The first season of Killjoys ended a month ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it. Most shows take a few episodes to find their footing but Killjoys runs full tilt from scene one. This show achieves the perfect trifecta—plotting, character, and world. We’ll start with that last one.
1—A Fully Realized World and its Moons
I cannot say enough about the world-building in Killjoys. We get plopped down right into the middle of the Quad, with it’s class distinctions, complex politics, intriguing religion, and the RAC and its eponymous Killjoys right in the middle of it. There’s no info-dumping or stops to explain, we just get swept along with the pieces and players in their intricate dance. There’s a tapestry of history we only catch teasing glimpses of but it’s never so little as to leave the audience feeling lost—at least I wasn’t, but I’m used to picking things up from context. And that context surrounds the stories and characters of Killjoys.
The Quad has rigid caste system with the differing levels of society literally living on different world. Qreshi nobles and high ranking Company officers squabble for power, determining the lives of all who live in their long shadows. Scarback monks plot revolution while dissidents and criminals vie for resources with common families just trying to get by. And weaving through this morass, the Killjoys chasing their warrants.
There’s a real sense of place—places, in this world. Old Town slums and the Leith Bazaar, the blasted and damned city of Sugar Point…I feel like I could walk these places, smell the booze or the spices or the apocalyptic despair (which I think smells like rotting buildings and bodies).
And then there’s the tech…
2—Cool Gadgets and Horrific Devices
Every good scifi story needs awesome technology. Portable neural interfaces, liquid computers, death rays (well, it’s a wave, not a ray) that can target by genetics and leave non-targets untouched. There’s just too much cool stuff in Killjoys for me to remember it all. But I’ll go over a few highlights.
In the first episode we get to see a giant-bead necklace turn into a bunch of wall- and ceiling-crawling combat spiders. A few episodes later there’s the inhaled nano-machines used to rot and heal flesh in succession as a means of torture. The afore-mentioned neuro-link the villain blackmails our heroine into using so he can literally get inside her head, the same episode which also contains the genetic death wave bomb/gun. Then there’s the implants that can suppress a memory or implant a new one, though we get to hear more than see those. Considering they get implanted into the actual brain though, I shouldn’t be surprised.
But seriously, that liquid computer is one of the visually coolest things in the series so far. It’s a green liquid in a large bowl which isn’t so impressive looking at first. But then you touch it and it starts vibrating. Voice activated (and don’t the heroes have fun getting the villain’s voice) with the fingertips immersed. And the files show up right in the brain. Such fun.
But the piece of tech found in every episode is Lucy. AI of the ship our heroes call home, Lucy isn’t technically supposed to have a personality but I love her dry and understated humor. Which I suppose brings us to characters…
3—Well Written and Well Acted Characters
Besides Lucy, we have her captain, Dutch, a genuinely bad-ass and strong female lead. Often “strong” female characters just kick ass—as in, that’s the only strong part of the character. Dutch actually has a personality. Her strength comes from her strength of character as well as her martial skills. Not prone to extravagant displays of emotion, Dutch’s emotions are still well conveyed by her actress, Hannah John-Kamen. As with all the characters on Killjoys, Dutch is well cast. Honorable, fiercely loving and protective, Dutch is someone I will root for all the way.
Speaking of protective, Dutch’s Killjoy partner John Jaqobi, played by one of my favorites, Aaron Ashmore, is just as loyal to Dutch as she is to him. And, thank all the gods that never were, they have a sibling-love rather than romantic. Johnny is the warmer part of the duo—and later, trio—the reliable fixer, both for Lucy and Dutch. A self-mutilating monk even tells Johnny he has a martyr complex. It is so satisfying when he eventually tells his brother to fuck off and fix his own problems. Speaking of that brother…
D’avin, played by Luke Macfarlane, is kind of a douche. A former soldier and current indentured servant/slave working off his passage to the Quad as a gladiator in the first episode, Dutch convinces D’avin to become a Killjoy and join her and Jonny’s team. Mostly because D’avin running off again would hurt Johnny but also because as much of a screw up as D’avin is in his personal life, he’s also a great on-the-spot tactician. That and his fierce loyalty—even if he doesn’t always choose to display it in the best ways—are D’avin’s redeeming qualities. I’d still like to slap him though.
As for their interactions, I am so so SO happy there is no love triangle here. Dutch and D’avin hook up but there is no sudden revelation that Johnny relaly does have romantic feelings for her! NO. Bleugh. It really is a brother-sister relationship, and poor Johnny get to walk in on his brother and blood-sister making out—super bleugh. Poor Johnny. Johnny is also the heart of the team, the one who holds them together. Usually that role is given to a girl…in fact, Johnny is the only male character I can think of off the top of my head who plays it. And does so well.
Besides our heroes—and I use the term loosely with D’avin—Killjoys is populated with great characters played by the right actors. Alvis, the masochistic, revolutionary monk is one of my favorites. Bellus Haardy, the gruff yet motherly (to Dutch at least) warrants contact for Dutch and company. Pree, the flamboyantly cynical proprietor of the Killjoys’ favorite brother and bar. Dr. Pawter/Sims, the noble (as in nobility—she’s a member of the Nine families) doctor and addict slumming a healing on Westerly. Delle Seyah Kendry, scheming noble and lush. Fellow Killjoys Fancy Lee and Turin. Company enforcer Hills. And Khylen. Dear gods, Khylen. A completely cold-blooded killer and the man who loves Dutch like a father, raised her to be an assassin and still has plans for her.
Have I mentioned how very much fun this show is?
4—Plot on Two Levels
I personally can’t separate character from plot—the plot is what the characters do, their actions and reactions. Dutch’s past as an assassin catching up with her when Khylen decides to come out of the woodworks. D’avin’s search for the truth about his semi-missing memories. Alvis’s revolution, Dr. Pawter’s secret past, Khylen’s and Delle Seyah’s plotting…it just all comes together so nicely.
Then there are also the individual episode plots. A lot of shows do one or the other very well—arc plot or episode—and the other only ok. Killjoys nails both and does so consistently. I cannot praise the show enough for this. Each episode plot is interesting and well-paced. And the arc plot, while coming at the beginning and of each episode as I would expect, are strewn in throughout the episodes whole as well. Partly because the arc plot and the main characters’ development are inseparable, which is as it should be. And the episode plots are the most current problem or warrant—usually both at once—instead of a “monster of the week” type series of almost totally unrelated episode plots. Indeed, each episode plot reveals another facet of the world—leading us back to the superb world-building—which in turn have everything to do with both the episode and arc level plots.
I don’t recall off the top of my head watching any other show that’s done this so skillfully.
I’ve had a long run recently of falling in love with a show and then totally forgetting about it the moment I miss an episode—Gotham, Dominion (another SyFy original), Sleepy Hollow…I know there’s more but I can’t even remember their names. So I’m familiar by now with the feeling of quick infatuation. My love for Killjoys is not that. It is enduring. A month later and I’m still raving about how much I love it. So go watch it on SyFy’s sight or something. And then when you have also fallen in love, go rave to your friends and family. They shall thank you…well, they’ll thank you after they give in and watch the show. While you’re nagging them, probably not so much.