Anyone looking for a special show to watch on Valentine’s Day needs to catch Wayne on Amazon Prime, a punk rock road trip that mixes heartfelt romance with bone-crunching action and delightfully foul-mouthed comedy. Originally released in 2019 on YouTube, the ten-episode series won critical acclaim and a dedicated following thanks to layered storytelling and three-dimensional characters, nearly all of whom struggle with inner battles between optimism and despair.
Initially set in the industrial suburbs of Brockton, Massachusetts, Wayne follows the eponymous protagonist, played by Mark McKenna. Described as a “16-year-old Dirty Harry with a heart of gold,” Wayne is essentially a teenage vigilante armed with a ball-peen hammer. He constantly gets himself into trouble because of his refusal to let injustice go unpunished, much to the chagrin of principal Tommy Cole (Mike O’Malley).
When Wayne’s father dies of cancer, the boy embarks on a cross-country road trip to steal back his dad’s prized possession, a gold Trans Am that was stolen a decade ago when Wayne’s mother ran off to Florida with her new boyfriend. Wayne isn’t alone on the trip; he brings his high school crush and would-be girlfriend, Del Luccetti (Ciara Bravo) along for the ride. She’s sick of living with her bitter and abusive father and moron brothers, and when she’s offered the opportunity to escape and pursue an unknown future, she jumps at the chance. Naturally, they both end up getting far more than they bargained for on their trip.
Created by Shawn Simmons, Wayne was co-written by Deadpool writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, and their penchant towards the crass and ultra-violent is plainly evident here. The first episode contains no shortage of bloody fist-fights and harsh language, and Wayne himself idolizes Conan the Barbarian, a character who sees society as unnatural and believes the only worthwhile justice is the kind you wring with your own hands (or pragmatically improvised weaponry).
To some, the show can be initially off-putting thanks to its violence and language. The action, while bloody and exciting, is never too gross or realistic to be genuinely disturbing, save for the infamous nose-biting scene. Even when the stakes are at their highest, the violence has a Deadpool-adjacent sensibility, in that it’s R-rated but enjoyable for all but the most squeamish viewers (nose-biting notwithstanding).
During its original launch on the short-lived YouTube Red network, Wayne was advertised with grindhouse-inspired trailers that accentuated the violence and machismo of Wayne himself, and the original posters featured the young hero as the personification of a raised middle finger towards anyone looking to cause trouble. Even the original tagline, “No s*** taken, no f**** given,” sold the series towards the more bloodthirsty demographics. Perhaps that was a mistake since Wayne is secretly the most romantic show on television.
While the action and excitement is the first and most obvious layer of Wayne, it quickly becomes clear the true main story of the series lays with the budding romance between Wayne and Del. In the first episode, Wayne asks Del if she wants to be his girlfriend, and she decides to consider his offer, as long as he buys some girl scout cookies (which she stole). Later, when he asks if she’ll accompany him on his impromptu 1,300-mile road trip, she agrees; not to follow the boy of her dreams, but to put some distance between herself and her family.
The first episode ends with a heavy metal song screaming in the background as Wayne and Del ride their motorbike along a moonlit highway, flipping off an 18-wheel truck as they speed towards destiny. By contrast, episode 2 ends with a hauntingly beautiful sequence set to “Changes” by Langhorne Slim & The Law. The scene isn’t devoid of comedy, but it also acknowledges that Wayne and Del are still only teenagers, equally carefree and carrying the weight of an unknown future on their shoulders.
As the show goes on and Wayne and Del learn more about each other, Wayne effortlessly balances its punk rock aesthetics with a full-tilt love story. Substantial screentime is dedicated to Wayne’s attempts to understand Del, who isn’t exactly forthcoming with her own emotions. He learns how to sacrifice, and how to be emotionally available. In short, he learns how to be a romantic partner and a more complete human being, while Del herself has much more agency than just being “Wayne’s girl.” In fact, episode 5, titled “Del,” is set a year before the rest of the show and doesn’t feature Wayne at all, instead shining a light on Del’s characterization and expanding upon her relationship with her father, who is revealed as more than the mustache-twirling villain he’s introduced as.
As the show progresses, Wayne and Del have their first date at a stranger’s funeral, and their first kiss while hiding among dead bodies at a hospital morgue, just to name a couple of the show’s more surreal variations of standard romantic tropes. As a love story, Wayne checks all the boxes, but in its own way, at its own pace, and with its own flair.
After YouTube Premium cancelled their entire suite of scripted programming, Wayne was quickly scooped up by Amazon Prime, though they have yet to announce a second season for the show. Prior to relaunching the program on their own service, the streaming giant created a new poster and trailer for the series. This time around, the trailer went to great lengths to sell the romantic story just as much as the righteous bloodshed and anti-authority sensibilities. Likewise, the new poster positioned the series as a cinematic epic, rather than a 70s-style gritty action piece. It’s not dissimilar to the marketing strategy for James Cameron’s 1997 epic, Titanic. Originally marketed as an action-oriented disaster movie, the film was delayed and the marketing campaign was reworked to focus on the epic romance and historical grandeur. For Titanic, the result was one of the biggest financial success stories in Hollywood history.
As of this writing, Wayne is “on the bubble,” so to speak. Amazon picked up the show for streaming syndication but has not yet ordered additional episodes. Fans can only watch and wait until Amazon decides whether or not to commission a second season. Time will tell what the future holds, but for both newcomers to the series and longtime fans looking to introduce the show to their significant others, there’s no better time than Valentine’s Day to watch the whirlwind romance of Wayne and Del.