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Syfy is currently in the midst of re-rebranding itself as a network that once again relies on science fiction to appease its audience. Last Friday saw the premiere of the space opera Dark Matter, and this week will host a trio of space-faring bounty hunters in the comedic action drama Killjoys. It’s an energetically raucous adventure that offers just enough fun to make one forget that there isn’t anything particularly original going on.
When Killjoys begins, we’re introduced to the warrant-following badasses Dutch (Happy Valley’s Jannah John-Kamen) and John (Warehouse 13’s Aaron Ashmore), employees nabbing bad guys for the R.A.C. (Reclamation Apprehension Coalition), an independent organization with zero ties to anything else, planetary or otherwise. Everything takes place in The Quad, a galaxy where a class war is imminent, and one of the main settings of the show is the old town of Westerly, where the revolution is growing. There’s also the governmental overseers simply called The Company, as well as rival bounty hunters trying to thwart Dutch and John’s missions. It’s not the most complicated set-up for a sci-fi show, but the build-up admittedly takes its sweet time.
The four episodes I got to watch basically set up four central missions for the characters to take on, with the first introducing John’s estranged brother D’avin (Satisfaction’s Luke Macfarlane), a well-trained former soldier whose PTSD and initial disinterest in fitting in are his crutches. His history with John is strained, to say the least, and his joining the Killjoys makes their relationship one of the main sources of comic relief, while also making it seem like their history may one day come to light.
If there’s a major overarching plotline to be found in Killjoys, it’s how Dutch’s past informs her present life. When she was a child, a mystery man would occasionally pop by with a red box, with the understanding being that the box came with a deadly mission attached. And though first impressions of Dutch guide one to believe she’s a morally upright leader – and Hannah John-Kamen has the kind of eyes that will make you believe anything – that may not always be the case.
On a genre-aesthetic level, Killjoys looks pretty great, and though the humanized planets aren’t one of a kind, they’re distinct enough to make their case. The Killjoys ship features an enjoyable A.I. computer system called Lucy (voiced by Tamsen McDonough), and I’m hoping there’s more space-based drama coming in later episodes, as the early installments don’t do much by way of travel scenes. Luckily, the fights are over-the-top fun and the action is fairly intense, and each of our leads has just the right skills to get the job done. There aren’t any reasons to make comparisons to Firefly or Battlestar Galactica or anything, but there’s also nothing inspiring comparisons to the plethora of horribly misguided sci-fi that’s come out over the last decade.
On Killjoys, our heroes say that “The warrant is all,” but it’d have been nice if, in the first four episodes, the creative team would have made it so that audiences would have more than just the warrants to care about. If you’re looking for dense, keep you up at night storytelling, this isn’t the show you’re looking for. But if you’ve got buckets full of popcorn and a few hours to kill before a laser tag/karate tournament, Killjoys is where it’s at.
Earn your Level 5 clearance by tuning into Killjoys when it premieres on Syfy on Friday, June 19, at 9 p.m. ET.