I promise to try not to turn this into a rant about the state of science fiction media… try. (Might not succeed.)
Last year about this time, I wrote about how I might not be able to make it through Killjoys Season 3. Last season really pushed a bunch of my writer big red buttons of do not want and I was seeing the writing on the screen. As in, this is not going well, red alert, red alert, Danger Will Robinson!
I hate being right.
I won’t be watching season 4 or 5 of Killjoys (yes, they’ve green lit 20 more episodes of this show, and if you like it well, that’s great. If you’re me, you’re in a corner whimpering. Why? TV Overlords, WHY?) I really, really wanted to love this show. It has a female creator, there are some female producers, there are females in the writing room and the main lead of three is, well, female! (Though the male to female cast is still rather disproportionate.)
The end of season 2 left us with a pretty big mess for season 3. The team was split. Dutch was being selfish. We’d lost a great female secondary character they’d taken 2 whole seasons to develop in order to have a male character feel pain. D’avin was the biggest gary stu of all time. And the show had taken a sharp left turn from campy, fun, new and into boring old cliche sci fi story territory.
Season 3 did not get any better. I was thinking about this while curled in bed trying to convince myself to get up and realized why Season 3 was so jarring. This show had about 7 episodes of world building on their primary pitch of “Bounty Hunters in SPACE” before they took their sharp left turn into “humans versus alien parasite SLIME GOO.” And it simply wasn’t enough. See, the great thing about the concept of “Bounty Hunters in SPACE” is that you can spend as much damn time creating fun mini stories that explore your universe and it’s VASTNESS, sprinkling little bits of information for a couple seasons about the “wrongness” in what is going on to take a couple seasons at the end to fight your parasitic alien goo. (which would have been great fridge horror to offset the campiness and created all sorts of meta and fun fandom discussion and theories!) And this show needed the world building. (They even lampshade this in episode 1 of season 3, “remember when we used to… yeah… that was fun.” Yeah, the show was fun back then wasn’t it.)
BECAUSE… Season 3 has the team split and “war is coming” and suddenly we are slapped in the face with the fact that the Quad is just one of many systems. That there are thousands of these alien goo pools and hundreds of RAC Ships (the bounty hunter HQ) and that there may be a purpose to these hack mods people (Only introduced in Season 2, used for less than half a season 3) and there are some nasty people called “skinners” who also use the green alien goo without realizing what it is. (And yes, it’s as nasty as it sounds.) And I’m sitting here going, “Wait, wait, what? WHERE was ALL THIS during YOUR WORLD BUILDING EPISODES? NO. NO. COME BACK HERE. I WANT MORE OF THIS!!!!” The skinners would have been a GREAT way to introduce the green goo. Very, very fridge horror.
By the way, Season 3 spends over 2/3 of it dealing with internal politics and expounding on the Hullen focusing mostly on Aneelah. Aneelah and Dutch are not who they think they are. (DNA also doesn’t work that way folks.) Not that we get too much about the Hullen, other than Aneelah is crazy and they’re pretty arrogant. Oh, and new villain, the LADY who lives in the Green. (There is a reason why I’m not a fan of the television favorite of the “big bad” method of storytelling.) They set up Aneelah in Season 2 to be this big bad character that Dutch, D’avin and Johnny were going to have to overcome and destroy to destroy the Hullen. Except, problem, she only commands a tiny bit of the Hullen. Oh dear, bigger problem, she’s more of a prisoner than a commander. Major problem, they tried to make her sympathetic by making her crazy and the whole of next season I think we’re supposed to support her as a “good guy” as she helps Dutch fight “the Lady.”
And if you’re going, “huh and what?” to the previous paragraph. Then you are right there with me. (I mean, this typical Killjoys though, they spent season 2 turning Kylen from bad villain to good guy.) We spend 7 to 8 episodes of season 3 on internal politics between the RAC members, recruiting Pree’s warlord ex-lover (yes, the homosexuality was strong this season), watching Delle Seyah play Aneelah like a harp, D’avin exhibiting his continued gary stu qualities with control over the green and a new story arc that never went anywhere (what else is D’avin forgetting show runners, oh wait, you’re forgetting,) new nerd characters being nerdy (oh Hullen technology is more biological than machinery but Johnny is about machinery. Damn it, they had to bring in 2 new characters, one for the bio-techy stuff and one to replace Johnny’s charm, then in the last episode pair them off for the wonderful ‘pair the spares’ sundae special) for the pay off of two episodes of “war” where our main characters are sitting out of the fight for the most part and for Aneelah to well, essentially change sides.
