Paul Asay

TV Series Review

There’s crazy. And then there’s Wayne.

Wayne never met a cause he didn’t embrace, and he never met a fist he didn’t hammer his face into. “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles,” says Jesus. “If anyone forces you to go one mile, break both of his kneecaps so he’ll never walk again,” says Wayne.

It’s not that 16-year-old Wayne’s a bad guy. Well, OK, he’s kind of a bad guy, but his worst actions are born from the best of intentions. When he sees an injustice, he feels the need to address it with extreme prejudice. And he doesn’t care how many bones will break—his own or other people’s—to see that justice is meted out.

Wayne inherited that streak of blood and honor from his dad. And now that his father is dead and gone, he feels duty-bound to correct the most grievous wrong of all: He means to retrieve the 1979 Pontiac Trans Am that Dad would’ve willed to Wayne if he could have.

But a few things stand in Wayne’s way: His mother, his stepfather, two cops, his 15-year-old girlfriend’s seriously angry family and about 1,300 miles of road. 

Rebel Without a Pause

Sure, you could fairly describe Wayne as part James Dean, part John Wayne and about 20% loose screws. He’s the sort of guy who might spend a good chunk of his life in jail or, perhaps, in politics.

Still, some folks see a germ of something special in Wayne. His girlfriend, Del, takes a shine to him despite their unorthodox courtship. (He sold his father’s porn magazines to buy a box of cookies from her. Their first date was chopping snakes in half with a shovel.) Wayne’s best friend, Orlando, could always depend on Wayne to stand up (or stand on) the litany of bullies that would pick on him. Even Mr. Cole, the principal of Wayne’s (former) high school has always recognized Wayne’s sense of honor—even as he tried to steer that sense of honor in more productive ways.

And looking at the miscreants Wayne’s battling—terrible people all—he might find plenty of support amongst those voyeuristically watching him on Amazon Prime, too.

But here’s a spoiler warning: They shouldn’t.

Wayne’s World

Wayne, the teen, has never had a comfortable home life. So perhaps it’s fitting that Wayne, the show, hasn’t either.

The action dramedy first arrived back in 2019 on YouTube Premium. It was cancelled after one season.

Still, it received plenty of positive notices: It has a 100% “freshness” rating on Rotten Tomatoes (albeit from just 10 reviewers), with the site calling it “the most thoughtfully violent series you’ll see all year.” And with the ever-growing array of streaming services perpetually parched for content, that cancelled first season found new life—and a new audience—on Amazon.

The show is well-written. It can be funny. I’m not so sure about how thoughtful it is, but Rotten Tomatoes is right about one thing: It sure is violent. I’ve not seen so much senseless bludgeoning since the last Mortal Kombat game.

It’s also incredibly, even alarmingly profane, with more f-words per square minute of runtime than all but the most foul-mouthed Martin Scorsese flicks. Characters will occasionally stop into a strip club just for kicks, too. And let’s not forget that our two runaway protagonists are 16 and 15 years old, respectively. These are children we’re talking about—children who can’t vote, can’t legally drink, can barely drive but can sure shed plenty of blood.

Perhaps all you need to know about this show comes from a moment in the very first episode: As Wayne and girlfriend Del are about to hop on a motorcycle to ride the 1,300 miles from Massachusetts to Florida to re-steal a Grand Am, Del’s father tries to stop her from going. With a guy whom she’s known for, at most, a couple of days.

Yes, Del’s father is a pretty jerky guy. But let’s be honest: Most dads probably wouldn’t want their 15-year-old daughters running off with almost complete strangers. Wayne bites the dad’s nose off. And that, the show tells us, is a good thing.

Episode Reviews

Nov. 5, 2020: “Chapter One: Get Some Then”

After his father dies from cancer, 16-year-old Wayne burns their house down (with his father’s body still inside); picks up Del, his 15-year-old girlfriend, on his motorcycle; and begins the 1,300-mile trek down to Ocala, Florida, to reclaim his dad’s old 1979 Pontiac Trans Am.

Along the way, Wayne gets into lots of fights. He’s beaten brutally by a building owner after Wayne breaks the man’s windows with a couple of chunks of ice. (We learn later that the owner was cheating on the nurse who’d been taking care of Wayne’s then still critically ill dad.) He bleeds out of his mouth and nose and spits blood on the pavement, stoically walking away. Del’s father and brothers threaten and beat Wayne, too: One apparently stomps on Wayne’s face, knocking him out. Later, Wayne and Del’s dad again get into it—and the fight culminates in Wayne biting part of the man’s nose off and spitting it into the yard.

Wayne smashes someone’s face in with a trumpet, and blood flies across lockers and over another high schooler’s face. Wayne’s principal was a classmate of the boy’s father, and he fondly recalls how often Wayne’s dad beat him and other people up. Del invites Wayne to help her chop snakes in half with a shovel. Wayne terrifies a couple of kids with firecrackers. A landlord walks his dog over to Wayne’s and his father’s rental property, demanding his rent and suggesting that Wayne’s dad isn’t really his dad. Wayne flings a jerky stick, causing the landlord’s dog to lunge—and spraining the landlord’s wrist in the process. Wayne shoots people with fireworks and drops an old television on a couple of would-be attackers.

Wayne seems incapable of lying. And when a woman asks him if he’s staring at her breasts, he admits he was. He sells his father’s collection of ancient porn magazines to a friend so he can buy some cookies from Del. When Wayne first meets Del and asks her to come into his house, Del makes him promise that he doesn’t want to do anything weird. “Some guy on Torrey asked if he could see my feet,” the 15-year-old says. She grabs a bikini before the two run off to Florida.

People drink and smoke, and several act like world-class jerks. We hear talk about bedpans. Cookies are described as tasting like various unsavory things. Characters say the f-word nearly 70 times in the 35-minute episode. They also squeeze in more than 20 s-words and a bevy of other profanities, including “a–,” “b–ch,” “crap,” “h—,” “d—k” and “p—y.” God’s name is misused six times, five with the word “d–n.’ Jesus’ name is abused twice.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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