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‘Wayne’ Review: It’s ‘The End of the F***ing World,’ But This YouTube Original Is Better Than Fine

Two mistreated teen outlaws find love and purpose on the open road in YouTube's trashy but tender romantic-comedy.

Wayne Season 1 YouTube Series Mark McKenna Ciara Bravo

Mark McKenna and Ciara Bravo in “Wayne”

YouTube Premium

“‘Bonnie and Clyde’ for the younger generation” must be a hot pitch around Hollywood. After Netflix struck cult-classic gold with “The End of the Fucking World” in early 2018, YouTube has another rebellious-teen/road-trip romance to rev up the new year. And unlike so many inadvertent entertainment twins, where one entry dwarfs the other, “Wayne” is worth watching.

Created by Shawn Simmons (“School of Rock”) and produced by the “Deadpool” team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the half-hour black comedy follows Wayne (Mark McKenna of “Sing Street”) as he takes and doles out beatings, each delegated by his sense of duty. The 15-year-old tough guy has quite a reputation around his southeastern Massachusetts hometown, and most kids run when they hear, “Wayne’s comin’!” But his vengeance stems from pain: Wayne’s mother up and left, while his father (Ray McKinnon) is dying from workplace illness.

Absent from school for long stretches and aimless in his young life, Wayne’s plans crystalize ever so slightly when he meets Del (Ciara Bravo), a young woman selling Girl Scout cookies to support her upcoming mayoral campaign — you know, in five-plus years, when she’s eligible. The reason she’s eager for political capital is so she can run the town that’s been taking advantage of her: Del’s father (a wonderfully sleazy Dean Winters) and brothers are jerks, and no one else is making up for their shortcomings. What little time she gets to herself is taken right back by her oppressive would-be, should-be caretakers.

Wayne Season 1 Episode 1 Ciara Bravo

Ciara Bravo in “Wayne”

YouTube Premium

The two are bonded by choice, as circumstances (revealed in the pilot) send them on a redemptive mission to Florida. Waiting there are Wayne’s wayward mother, a ’78 Trans Am that’s rightfully his, and everything that Brockton, Mass. is not. Though the show is mostly grounded in Wayne’s perspective, future episodes flash back to a Del-centric story featuring the great Abigail Spencer as her mother. Sporting a saucy Massachusetts accent and just enough dysfunctional charm, Spencer’s performance is additive and exciting, but it also shows just how much work young Ms. Bravo has done in building out Del.

Though the accents can be as individually inconsistent, as well as wildly different between citizens of the same, small geographic area, they’re also, you know, fun. The Boston “ah’s” and dropped “t’s” driving great films like “The Departed,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Gone Baby Gone,” and more aren’t perfect representations of life near the TD Gahden — they’re amalgams of an appealing, localized dialect amped up for our entertainment. The same can be said here, as the kids’ way of speaking only emphasizes wicked-smaht dialogue. When Wayne can’t get into his locker at school and pulls a hammer — a hammer — from his bag, his friend asks, “So, you’re just carrying around a hammer, huh?” “I have a hammah,” Wayne bluntly responds. It enhances the absurdity even furthah.

Wayne Season 1 Episode 1 YouTube Mark McKenna

Mark McKenna in “Wayne”

YouTube Premium

Still, their intonations don’t distract from the more dramatic moments. Both kids are driven to their extreme choices by a painful past. There are no slain animals (well, a snake is cut in half) or other serial-killer curiosities, but Wayne and Del do get into some serious scrapes, and the series can feature “Deadpool” levels of violence. Blood gushes from a foot stuck in a chainsaw. A driver is crucified between his front door and his car. The contents of a lava lamp burn the face of a bloodthirsty hostage taker. Throw in enough F-bombs to earn an approving nod from the cast of “Veep,” and “Wayne” is only ready for mature audiences.

But that’s exactly the kind of viewer who will appreciate the show’s consistent sweetness. Not only do the two rebels share a protective bond, but the supporting cast is well-mined for empathetic depths. Mike O’Malley (“Glee,” “The Good Place”) is the kind of principal kids and parents should demand, in part because he admits to feeling hate — “like, real adult hate” — for the school’s heartless bullies. He’ll tell it like it is, not like it’s supposed to be, which can be said for McKinnon as Wayne’s dad and Spencer as Del’s mom, too. (It’s an unofficial “Rectify” reunion, people!)

“Wayne” may feel familiar to other stories, “Bonnie and Clyde” included. But Simmons’ thoughtful, engrossing, and altogether joyful new series carves its own path on the cold roads of America’s eastern seaboard. Whether you wanted more of “The End of the Fucking World” or not, seek this one out.

Grade: A-

“Wayne” Season 1 premieres Wednesday, January 16 on YouTube Premium.

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