Look, if there had been 50 episodes of popcorn munching buttery goodness world building with BOUNTY HUNTERS IN SPACE before all of this, I wouldn’t be so snarky. But here we are at 30 episodes out of 50 and I’m going “this is feeling a bit rushed darlings and everything is suffering for it.”
What’s suffering the most is Dutch’s character. Writing wise, Dutch is the most inconsistently written character in the show. She’s the Pinkie Pie of Killjoys. Dutch’s problem is still they’re trying to make her too many things at once. D’Avin and Johnny are stereotypes and relatively easy to write. Johnny is in fact the most consistently written and possibly most well rounded character on the show. Dutch is well, I’m not sure what Dutch is. I have what I think she’s supposed to be, but because they left out an essential “Johnny and Dutch do their first Killjoy mission” episode, I’m not really sure.
You see, Dutch is a gender flipped action hero type. Disregard her back story, (which is cliche and sexist and all around not good) and her role in the story is to be the action hero lead big tank lead of the “trio.” (Which imo, should have stayed a duo because D’avin is unnecessary.) Male action heroes tend to be brusque, stoic and at times flippant. They were going for big and tough and then went “Damn it, she’s a girl, we have to make her girly too.” And that, unfortunately, breaks most writers minds because a “girly action hero” is not a stereotype they are familiar with and is found more in Japanese media than American media.
So, Dutch flip flops between being extremely competent to making rooking mistakes to be a temporary damsel, doing the femme fatale nonsense, being the big sister, to being a selfish “I don’t give a shit about everyone else,” to being the self sacrificing hero all in the space of 2 or 3 episodes. It gives me serious whiplash. (Her and D’avin’s rookie mistakes make me grind my teeth, they are both level 5s. They KNOW BETTER and they are still doing it. No. It’s not interesting. It does not make for good drama or conflict. It’s frustrating.)
I think they I know what they were trying to go for, a big sisterly type of warrior. She’s experienced, competent and will make sure that the newbies make it out the other side of the battle intact, even if that means she gets hurt or almost dies to do it. Throw in some PTSD and call it a day. But instead, they tried to add a heaping spoonful of sex (because no one is going to watch a female action hero if she isn’t sexy, am I right?) and keep her “professional” meaning brusque and eye on the prize at the same time. And it’s not working. There is complex and then there is “trying to be everything all at once.” Which isn’t necessary because they have Delle Seyah to be the vamp. They had Pawter to be Delle Seyah’s foil in political maneuvering. They added this newbie nerd female character who was a bit naive and innocent and could be the damsel in distress in a pinch. They had Hullen characters and the Hack Mod girl to be brusque and stoic. (Let’s not talk about what they did to the hack mod girl. I’m grinding my teeth here.)
It doesn’t help that we barely know anything about Dutch outside of bounty hunter and fighting work. What does this girl do to destress other than have sex with men? I mean it? Does she rock climb? Maybe she bungee jump dances or does aerial silks? Does she like calligraphy? Meditation? (Is now so very curious.) As much backstory they’ve thrown at us about her childhood and her father figure, as much “emotional turmoil and trauma” they’ve put her through, to me Dutch is still this card board cut out that is so very, very flat. Pawter had more depth than her. It’s crazy. I almost feel like Dutch doesn’t have a personal conflict in herself. I don’t know what Dutch wants. I don’t know if Dutch ever asks if what she’s doing is right or wrong. And for a main character in a show that’s lasted 30 episodes, that’s disturbing.
So, basically, I’m frustrated and disappointed that yet another scifi/fantasy show that had the potential to be great and had an interesting basic premise lost it out on the execution. There are other scifi shows that I want to check out, The 100, Dark Matter and The Encounter but their premises sound so stereotypical scifi cliche that I’m having a hard time mustering the energy. I’m either growing up and becoming more discerning or I’m having writer spidey senses.
Oh well, typing of Dawn Princess awaits.