Character Deep Dive: Wade Kinsella

Wade Kinsella smiling at the Rammer Jammer.
©The CW

Portrayed by: Wilson Bethel
Show: The CW’s Hart of Dixie

Wade Kinsella is the best reformed hotshot next door. If Hart of Dixie were a historical romance novel, he’d be a spicy, brilliantly compelling reformed rake. Instead, the series is a small-town comfort show worth its salt for including charming characters in every corner. When viewers first meet Wade, he’s Zoe Hart’s annoying neighbor, who undoubtedly thinks he’s better than everyone else while concealing much of his true self behind armor. 

The series doesn’t last longer than four seasons, but throughout its run, Wade Kinsella goes from the one character few people place hope in to the most dependable person in Bluebell. His flaws make him significantly more riveting, and his incredible qualities showcase why he’s the ideal man for anyone to walk beside. In a fascinating attempt to pit two men against each other in a traditional love triangle, Hart of Dixie instead shows the audience why the act is unnecessary and how judging a book by its cover is wrong. As cheesy as the series is at times, it somehow never misses when it comes to Wade’s character development, bringing to our screens a man who’s ridiculously kind, hilarious, and complex. 

Wade Kinsella: The Man Who Tries

Wade Kinsella sitting in a car in Hart of Dixie.
©The CW

The most intriguing thing about Wade Kinsella is how much he tries despite the town of Bluebell often looking at him as someone who can only accomplish so much. When pit against golden boy George Tucker, the series attempts to minimize Wade’s worth in the beginning, yet the consistent effort he puts in shows that he’s the exact opposite. He might not be a seemingly perfect lawyer, but Wade Kinsella is a man who gets up every time he’s down.

The first instant viewers really learn about Wade is when the show discloses that “Crazy Earl” is his father. It’s then that we understand how much he carries, further learning more when the show reveals that his mom died from cancer. When we understand that Earl’s alcoholism directly results from his grief and Wade’s inability to open up comes from the same detail, his character journey begins to unravel beautifully. It’s here where we see he isn’t just a hotshot who won’t amount to anything because he dropped out of school, but we get a clear idea of the fact that he’s doing everything he can to stop unraveling from the heartaches of grief. Further, while learning about his brother, it becomes abundantly unmistakable how much of the slack Wade often picks up without people noticing he’s the one to do so.

In every way where it matters, Wade Kinsella is a man who tries. Somewhere between the comparisons and dealing with his grief, he could’ve gone in a completely different direction. The bad boy’s reputation could’ve led to darker paths, but rather, it drives him to continuously try to improve everything he touches, even when people believe he’s destined to break it instead.

Wade looking heartbroken in Hart of Dixie talking to Zoe.
©The CW

Whether in the real world or fictional, cheating is hard to forgive. Sure, perhaps we can argue that everyone has a motive, but it’s not enough of a reason to justify the action. However, Hart of Dixie manages to deliver a different side of it when we actively see how Wade comes to the dark place that he does after losing the bar, firmly believing with everything in him that he’ll never amount to anything. It’s here where he does the unforgivable, yet the worst part is how he hurts himself in the process as well as his relationship with Zoe Hart. Still, Wade owns up to the truth, understanding right away that he’s entirely in the wrong and he’ll do anything to make matters right.

Understandably, Zoe doesn’t forgive him right away, and she shouldn’t have to. It’s here where the best part of Wade Kinsella’s growth happens because once he fully recognizes that he’s the architect of his fate, he keeps trying to better himself even when there’s doubt stacked against him. Despite his own bleeding pain he often conceals, he keeps trying to push forward and make a name for himself. It’s how he eventually becomes the full owner of the Rammer Jammer, exhibiting that people can be proud of themselves. People can make matters right.

A Man Who Loves Loudly

Wade Kinsella with his shirt off in Hart of Dixie
©The CW

What viewers then learn about Wade Kinsella is that he’s a man who loves loudly and wholeheartedly. Once he proves to Zoe that she can trust him again, he goes out of his way to consistently reiterate that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for her and, later, their baby. He’s a man who shows off—a man who makes it clear day by day that he understands the worth of life’s gifts because he knows what it’s like to lose it all.

The impressive thing about Wade is that as much as he harbors tireless influxes of self-loathing, he also holds dear a desire to live his life for the people he cares about. And he cares for a lot of people, not just Zoe and his dad. He’s a great friend to Lavon, George, and even Lemon. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for people he cares about, even if he grumbles through it once or twice. Again, Wade Kinsella is a man who understands the colossal weight of loss, and therefore, he tries much harder than others to hold on—to love as loudly as possible, even with all his imperfections.

Wade standing in Lavon's kitchen in Hart of Dixie
©The CW

Where the series leaves off, he’s an entirely changed man. He’s a man who not only understands the importance of loving someone but also what it’s like to love himself, despite his flaws. He understands the value of hard work and laughter simultaneously, alongside the importance of loyalty and love. He’s a man who doesn’t make the same mistake twice, and he’s a man who ceaselessly proves throughout the show’s run that he’ll continue rising above what people expect of him. In every way where it matters, the darkness in Wade is responsible for the immense light he brings out on the world. He loves people because of his losses. He gives wholeheartedly because of his own pain. He cares because he knows all too well what it’s like to walk around pretending you’re fine when you’re far from it.

Because people seldom see him for who he truly is, Wade Kinsella chooses to see people as they are. Interestingly, though Zoe presents her New Yorker side when she first comes to Bluebell, it’s Wade who sees who she is from the very beginning. And it’s this choice to see people for who they genuinely are that makes Wade Kinsella such an outstanding exhibition of a man with layers and nuance. And it’s also Wilson Bethel bringing in layers and nuances through fantastic performances to an already well-written character to make him exponentially better.

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