Sunday, August 23, 2015

Killjoys, Season 1, Episode 10: Escape Velocity

Time to go back in time after all the excitement of last episode – 18 hours ago at the Leith Bazaar. Monks with guns shoot up the place, killing lots of people

This is why Alvis was arrested last episode, accused of ordering the attack. Dutch, John, D’avin, Pree and Pawter all debate what to do. While D’avin has some initial doubt about the innocence of the revolutionary – to Dutch it comes down to them owing Alvis for helping them so many times in the past. Their plan at the moment is to wait to see what the Company plans

The three Killjoys then discuss what Khlyen said last episode – that something was coming and Dutch needs her team. They need info – about Khlyen, Level 6 and Red 17 all of which were mentioned. Preferably by hacking the files they stole from the RAC

They’re interrupted by an emergency broadcast – of Alvis pleading guilty. Dutch & co naturally believe the confession is faked/coerced. Alvis is sentenced to death and a curfew is enforced. Dutch is determined to free him and not convinced that this isn’t linked

Dutch goes to ask company man Hills for more info – Hills isn’t very sympathetic about Alvis’s plight but he tells them that the Lethians have a powerful case against him. Dutch begs to be able to see him before he dies – he agrees but he still thinks Dutch needs to keep out of it for her own sake.

Dutch sees Alvis who confessed to protect his fellow monks. He is worried about Westerley, though and he tells her about his plans for Westerley and his hidden weapons. Dutch really doesn’t care since she’s there for him but he decides saving the planet is a condition of saving him.

John and D’avin go to the empty and damaged Leithe market to get Bellus’s opinion (since her business is in the market). They want to talk to her about Level 6 – she talks about rumours of RAC agents being forced into Level 6 when they disappear with lots of extra worrisome rumours like re-animation, gene splicing and other goodness. For extra suspicion, they’re completely off the hook for raiding the RAC.

John gets his hacker contact, Carline get to work on Khlyen’s data. And she gets stabbed by Khlyen for her trouble. He doesn’t care about the files – he wants the liquid John stole, which she doesn’t have.

Back to Dutch & co who are all dressed up as Monks to enter the tunnels under Westerley (populated by “rat-people” – people without a job who the company basically drives under ground). They have to prove themselves to the Rat King but he doesn’t trust them – and wants them to perform a Monk-ritual to prove it. Thankfully John has done his monk homework and pulls off being a monk excellently

That gets them access to the weapons, fake IDs and the news that some guys stole monk robes (shocking no-one, the attack on the Leithe Bazaar was not done by real monks). As they leave John warns the Rat King that he’s not a true believer so he needs to get a real blessing for his sick kid (or, y’know, a doctor). The Rat King, rather oddly, says John doesn’t get to choose if he’s a True Believer. Which yeah, I kind of agree that you can’t CHOOSE belief (though you can fake it) but a guy knows what he believes. Now, whether John’s a good/saintly person is another thing

When they leave the tunnels they find a lot of people angrily gathered in defiance of the curfew. Pawter tells them that the Nine (the head of the company) are voting on whether to honour the 7 Generation rule (the rule that says any Westerley family who is a good little worker for the company for 7 generations gets land on Leithe – something that has been promised for some time since we’ve already seen that Hills is a fifth generation looking forward to his grandkids getting land on Leithe).

Dutch gets a call from Delle Seyah, the nice representative of the Nine who has popped up from time to time: Delle claims the vote isn’t their doing but necessary because Leithians are all terrified of Westerlands after the monks shot up the bazaar. She also wants Dutch to visit her on Kresh – calling in her favour to make it so.

Dutch isn’t a fan of this plan, but John points out they can’t face both Khlyen and the Nine because that’s some powerful enemy stocking. So they have to split up: John and Dutch to Qresh (Pawter tells John to look up her mother, Seyah Simms… one of the Nine. In response to John’s shock, Pawter says “yes, I’m a pretty pretty princess.” Because she’s fun like that – she also can’t contact her mother directly because of the whole family drama). While D’avin has to take the evidence they’ve found to Hills to try and delay Alvis’s execution.

There’s also a nice moment when D’avin suggests they all run away together. Dutch can’t because of Khlyen, but it’s a definite “we’re moving past our issues and working together again.”

On Qresh they meet with Delle (who certainly dances on the edge of flirting with Dutch), she wants Dutch to play bodyguard since the vote is very “contentious”. Delle rather brutally sums up the whole issue with the 7th generation accord – it was easy for their ancestors to promise it – but, in Delle’s words “who knew so many of them would actually do it?” Delle also helpfully points out who Dutch can shiv, who needs preserving and who can be left to die. I kind of like her. She’s so honestly awful and glorious with it.

