TV REVIEW: KILLJOYS
Premiere episode, "Bangarang"
POSTED 1:45pm | 24 JUNE 2015
Killjoys follows a fun-loving, hard living trio of interplanetary bounty hunters sworn to remain impartial as they chase deadly warrants throughout the Quad, a distant system on the brink of a bloody, multiplanetary class war. Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen): a gorgeous, complicated and deadly flirt, bold and fun loving on the surface, but with a secret past. John Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore): dyslexic with learning and reading disabilities, labelled as “stupid” all of his life. He is not. Give this man any mech, any tech, and he can fix-it-build-it-fly it. D'avin (Luke Macfarlane): handsome, uber masculine, sarcastic, incredibly loyal, but above all: a born soldier.
That's how Syfy describes their new show and its lead characters on their website. If it sounds generic then at least the description is accurate, because Killjoys is clearly not interested in attempting anything remotely original or interesting.
The show was created by Michelle Lovretta (creator of the equally generic Lost Girl) and this premiere episode is also written by Lovretta and directed by solid TV veteran Chris Grismer (Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Pretty Little Liars). Dutch, a level 5 RAC agent (read: bounty hunter), and her partner John, a level 3 RAC agent, are collecting their latest bounty when John receives information that his brother, D'Avin, has a kill warrant out on him. John decides to keep this information from his partner and instead attempts to break his brother out of the slave fighting pits by putting himself in the ring. Dutch obviously, eventually, discovers his plan and drops in to save the day and the brothers, and the three team up to clear the death warrant from D'Avin before other bounty hunters lay claim to the prize.
The most obvious comparison to make here is to Joss Whedon's cult space-western Firefly - but I would not be surprised if Lovretta has never heard of that series. For all the similarities, Killjoys is definitely not Firefly. There is no sense of style, no distinct characters, and no attempt at world-building in Killjoys. It is decidedly joyless (sorry). If Lovretta was aware of Firefly then it's nearly impossible to fathom how she could misfire so spectacularly with such a great template to work from. Perhaps it's unfair to compare the two, but there is no excuse for doing such a boring job these days, considering what has been achieved on limited budgets in television recently.
This episode starts brightly enough. The opening minutes show Dutch and John in the middle of capturing their bounty of the week. John is taking a beating for the team, chained up in a makeshift torture chamber, while Dutch attempts to sneak into the facility from the outside. We are given a quick fly-over introduction to the planetary system they are in, before zooming down on the barren, dusty planet where their job is located. Ashmore delivers a few wisecracks between punches to the face but, just like the staged hits, none of them really land. The writing is just the palest imitation of lines delivered by thousands of loveable rogues before him, and just seconds later we get the I surrender, suckers trope as Dutch allows herself to be captured just so she can turn the tables on the bad guys from within. Of course, the first thing the bad guys do is threaten to rape Dutch, which is just the distraction she needs to pull a blaster from her crotch, free her partner, and capture the bounty. It's a horribly clichéd opening pulled off with almost commendable competence. Not one creative muscle was flexed, even for a second, in committing this scene to film. The lighting, set design, costumes, casting, sound, directing, and dialogue is all taken from a "My First Western" colouring book for aspiring infants. It's not a confidence-inspiring beginning and it only goes downhill from there.
I was aware going into this first episode that Killjoys was both a Syfy and Canadian TV production. I can't remember that ever being a positive partnership, but even with lowered expectations I was still thoroughly disappointed with how it all turned out. The pacing is too slow, the plot too convoluted, and there's no apparent difference between the eight locations the characters visit in the 42 minutes. Many loose plot threads and mysterious characters are dangled for the viewer, to draw them into the season arc and back for more episodes, but all they do is make the episode a meandering mess. It would have been better served delivering a tight and focused A story to introduce the world and the main characters, instead of wasting so much time with endless back story and unnecessary exposition. We spend a full eight minutes in the fighting pits for very little character development or plot advancement, but so much pointless exposition. It's 12 minutes stretched to fill an hour of network television. Shallow filler.
Technically it's dull and lazy. Set design, costumes, lighting, and casting, is all uninspired. Even worse, the locations have zero character, and the whole show has been shot in close-up to cover up this fact. It looks and feels incredibly cheap. Even the music by the usually reliable Trevor Yuile (Orphan Black) would not be out of place in lists of early 2000s public domain. It's overall a very frustrating experience to watch.
The only positive (and I'm stretching here) is the performance of Ashmore, who brings a little bit of life to his character despite the dialogue, and everything else, working against him. It's sad, because he should have graduated from this level of script after Veronica Mars and Smallville, but Syfy musty have him on a long-term contract in Canada or something.
As a premiere episode it fails at everything. It gives no sense of the world, the stakes, gives no sense of character, and has absolutely no style. Even the title chosen for the episode, "Bangarang", is evocative of nothing. They're either referencing a stupid catchphrase from Hook or a forgettable Skrillex song. It doesn't matter because it has no meaning. The show has no meaning. It's a waste of time and talent.
Watch list: If the next episode does not improve by light years then it's off the list