Killjoys: The Best Big Damn Space Western I’ve Been Waiting for All of My Life
Badass, intelligent characters, a future crumbling beneath its shiny facade, and Space Apocalypse Boots!
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love me a good space story. If it’s “space western-y,” I love it even harder. Firefly, Outlaw Star, GunxSword, Andromeda, Cowboy Bebop, Farscape, Earth 2, Babylon 5 … the list goes on. Wherever there is a gritty, futuristic planet, a hive of scum and villainy, a space station or ship that has seen better days, or a truly fabulous pair of Space Apocalypse Boots, there will I be—or wish I was. Sigh.
I have a lot of fear when I love something too much. For example, I loved Firefly, and look what happened there. I loved Fastlane, and boom: gone. I loved Moonlight, Veronica Mars, Jericho, Terra Nova, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Fringe, The 4400, Buffy, Angel, and The Dresden Files right to death, it seems. Maybe it’s a family curse, like, whenever my parents love a steak house too much and it either burns to the ground or goes out of business in the dead of night, leaving no trace. Sigh.
So … how much I love Killjoys, the new space bounty hunter show created by Michelle Lovretta (the creator of Lost Girl, another favorite show!) is making me a gorram nervous wreck.
Killjoys is everything I want from a new space show. I wanted an amazing, kickass lady character, and I got
Dutch, played by Hannah John-Kamen, who is competent, smart, classy (when she wants to be), and has a sarcastic streak. She also cares deeply about her crew and her ship and does not accept kill warrants. There are reasons for her choices, and I will not spoiler you too much, but her reasons are pretty legit.
My favorite scene with Dutch so far is in the opening episode where she is infiltrating a fancy rich-people party, dressed to the nines in an amazing futuristic pink dress and a really cool-looking necklace. She has been poisoned and wakes up just in time to hear her boys calling out for help. She walks down the hallway like a boss, rips off her necklace, which, it turns out, is made of MECHANICAL SPIDER ROBOTS that shoot bad guys, and proceeds to kick all of the ass. In a pink dress. My God, I love her.
It’s the best fight scene choreographed to music since Leeloo Dallas Multipass kicked ass to techno opera in The Fifth Element. You have to watch it:
The song in this video clip is Wicked World, by Trevor Yuile. You’re welcome. ;-)
I also wanted smart, badass space gents, and I got John and D’Avin Jaqobis (played by Aaron Ashmore and Luke Macfarlane.) John, in the opening scene, broke my heart, made me laugh, and earned mad props and respect. He’s been taken prisoner by some bad guy and is getting the proverbial snots beaten out of him for stealing his ship, but he just keeps smarting off. When Dutch shows up to rescue him and is pinned to the table, there’s a brilliant bit of dialogue where it seems at first as though the show is going to go with the more formulaic “guy is the leader, gal is crew, and she tried to rescue him but it didn’t work” route.
When John informs the bad guy that he was assuming too many things—that he was the boss, and that his ship was what they were after—cue Dutch being amazing, rescuing her boy, and revealing the insane teamwork they are capable of as Reclamation Agents (“Killjoys” is a slang term for Reclamation Agents.) When John, tied and beaten up, demanded of the beat-down lackeys to see their boss, that was actually a part of their plan. RAC agents are basically space bounty hunters that operate outside the parameters of traditional law to obtain people, objects, etc. and bring them back, and the boss was their warrant. Johnny Jaqobis definitely has a piece of my heart, in the general region occupied by Seamus Harper from Andromeda. What is it with me and Canadian Fictional Space Boyfriends, anyway?
Like in Andromeda, the ship is voiced by a female AI. The Killjoys ship, Lucy, seems to have the same type of gentle affection for Johnny that Rommie (the AI form of Andromeda) held for Mr. Harper. Yep, I have a type, it seems.
When D’Avin Jaqobis, John’s older brother, is introduced, he’s an indentured Fight Club servant on a ship, trying to earn his room and board from point A to point B. He also has a level 5 kill warrant out on him. John uses Dutch’s higher clearance to take D’Avin’s warrant, not understanding that failure to kill the target would cause even bigger problems for everyone. D’Avin has been absent from Johnny’s life for eight years, which makes the shady stunt John pulled using Dutch’s clearance understandable.
