This Killjoys review contains spoilers.
Killjoys Season 3 Episode 2
“Welcome to the revolution.”
The season three premiere of Syfy’s Killjoys found our heroes separated, yet still working from the shadows with common purpose. Tonight’s episode “A Skinner, Darkly,” moves both teams into the light only to expose a side to the hackmod phenomenon even darker than we could possibly imagine as Johnny and Olli come face to face with the truth about Clara’s disappearance, and Dutch and D’avin prepare for the showdown with Aneela.
eFor the second week in a row, showrunner/writer Michelle Lovretta skillfully weaves seemingly disparate story lines into a finely crafted tale presenting the initial days of the war about to begin. Director Andy Mikita employs arresting, stark white visuals at the Livio facility to drive home the horrific reality with which Johnny must contend. And on so many levels this season, Killjoys explores not only the search for identity with which so many of the characters continue to struggle, but also that search for meaning in a world seemingly devoid of a moral compass.
Since they often skirt that fine line between right and wrong, it’s easy to forget that Dutch, Johnny, and D’avin represent humanity’s finest which makes it particularly difficult to watch Dutch and D’avin set about to replace Johnny through a VR simulation designed to evaluate three possible candidates. Having a tech genius on board is clearly necessary for the killjoys, but Dutch’s willingness to take this step reinforces how driven she is to stop Aneela and the Hullen even though she knows in her heart that Johnny will eventually return. She supports his decision but knows that to go to war unprepared means certain defeat.
Of course, we can only imagine what’s going on in Dutch’s head after watching the father figure that raised her to be a killer, at the end, attempt some measure of redemption. But to learn that Khlyen’s biological daughter is now the evil genius intent on reinventing The Quad further complicates Dutch’s desire to simply get on with life and the only family that truly matters, the Jaqobis. And since it appears we may be adding a crew member that possesses part of Johnny’s skillset, it seems that the wrong person is joining the team. More on this later.
Killjoys was a topic on the July 2017 Sci Fi Fidelity podcast (at 36:55).
From a narrative perspective the VR simulation makes sense since we learn how each of the wannabe killjoys reacts under the pressure of a life or death situation, but it gets fuzzy when we consider D’avin and Dutch’s roles in the test. We’ve seen these two in situations like this dozens of times, but Zeph (Kelly McCormack/Defiance) picks up on a number of nuanced details that in the end enable her to execute the correct set of actions. While it might not be breaking news that D’avin has “a thing” for Dutch, it is a lot of fun watching the pair squirm just a little when Zeph explains that his lack of emotional concern was one of the details that let her know she was in a simulation. That said, this sequence eats up a lot of screen time without delivering enough bang for the buck.
While it appears that Zeph may join the team, what of the other two? Science fiction fans likely recognize Erik Knudsen (Continuum) who expands on his Alec Sadler technology wizard persona, but all three display enough screen presence and marketable skills to consider expanding their roles during the season. Assuming Benji (Luc Trottier) can keep his lunch down, it appears even he passed Turin’s test. Nevertheless, now that Johnny’s back, it seems unlikely we’ll see them with the A-team very often. However, I’m still holding out hope that this is not the last we’ve seen of Olli and Niko.
Killjoys has, to this point, maintained a traditional space-based science fiction feel, but tonight it transcends a bit into the horror realm when Johnny and Olli investigate Livio Surgical Spa on a tip from one of the hackmods at the bar. Hoping to learn the source of “full body” modifications, Havigan (Prince Amponsah) introduces the pair to “skinners,” scientists that can “make you look like anyone you want for a price.” We get a gruesome “look away from the screen” moment when Olli discovers some of the victims of Niko’s freak show.
However, it’s the hackmods’ family atmosphere that these self-imposed outcasts create for themselves that buoys the nascent relationship John and Olli are working through. And while the truth about Clara’s fate and Olli’s reality eventually surfaces, this relationship which began with so much promise, in the end, marks the episode’s biggest disappointment.
So let’s talk about what happened to Clara and where we see this story going. Johnny begins putting the pieces together as it becomes clear someone is killing hackmod owners, but since Olli maintains she escaped The Factory before being owned, she refuses to admit it has anything to do with her. We see where this is headed, at least on one level, and since her character is quickly growing on us, the fact that something is going to rear up to shatter her illusion is a bit disconcerting. It’s just not what we thought.
Johnny determines that Olli has lost six years, thinking it’s 1056, and it’s here that we must accept the grim truth that Olli may be Clara. The force of Tommie-Amber Pirie’s emotionally charged performance delivers a crushing blow even more intense than when Dutch learns about Aneela’s existence and appearance. The cold reality appears to be that somewhere underneath Olli resides Clara, but the fact that Yoki apparently programmed Alice (the gun arm) to bring them all together so Johnny could figure out what’s going on doesn’t make this any easier to bear. Additionally, Olli has no memory of Clara, but if data is blocked, it can be unblocked and restored. However, we have to ask ourselves whether or not we want to go there. And more to the point, does Olli want to go there. Unfortunately, we may never get to address that dilemma.
Nonetheless, there’s more to the story. It turns out that Yoki (Emily Piggford) works for Livio and answers directly to Niko who gave the order to make Clara disappear. She technically follows Niko’s order, but chooses to interpret it her own way. And amidst the moral gray area of The Quad, Yoki explains she’s simply trying to earn enough cash to finance cryogenic passage to a new hackmod colony at the “end of The J.” The increasingly complex narrative also includes a revenge motif as Niko explains that her motivation rests in getting back at her owner, the founder of Livio.
Last week it was Olli that captured viewers’ attention, and this week, “A Skinner, Darkly” treats us to another guest star whose commanding presence screams out for, at the least, a recurring role. Bionic pop star Viktoria Modesta plays Niko as a leader perhaps too laser focused on evening the score as she sees it. That she could play a much bigger role in making life better for hackmods seems to elude her, but this is a brilliant woman who chides Olli for being ashamed of being modded. Whether that’s a fair assessment doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the hackmods decision to flee rather than fight seems to fly in the face of what Niko wants to accomplish. Autonomy. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Havigan and the others to stay and fight for their place in the world with Niko at the helm?
At the heart of the matter, Niko is really a freedom fighter determined to bring down hackmod owners, but she’s such a richly complex character who has allowed her revenge to cloud her judgement. That she possesses green plasma but doesn’t know about the Hullen leaves room for a number of intriguing possibilities moving forward.
Though Olli decides to stay with Havigan and the other hackmods rather than join Johnny on Lucy, she leaves the door open should they need help in the fight against Aneela. Pirie’s character, like Niko, is simply too enthralling to fall by the wayside. And let’s be honest; Johnny, Dutch, and D’avin will most certainly need her help bringing down Aneela who just happens to have Delle Seyah on her ship having used the plasma to bring her back to life.
As we sit back and contemplate the first two episodes of season three, it’s clear that Michelle Lovretta has thrown a lot our way knowing we’ll be patient as the pieces steadily fit together. So now we wait as Aneela gathers her forces for the inevitable showdown in what seems to be an unwinnable fight for the human race. But then, there are humans, and there are humans.
“Welcome to Team Awesome Force.”