It was announced Tuesday that Syfy had picked up its space bounty hunter show Killjoys—the Canadian-produced action drama that’s part space western, part psychological mystery, part family drama—for a second season. Certainly one thing can be said for the former Sci-Fi Channel: it’s willing to put faith in untested shows and concepts, and Killjoys has not gotten what the likes of Firefly never got: more time to tell its story. Which is good news for people who watch the show, because once the storyarcs and relationships really started going, the series took off like a ship to the stars.
For the uninitiated, Killjoys takes place in a star system called the Quad with planets that have been terraformed by the Company for human habitation. Since crimes are hard to police in such disparate worlds, the Company have institutionalized reclamation agents, known as “Killjoys,” who are legal bounty hunters individually hired to retrieve people, or battle among themselves for open warrants. Each Killjoy takes an oath, “The Warrant is All,” meaning if they accept a bounty, they have to achieve their goal or suffer penalties.
At the center we have a pair of Killjoys, Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen) and John (Aaron Ashmore), a team who’ve worked together for a number of years and are very good at it. Dutch is a Level 5 Killjoy which means she’s allowed to take kill-warrants, but she never does, preferring capture instead. Not that she CAN’T kill people, mind you; she’s actually great at it, which is where the problem lies. In the first episode, John sees a kill warrant and erroneously accepts it on Dutch’s behalf. Turns out, the target is his brother, D’avin (Luke Macfarlane) who’s been an indentured cage fighter on a luxury liner for awhile. John doesn’t want to kill him and eventually D’avin, a former soldier, also joins the roster and they go off to catch bounties in the Quad.
We’ve seen something similar to this before elsewhere, but what elevates Killjoys isn’t its setup but its execution. The first few episodes established the team as a team, with each of the three employing their various special skills to catch bounties week-to-week: Dutch is wily and incredibly strong, using her looks and charm to lull stupid men into thinking she’s not dangerous; John is beyond tech savvy, always looking to solve the problem with his mind, but will resort to his gun if he has to; and D’avin is a tactical genius and one of the fiercest fighters in the Quad. That’s cool, but again, we’ve seen this type of thing before.
As the season progressed, though, we learn about their pasts and begin to understand the Killjoys. D’avin is desperately trying to stop these bad dreams he’s been having ever since he—for no reason apparent to him—went crazy and slaughtered his whole battalion. This makes him dangerous to himself and others. John, by extension, has to deal with having his brother not only back in his life but in his ship and part of his team. He feels abandoned by his big brother and resentful for having to take care of their parents without help. Dutch has a the most mysterious past, though, being taken from a convent as a child by a man named Khlyen (Rob Stewart) who trained her to be a weapon, a killer, and still uses her for super covert missions, entirely against her will.
These issues all come to a head in the lead-up to the final few episodes of the 10-episode season, including D’avin being controlled by a corrupt memory doctor and made to fight Dutch right after they have sex—to the utter chagrin of John, who asked specifically that D’avin not sleep with Dutch. I mean, that’s pretty messy. Trust is lost between them all for a time, but the strong bond, friendship or otherwise, between Dutch and John really comes to the forefront and solidifies theirs as the most interesting relationship on the show.
And all of this is set on a backdrop of growing political and social tension, focused on the Killjoys’ preferred planet of Westerley, a sort of Mos Eisley-esque frontier oasis, with religious underground movements springing up and speaking against the Company. Killjoys are sworn to be independent of class, planet, race, or any other side one could possibly take against a different person. Still, they’re members of the Quad and see what’s going on around them—and the horrible discrepancy between the rich and poor is impossible to ignore. Episodes depict people becoming slaves in a field to work off debt, and young women forced to become surrogates for the aristocracy and receive no help from the high-borns when a rival family sends mercs to kill them.
In a world-building sense like that, Killjoys Season 1 does an amazingly good job. Sure, it’s got the prerequisite future-slang that happens in any sci-fi show set in distant galaxies, with money being called “joy” and other such jargon which I can frankly take or leave. But at its heart, it’s an interesting story told using the trappings of a typical science fiction space opera. It’s not as expansive as a Battlestar Galactica or something, but it’s not trying to be. It’s about people with an interesting job and fractured relationships and histories.
I certainly hope for more of that with a second season. It’s worth noting that the series was created by Michelle Lovretta and six out of the ten episodes were written by her or the two other female writers: that’s a rarity not only for a science fiction program, but really any TV show at all. What’re the odds people with different points of view might be able to convey those views onscreen? And that people are interested in seeing them? Gasp and golly. You don’t get a second season by being exactly the same as everyone else.
Anyone out there watching Killjoys too? Share your thoughts on the show and hopes for a second season below!
Kyle Anderson is the weekend editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Talk all the sci-fi you want with him on Twitter!