The First One is Free: Reviewing TV Pilots (Killjoys)

There are those moments you have to go hunting for new stories. Rarely can I get enough of books, comics, movies, games, tv shows, sport, and images; they dominate my day-to-day. I love narratives of all kinds and writing and talking about narratives is what makes us smarter, better people.

Recently, I decided to download some free pilot episodes of tv shows in an effort to get out of my Netflix rut. These were science fiction shows or speculative fiction, a genre that’s equal parts shitty and awesome.

Killjoys
Pilot episode, Bangarang
“The warrant is all.” –Killjoy motto

show_art_Killjoys_new

The SyFy Network is an odd duck. It could be a superb outlet for hard and soft science fiction, a place where the most beloved comics and video games get the miniseries, series, and tv movie treatment that so many would love to see. That’s the dream, the fantasy. The reality is that SyFy produces an uneven mixture of shows worth watching and barrel scraping nonsense that can only be enjoyed by the meth-addled or coma-stoned. Battlestar Galactica was the anomaly. Yet the network creates just enough tolerable fare to keep folk like me coming back to check out what’s available.

This brings me to Killjoys, the adventures of a trio of intergalactic bounty-hunters or, as they call themselves, ‘reclamation agents.’ Dutch, the leader of the gang, is a highly skilled killer. One of the few sci-fi women of color, the pilot does a low-to-middling job of balancing her superior skills with the tv cliche of making her into a sexpot. I do want to see more from this character in the same way I wanted to know more about Bo from Lost Girl or Kiera from Continuum. In fact, I’m rather impressed with SyFy’s commitment to strong woman leads in several of their shows. However, the brothers John and D’avin feel like cardboard cutouts. I can’t tell if it’s the writing or the actors or both, but nothing circles them without becoming banal. This means Hannah John-Kamen, who plays Dutch, is going to have to carry this series.

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A first episode is always difficult, especially with high-concept sci-fi, because it requires a slew of backstory that more often than not comes in the form of ham-fisted exposition. The strength of the story usually hinges on the quality of the visual or the ‘coolness’ of the concept. As a new show on a backwater cable network, Killjoys isn’t going to impress visually so this leaves the cool factor. 

Worldbuilding is tricky, it has a slim and impatient audience. Scarback monks, the Quad, the Company–it all smacks of an attempt to create an edgier Firefly and it fails in this regard. But that’s not to say the show is a failure. There’s a reason to mash up a slew of sci-fi’s greatest hits–it works. If there is a weakness to Killjoys, then it’s that there is zero character development. We have utterly no reason to give a shit about these people and there aren’t really any hints about why we should in the future.

However, the point of a pilot isn’t to get you emotionally invested in characters. Rather, the point is to draw you into the world the story inhabits. Stilted dialogue, mediocre special effects, and lazy gender dynamics aside, I think Killjoys succeeds. I want to know more about this world and I’m willing to give the show the time it needs to get me into the characters. 

I hate star ratings, so I’m not going to give any. I will say it’s worth watching but in that way that I wouldn’t refuse some generic potato chips. The first three episodes can be seen on the site Space

It has nothing to do with the show but because the first episode was entitled ‘Bangarang’ I give you Doomtree:

Coming up: Mr. RobotHumans

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