Last week Olli was injured so Johnny brings her to Havigan’s bar for treatment and to threaten whoever betrayed them - Havigan applies logic here, sure he asked after Clara but why would anyone actually betray them?
While Olli is treated Johnny gets a crash course on just how terribly Hackmods are treated and, when Olli wakes up, they manage to get some information about the Hollen gooed man who tried to kill them. Though Havigan is reluctant because everyone there has enough shit to deal with without adding to it with Johnny’s drama
There’s a group called the Skinners that can literally change your skin, entirely shapeshift someone to look like someone else (we see a scene where one of these shapeshifted people went off mission gets it all a little wrong when their skin shift doesn’t quite take and end up being killed by Niko - a hackmod with a bionic leg - head of the Skinner’s company to keep them covered up). Naturally Johnny wants to investigate this because Hollen-goo is scary
So time for his awesome undercover as guy seeking cosmetic surgery while being a super confident douchebag. I do like Johnny undercover. He’s fun and he’s willing to have fun more than the rest of the cast - in fact D’avin and Dutch need Johnny because they’re just way too intense and dour without him.
There they sneak Olli in for some investigating, discover a whole lot of skinned bodies and Yoko - Clara’s friend - who gets them out sharpish though almost gets Johnny caught in the process
But Olli does manage to get Johnny some hands from the bodies to examine. He is inappropriately gleeful about this. They also have a lead with Yoko - Olli decides her tried and true tactic of punching her in the face until answers come out may be in order.
Except Johnny’s experiments on the hands come with some disturbing truths - the hands are actually the bodies of hackmod owners: people NIko has targetted. And one of them owned Olli and Yoko. Olli has never been owned, she’s sure - but she also has a 6 year gap in her memories. Poking further it becomes clear that Olli isn’t running around with Clara’s arm - Olli is Clara but has been skinshifted.
The emotion of this moment is perfect with Olli horrified when Johnny calls her Clara and he has to stop her cutting off her face screaming “who is this face?! Get it off”. The gun arm lead Olli to Johnny because Clara programmed it to.
Back to Havigan to get some answers from Yoko - it turns out Clara did find the skinners and what they were doing and she was horrified. Niko ordered Yoko to make Clara disappear… which she did but without killing her and with a memory chip. Yoko explains that they’re using skin shifting to get enough money and legal clout to get people to a colony far away (involving cryo-transport), an actual home for hackmods without having to hide or be attacked. Johnny is duly cynical but Yoko absolutely accepts zero judgement from a Basic who has no understanding of their lives.
Which is when Niko comes, knocks everyone out and kidnaps Johnny
She wants a Killjoy skin - because she’s been tracking Hollen-goo all over the system (she doesn’t know what it is only that she needs it for the skinning) and a whole lot of them are guarded by KIlljoys. She also tells her story - how she got in debt, how she was stolen and how her leg and eye were taken by her new owner to be replaced with mods.
When Olli comes to rescue Johnny she also has an awesome speech about how she learned to love and accept herself - but that loving and accepting herself and not wanting to change her mods doesn’t mean she has to forgive those who abused her. I think this is a powerful point - it’s often held over the heads of victims that if they’re not forgiving then they’re somehow not “moving on” or allowing their attackers to “still control them”. You can love who and what you are and where you are and still be furious with the people who hurt you.
She tries to draw on hackmod unity but Havigan and the guys have also shown up with Olli (who shamed them for being monsters for not rescuing Johnny and rejects the idea that what the factory did to them is now responsible for the current choices - which feels like an interesting point on how evil shit being done to you doesn’t justify your own evil which is true and important but there’s more to examine here).
At the end everyone is reunited and Olli decides to stay with Havigan and co - but she will come when Johnny needs help
The hackmods, I’ve got a lot of thinkiness here. We did see and it has been made brutally clear over and over again that the way hackmods are treated is brutal, terrible and inexcusable and them fighting back or trying to escape makes a lot of sense. We have some excellent moments here with Havigan both enforcing basic-free space recognising the need for a safe space and at the same time rejecting Johnny bringing his drama to his location: expecting these oppressed, desperate people to join your drama is presumptive and needs slapping down
At the same time I can see why Havigan wasn’t eager to shut Niko down because she is helping hackmods, a people who have so little help and so little safety. I think Olli’s speech about not being monsters sounds wonderfully dramatic but is simplistic - at what level are oppressed, desperate people required to rise up and be martyrs and saints? Should they be prioritising Johnny’s safety over the safety Niko is bringing others? I mean, Olli isn’t asking them to stop doing evil here, she’s asking them to actively participate in a rescue mission
Again there’s an interesting message that maybe Niko was more focused on vengeance than, perhaps, helping people. But, again, vengeance is simplistic - because stopping the hackmod owners helps others and are forcing them to face consequences such a bad idea? It’s also sad that Niko’s really awesome message of self-acceptance and empowerment is undermined by the fact she is a villain. But I’m hopeful her story will continue as they didn’t kill her and did recognise her position as more complex: with both her background and the analysis of hackmods in general. I also really liked that a lot of the actors playing the hackmods were disabled people themselves and not just able-bodied people with prosthetics/cgi. But it does make me wish that Olli was, especially if they’re going to change the actress.
There’s a lot of powerful messages on this storyline, but also some elements around the edges that need developing and expanding more and I hope they will be.
While all this was going on, Turin has decided Dutch and D’avin need a new team member. They’re great fighters but not scientists, engineers et al - in short, they’re not nerds. Johnny was their nerd. Without Johnny they are nerdless and try to solve every problem by hitting it. It doesn’t work.
So in comes Zeph, Benji and Guy who didn’t have a name who I will call Alec because that’s the role he played on Continuum. They mission with Dutch and D’avin to see if they can do well, prove themselves and endure lots of taunting and D’avin’s threats to eat them
After many twists and turns the mission ends - and it’s revealed to be a simulation. ONE which Benji and I’m-calling-him-Alec passes but Zeph didn’t. As Turin puts it there were three tests - one basically skills to show they could do what needed to be done, the second was ability to communicate t others (no nerd-speak D’avin and Dutch don’t understand) and the third was surviving - the last of which Zeph failed because she focused on the mission, didn’t adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances and technically got them all killed. Basically your mission brief sometimes need to be shredded, don’t be careless
While Turin informs Benji and Alec of the war against the Hollen, Dutch catches up with Zeph - the reason why she risked her life is because she knew the simulation was a simulation. They were all infected by a disease at exactly the same time and when Dutch was in danger D’avin, who clearly has a thing for her, showed no stress reactions. Basically the guys who designed the simulation love the shiny tech but don’t understand basic biology. Which Dutch realises they need because the Hollen is all about squishy biology so a tech who isn’t all about the shiny metal things could be handy. IF Zeph can follow orders and not be a total loose cannon.
They’re still on side even when Johnny comes home and they have a super excellent reunion - about time this team was back together
Time to catch up with the big bad Aneela, who looks just like Dutch on her very alien spaceship. She’s playing host to a resurrected Delle Sayah - I’m glad she’s not dead. And the gooey resurrection raises a possibility for Pawter
I’m getting a wonderful feel now of epicness. Maybe because it reminds me of things like Mass Effect computer games where you get various factions and people on side in time for the big big battle - texting the techs, recruiting Zeph, counting the Hackmods as allies, this is all broad. This is setting us up for a confrontation that won’t just have Dutch, D’avin and Johnny against whatever, this is about Dutch, D’avin and Johnny recruiting an army. They’re not doing this alone and they’re not charging in, they’re building support. They’re doing all the side missions you do before the big boss to get the best ending
And I love it.