[This is a review of Killjoys Season 1, Episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
In Syfy’s new drama series Killjoys, there is only one thing to remember: Everyone has a price on their head. There may or may not be a warrant issued for them, but every life has a specific value to someone. For partners and professional bounty hunters (known as Reclamation Agents for the Company, a.k.a. The RAC), Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen) and Johnny (Aaron Ashmore), are typically the ones serving warrants and retrieving people, either dead or alive. But that partnership is quickly tested in ‘Bangarang,’ when a “kill warrant” is issued for Johnny’s brother D’Avin (Luke Macfarlane).
In order to clear the “kill warrant,” both Dutch and Johnny go to extraordinary lengths to transfer the kill-order to someone else, while attempting to assimilate D’Avin into their previously perfectly balanced partnership. Fortunately, they are able to find just such a bargaining chip in the doomed Rolly Desh (Jason Jazrawy), who the Company clearly wants more than D’Avin.
Born out of necessity due to heightened circumstances, and the fact that D’Avin still has an enemy powerful enough to try to kill him, Dutch, Johnny, and D’Avin’s new working arrangement as a trio is tenuous and perhaps dangerous.
From the outset, Killjoys has a distinct Firefly-esque feel to it with its focus on outsiders amongst an intergalactic feudal system. But in Killjoys, the heroes are empowered by the government and not on the run from it – though an argument could be made that D’avin is being hunted by someone in the government, and Dutch certainly is being hunted by someone, whose affiliation feels more like an assassin for hire. Nikita fans may recognize actor Rob Stewart, who played the equally dangerous character of Roan, the Division cleaner sent in when ops spiraled out and needed to be erased, and his character in Killjoys appears to be just as spine-chillingly lethal.
Coming from Orphan Black producers David Fortier and Ivan Schneeberg, Killjoys operates like a fine-tuned sci-fi drama with kickass moves and plenty of twists to leave the brain reeling. It also smartly serves up a female heroine who not only holds her own, but is perhaps more dangerous to her partners than any criminal they attempt to capture. Dutch is an enigma and the few breadcrumb clues offered early on do nothing to assuage our fears that she could be a weapon that, if manipulated or triggered by the wrong person, could become a ticking time-bomb to anyone near her. Fortunately, star Hannah John-Kamen conveys both the ruthlessness and efficient-killing-machine training that Dutch embodies innately. In fact, every minute she is on screen, Hannah is mesmerizing. You literally cannot take your eyes off of her. Is it any wonder that D’avin is both drawn to and wary of her at the same time?
D’avin’s military training and instincts tell him that there is much more going on with Dutch than she is letting on – and it worries him that his brother is so close to her, seemingly unaware the danger she carries. To use another Firefly reference: Remember when River Tam took out nearly everyone in the bar in Serenity and it took a safeword to put her to sleep before she nearly killed Mal? That is kind of the threat Dutch poses. It makes us wonder if Dutch and D’Avin just might need such a safeword in case Dutch ever spirals completely out of control. For Firefly fans, Dutch definitely feels like a hybrid of River (Summer Glau) and Inara (Morena Baccarin) – lethal, trained to kill, and well-schooled in the art of seduction.
Besides the mystery of who or what Dutch is, and what she is running from, there is also the tension-filled relationship between the brothers. After all, surely something sparked the eight-year rift between them that must be addressed as the show continues. And yet, as evidenced by the premiere, there is a deep bond of familial love between them as well (shout-out to co-stars Aaron Ashmore and Luke Macfarlane, who quickly establish a fantastic brotherly rapport that makes us wish we had brothers just like them). So, the shows asks: If it came down to it, would Johnny trust his own brother over his partner? And should Johnny be listening to his brother about his worries that Dutch poses some kind of threat? As D’Avin warns Johnny: “Her enemies become your enemies.”
By far, the interpersonal dynamics and relationships between Dutch, Johnny and D’Avin are the most addictive part of the show. Regardless of whatever warrant-of-the-week story they will pursue in future episodes, what fans and viewers will be tuning in for is to find out the next piece of the puzzle that is Dutch, and to see whether the trio’s tentative working relationship combusts or grows stronger. There is also the concern that D’Avin, from the signs of his own mental instability and PTSD – or “battle brain” – may also pose some kind of threat. Johnny might be perfectly aware that Dutch keeps a side of herself away from him, but is Johnny keyed into the fact that his brother’s own psyche may be fractured and irreparable? Another possible wrinkle that adds a bit of spice to the show is the already apparent attraction between Dutch and D’Avin. Both know that such a relationship would be problematic to their working relationship, and both instinctively know that there is something a bit “off” about the other. But an attraction is present and will undoubtedly pose an explosive problem in the future.
The world of Killjoys offers a rich array of planets to explore, as each warrant takes them throughout the Quad in search of their prey, and the promise of “joy” credits for each bounty. It also introduces the home base location of Westerley, a quasi-underground marketplace where they bid their time between warrants and to navigate the thorny politics between the Company, the Qresh (the wealthy land-owning elite), the Leith (relations of The Nine families that run the Company), and the commoners who hold no status. Then there is the Church and the Resistance, and a guy who calls himself “God,” who hangs himself by a series of hooks, offering salvation in the form of “our pain for your redemption.” From this quick glimpse into the Killjoy-verse, life is not easy for anyone and it leaves you wondering if it just offers varying degrees of death.
In its premiere, Killjoys deftly sets up its world, overarching mysteries involving both Dutch and D’Avin, and the complicated and intertwined interpersonal relationships amongst the central group. It also offers enough clues to keep fans guessing about what dangers threaten our heroes, including that red box that Dutch finds in her bedroom at the end of the episode. If the flashbacks are any indication, the box holds a weapon that Dutch must now use to dispatch someone swiftly or her own life may be forfeit. Unfortunately, neither the RAC, nor Dutch’s mysterious benefactor/mentor seems willing to let anything slide. The stakes are literally life-and-death. This bodes badly for anyone hoping to make it through the season alive. So a few prayers for Johnny and D’Avin may be needed as the nail-biting season continues. One thing is certain: we are tuning in to find out!
Killjoys continues next Friday with ‘The Sugar Point Run’ @9:00pm on Syfy.