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  • Writer's pictureDana Piccoli

"Vagrant Queen" is an ass-kicking queer space opera with a heart of gold

Elida, Isaac and Amae. Photos from Syfy

I can tell you the exact moment that SyFy’s Vagrant Queen really grabbed my attention. It’s a simple moment, but in a show where attention to detail is really everything, it matters. When Isaac (Tim Rozon), the dashing dude-bro from Earth is trying to convince our heroine Elida (Adriyan Rae) to team up with him, he mentions he’s not looking for any funny business. “I’m a married man,” he says, pointing to his wedding ring. Elida doesn’t ask him where his wife is. She asks, “where’s your partner,” which sets the tone for a world where heterosexuality isn’t a given. In fact, it’s a queer slow-burn romance that ties the show together.

In Vagrant Queen, Elida is not who she seems to be. Or rather, she wants to forget who she was. The former queen of Arriopa, she was forced to flee her home and her throne nearly a decade before and has lived as a space scavenger and ass-kicker ever since. When we meet Elida, her former loyalists are trying to track her down to take back her title and help overthrow the Republic, which now rules. Think the Empire in Star Wars. Their Darth Vader stand-in is a preening bully named Lazaro, who is also on the lookout for Elida. While trying to escape both factions, Elida runs into Isaac, her former partner in the scavenging business. The two had a falling out and someone may have been shot accidentally. Elida also meets Amea (Alex McGregor) a lesbian mechanic and cosmic ray of sunshine. The three team up and become our main trio for the series, which offers a lot of laugh-out-loud moments like a karaoke duel to the death and trip to an intergalactic 7-11.

In most series like this, you would expect Elida and Isaac to be the standard love interests, but Vagrant Queen likes to keep you on your toes. There’s an instant sizzle between Amae and Elida, one that blossoms first into friendship, and then something deeper. If you like a slow burn, you’ll love these two, who tiptoe around their chemistry for the good of the mission. The show is based on the comic book of the same name, but there are major changes in the show, most notably the inclusion of Amae. Thanks to showrunner and creator Jem Garrard, the Vagrant Queen universe has become much more queertastic.

Friendship, trust, family, loyalty, these are all major themes in the series, which makes it more than a sci-fi adventure. It’s a sci-fi cornucopia! As we head into the latter half of the season, we’ll find out if Amae or Elida has the guts to say what needs to be said. Kiss, you space fools, kiss!

Smaller budget, female-led sci-fi shows aren’t always a easy ratings generator. Even a show like Wynonna Earp, a hugely popular show with a dedicated fan base, has had middling to poor ratings (around half a million viewers per episode). Vagrant Queen comes in even lower (on average around 200K viewers), and Syfy’s decision to air these shows on a Friday night has never been something I can wrap my head around. For Vagrant Queen, after a low showing for the first three episodes, Syfy moved to late nights on Thursday, an even more challenging spot. (So what I’m trying to say is if you love Vagrant Queen, you need to be very loud about it on social. And soon.)

With whip-smart writing, delightful performances and a ship you can root for (and I’m not talking about the Winnepeg!) Vagrant Queen is more than worth your time. Yes, it does suffer from some cheesy effects and its low budget is obvious in areas, but what it lacks there it makes up in world-building, humor, and representation.

Catch Vagrant Queen on SyFy Thursdays at 11pm ET.

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