A discussion about Hannah John-Kamen’s roll in Ant-Man & the Wasp lead to myself and others mentioning her
2 3 seasons as the lead in Killjoys. Which lead to a request for an HTC on Killjoys. So... by demand, here it is.
What’s a Hat-Trick Critique?
Hat Trick Critiques attempt to answer the question “Is this a good show?”. The answer is based solely on the first 3 episodes, and use Goethe’s 3 criteria to make the decision. Those criteria are:
- What were the creators trying to do?
- How well did they do it?
- Was it worth the doing?
And so... On to the critique.
What Were They Trying to Do?
Not being telepathic, this is always a guessing game. However, from what the creators have presented, here’s my insight. They were trying to create a show that mixes socio-political commentary with good old action-adventure fun.
On the socio-political side, they’re telling stories involving corporate and “aristocratic” power (using the aristocracy as a representation of “old money” and powerful families in contemporary times). The show plays heavily on the topics of corporate power and the resulting loss of human rights—but does so in a way that feels “natural” rather than artificially imposed on the story. There are under-currents of upward, downward, and cross-mobility (or the lack thereof). And it’s all glued together with a creative mix of police power and religion (which, refreshingly, are not wielded by the same people).
On the sci-fi action side of things, the main group consist of a kick-ass captain who used to be an assassin, her optimistic and low-key-wise-cracking tech (who tried to steal her ship), that guy’s brother (a messed up vet trying to get help), and a ship with an endearing personality and amazing ability to wise-crack.
All of this is wrapped in a large amount of world-building that is shown rather than laid out in expository monologues.
How Well Did They Do It?
For me, the key to a good show is always the characters first, followed by the story (not the plot, the story).
From the very first scene (a fun little twist on the expected), the characters of Dutch and John are shown to have a strong relationship, based on mutual trust and a real liking of each other. Most importantly, there is exactly zero sexual tension between them. They’re respected colleagues and good friends that just happen to have different sex organs.
In short order we’re introduced to:
- Pree: a devilshly-handsome and flaming bartender who radiates an interesting sense of power
- Fancy: A rival RAC agent (“official” bounty hunter, like Dutch & Jon), who is the (wonderful) antithesis of the “Asian bounty hunter”
- Lucy: The ship
- D’avan: Jon’s brother
- Khlyen: Dutch’s assassin tutor and father-figure
- Alvis: the Scarback priest who’s also building a revolution
- Turin: Dutch & John’s grumpy boss at the RAC.
- Bellus Haardy: Dutch’s “booking agent”
... and at no time does the roster seem over-crowded. Indeed, every new character is introduced in a way that seems like you already know who they are and would be surprised if they weren’t there.
On the story side, the creators do something I love (but which is very difficult to pull off): They drop you in the middle of a universe and expect you to understand what’s going on. Amazingly, they actually did it. They’re able to make it work because they do two things exactly right: 1) they provide enough contextual details that are familiar to viewers (abusive police, workers striking) and let the big stuff filter in later, and 2) they treat their viewers like intelligent people.
Was It Worth the Doing?
Too many SF shows these days seem to leap towards “high concept” or “OMG! What if?” and forget that they’re supposed to be telling a story. Stories like Stranger in a Strange Land, City on the Edge of Forever, and 2001: A Space Odyssey delved into amazingly deep and complicated questions—but they did so through a story that kept us interested.
Even though we don’t get very deep into the stories in the first three episodes of Killjoys, the creators lay down enough groundwork, and build up enough interest to let you know that there is a bigger story here, and it’s worth sticking around to find out what it is.
And they bundle it all up in a fuzzy blanket of characters to share honest emotions, and real interactions, and intimate moments of fun and vulnerability and love. Love in all the forms that don’t involve sex.
And the banter... my gods, the banter. Not since Firefly has there been such comfortable and realistic banter between characters.
Though, to be honest, this was more of a slam dunk than a hat trick for me. The first episode captured me, and the 2nd nailed it down. I’ve watched all
2 3 seasons, and even when details of plot—or the laws of physics—get stretched a bit thin, I’m willing to give it a pass, because the characters are so great (major kudos to all the actors!), and the story is so engaging.
 Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out!
(In my comment on the thread that inspired all of this, I mistakenly said there had been 2 seasons of the show. I was promptly corrected (and, as of this writing, people continue to correct me).)
 Or so we assume based on context; we never actually get to see them (much to the disappointment of everyone—those two are sexy).