August 22, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Killjoys”


KILLJOYS is, along with Dark Matter, one of the ultra-cheap scripted pieces that Syfy runs on Friday nights.  (Defiance, which airs with them, is a somewhat more ambitious enterprise.)  The grubby aesthetics of the two Canadian imports are so similar that it’s no surprise there’s been talk about a crossover between their universes–assuming both are renewed, of course, not a sure thing given their very marginal ratings.  Of the two, Dark Matter has turned out to be the one with the more intriguing plot, while Killjoys has snappier dialogue and more chemistry between its leads.

They are Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), the alluring and expertly violent head of a team of interstellar bounty hunters (“Killjoys”), her unfailingly loyal longtime partner John (Aaron Ashmore), and John’s PTSD-ridden brother D’avin (Luke Macfarlane), whose on-and-off romance with Dutch has caused plenty of trouble among the partners.  Killjoys started more or less as a procedural, widening its scope in the second half of the season to a more serialized form.  Unfortunately, the bigger-scale plotting has mostly come out of the genre textbook.  It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever seen or read dystopian sci-fi that RAC, the Killjoys’ supposedly impartial parent organization, is in league with the Corporation that controls much of the local planetary system, that those forces are acting together to suppress spunky revolutionaries, and that genetically manipulated super-soldiers are part of the baddies’ scheme.

Tonight’s season finale, written by series creator Michelle Lovretta and directed by Ken Girotti, centered, as much of the later storyline did, on Khylen (Rob Stewart, who’s also appeared–in a different role–on Dark Matter), Dutch’s ruthless and sinister mentor, whose goal seems to be turning Dutch into One Of Him.  It was once again unsurprising to find out that he was linked with RAC and the Corporation.  His specialty as a character is to do everything possible to suggest that he’s going to kill one of the heroes, then announce that he has, heh heh, much bigger plans for that person than just murdering them.  Tonight the recipient of the speech was D’Avin, whom Khylen abducted just as the counter-revolutionary forces were bombing multiple planets, and as Dutch and John barely escaped aboard their ship.  Khylen is one of the “Level 6” killjoys previously thought to be mythical, and the closing cliffhanger suggested that he’d turned D’Avin into one too.

None of this was particularly interesting, and the show, desperately trying to make the most of its restricted budget with filtered light and limited exteriors, is no joy to watch as a visual experience; even the action sequences are on the shoddy side, and CG effects are few and low-rent.  What does work on Killjoys are the performances of John-Kamen, Ashmore and Macfarlane (particularly the charismatic John-Kamen) and their characters, who successfully inhabit a quasi-Indiana Jonesian cynical yet goodhearted badass quadrant.  Recent episodes, unfortunately, have separated the team for plot purposes, despite the fact that they’re at their best when they’re all interacting, and the finale suggested that would continue at least partly into a Season 2.

Killjoys delivers a minimally satisfying level of entertainment value, and given the boundaries of the genre and budget, that may be all that can be expected of it.  Its barely passable ratings (virtually the same as the other Friday shows that surround it) suggest that its survival is more likely to be based on network strategy than any chance for breakout success.  In truth, it’s OK, but hardly irreplaceable.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."