Here’s my first review of Killjoys starting with the season one premiere “Bangarang.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.
When I think about bounty hunters in space, I always think about Cowboy Bebop. But as Dutch (portrayed by Hannah John-Kamen) pointed out during the premiere episode, the correct job title for their work is “reclamation agents,” not bounty hunters or the slang term “Killjoys.” It wouldn’t be fair to compare the two series because they probably won’t end up being very similar, but it’s nice to see that both series are set in a well-developed universe. In this review, I’m going to examine how they set up the world of this series and the use of jargon and slang.
Science fiction shows set in space always have a bit more work to do in regards to explaining the setting to the audience. We need a frame of reference since we have no real knowledge of space travel. From what we learn in “Bangarang,” Killjoys takes place in a planetary system known as The Quad. During the episode, they travel around between Westerlyn, Leith, and Qresh. We don’t get to see too much of each, but there are tidbits of each world the audience can pick up on. Johnny (Aaron Ashmore) says that he wants to spend his bounty money at the Leith Bazaar once they turn in their target. It’s a brief line of dialogue but it shows the audience that Leith is a desirable destination, a place to restock and go shopping. We don’t spend any time there (except for in Bellus’ place) but there is surely more of Leith to explore in future episodes.
On Westerlyn, the place where Dutch and Johnny’s ship docks, we are introduced to a religious group of monks (called Scarbacks) who are also apparently part of some resistance group. Things on Westerlyn look bleak with all the dimly-lit locations and the graphic portrayal of a guy being hoisted into the air by hooks attached to his skin. This seems like it would be the place for a rebel group to spring up and grow.
Lastly, we see Qresh and it is obviously the most pleasant-looking place to live. The group is infiltrating a garden blessing and the setpiece used for this scene is vividly green and bright. (And the greenhouse Dutch passes through is pretty too) Dutch explains to D’avin (Luke MacFarlane) that people who own land on this planet get stock in The Company. We don’t know what The Company does exactly yet, but we can see that it’s probably a good thing to be connected to them in some way since they seem to control all the wealth. This episode does a good job of setting up each place without resorting to a bunch of expositional dialogue, which can come off as lazy and tedious writing. We as the audience don’t need someone to explain all of it to us because we are perfectly capable of picking up on clues ourselves. The visuals help as well. So I applaud the writers for not relying on the easy option of just having Dutch and Johnny tell D’avin all about the places they hang out around regularly. Because of this, the universe of this story seems well-developed and real. And if the story is heading towards some sort of unrest and conflict between the planets, we definitely need it to feel real in order to get invested in the situation.
Another way to make a universe feel developed is to incorporate the use of slang and jargon. Sci-fi again is a genre where this is particularly prevalent, whether that’s the technobabble of Star Trek or the use of alien curses in Farscape or Defiance. Killjoys has neither of those, but they do have their own set of words related to the work they do. There’s the Rack which is short for the Reclamation Apprehension Coalition whom all the “killjoys” work for. When Dutch and Johnny turn in their capture at the beginning of the episode, we discover that there are levels to these bounty hunters. Johnny is a level three and Dutch is a level five. These levels aren’t given a lot of explanation except that Dutch’s higher level means she can pursue “Kill Warrants.” The term is pretty self-explanatory but it’s still something that’s thrown around casually in conversation without extraneous dialogue to explain it. With the exception of explaining some things to D’avin, there really isn’t a lot of the sort of cliched expositional dialogue that people usually expect from a series premiere episode.
With such a promising universe to explore, I’m looking forward to future episodes. The plot itself for this episode wasn’t as exciting as it could have been. The whole rescuing-a-family-member-from-doom-and-then-joining-the-crew is a bit overdone but it served its purpose in setting up the status quo for the rest of the season, I’m sure. And it set up some fascinating character dynamics to examine and develop in later episodes. Personally, I’m always more interested in how characters interact with each other than I am in the plot. We’ll see how the Killjoys continue to live in this world and hopefully it’ll be a fun ride.
- I’ll probably discuss this in a future review but I really appreciate that Dutch is the main character of this series. The episode begins and ends with her. I absolutely loved that she’s really “the boss” and she and Johnny played around with that expectations to trick their target at the beginning of the episode.
- I said I would try not to compare this series to Cowboy Bebop, but I’d like to point out that the Killjoys are already much more successful at bounty hunting than the crew of the Bebop ever was. LOL
- I don’t know who they had playing young Dutch but that was super great casting!
- Lucy the computer is sassy. I appreciate snarky computer systems.
- There is a character named Fancy Lee. FANCY LEE. I hope he makes many many many more appearances in the future. And I hope somebody says “Fancy meeting you here, Fancy” just to annoy him.
- What did the episode title mean? Did I miss something??
- Apologies if I spelled any of the names wrong. I’ll get used to them all eventually.
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.