke ever: Doc’s line about the 61?

BY: If they put “Inventor Of The 61” on my gravestone I’ll be happy. That being said, after I blurted it out in the story room, I started to overthink it. The way Doc is holding poor Desmond (his actual name in the script) it’s more of a “19” than a “61”. But for the joke to work, it had to start with the word “sixty” otherwise it would take too long to process and would be lost amidst all the other banter. Jokes are hard.

TTVJ: Due to the pandemic, this episode is now serving as a midseason finale. Is there anything you can share about the challenges the writers have faced when shooting resumed during COVID?

BY: By the time production was shut down we had drafts in play for 407-410. We had a sense of the shape of 411 and 412, which Emily had yet to write. Most of the writers were more or less “done” when the show resumed, which left Emily with 407-410 to edit and all of 411-412 to write from scratch. The greatest challenge fell on Emily to get it all done on time. She managed to pull both Matt [Doyle] and Noelle [Carbone] in for some very welcome backup…but she would be the one to ask about the challenges faced once production resumed. Spolier: it was hard.

TTVJ: This week’s episode is the second part of a two-parter. What does that mean for you as a writer? Do you work in tandem with Noelle Carbone, who wrote the first part, to make sure everything is cohesive? Or is it just like any other week-to-week episode?

BY: Generally, all the writers break all the stories together and 405-406 was no exception. Noelle and I definitely knew what each other was planning before we sat down to write anything. We did go back and forth quite a bit about how to leave off 405 with Nicole FULLY 100% DEAD and how to pick up on that in 406, since it is was obviously a potentially controversial choice to make. Noelle had to know how I was going to stage the teaser of 406 in order for her to stage the tag of 405. So essentially, she goofed around showing videos of her toddler son walking around in high-heeled shoes while I came up with the gold, then just copied and pasted my great ideas. #sportscorner

TTVJ: Wynonna, along with Doc, went on this quest looking for Peacemaker and to try to get it back. Again, I know you can’t spoil anything, but what has she learned in this process of trying to find Peacemaker, and figure out what to do if she can’t?

BY: All I can say is that my favourite part 406 is seeing Wynonna and Doc develop very different views about what “peacemaking” means to them.

TTVJ: Is there anything else you wanted to preview or mention about this week’s episode?

BY: Stick around to the end. It’s both satisfying and unsettling, but not in ways many fans might expect.

Wynonna Earp airs Sundays at 10/9c on SYFY and CTV Sci-Fi.