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Spike Reviews: Killjoys

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So, this is Canadian Scify... or maybe even syfy?  Picked up season one (its a series, natch.... Wikipedia informs me the are doing/done season 3), at Walmart and watched all ten episodes in a burst.  

Its a show about space bounty hunters, called RAC (the term Killjoy didn't appear until after they knew they were going to air? Halfway through the season... telling me the name of the series was a late addition) in a star system known as The Quad.  Bonus points for being far more realistic in space than, say, Firefly.  The Quad is easily graspable in astrographic terms: A habitable (terraformed?) planet and its three terraformed moons. Space travel between the 'worlds' of the Quad is reasonably quick, but not instant, and travel from another star system is tedious to the point that the Quad is functionally, politically isolated.  Our Killjoys are John, D'avin and Dutch. Guess which one is the girl. If you said 'Dutch', then congratulations, you've been watching modern video entertainment too.  I'm not offended, I'm just bored.

As a general rule I'd like to leave identity politics at the door when it comes to entertainment, which is one reason I used to join dogpiles against Gleichmann when he posted here.  However, as much as enjoy Summer Glau and others, I increasingly can't accept the standard "dude with tits" kickass girl characters, with the sole exception of Milla Jovovich (who, as the Perfect Being, is exempt... though I noticed even SHE seems to find it absurd, what with running trapped hallways in a ballgown and all.. seriously, look at her face in that scene (THree musketeers) and tell me she isn't suppressing an eye roll!).   I only bring it up here because Dutch is both our all too typical wai-fu using badass chick, and more explicitely, isn't. Mostly because she's actually a sort of Mary Sue of the female creator of the show.  In other words, Dutch is more a female power fantasy than a nerdy guy's sexual power fantasy, and thus is much more interesting to watch.   So, yes: Dutch is the boss, and John and D'avin are mostly there to make her look good.  This is somewhat hilariously lampshaded in the second episode, when someone clearly intervened halfway through the script, and almost literally put the lines in D'avin's mouth to the effect of:  "hey, I'm a badass character too, let me do some badass here!".  And then he spends the rest of the episode pretty much being the sole badass of the episode.

To be honest, I almost didn't make it that far, but I'm glad I did.  While the show suffers from some serious Ad Hoc world building (or at least backstory generation... more on that later), and the Violence is sometimes hilarious (Hey, they are Canadian... what do they know about violence?), its actually pretty enjoyable. It manages to interweave three seperate character plot arcs into a main thread that is pretty solid, and has a solid political drama going on for it... perhaps a bit farsical, but well developed.  

Lets talk about the three character arcs.

Dutch, the leader of this team of Reclamation Agents, is haunted by her evil mentor from her days as a Harem Assassin (roll with it. Its stupid and silly, but if you don't study it too close, it works), who has shown back up in her life after six years of freedom.  She wants her freedom, but she also wants answers to mysteries... vague mysteries (like: Why did he train her so hard, etc?), but that's her motivation. She also wants to look fabulous while she kicks ass.

John: Starts with nearly unbelievably platonic relationship with Dutch, but in the first episode he starts reconnecting with his long lost brother. He's got a solid role as the crew's tech.  By the end of season one, however, he's both done fixing everyone elses mistakes, and he's started to explore his growing faith.  Solid arc, and I notice the actor (who I jokingly referred to as 'discount Ben Foster' in planning this review) seems to have gotten a bigger, mainstream TV show as a reward for his talents.

D'avin: Ran from his shitty life to the military, where he excelled, and found himself a victim of government (who? None of the three are native to teh Quad... but we see some evidence of a larger galactic polity beyond the local autocratic Quad government) experiments to see if they could mind control good soldiers into killing their own men.  D'avin succeeded far too well (in other words He not only turned on his men, but despite security protocols, succeeded in killing them all...), and then had his memory imperfectly wiped. His arc is first to find the truth, then to actually become a proper member of the team... weirdly, or perfectly, he ends the season right where he started: a victim of a supersoldier program, presumably one that will turn him against his own team, or harm his efforts to get them to trust him.

On the Ad Hoc backstory writing: While the entire show seems to suffer from this (which is one reason I won't spend a lot of time talking about, oh, technology), it can be fairly well illustrated by discussing Dutch's backstory as revealed over ten episodes.

In episode one we find constantly reference her training as an assassin, including flashbacks to her training as a little girl (where she has to kill a man before he kills her).

At some point, possibly in episode one, maybe two, she references that she grew up in a harem.  We know she is/has serious upper crust skills (That nevertheless do not interfere with her down and out friends and allies in the bounty hunting world...).   We learn she was married/widowed in episode six or so.

We also know by this point that D'avin left home eight years earlier, leaving John to deal with 'dad issues', which mostly seem to focus on basic incompetence... later upgraded to violence (and a junkie mother, by episode... seven?). John came to the Quad six years ago, and Dutch Sponsored him to become a RAC agent (as he Sponsors D'avin), after he tried to steal her ship (Lucy, who despite not being technically sentient, clearly has a crush on John. Like I said: I won't discuss the technology...).

We learn that Kevin (her mentor/nemesis... they spell his name some weird ass way, but its basically Kevin...) killed her husband six years earlier (episode 9), and that was when she fled the Harem-Assassin life.  Thus we learn in Episode Ten that when John broke into Lucy and met Dutch she was still wearing her bloodstained wedding dress and was still half-mad with grief.

We also meet, through the ten episodes some two or three RAC mentors of Dutch (but not John...), including her Broker, and a rogue agent being hunted for stealing from the government.

See the problem?  How is it that Dutch was in any position to sponsor John, and why is he viewed basically as her apprentice... and how did she develop all these mentors who are none-the-less indifferent to John and vice versa?  They joined the RAC at the same time (as established in Episode 10!), while every previous episode suggested that Dutch had a long history with the RAC prior to John (despite being maybe 24 years old... which happens to be the age of the actress during the filming of the season. I did the research for this review. Donations are welcome...)

Still, there is a decent amount of continuity going one here.  In Episode 6 they find a 'genetic bomb', a blacklist weapon that even the goverment isn't supposed to have (again: Implying that there is a larger government beyond the Quad), which is used in episode 9 by a character introduced in episode 3 in a coup.   We have the political sub-plot arc, involving the Westerlin 'underclass', seeking resettlement rights on... the farm world.  

All in all, its a reasonably good show, and I'll probably pick up the second season, if only to see how my own back-ground writing of the RAC and the greater galactic politics matches the ad hoc writing of the show moving forward.

K Peterson:
I remember watching the first 2 episodes of Season 1 more than a year ago. The first episode piqued my interest - "this could be worthwhile to get into". But, something about the second episode totally turned me off. Then I got distracted by watching Dark Matter and never gave Killjoys another shot.

I bought the first season on DVD. I think that Killjoys is worth the money.

As I noted in my review, I almost didn't make it past the first episode myself.  It got better as it went along, though like most shows these days I found I had to turn off many of my more critical faculties to avoid screaming myself hoarse. Within its own framework the politics work and are interesting. Objectively? They are dumb as fuck.  Technology? Works fine within the setting as. Objectively? Dumb as fuck.

I guess I can consider giving it another swing, those first few episodes did turn me off, and, yeah, I'm frickin' tired of 110 lb females tossing guys around like they're popsicle sticks...but maybe it gets better.


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