SyFy’s latest space opera, Killjoys, began last night, and over the course of the first episode, and there’s an entire season’s worth of material packed into forty minutes. Clearly, we’re in for a treat with this show.
There’s not much in the way of introductions here: we’re just thrown into the action. We’re greeted with a view of the J Star Cluster, down to the Quad, a habitable quartet of planet and moons, and then onto Westerly, one of the moons, all in a matter of seconds. Clearly, there’s a larger setting here that we’ll explore later.
It’s dusty, reddish and windy, and we meet our heroine, Dutch, trying to get into a building. Another character, John, is tied up and being tortured, but he’s able to snark at the bad guys. They think that he’s stolen a spaceship from their boss, and he brags about it before telling them that he’s got a well-armed team ready to rescue him.
They just pull in Dutch, who they tell him was caught trying to bribe a guard. Coren, the leader, comes out and begins to monologue, before Dutch pulls her gun out. Violence ensues, and the tables are flipped: “Coren Jeers, in the name of the RAC, you are locked and served,” She tells him. The pair are bounty hunters, and they’ve successfully pulled off the ‘play along prisoner’ trope.
This is a fantastic introduction, and it’s a good indication of what the rest of the episode is like. Aaron Ashmore’s John Jaqobis is snarky and entertaining. Hannah John-Kamen’s Dutch is the badass and the muscle of the pair, and it’s clear that they’ve got a good working relationship.
Something that I’m really excited about? Proper opening credits. It’s short, but it’s more than a straight up title card with some mysterious noise behind it. There’s catchy music, scenes of people walking and shooting, and spaceships!
Their target in hand, they’re off to drop him off and recover their reward. He’s worth a lot, and there’s some tension between the Killjoys and the Company employees who seem to run the show. Coren is impressed with John and offers to hire him on: I’d bet that we’re going to see him pop up again at some point.
As they’re getting ready to go, John gets an alert on his phone: there’s a new warrant out on the system, and it’s a kill order. He recognizes the person on the screen, and when Dutch asks him if he’s ready to go, he says he needs some alone time. The guy on the phone? It turns out that it’s John’s estranged brother, D’Avin (Luke Macfarlane) and he locates him on a Company-run slaver ship, where they put their passengers to work fighting in cage matches.
Dutch, having realized that something’s wrong, meets up with them, helps extract D’Avin, running into another Killjoy while they do so. The job’s a required kill gig, and now that they’ve captured him, they’re in a quandary: they have to kill him, otherwise, they’re in serious trouble from their superiors.
The way out? Get the kill-order on D’Avin lifted by trading for something that they want. We see earlier in the episode that the Company is cracking down hard in their territory: someone’s stolen something from them that they want back, badly. So, track down the guy, kill him instead, and recover the goods. It should work, in theory.
Along the way, there’s some insights into their backstory: D’Avin left a long time ago, and there’s some unresolved issues between him and his brother. He’s also not sure what to make of Dutch, and as they go out to find their next target, there’s quite a bit of tension between everyone.
I’ll admit, I was pretty giddy while watching this show: it feels very much like the mid-2000s era SciFi channel (before the name change), when they had a lot of fun with shows like Farscape, Stargate SG-1, Battlestar Galactica, and when other shows like Firefly were coming out. This fits right in that sweet spot.
They’ve clearly taken some influences from those shows as well. It’s been said before for other shows, but this time, I think it’s accurate: anyone who really got into Firefly or Guardians of the Galaxy will probably really enjoy this one. It’s planetary space opera of the same vein, and more than once, I got the same vibe from it, in all the best ways.
There’s some standard tropes here too: there’s The Company, which seems to control commerce, law enforcement and land or mining rights. They’re brutal enough that people are starting to fomment rebellion. There’s the RAC, the Reclamation Apprehension Coalition, a sort of bounty hunter’s guild that Dutch and John work for, who operate as a sort of neutral party for capturing people throughout the galaxy. They have their own rules and regulations, and look to be just as scary as The Company.
And, we have our characters. Dutch is the more senior of the small group, with her own ship. She’s got a Past, with some sort of monk-like weapons training before she became a Killjoy. There’s John, who signed on after Dutch caught him stealing from her. He’s smart, snarky and pretty straight and narrow. Finally, there’s D’Avin, a former soldier and who’s been so out of touch with his brother that he didn’t realize that their mother had died a couple of years ago. He’s the muscle, and he’s got a serious crush on Dutch. As a side note, there’s Lucy, their space ship, who has some choice words for them throughout the mission.
Finally, there’s a mashup of styles here. We’ve got some western outlaw tropes going on, but there’s also dystopian and military overtones running in the background: from the teasers that have come out, it’s clear that the show’s producers are going to be playing in a very wide playground with this show, both in location and in genre.
This first episode was pretty straight forward in terms of plot: the team has been assembled, and they’re in the free and clear for now. What really makes this episode exciting is how much stuff has been packed into it. There’s plot threads dangling everywhere. There’s rebellion against The Company, there’s Dutch’s past, D’Avin’s military background and his troubles with his brother, plus a handful of other bounty hunters and other random characters that you just know will pop up again.
What’s exciting for me here is to see this show alongside Dark Matter and SyFy’s other space opera-type show, Defiance (which is back for its third season). Back in the day, SciFi ran Stargate SG-1, Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica all on one night, and it makes for a great block of television. If this first episode is any indication, we’re in for a treat, with plenty of adventures coming our way this summer.
Image credit: NBC Universal/SyFy