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TV Review: Killjoys (Series 3, Episode 2)


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Killjoy’s second episode of the season, ‘A Skinner, Darkly’ was in many ways, disappointing.

After such a strong season premiere last week, this episode was distinctly imbalanced in the quality of its storylines.

Convinced by Turin that they need a new resident ‘nerd’ in Johnny’s absence to help understand the Hullens’ biology, Dutch and D’av evaluate three potential recruits by trying them out on a mission.

However, it is later revealed that the candidates were not in fact taken on mission, but rather the entire experience was a virtual reality training exercise - a fact they were unaware of until the simulation’s end. Though it makes sense in the overall plot, since yes, they need a biology and technology specialist and yes, it would be too risky to take these newbies on a dangerous mission without testing them, the VR simulation is given far too much of this episode’s screen time. 

As is the norm of this series, this season is only comprised of ten episodes. Therefore, in the little time there is to build up to the grand showdown, every detail needs to be paving the way to this war; yet this sequence lasts a good half of the episode - time which otherwise could have been utilised to construct the scope of the fight to be had and exactly what is at stake in it all. It could very well be that the showrunners considered that so much was already happening in Johnny’s story, and therefore didn’t want to overwhelm the viewer, but still, this entire plotline seems a little weak and aimless.

In addition to this, the episode opens with Turin, D’avin and Dutch talking about being unable to open the Hullen ships. Given that we left the last episode seeing D’avin boarding one of those ships and disappearing within it, it’s puzzling that absolutely no mention was made of this. Undoubtedly this will be addressed at some later point, but it is nonetheless frustrating to have the issue completely ignored.

One redeeming aspect of the episode was Dutch’s initial resistance to recruiting a new member to their team, which was pitched by Turin as a replacement for Johnny. Accepting this premise would of course also be accepting that Johnny may not return for a while. Yet this sentiment is utilised in an understated manner, displaying Dutch’s dedication to the cause; her attachment to her old partner must take a backseat to their preparation for war. This is probably one of the strongest displays that could have been made as to Dutch’s dedication, since John is the most important thing to her.

A recurring theme of Killjoys has always been morality, and the distortions that are created when people are left disenfranchised and treated unfairly by the status quo. In Season 3 however, this theme is particularly visible given that the season’s ‘big bad’ possesses Dutch’s face. Aneela represents an alternative to what Dutch could have become, and the inevitable battle that will occur between the two is the most obvious analogy for a battle between good and evil there’s ever been.

Back in Rat City, John and Ollie uncover an even darker side to the hackmods whilst investigating the source of full body modifications. When Ollie discovers skinned human bodies hanging from meat hooks in a dark laboratory inside the Livio facility, it becomes clear these skin scenes aren’t being created, but lifted off real people. This leads to the episode’s most shocking revelation: Ollie is Clara. Clara had begun asking too many questions about the activities in Livio, and hence had her memory wiped and full body modified, whilst keeping Alice.

The horror of the skinners' revelation was so gripping that the idea the story might now take a backseat is unfortunate; Ollie was such an important presence in the first couple of episodes that the idea of her staying in Rat City, without a discernible time of return, is disappointing. Tommie-Amber Pirie’s performance as Ollie learns that her entire identity has been ripped from her is so emotionally impactful, making the lack of closure stand out more.

Her struggle to find her true identity between Clara and Ollie, has the potential to be such a charged one, and yet we will likely be deprived of witnessing it with all that’s happening with the Hullen. It’s also quite a convenient plot twist in two ways: it’s a clean solution for the casting problem, and ensures that Ollie and John’s chemistry don’t overshadow Dutch and Johnny’s relationship once he returns.

Niko, the hackmod at the head of the Livio Surgical Spa, is yet another introduction with an incredibly intense screen presence. Although her tactics are more than questionable, her motives support the show’s recurring theme of standing up for the less fortunate - in this case for the rights of hackmods to exist without persecution. She’s a freedom fighter who has let vengeance cloud her morals, but nonetheless having her set up so straightforwardly as a villain misses the point. There was potential for a far more complex exploration of how far moral barriers can be pushed when it’s in the name of justice for the marginalised.

Furthermore, Niko’s characterisation and style, whilst sci fi-esque and ‘out there’, is still incredibly believable. The showrunners have taken Viktoria Modesta’s onstage persona, and even the star’s blade-like prosthetic (which helps makes her even more authentic), as the singer/actress brings an incredible complexity to Niko which otherwise may not have existed.

Overall, ‘A Skinner, Darkly’ has interesting plot developments, and although many of the plot points were convenient - such as Niko’s records of green plasma neatly completing John’s map - they were not explored fully enough - making for a fairly disappointing watch. 

Killjoys: Season 3 airs on Tuesdays at 9pm on Syfy. 

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