Thursday, May 30, 2024

Killjoys Gets Poetic

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This week on Killjoys: Will someone give Hannah John-Kamen an award already?


The penultimate episode of the season opens on Arkyn (Site 9 instead of the more familiar Site 17, or Red 17). Kendry is in one of Khlyen’s old labs, going through his research. Except, someone’s found her, so we get to see Mayko Nguyen handling a massive gun and muttering vengeful promises at a door (Excellent). She doesn’t need to use it, though, because it’s just D’av and Johnny.

Last week, Jaq decided he wanted to go live with Kendry while the Killjoys destroyed the Lady. Reluctantly, Kendry agrees, and Jaq leaves the ship. D’av cries and fusses over Jaq’s clothes. Dutch and Jaq make jokes because they’re both uncomfortable with displays of emotion. (How much do I love that stoic, butch D’av is the one who cries around babies and when his kid leaves home? So much.)

Johnny asks Kendry why she isn’t on Qresh, and Kendry confirms that she deviated from her agreement with them in order to find Aneela. Kendry’s managed to amass quite a bit of Khlyen’s research into the Green on her own, and she hands it over. Johnny immediately begins analyzing it.

Once back on the Armada, they turn their attention to the kidnapped kids on the RAC. Their first rescue attempt backfires spectacularly, due to a biological force field of sorts around the RAC. Using the research he received from Kendry, Johnny confirms that it’s Hullen technology, and probably implemented after the Killjoys’ last break-in.

In order to circumvent the force field, they need to obtain a device based on Hullen tech from a commune on Leith. The device accesses and alters mitochondrial DNA, allowing the Killjoys to pass as Hullen and bypass the bio-shield. D’av and Dutch take point on obtaining it, while Zeph and Pip try to figure out what the meaning of the brand that appeared on Dutch’s back is. It’s written in what looks like Scarback script, so—GUESS WHO’S BACK?? That’s right, my favorite ex-Scarback prodomme, Fairuza.

Fairuza confirms the brand is Scarback script, but it’s a branch we’ve never heard of before—the language of the dead, essentially. The brand is made up of three glyphs, representing “ascend,” “elixir,” and “dissolve.” Zeph, who loves puzzles, but not so much poetry, is frustrated by this liberal arts-themed turn of events.

At the hippie commune, Dutch wears the “mask” that lets her connect with her genetic memory and sees Aneela, showing Dutch a cut on her palm in the shape of the brand on Dutch’s back. The message in the brand isn’t the Lady’s, as they previously thought. Rather, it’s a message from Aneela.

Once the mitochondrial-DNA device is on the Armada, they finalize plans and teams. They’ll use the transdimensional cube and a tracker to grab the Lady’s Green pool, rescue the kids the old-fashioned way (with a spaceship), and then escape the RAC. Johnny will stay back and man the mitochondrial-DNA machine. Pip decides to go with the team headed to the RAC, feeling the need to prove himself to the people he accidentally hurt by trying to kidnap Jaq. Zeph is proud of him.

The plan proceeds smoothly, until Zeph transports the Green pool to the Armada. That’s when things go awry. The Green is powering the bio-shield. With the Green on the Armada, power to the shield fails, and the RAC’s system performs a hard reboot.

The reboot means that the Hullen will be able to use the RAC’s heavy cannons, which are definitely powerful enough to destroy the Armada, since the Armada (with the Green solidified) is dead in the water, defenseless. And the best way to make sure the Hullen can’t do that? Enter Turin’s self-destruct codes. Which, of course, must be entered manually. Dutch, D’av, and Fancy argue over who gets to go down with the ship.

In the end, though, Pip volunteers. After all, he has a spider in his brain that’s slowly killing him as it dies. And saving him is one heck of an ask to make of Zeph. And if it doesn’t work out, for whatever reason, Zeph won’t forgive herself.