Dutch is justifiably upset, but when she finds out what is really going on, she’s forgiving and finds a way to get them out of the dicey situation. I don’t want to give TOO many spoilers here, but … D’Avin … has a very, very nice chest. I mean … it’s nice. And as nice as his chest is, D’Avin is more than just terminally shirtless hot guy. He’s intelligent and cares about his brother. In addition to that, he’s an ex-military man who suffers from “battle brain,” which is pretty much PTSD from combat. There is more to it than that, but to give further information would be to spoiler the show, and I think that people should watch it and be as surprised as I was.
Were you surprised? I was surprised! (at the 1:15 mark)
More things to love about Killjoys: (If you need reasons other than it’s being amazing.)
- Characters and Diversity. Even the side characters are full of promise and potential for the future! The show is already ahead of the curve in the category of diversity, with a woman of color in the leading role (Kamen-Johns is Nigerian-Norwegian and is from the U.K.) The side characters continue to be surprisingly diverse in their gender, age, religious, professional, and ethnic/racial identities. In the first episode, we are introduced to Fancy Lee (played by Sean Baek), another RAC agent who, like Dutch, is a Level 5 agent, meaning that he’s able to take kill warrants—and unlike Dutch, he does. Later on in the show, he has one of my favorite quotes of the series so far.
Khlyen (Rob Stewart) is a mysterious figure from Dutch’s past, who seems to have trained her as an assassin from a young age. He’s shown being kind to her and helping her when she’s poisoned, but flashbacks reveal him making her kill as a child, so …. probably not good people.
Alvis (Morgan Kelly), is a religious/resistance leader who practices penitence by suspending himself from body piercing hooks and sometimes gives the Killjoys useful tips. Pawter Simms (Sarah Power) is a doctor with a dark past (and kind-of present), Pree (Thom Allison) is the owner of The Royale, a bar the main characters frequent, and is a gay man. Bellus Haardy (Nora McLellan) is often the one to whom Dutch, Johnny, and D’Avin report. They also receive new warrants from her. Bellus is one part cheerful swagger, one part threatening glower, and one part helpful mentor. There are others, and I’m certain there will be more, but as you can see, so far, so good!
- Show-don’t-tell worldbuilding. The writing does not spoonfeed you. It assumes that you’re paying attention and that you’ll pick up necessary details as you go along, remember them for later, and start making connections. It’s a smart show, and I truly appreciate that. For example, space travel is a thing. The characters live and operate in a system called The Quad, which is a part of a star system referred to as “The J”. The Quad contains the planet Qresh and three moons – Westerley, Leith, and Arkyn. The Quad is run by a nebulous entity known as “The Company.” This begs such questions as where is Earth? What happened there? Was it ever a thing in this universe? Also, if space travel and futuristic devices exist, why is the future-y signage on Westerley so decrepit and half-burned-out? This information is not just info-dumped on the viewer – it comes out gradually as characters interact with each other and their situations. You can actually figure out a lot of what must have happened and what is currently happening in the politics of The Quad just by paying attention. What kind of world do you live in when you can hire a religious fanatic to hang himself by some fleshhooks to atone for someone else’s sins? And … wait. Those “religious fanatics” sure can move around a lot more freely and anonymously than other people can … hmmm. The guttering of the shiny signage can actually be interpreted as a metaphor for the precarious political condition of the Quad and the climate on Westerley in particular. It’s definitely seen better days.
- The music. If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you know how I feel about how important good scoring is to a movie or a show. The Killjoys score is by Trevor Yuile and Tim Welch (http://filmmusicreporter.com/2015/04/08/trevor-yuile-tim-welch-scoring-syfys-killjoys/), and is incredibly well-suited to the show. Yuile also composed the music for Orphan Black, which has been recommended to me many times! So far, Killjoys is making all of the right choices with the musical score and the songs chosen to help develop the world.
If my love letter to Killjoys has not yet convinced you to give it a watch, perhaps Dutch can talk you into it with her awesomeness:
See you, space cowboys and cowgals? Yes? If you want SyFy to renew Killjoys, there’s a Tweet for that! To quote Rob Stewart, who plays Khlyen, “Tweet, little birds, tweet! #RenewKilljoys, @SpaceChannel, @SyfyTV, @Killjoys.”
Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.
—Please make note of The Mary Sue’s general comment policy.—