John tries to give Pawter’s mother Pawter’s message. She denies having a daughter. Ouch. After skewering Delle’s motivations Dutch and Delle continue to have their complicated relationship before Dutch and John consider random silverware stabbing and how Dutch has started to consider Westerley “home.”

On Westerley, D’avin goes to Hills with the evidence to protect Alvis. Hills is not interested because his bosses are not interested. And when D’avin returns home he finds he has a visitor – Khlyen who takes a phial from his room. He calls Dutch who tells him to wait for her. Of course, D’avin doesn’t. Which is also when John gets the news that Khlyen killed his hacker contact, Carleen.

As Dutch and John prepare to leave, Dutch sees the genetic bomb being taken into the council room. They intercept him and take the bomb off him – much to Delle’s annoyance. She activates the bomb herself. It goes off and several people in the council chamber are reduced to dust. John chases Delle and she seems quite outraged that he’s trying to stop her. She patiently explains that it’s a coup and, no, no-one will believe him over her. The only reason why Dutch is there is because Khlyen insisted – possibly because something terribad is coming to Old Town.

And Dutch faces off against someone who knows Khlyen – and fights way better than she does and doesn’t even flinch when she stabs him in the eye. He says he’s level 6 and John shoots him in the head. She gets up and shoots him a few more times, just to be sure.

They run to Lucy, recapping us on how political assassinations are totally outside of RAC’s normal remit (it’s aggressively neutral). More, Delle’s attack is being blamed on Alvis’s resistance, giving the company an excuse to wipe them out and call off the whole 7 generation promise. They’re going to carpet bomb Old Town on Westerley (which is where D’avin is) and turn it into a new Sugar Point.

D’avin is busy getting himself easily beaten by Khlyen. Totally predictably. Khlyen also helpfully explains why he’s returned to Dutch’s life – because of the kill warrant on D’avin and how D’avin is totally dragging Dutch down. And he isn’t killing D’avin because when he killed Dutch’s husband he lost her for 6 years

Lookit THAT bombshell!

Dutch and John arrive in Westerley just as the bombers arrive – the crowd to the tunnels, including Pawter and Pree. He does bring the good booze.

Meanwhile Alvis is working on his own escape with nifty hidden toys so they can find him in the tunnels. Alvis leads his people to the deep hidden bunkers (and is pleased that Dutch is coming closer to picking a side). The group splits, those trying to flee on Lucy going with Dutch, the rest hiding in the bunkers with Alvis.  Pawter chooses to stay in the bunker – they’ll need a doctor and she cannot leave them when it’s her mother who is partially responsible for this. John lies to pretend that Pawter’s mother said nice things about her because he’s a nice guy.

At Lucy Hills and the Company are locking down the hanger – and Dutch I quick to pin all the responsibility on Hills; the man who framed Alvis and gave the Company the excuse to bomb. Hills denies all knowledge – and he’s the one who pulled the alarm to give people chance to flee; Hills is a Westerland after all. Dutch challenges him and he agrees to let them go onto Lucy. He then goes to get a drink. I actually feel sorry for Hills.

They get on Lucy – but there’s no D’avin. John convinces Dutch they have to leave – and have faith in D’avin’s abilities to know to get to safety.

Alvis and his fellows get to the bunkers.

The bombers hit Oldtown – Hills is one who dies in an excellently short but tragic scene.

On Lucy Dutch records a message to D’avin who she knows has been captured by Khlyen – she pledges to find him. He’s in a facility where nasty medical things are being done to people – making one guy scream and it looks like the guy John and Dutch shot is being put back together again.  He is on Arkyn a planet that is supposedly uninhabitable – in the Red 17 facility.

John receives an automatic-message from hacker Carleen. Whatever it is it shocks him.

And so ends the first season of Killjoys – and I have one major problem with it. It’s only ten episodes long. That is far too short for this awesome show

I say this not just because I love this show and it’s probably the favourite thing I’ve been watching for the last 10 weeks. No, I think it needs more time because it’s huge. The world building, the Quad, the company, the monks, the resistance, the killjoys are all vast vast vast topics. The political conflict between the planets – from the Qreshi elite to the Leithian middle class supporting and being used by the elite all over the exploited and abused Westerland. There’s a lot of huge analysis of class and conflict here that is really well done.

We also have some real development of side characters with some excellent nuance and history: Pawter and Alvis have both had some real development. Even Hills and Turin are complicated characters beyond being just characterless antagonists.

That’s aside from the major characters – D’avin and Dutch both have huge, complex and mighty backstories and John interacts in complicated ways with both of them

On top of that, the plot lines have been really well woven together – seemingly one-off episodes like Sugar Point run and One Blood and Vessel containing information which later becomes essential in the plot. That’s some nice writing and I’m generally really impressed how this complex world has been shown to us.

