The hero of Wayne, a 16-year-old with an angry streak (Mark McKenna), beats up a high school bully with a trumpet, bike-locks a stranger’s abusive boyfriend to a parking meter by the neck and crucifies an evil construction foreman with his own nail gun. Other weapons of destruction used by or on him include a chainsaw, a jar of acid and a television set. Wayne the character and Wayne the show don’t do anything by half-measures.
The YouTube Premium series, which premiered this week (the first episode is available without subscribing; I’ve seen five of the 10 episodes), was created by Shawn Simmons and executive-produced by Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. It’s a doomed-road-trip story for a pair of young would-be lovers (Ciara Bravo plays Del, the brash kleptomaniac Wayne is sweet on) in the vein of Badlands, True Romance and Netflix’s The End of the F***ing World — only with a lot of thick Masshole accents and a loud metal soundtrack.
At school, the other kids fear Wayne more than they do the vice principal (Mike O’Malley), with one student explaining to the veep, “That crazy fool will come to my house. You won’t.” The vice principal also grew up with Wayne’s dying father (Ray McKinnon), telling Wayne of his pop, “He was an asshole, no doubt. But he also couldn’t stand for anybody getting away with doing something wrong. Does that sound like anyone else we know?” The show tries to tread a fine line between romanticizing Wayne’s brute-force vigilantism and suggesting that his violent approach inevitably makes things worse for himself and others. Ultimately, though, it cheers him on, while expecting the audience to do it, too. As a result, it’s more superficial in its pleasures than many of the films and series it resembles, relying on style, attitude and the performances of McKenna and Bravo to pull the audience along as Wayne and Del ride a dirt bike to Florida to recover his father’s stolen ’78 Trans Am.
Fortunately, the leads are good, even if the dialect work by them and others (Dean Winters and Abigail Spencer pop up at various points as Del’s mom and dad) is a touch shaky. (Thank Seth Meyers’ trailer for a fake movie called Boston Accent for memorably highlighting the perils of replicating the way people speak there.) McKenna captures both the unstoppable anger and utter naivete of a sheltered low-income kid who’s never eaten a waffle or drunk a cup of coffee, and is baffled by even the most basic pop-culture reference. (“What’s Lord of the Rings?”) Del is more worldly but also more vulnerable, and Bravo and McKenna quickly develop an appealing (and sweetly chaste, at least early on) chemistry that provides a consistent element throughout the duo’s adventures as they travel south.
Both the show and Wayne’s attempts to right the world’s wrongs don’t always work, but they mean well and are rarely dull.