As far as coming-of-age stories are concerned, YouTube Premium’s Wayne is fairly stealthy when it comes to showing its softer side. Executive produced by Deadpool and Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the story of a violent, wayward teen from Brockton, Massachusetts, who takes off to Florida on a dirt bike with his girlfriend in tow on the day his father dies of cancer to retrieve a 1978 Pontiac Tran Am that was stolen years earlier, looks like a Good Will Hunting meets Death Wish. Instead, the charming series owes a lot to last year’s The End of the F***ing World, a similarly sweet natured coming-of-age story hidden beneath more than a few layers of burgeoning psychopathy, loneliness, and teenage heartbreak.
The series comes from creator Shawn Simmons, and stars Sing Street actor Mark McKenna as Wayne, and Red Band Society’s Ciara Bravo as his rambunctious, foul-mouthed girlfriend, Del (it’s short for Delilah, but no one’s supposed to know that). It’s a fast-paced, half-hour action-comedy that’s so fully realized in terms of how lived-in its characters and setting are, the series feels like it’s been on for years. In short, Wayne is the rare kind of series that has the ability to grab you almost instantly and it doesn’t let go for the entirety of its 10-episode run.
The series owes a lot to its episodic runtime and the fact that it’s essentially a road movie doled out in 10 half-hour increments. That not only makes it bingeable, but it also keeps the fairly simple, straightforward narrative moving, as Wayne and Del make their way south, while Del’s father (Dean Winters) and her moron twin brothers, Teddy and Carl (Jamie and Jon Champagne) are in close pursuit. At the same time Wayne’s best friend Orlando (Joshua J. Williams) and his high school principal, Principal Cole (Mike O’Malley), are on the teens’ tail, hoping to bring them home before they get into too much trouble. Add in a very funny sheriff (played by Stephen Kearin), who just survived a cancer scare and firmly believes in second chances, and you have the makings of one of the funniest, filthiest, most endearing teen stories on TV in a long time.
Wayne may be a juvenile delinquent who’s prone to violence, but those outbursts come from a irresistible need to right wrongs — any and all wrongs — that he sees. He’s a lot like his father in that regard, apparently. And even though the series only spends a few brief minutes with Wayne’s father (played by Rectify creator Ray McKinnon) the series uses that time to give the audience a good understanding of who he is and what kind of loving role model he’s been to his son. They might have lived a hard-scrabble life, but it was one that put Wayne on the path to being something of a local vigilante, one who’s rightly feared by the other delinquents in school, and who tell the principal “No disrespect, but that crazy fool will come to my house and you won’t.”
Del, on the other hand is the only woman in a house that runs on toxic masculinity. Like Wayne, she has no time for anyone’s authority but her own. That much is made clear as she’s introduced selling stolen cookies to fund her mayoral campaign for when she gets old enough, thereby making certain that none of the “a**holes” in town can tell her what to do. That mix of unbridled ambition, unchecked aggression, and a total disregard for authority make Wayne and Del a force to be reckoned with. Even though the Trans Am is down in Ocala, Florida, and has been gifted to Reggie, a 17-year-old criminal who wears a gold grill that reads KILLER, it’s plainly obvious Wayne and Del will get what they set out for and anyone who gets in their way will get what’s coming to them.
The series is not at all shy about extreme violence. In just the first two episodes, Wayne is pummeled regularly, Del’s dad gets his nose bitten off, and a shotgun-toting ex-con gets his foot cut in half by a chainsaw. But despite its penchant for bloodletting and for letting the expletives fly (this show could give Goodfellas a run for its money), Wayne has a firm grasp on how to make this dark comedy into a fun and surprisingly sweet story. In addition, McKenna and Bravo are incredibly engaging on screen, whether they’re together or apart. The laconic Wayne could have easily come across as mechanical, but McKenna’s performance makes him a man of few words who's big on action. He’s like the Gen-Z version of Gary Cooper. Bravo, meanwhile, makes Del a frightfully funny acid-tongued teen who mouths “F**k you” to smiling babies, and turns the words “Thank you, Tracey” into a biting insult one put-upon waitress has absolutely no response for.
With its varying tones, stellar lead performances, and great supporting cast, Wayne is much more than the foul-mouthed action-comedy it makes its self out to be. The laughs may be pitch black at times, and the violence is occasionally shocking, but there’s a fascinating and entertaining sweetness woven into every scene that’ll hit you like a blast of rock salt to the heart.
Wayne season 1 is currently streaming on YouTube Premium.