There’s a lot there – and the short 10 episodes to explore it all is just far too short! I have complained repeatedly that I wanted more time with John and Dutch together without D’avin adding more complexities to their excellent relationship. I didn’t think we had time to fully explore D’avin’s past as well as Dutch’s myriad issues and the world itself. I don’t think we had time to fully follow John’s own anger at his brother and him rebelling against the idea that he’s the nice guy who has to fix everything. All of these were excellent points that were touched upon but 10 episodes is just far too few to tackle them all.

Which is my endless complaint of this series – I love the world, I love the characters, the plot line, the conflict, the wonderful analysis of class and oppression and conflict along with some excellent gems of episodes that touch other issues like Vessel (which was gloriously nuanced). I love this series, it’s just too short! With some shows managing to perpetrated 24 agonisingly pointless episodes on me when this amazing show full of so much potential and only got 10 episodes to tell it in!

Inclusionwise we have the awesome Dutch. She is clearly an amazing character – she’s strong, capable, complex and more than a little of a super-hero. There are tropes with her – the child-warrior with a superior, paternalistic male mentor (two of them no less!) is a tired one and does link so much of her excellent character and amazing skills to a male teacher. Dutch is also frequently sexualised in a way that D’avin and John aren’t – and if we were upholding sexuality as a valid weapon in a Killjoy’s arsenal then that would also have applied to the men as well (especially since there have been times when Dutch has called on D’avin to distract women with his muscles).

I also wish there were more prominent women with her – we have Bellus who was painfully underused and moderate appearances from both Delle and Pawter – so Dutch doesn’t exist in an all male world by any stretch – as an added bonus she respects (even Delle) and is respected by them as well. We also have episodes like Vessel which do have some interesting look at female characters and sexist issues. I do like Dutch, I like her a lot – she’s not perfect, but she is a good female character and doesn’t exist in an all male world .

She is also a WOC – which makes this a show with a Black woman as a protagonist which is extremely rare. That can’t be noted or respected enough – and she is sexual without being shamed for it or turned into a Jezebel, determined without being presented as an “angry Black woman”. There is never a hint of us doing anything other than cheering her on and loving her experiences.

But she does move in a very white world. The other main characters – D’avin, Pawter, Bellus, Alvis, Khlyen, Turin and Hills are all White.

Pree serves as barman and general care taker and he is a Black man – but he is a very very minor character who literally exists just to provide background and occasional soothing words, words of wisdom and support for the main characters. Delle is an interesting character who is glorious in her evil awesomeness – but she does drip in sinister, cunning Asian stereotypes. And Fancy appears briefly, again, he’s a character with a lot of potential and even depth (the idea that every organisation needs a bastard) but again he rather screams sinister inscrutable Asian (albeit with more fun). I am still very interested in these characters, but they are tropes.

On sexuality – we’re in shaky territory. In the last episode it did seem much clearer that Delle is probably attracted to women – inferred from her flirting/taunting of Dutch. But, really, is this the best we can manage with inclusion – an implied bisexual/lesbian manipulating villain who alludes to her sexuality through taunts? It’s there… I guess

Unlike with Pree – no, I’m not listing Pree down as a gay man because this form of “portrayal” is annoying. You are not portraying a minority by presenting a collection of stereotypes and relying on that to replace any actual labelling. The only way Pree is read as gay is because he ticks so many stereotype boxes – that isn’t portrayal.

And if he were? Well, again he is a collection of stereotypes and he exists to be a shoulder to cry on, deliverer of support and wisdom and occasionally fun, witty comments to the rest of the crew. He’s a new form of Gay Best Friend – the Gay barman. GBF with access to the good booze (though your GBF will usually have access to the good booze or you might want to send him back to the distributor for a new model). So, choices – either I say Pree isn’t a representation of a gay character because all he is a big bag of gay stereotypes supporting straight people. OR I say he IS a gay character – who is a big bag of gay stereotypes supporting straight people.

Yes there are problems but it’s still an awesome series, an awesome series with a Black female protagonist and an awesome series I desperately want to see come back again as soon as possible

And a note to Syfy. You renewed 12 Monkeys. You renewed that appalling second season of Helix. You inflicted Olympus on us – I’m sure the UN Secruity Council passed a resolution against such cruelty. You can redeem yourself by renewing Killjoys

Dear gods of television. Three series of Under the Dome and five – FIVE – of Falling Skies! And I still don’t know what demonic entity is behind Beauty and the Beast still being renewed. I have suffered TV gods and you owe me another season of Killjoys.