This episode reminded me of one of the hardest parts about the writing process that I’ve seen and experienced first hand: hiding the underlying structure of the story. There come points in the story where certain things need to happen for the story to move forward, and they aren’t always easy to incorporate naturally into the story. Good examples are the Marvel movies – because they’re all interconnected and foreshadow future ones, some events or characters have to be worked into a plot that would probably work better without them.
The second episode of Killjoys ended up being a clunky episode because of this. The episode’s main purpose is to solve the problem that is D’Avin: he has no papers and therefore cannot step foot outside the ship without being arrested. From the beginning, the episode telegraphs the resolution to this problem – D’Avin joining the team. We already know he’s a capable fighter with military training and instincts, so we know he can contribute to the team.
The show makes this even more obvious by creating a situation in which John must stay with the ship, leaving Dutch with no choice (surprise, surprise) but to take D’Avin along to finish the current warrant. It came as little surprise that on a planet with warring factions, D’Avin’s approach was more useful than Dutch’s, and his own experience proved to be instrumental in not only completing the warrant, but also getting out of Sugar Point in one piece. in addition, throughout the episode, D’Avin and John debate potential options for D’Avin to go next, but this particular moment of both tension, plot and interpersonal, left me thoroughly unimpressed; I can’t be the only one that never for a second thought D’Avin was going anywhere. As for the rest of the episode, it ended up being mostly filler. We find out more details about Dutch’s training, get to see John’s technical genius (which I still don’t really buy), and find out some more about Quad politics.
The underlying problem here is that the character motivations and relationships are still weak. They all talk about what they want, but none of them really show it convincingly.
Here are some changes that I would make if I were in charge of the story:
- Show, rather than tell the audience that D’Avin is getting in the way. In the episode, we see him get jostled around while John and Dutch try to pull off an inflight breach into another ship. I would change that to D’Avin somehow causing them to fail to complete a warrant, or else make it either very difficult, or very dangerous to complete. It’s more action based, and a lot more potential for conflict.
- Insert more meaningful triggers for Dutch’s flashbacks. As it stands now, she has a flashback to a deadly game Khlyne forced her to play when she refused to complete her task within the allotted week when she’s knocked unconscious by the Sugar Point scavengers. I would put her in a situation that mimics the game – maybe have her pick who to save, Simon (the warrant), or D’Avin. This would trigger the same emotions as her punishment in the past and therefore trigger a PTSD flashback.
- I read on space.ca that John has dyslexia and consequently feels inferior, but that he is a whiz with technology and that’s his strength. Reading this annoyed me, because there is no mention of the dyslexia anywhere, definitely no instances where we could infer it, and no indication whatsoever that John feels himself inferior, even when he has to forge Dutch’s acceptance to a warrant in episode one because he is Level 3 and she Level 5. This is exactly the kind of character depth this show needs to be playing up, and my changes would definitely be to make this a more salient part of his character.
Another change I would make would be to present a more interesting dimension to being a Killjoy. So far all we know is that they undertake warrants (which involve mostly transporting people or goods in varying degrees of danger) and that they are all very good at beating the crap out of people and firing guns. I am far more interested in the “no allegiance” part of the job – how does that affect their conception of “home”? Do they like being unattached, or do they take issue with the fact that they don’t, by definition, belong anywhere? What do their families think of this lifestyle choice? Can they form meaningful relationships outside of the RAC, or is it too difficult with their constant interplanetary travel?
I’ll concede that they have the rest of the season to tackle these issues, but I think the show is missing good opportunities to create more interest in the characters and the world. So far, they seem to be falling into the trap of focusing too much on the episodic component of the story (i.e. each warrant), than the elements that stretch across episodes.
As a side note, here is a good example of a character – Kaylee from Firefly – showing the audience that she knows what she’s talking about. If they want to convince me John’s a technical whiz, they’ll need more instances like this one.