One episode was provided for review prior to broadcast.
Science-fiction is a genre that has always been unusually receptive to bare-minimum, surface-level programming. Particularly in the early 2000s, it seemed that all one needed to successfully launch a new series was a flashy setting (either over-complicated or under-explored), a photogenic cast and some procedural hook, usually one past its expiration date by the end of the first season.
Lately, though, audiences have demanded more. This millennium’s most well-regarded sci-fi programs, like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, are so universally praised because they went above and beyond what was required of them, proving undaunted by ambitious, tricky narratives. And viewers are currently gifted with some terrific series (e.g. Orphan Black, Black Mirror) that have followed in their footsteps, tackling heady questions of human ethics head-on.
Despite following a trio of bounty hunters operating in the wild west of deep space (let that breath out, Whedonites, it’s not worth it), Syfy’s Killjoys is not one of those upper-spectrum shows. It doesn’t even want to be. Instead, the series seems more like a premiere from the early 2000s, checking all the boxes for a compact, low-cost, generically sound sci-fi. Coming as it does, just as Syfy says it’s pushing forward with higher-concept shows in hopes of returning the network’s Battlestar halcyon days, is an undeniable disappointment.
But unlike the recently premiered Dark Matter, one would be ill-advised to immediately haul Killjoys on the scrap heap and deem it another out-and-out failure. After all, sci-fi – like fantasy – is beloved for its ability to transport viewers to another world, to situate them among a crazy cast of characters and spin fantastical yarns about furious firefights (lasers, not bullets, naturally) carried out by devil-may-care heroes. And, in that manner, Killjoys is a pleasant-enough diversion, keeping the quips flying and the tone feather-light. It’s not bad, per se – it’s just a fun time-killer at a time when audiences may be looking for more.
The aforementioned trio is comprised of impossible badass Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen, a refreshingly multicultural lead); tech whiz John (Aaron Ashmore, jumping over from Syfy’s Warehouse 13); and D’avin (Luke MacFarlane), an ex-soldier and John’s estranged brother. As those descriptions would suggest, all three are staple characters for a sci-fi series like this, but the pleasant surprise here is that the actors actually do a pretty admirable job of making them likable despite their sometimes irksome familiarity. John-Kamen is a particular standout, selling her badass-chick-with-a-hidden-past lead with charisma and conviction.