Spoiler Alert: The following review contains spoilers for season 1 of Killjoys.
The past few Fridays on Syfy have been packed with their two new series, Dark Matter and Killjoys. Of the two, I’ve been decidedly more attached to Killjoys. Packed with action and intrigue, the freshman season of Killjoys delivers everything to the table. More than a simple bounty hunters in space story, the story revolving around three bounty hunters aka killjoys aka reclamation agents is brilliant.
The story isn’t something unheard of, in fact the first half of the season relies heavily on “warrant of the week” format in helping to introduce the world of Killjoys while also building a relationship between Dutch, Johnny, and D’avin. The show’s aesthetic and outward appearance might remind sci-fi fans of the fan-favorite Firefly. And indeed, the story has some similarities to Joss Whedon’s cult hit, but Killjoys delivers a level of character development and the kind of character interaction that is completely unique to the formula of the show.
At it’s head is Dutch (played by Hannah John-Kamen), the mysterious leader of the trio of killjoys and one of the best. She’s got a dark past that unfolds throughout the season, going from bad to worse. Raised in a harem and trained to murder since she was a child by her surrogate father/mentor Khlyen, she’s running away from her past. As of the finale, her past is still in pieces.
We know her name is Yalena. We know that her relation to Khlyen is on a much deeper level, that he had a part in her becoming a killjoy, and he is indeed a killjoy himself, level 6. We know that her father possibly involved with her upbringing in the harem. We know when she met Johnny Jaqobis she was in a bloodied wedding dress and threatened to kill him. We know that her deceased husband sent her on an emotional bender for the better part of 6 years.
We know much more about the mysterious Dutch than we did when we first met her, and yet she’s still shrouded in mystery. What makes it great is that she’s also finding out about this history as the story unfolds. The audience can fully step into her shoes as we learn with her about her own past. Despite the blank spots in her story, she’s an incredibly likable protagonist. She’s tough and funny and a bit of a smart ass. Despite her status as one of the best bounty hunters in the RAC, she’s liked by many and has earned their loyalty.
Michelle Lovretta, creator of the show (as well as Syfy’s Lost Girl), has done great things with a female protagonist. We are often told what a good female protagonist is, and in the sci-fi genre we are told it repeatedly, but rarely do we actually ever see a good iteration of an ideal that doesn’t fall flat. Instead of making Dutch one-dimensional, instead of just making her tough-as-nails with a broken past who blocks away all feelings for fear of being hurt, Dutch is not afraid to be vulnerable, to be soft. She exudes confidence without being shallow. She’s not afraid to love, and she’s not afraid to be afraid.
At her side is John Jaqobis (played by Aaron Ashmore.) He’s Dutch’s right-hand man and partner. It’s made very clear from the first episode that Johnny and Dutch enjoy a strictly platonic relationship. Despite many people commenting on the fact that they haven’t yet sealed the deal, Johnny sees Dutch like a sister. It’s his decision to take a kill order in the pilot that sets off the sequence of events of season 1.
In search of his brother D’avin, he accepts a kill order in Dutch’s name and goes searching for his long lost brother. Johnny’s character, like the other two protagonists, could have easily fallen into a stereotype. The sidekick mechanic goes from cookie cutter to a full-blown character by the end of the season.
One of the most interesting arcs of the story is when Johnny is left on his own in the bar in episode 8 “Come the Rain” after he has been wounded by D’avin. Not only does he hold up against the people attacking the bar, but we see him explore a different side of him in his relationship with Pawter and Alvis. The show explores a different side to Johnny. The look into the religious side of his character is subtle initially, but it speaks volumes when they meet the rat people in the finale and he conducts a blood blessing on behalf of Alvis in order to gain their trust.
A lot of Johnny’s insecurities begin to show when they bring his brother D’avin on as a killjoy. D’avin Jaqobis (played by Luke Macfarlane) is first found a fighting ring with a kill order on his head. Throughout the season, his character takes on the archetype of the good soldier (literally) and manages to crack the tough surface.
With parts of his memory missing, D’avin spends the majority of the first half of the season trying to figure out what happened to him. When the truth is revealed, that he’s not only a part of a military experiment, but also killed his entire squad without any control, it’s devastating for D’avin but not completely unexpected for the viewer. It’s a familiar tale. But Killjoys manage to turn it on its head and throw a wrench into the character dynamics using D’avin’s past that pushes the story towards the finale.
D’avin’s past isn’t what ultimately haunts him. We aren’t repeatedly reminded of something that we’ve never lived through as an audience. It’s what happens when his past is revealed and he is activated after having slept with Dutch. Not only has he broken his promise to Johnny, that Dutch is off-limits, but after being activated he attacks Dutch and nearly kills John. The events of episode 7 “Kiss Kiss Bye Bye” are only made that much more poignant by the disbanding of the trio.
It’s D’avin who casts shadows on the trio and makes them doubt if they can truly trust him. As evidenced by “Come the Rain”, Johnny traps D’avin and Dutch on Lucy while making them play a truth game that reveals Dutch’s insecurity when it comes to D’avin and whether or not she can trust him. The short answer is she doesn’t know. But it’s in “Enemy Khlyen” that we see a completely new side to the good soldier.
After being stuck in Old Town pretty much chasing down the worst of the warrants, without a ride, he seems endearingly grateful to even be in contact with Dutch and Johnny again. The dynamic that worked so well in the first half of the season is thrown off kilter by the time the season finale rolls around. It’s absolutely brilliant because not only is smooth sailing boring, but it’s unrealistic. Everyone has their own set of problems and in a group this closely knit, they’re bound to come unraveled.
The events of the finale directly mirror the events of the pilot. Dutch and Johnny are once again searching for D’avin. Conversely D’avin is not running away from anything, but rather went to face Khlyen head on and ultimately payed the price. It’s a creative way of introducing the fourth moon in the quad and a way to bring us further into the story of the RAC and Level 6s and Dutch’s dark past.
I have to admit that out of the shows that were airing, Killjoys started out as a bit of a guilty pleasure. There was a bit of camp, some fun sci-fi world building, and a lively trio to keep me entertained. But when it started moving beyond the expected, when it started to blend characters together and blur the line between good and bad, it really captured my attention. Characters like Khlyen and Alvis and Fancy Lee present different moral facets that never force us to believe one is good or evil. The viewer is never forced to believe one thing while being told another. You make your own conclusions, and that’s what’s so entertaining.
Well that and they’re space bounty hunters with thigh holsters on a space ship.
For me, season 1 was a perfect season to a great show, and you can count this as me casting in my ballot for a lot more Killjoys, or at least a season 2.