Friday, 4 May 2018

Killjoys: Season Three

Cast: Hannah John-Kamen, Aaron Ashmore, and Luke MacFarlane

Creator: Michelle Lovretta

430 minutes (15) 2017
Universal Playback
Blu-ray region free

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steven Hampton

Recent space opera movies have sometimes been disappointing. The Star Wars sequels proved to be merely watchable rehashes of jedi-isms and spectacular battles. Star Trek was an ultimately ruinous restarter for the venerable franchise, mired in super-heroics, dismal comedy (Simon Pegg is particularly awful as Scotty, an insult to the memory of James Doohan), and overdone lens flare. Although Metal Hurlant failed as sci-fi/ fantasy anthology, TV shows are generally still doing a better job of space opera narratives than big-scale movies.

Exploring the colonial industrialisation of the Solar system, The Expanse concerns miners working in the asteroid belt and the machinations of home planet Earth, and impressively stylish visual effects are matched by fascinating character arcs and highly intriguing plot-lines. Dark Matter is a more playful adventure about a team of mercenaries and the show blends post-cyberpunk techno-chiller tropes with interstellar action pitched on a subgenre scale between Star Trek’s politics and Star Wars’ conflicts.

Dark Matter’s genre counterpart Killjoys is a noir-punk about bounty hunters. Both shows benefit from strong female leads. The rogue heroes-versus-overlords influence of Blakes 7 is apparent, but general pulp sci-fi themes are a greater influence than any specific TV series. Killjoys: Season Three pirates and then serves pop-culture puns from fantastic media and it’s cooler than kitsch, scripted by genre savvy writers cloning cyberpunk DNA and rebooting spacer western clich├ęs, and turning out sharply witty dialogue as if they’re visiting our time-zone from the day after tomorrow.

“What if the monsters look just like you?”

This greatly entertaining Canadian production offers slickly fetishistic techno-futurism on industrialised alien planets, and Killjoys often belies its TV budget (with visual effects by Rocket Science) and so it looks far better than most indie sci-fi movies that are obviously trying too hard. With episode titles like ‘A Skinner, Darkley’, ‘The Lion, The Witch, & The Warlord’, ‘Necropolis Now’, and ‘Wargasm’, this series presents three likeable heroes for dangerous ops in Quad space, where fun-loving bounty-hunter Dutch (played by Hannah John-Kamen, who also portrays Dutch’s enemy Aneela, and is soon to be seen as ‘Ghost’ in Ant-Man And The Wasp), boldly goes where angels fear to fly, and doesn’t “have time to be careful”. 

Dutch is a team-leader for RAC agents D’avin (Luke Macfarlane), and his techie brother Johnny (Aaron Ashmore, Warehouse 13). They serve legal warrants (“the warrant is all”), break heads and often forget about taking down names. As the ship’s voice named ‘Lucy’ Tamsen McDonough is perhaps the most sarcastic computer character since Marvin, the paranoid android. Bionic performance-artist Viktoria Modesta makes a unique opponent as hack-mod villainess Niko. The heroes’ newly recruited nerd girl, socially awkward Zeph (Kelly McCormack), breaks free of typical comedy-relief role-playing and a typically sulky demeanour. 

War against parasitic aliens, the hive-mind sociopathic Hullen, looms over fate’s horizon and Dutch needs to assemble a militia army, but finds that enemy forces are brutal, and the morality of heroes (“the war is all”) is tested far beyond humane limits, while facing deadly betrayals and physical traumas. The season’s finale features the enemy’s armada arriving in planetary orbit just as the heroes prepare for battle in a kill-zone where Quad space simply isn’t big enough for both Dutch and her look-alike Aneela. Of course, there’s also a twist from the green-dream of memory. Killjoys is amusing, exciting, imaginatively detailed sci-fi action that shows the expensive cinema productions how it should be done. Binge-watch it. You know you want to.

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