Author’s note: Wayne comes to YouTube Premium on January 16. Two of the ten episodes were provided for review.
Created by Shawn Simmonds, Wayne arrives on YouTube Premium in good company with recent shows about settling a score with the world when it feels like it’s against you. The titular Wayne (Mark McKenna) is out to right all the wrongs around him as though each were a slight against him personally, and in the process he comes across Del (Ciara Bravo), whose own battling of the system creates a chance meeting and the opportunity to skip town in search of a long-stolen car Wayne’s father once owned.
The immediate tone of Shameless is felt in showing a world normally underutilized in television with characters normally on the fringes fighting hardship after hardship, and since it is directed by Iain B. MacDonald, a veteran of Shameless, it reaches into those fringes and provides its characters the platform to announce their existence. In Wayne and Del, there are two kids scraping by with schemes and petty thefts to have something to call their own.
It’s not until the second episode where the main story takes off, the search for Wayne’s father’s car, but the first episode is enough to give us an exact pinpoint of who Wayne and Del are, enough for them to really win us over. The second episode is about establishing this relationship and where they stand emotionally in this bizarre road trip, the awkwardness of not really knowing each other and how aimless the plan appears to be. It’s where the character work in the pilot comes to reflect back on itself, where their bad habits and fight or flight mentalities get the better of them.
McKenna is a broken soul as Wayne, a teenager of blunt force who takes a beating with pride and almost with an air of deserving it, the way he allows it to happen. McKenna plays Wayne with equal parts vigilante and kindness, a method to the madness where the right thing is in the balance. He’s playing the character with a monotone brokenness, and so it’s in the subtlety where his performance really delivers. Bravo as Del is a light in these two episodes, matter-of-fact in her delivery and self-assured. Her toughness and very, very small moments of vulnerability give a lot for Bravo to work with, and her awkward chemistry with McKenna is fun to watch.
But there are some issues. Some moments (like one involving a nose and another involving sudden chain reactions of violence) are shock value dinging the overall piece, a little too much for their own good and feeling a tad out of place. The side characters, on the edges of the two leads, are cartoonish and are left searching for clues we already know, leading to a feeling of time wasting even if it’s needed for those characters to move forward.
If you’re looking for something which feels like a cross between Shameless and It’s The End of the F***ing World, Wayne will be familiar but still quite enjoyable. It has an almost nihilistic approach to its subject and characters, battering them on their road to potential salvation. But its two leads are incredibly fun to watch, and Wayne proves a worthwhile but flawed time in its opening two episodes.