This is a show, by its very nature and aesthetic, that is meant for the summer season. Premiering on the Syfy channel, there is an understandable reason to hesitate, but Killjoys is a fun, charming science fiction show, and while it hardly hit it out of the park in its series opener, there’s a lot of promise that’s worth tuning in for.
The premise is terrifically bonkers, set in outer space and focused on a pair of “Killjoys,” which are essentially intergalactic bounty hunters who have their own code and who report to no one. They live outside of the law. The two we meet are Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen) and John (Aaron Ashmore). The show begins by introducing not just the two characters, but their dynamic, as it soon becomes clear that Dutch is in charge, making for an instantly more intriguing premise for the show. What’s more is that (for the time being) John and Dutch don’t seem to have the will-they-won’t-they pull of most shows with a man and woman as leads, but rather, it would seem that their connection is one of mutual respect and general badassery.
Things are complicated, however, when John realizes that one their targets is his estranged brother D’Avin (Luke Macfarlane), a roguish type who’s been confined in a prison fighting system, where he’s paid for his wins. Despite having not seen him for ten years, John can’t just watch his older brother be killed and forgets about his duties to save him, putting Dutch in the position to break her oaths.
To rectify this, they decide to find someone with a greater bounty that will hopefully cover up their missteps, which leads to my favorite line of the episode:
“We need to go talk to God.”
See, it’s those type of off-kilter, ridiculous one liners that showcase promise for the show. It’s ridiculous. There was not one, but two slow motion walking shots of Dutch at the end. Dutch wears a necklace that turns into spider-like explosives. D’Avin, while undercover at a fancy dress party, gets to say “Rich people are annoying no matter what planet they’re on.”
Sure, the CGI is relatively weak, but I can’t help but find myself charmed by the show as of this point, because it’s clear the showrunners are trying to create something action-packed and fun, and the three leads are engaging enough to forgive some of the flaws. If anything, the show reminds me of Doctor Who a bit before David Tennant’s run. A little shoddy with the visuals, but enthusiastic about it’s material, with characters who are interesting and have worthwhile relationships that deserve time to be explored.
Which, the show certainly does in its first installment, making sure that the audience knows that Johnny and D’Avin aren’t in a good place, with Johnny telling D’Avin that he knows Dutch more than he knows his own brother, even if Dutch keeps most of her life shrouded in secrecy. We know that Dutch had a traumatic and violent upbringing, with a key figure from her past making appearances late in the episode. We know that Johnny and Dutch have a strong enough bond that Dutch would risk her position for him, we know that there’s a potential Civil War on the rise, and we know that not all is what it seems in the Killjoy society.
That’s a lot to introduce, and by the end it seems like we’ve watched two episodes rather than one, with the first and last halves being wildly different in tone. It’s confident, however, in its worldbuilding, never feeling the need to over-explain the futuristic tech or universe it inhabits. I also can’t help but instantly enjoy Dutch as a character, and I can’t wait to see more of her. John-Kamen exudes a confidence that makes it easy to believe that John would so willingly back her up and that D’Avin would be instantly curious–she’s given her own agency, aside from the private moments where we see bits of retrospection. If there’s one character to help you get your hopes up about this show, it’s her.
It’s not a show for everyone, but it fits the mood for late night summer binge-watching fairly easily, and its leads are charismatic. As the show continues, hopefully it will work out the awkward, premiere flaws, clunky writing, and missteps and run with what it does well–the science fiction premise and its leads.
A promising start.
Welcome to my weekly reviews for Killjoys! As a science fiction enthusiast and an aficionado for any female-led series, I’m ready to see how this plays out.