Which means that Pip completes his arc from a self-described “spoiled Qreshi rich boy” to “hero” and then dies. Pip and Zeph’s final conversation is incredible; Atticus Mitchell and Kelly McCormack acted the heck out of it. Also, Kelly McCormack (Zeph) deserves an award of some kind for Zeph’s breakdown when the RAC explodes. Basically: Yes, it hurts that good.

After the battle, D’av, Dutch, and Johnny all physically remove the memory of Jaq’s location from their brains (what Aneela did to keep the story of Dutch’s origin from the Green). Zeph shows up and hands over her research on the Scarback symbols to Dutch. She has to check out for a minute to grieve, and she can’t do that if she’s trying not to be angry with the survivors of the mission, including Dutch.

Dutch has a revelation (or a flashback) regarding what Aneela’s message means, and shows up to the Royale with some of the Lady’s Green in her flask. When she drinks it (no prior warning to the boys), she collapses. And when her body wakes up, Aneela and Dutch have switched bodies, and Dutch is now in the Green.


Pip, Redemption Arcs, and Sacrifice

It hit me while I was watching this episode that, in fact, Pip’s arc is one that I’m really familiar with, but recently, I’m rather leery of. That is, like Pip himself says, Pip is a spoiled rich kid, a paid informant, and a coward. And at the end of this episode, he makes the heroic sacrifice. As far as redemption arcs go, this one wasn’t without its issues, but it was satisfying in a way that made it stand out.

There is a lot of emphasis on sacrifice and redemption for past actions this season. Kendry’s arc is one example, where she undertakes an as-yet-unspecified penance for killing Pawter at the end of Season 2. Aneela’s choice to take Dutch’s place and suffer at the Lady’s hands is another. And it’s that choice that moves Aneela, in Dutch’s mind, from “complicated ally” to “family.”

Pip’s story has a lot of beats you might find familiar. In Season 3, he’s a rather comedic figure. He stays that way throughout the season, although gradually he gravitates towards Dutch’s cause. In a way, he’s shamed into taking action by watching Zeph risk her life without hesitation. His subsequent decision to risk himself is what gets him spidered, and the knowledge that he’s already dying is a major factor in his decision to stay behind and destroy the RAC. He wants to make things right, and this time, he does get it right. It just so happens that it also kills him.

Here’s the thing about redemption, you can’t “cheat.” In a story, redemption only works insofar as your audience buys into it, and insofar as you give it weight. And unless the audience has already forgiven the character, or doesn’t think they’ve done anything that requires redeeming, the sacrifice has to be on par with what they’ve done and what you want the audience to believe they’ve become. The reverse can also be true: There’s fewer things more frustrating than watching a show gloss over a character’s actions, or offer token “sacrifices” that they clearly think weren’t necessary in the first place.

So maybe it’s more accurate to say: Pip doesn’t become a hero and then die. Pip becomes a hero because he dies. You can’t separate the two. You can’t remove the “dying” part without in some way watering down the significance of Pip’s actions. Actions only matter (in a story) insofar as they have stakes and consequences. Those don’t have to be life-and-death ones! But if a character doesn’t sacrifice something they weren’t already willing to give up, it falls flat. Pip is very explicit about his self-preservation, his cowardice. Sacrificing his life isn’t just an empty narrative gesture, it’s also directly counter to every inclination he’s ever shown.

Another thing, Pip never stops being kind of a coward or being the comedic relief. His characterization is incredibly consistent. He’s in an extreme situation, knowing he’s already dying, and then makes a decision in the moment. So for two minutes, he steps outside of that old self and becomes something else. And if he’d lived, for whatever unknown reason? He wouldn’t have miraculously become someone else.

But it also helps that the person that he was wasn’t a complete jerk to start with, either. And with regard to his relationship with Zeph, relationships are extremely complicated for Zeph, for several reasons. But at the very least, the interest is mutual, and Pip’s role is more often than not reassuring Zeph that he doesn’t expect from her the things that she was taught she had to give up for relationships.

Next week on Killjoys: Have I mentioned I love body swaps? Because I love body swaps.

Image Courtesy of SyFy

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