Last year during #SciFiMonth, I wrote about a trope that is near and dear to my heart, spaceship crews that double as found families. I love when misfits come together, when they bicker like there’s no tomorrow, while simultaneously putting their lives on the line for each other without hesitation. So it should come as little surprise to those familiar with the show that KILLJOYS is one of my favorite programs of the last decade. For those of you unfamiliar with KILLJOYS, allow me to unveil for you this fantastic little gem of a show that ran for five seasons and contains within it a sarcastic spaceship AI, assassins, a growing ragtag rebellion, and one kick-ass female lead.
At its core, KILLJOYS is a show about space bounty hunters. Killjoys, in fact, is what these space bounty hunters are called, “joy” being slang for money. Our heroes Dutch, Johnny and D’avin travel about a corner of space called the Quad in a spaceship with an AI named Lucy, and hunt down bad guys for profit. Or at least, that’s where the show starts. Because in true space opera fashion, our three mercs eventually realize that there is something wrong in the Quad – and Dutch’s past is directly tied into a threat that could enslave or destroy everyone in the galaxy.
If you asked me to sit down and explain the full plot of KILLJOYS, with its many twists and turns and pseudo-science, I would do an incredibly poor job of it. That’s partly to do with my own memory, and partly because the overarching plot of this show is confusing as hell. There’s a threat called the Green and that threat is led by the Lady and there are clones and hybrid humans and a whole mess of things that I could not begin to unknot. But that’s not why I watch KILLJOYS. I watch it because it is inhabited by a fantastic set of characters, one that starts with our lead trio and eventually expands to include a network of people I was always excited to see every week.
So who are these people? Dutch is a former assassin trying to get away from her old life. She’s cheeky and loves a good fight and doesn’t do well with authority. Her pilot and partner is Johnny Jaqobis, a lovable nerdy goof (played by one of the Ashmore acting twins) who handles the tech side of the missions and banters frequently with AI Lucy. They are joined in the pilot by Johnny’s brother D’avin, a soldier who is on the run from the military after an incident left his team dead – but he can’t remember what happened. Over the course of the show, these three grow into a tight-knit group, along with several characters who start as bit players but eventually become just as important as the main cast.
Oh and diverse, did I mention how diverse the characters are? Besides a woman of color in the lead role, there’s Pree, a gay bartender with a checkered past, a lesbian power couple, and several smart women of science who are here to save the day. This is a show that (especially in later seasons) passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Granted, it takes a few seasons to gather this group together, but by the third and fourth seasons, you had a motley collection of people who were banding together to save the galaxy or die trying.
At the end of the day, KILLJOYS works because it is a show that almost never forgets to have FUN. Yes, all human life might be extinguished and weird stuff is happening, but that’s not going to stop our heroes from cracking-wise at the absurdity of the situation. Is this the highest quality show on television? Absolutely not. But when a show knows how to lean into the camp, to swagger and say, “Yup, this is ridiculous, ain’t it great?” then I find myself falling in love with it despite the shortcomings. So if you’re looking for a show with characters you can love and a tongue-in-cheek attitude, you’ve got to fly with KILLJOYS!