These days I try to limit the number of shows I watch, but it’s summer, most of the shows I watch are on hiatus, and a friend was gushing over this new show about bounty hunters in space called Killjoys. So, I decided to give it a shot. The pilot got me hooked. The first season just concluded and it was a fun and feels-inducing romp, introducing characters with mysterious pasts and setting up conspiracies.
Spoilers for the first season of Killjoys below.
The show follows Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), a young woman of color with a mysterious and bloody past, John Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore, the adorable and gay Steve Jinks of Warehouse 13), a tech wiz and former spaceship thief, and his brother D’Avin (Luke Macfarlane, whose puppy dog eyes and sad voice I can’t resist), a soldier with PTSD. They are reclamation agents, or “killjoys”, working in a planetary system called the Quad made up of four inhabited bodies—a planet and its three moons. Most of the system is controlled by a corporation called the Company which is run by nine families. There is a huge disparity between the rich and the poor parts of the system, and it’s on the brink of a civil war.
The world building and mystery setup isn’t anything too complicated or inventive: you’ve got your rich people’s bloody politics, a religious order wanting to start a revolution, a lot of poor people, and neutral bounty hunters. However, it is quite well executed and provides a nice backdrop for a space opera. I’ve seen this show compared to the short-lived Firefly and I think that’s a fair comparison, even though the latter is quite a bit lighter and, objectively, better-written. Some of the dialogue in Killjoys is ridiculously bad, like this gem from episode 2, “Sugar Point Run”: “Asses in both hands, you guys, we’re coming in hard!”. Unlike Firefly, Killjoys is contained to one planet and its moons so far, which is a good decision on the part of the creators, in my opinion, because it allows a more in-depth exploration of all the aspects of the world. And there are quite a few things to be explored: the brewing revolution of the lower classes, the often-bloody politics of the Quad, the fight for power, and the mysterious Recovery and Apprehension Coalition, which provides neutral reclamation services to the Quad (especially the mythical Level 6 agents).
However, worldbuilding and mysteries alone isn’t enough to make me tune in week after week if there are no characters I care about. Here, Killjoys doesn’t reach for the stars either, but succeeds as a whole. As I mention above, we follow a ragtag team of bounty hunters made up of Dutch, John, and D’Avin. Dutch is the leader, arguably the main character, and as such we learn most about her past, which I talked about last week. She’s fighting for her freedom and autonomy from her assassin past. She’s funny, kickass, and caring. The people that Dutch cares about the most are her teammates, John and D’Avin, both of whom, unfortunately, are white cis men. However, they’re both well-written and interesting. John looks up to Dutch like an older sister (their relationship is my favorite); he trusts and follows her despite not knowing many of her secrets. He’s also the gentler of the two brothers, and as the show progresses appears to show interest in the as of yet unnamed religion practiced by monks (referred to as “scarbacks”). D’Avin is a former soldier suffering from PTSD and, despite the fact that he finds out that his nightmares are probably caused by an experimental procedure the military performed on him, he starts therapy to work through it (although it does not end very well when his doctor starts sleeping with him). D’Avin’s story line also includes an exciting twist—a reversed damsel in distress—when D’Avin is kidnapped by the main villain, and Dutch along with John set out to save him.
In addition to the main characters, Killjoys has a few intriguing secondary characters as well, many of whom are people of color. The most compelling of them is Delle Seyah Kendry, who belongs to one of the rich families controlling the Quad and is deeply involved in a lot of shady and sometimes downright bloody political affairs. As such, Delle is set up as kind of a bad guy, however, her motives and goals remain not entirely clear and she has definite chemistry with Dutch: my shipping senses are tingling. Unfortunately, the show lacks any explicitly LGBTQ+ characters, although one of the side characters is heavily queer-coded. He’s an effeminate Black man who owns a local establishment (containing a bar, a brothel, and a doctor’s practice) frequented by our heroes.
There’s also something to be said about the show’s main villain, Khlyen, who is the creepiest of creepy old men to ever creep. He brought up Dutch to be an assassin and he’s the one she’s running from, but as the show progresses it becomes apparent that he never quite let her out of his sight and Dutch’s running away might have even been a part of his plan for her. Flashbacks into Dutch’s childhood show him professing that he cares and wants to protect her, but he also ties her up and makes her kill people. Therefore, Dutch’s relationship with him is a rather strange one: on one hand, she hates him and wants to be free of him, but on the other hand, he taught her everything she knows and in times of duress she’s comforted by his presence and advice. He calls her a ‘weapon’ and it’s unclear whether he actually cares for her as a person, however, he clearly has no regard for her wishes and views her as someone he controls. I want to punch him every time he appears on screen.
Finally, one more thing that speaks in show’s favor (for me, at least), is that it was created by a woman, Michelle Lovretta. She also created Lost Girl, a Canadian show which had imaginative (and sometimes a little ridiculous) worldbuilding and wonderful queer women, so here’s hoping that Killjoys will be renewed, follow in its older sibling’s footsteps, and provide us with exciting entertainment, wild plots, intriguing female characters, and LGBTQ+ representation.
To sum up, Killjoys is an exciting show set in a nicely constructed world and follows a trio of characters one can’t help but care about: a rag tag team of likable smart misfits and number of intriguing secondary characters, including the morally ambiguous Delle and the queer-coded barman Pree. The show lacks LGBTQ+ representation, but with the history of Michelle Lovretta, I hope that the show will not disappoint me in the end. And you should definitely check it out if you get a chance (especially if it gets renewed, because otherwise, I’ll be a little sad).