Killjoys ended its first season last week as one of the unexpected science fiction successes of the summer TV season. It is one of the latest additions to a Syfy channel finally trying to reclaim its reputation as a place to seek out original science fiction drama after a few years producing, well, other stuff. The one-hour drama about space bounty hunters from Lost Girl creator Michelle Lovretta started out as a fun, albeit formulaic addition to space adventure drama, before quickly surprising us with some stellar world-building, solid characterization, and consistently hilarious one-liners.
As of the writing of this article, Killjoys’ fate is up in the air. Here’s why we think it deserves a second season…
There aren’t enough space adventures on TV
It’s very hip right now to talk about how there’s “too much” TV, but this descriptor is a bit narrow. There is certainly an overload in some kinds of television, but, until this summer, the space adventure category was barely even represented on television. Syfy changed that with the introduction of not one, but two new summer space-set dramas: Killjoys and Dark Matter. Some ink has been spilled pitting these two conceptually-similar shows against one another, but why can’t we have both? Why can’t we have more than two space dramas when not counting syndicated series?
As a genre, the space adventure series has a great capacity to engage our imaginations, promote exploration, and work through the very real social problems through the creation of a space locale that reflects our own society in vital ways — all while typically also being a lot of fun. In a television era filled with gritty prestige dramas full of unlikable characters, there’s something to be said for genre offerings that don’t make us choose between fun and socially-engaging.
Killjoys brings the fun back to science fiction TV
Speaking of fun, it’s not surprising to hear Killjoys creator Michelle Lovretta reference it as a goal in crafting this show. In a recent interview with Variety, Lovretta said:
“What I’m hoping to reclaim a little bit with genre is that there’s an inherent lovely silliness about it. That’s something I think your average, slightly more cerebral viewer is not inclined to take seriously. They think of it as childish, and people look at things that are fun and they think fun is lesser, and I think ‘what the hell? There’s value to pure entertainment,’ and genre, first and foremost, wears its entertainment factor on its sleeve.”
Fun is something some genre television — especially genre on youth-geared networks, a la Arrow and The Flash — hasn’t forgotten, but that has been missing from a lot of the recent science fiction offerings on TV. Lost and Battlestar Galactica encouraged a resurgence in some great science fiction television, but so much of it has been sober, angst-ridden, and, at times, not a lot of fun. There is of course merit to the more serious science fiction drama — and we’re excited to see Syfy’s upcoming space opera The Expanse — but fun science fiction serves its own role, as well. Killjoys has managed to explore themes of class disparity and institutional failure while still making us smile.
Killjoys doesn’t forget the socio-economic commentary
In the grand tradition of slightly-campy genre television, Killjoys doesn’t forgo socio-economic commentary for the sake of light-hearted fun. Though Dutch, John, and D’avin spend much of their time making wisecracks and engaging in some stylized ass-kicking, Killjoys also spends much of its first season subtly building a world of great economic disparity not dissimilar to our own. The Quad is ruled by the elite few who live in a privileged bubble removed from the general populace. The Nine, aka the ruling families of the solar system, promise their working class constituents a better life after seven generations of good behavior — a promise it slowly becomes apparent they have no intention of keeping.
Historically, American television doesn’t have a very diverse depiction of class, and Killjoys isn’t exactly breaking any narrative molds with its story of the looming, all-powerful government versus the rogues just trying to make ends meet, but it’s still frustratingly novel on the television landscape. We’ll stop watching when it stops being relevant to the real world, deal?
Dutch, John, and D’avin are great characters with compelling interpersonal dynamics
I’ll admit that, in my review of the Killjoys pilot, I found much to be desired in the uninspiring protagonists of the show. They didn’t have much going for them past quasi-mysterious bravado and, in Dutch’s case, jewelry that doubled as defensive weapon. That quickly changed, however, with the Killjoys writers developing not only the individual characterization of these three space bounty hunters trying to make a living in an unjust world, but the nuanced relationships between the three.
The relationship between best friends Dutch and Johnny in particular is realized incredibly well. We don’t often see a platonic relationship between a man and a woman treated as the most important dynamic in the show and in the characters’ lives. Though the interplay between star-crossed lovers Dutch and D’avin and quasi-estranged brothers John and D’avin is also enjoyable, it is the friendship between these two killjoy partners that really made this show worth watching.
The first season ended on one heck of a cliffhanger
Come on, Syfy. You can’t leave us hanging like that! At the end of the Killjoys season 1 finale, D’avin was captured by Khlyen and brought to the secret Level 6 killjoys program on the seemingly abandoned moon of Arkyn. Will Dutch and John be able to find him? What purpose does Level 6 serve? What greater destiny does Khlyen have in mind for Dutch? And how will the people of Westerley respond to The Company’s attack on their lives for daring to ask for the fulfillment of a promise The Nine made long ago?
Lovretta referred to season 1 as “the equivalent of the tease of an episode,” and that’s definitely what it felt like. Killjoys did an amazing job slowly building personal and social tensions over the course of the first season. Come the season 1 finale, they were at a breaking point. It would be a shame to stop the story now, especially when this show demonstrated such a competency for space adventure storytelling. I’ll admit it: I only wanna killjoy with you, Syfy.