This week on Killjoys: It’s a “road trip” episode, and like any good road trip episode, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the horrible manipulative things you say to string your older brother along until you can become fully Hullen.
There’s a lot of moving pieces here, and a lot of things that have to happen in order to get the three separate groups of characters all reunited. It works, because Dutch isn’t really present until the last few minutes, and there’s something really satisfying about seeing all of my favorite characters from all of the different spheres that the Killjoys inhabit interacting for a couple of episodes—it’s new enough that it still feels like a payoff. But I’m starting to miss Dutch.
Johnny and Dav
After knocking Dav out and driving off in a stolen vehicle, Johnny plans to use one of his “Green detection probes” (launched at the beginning of Season 3) to locate a pool to complete his transition, and then ditch Dav. The show lets us waffle back and forth regarding Johnny’s motivation and level of internal conflict over this for a little bit, but it does eventually confirm (via the neat little narrative device of Johnny’s Dutch-shaped hallucination) that Johnny doesn’t really care if Dav lives or dies. He just needs Dav to cooperate long enough to complete his transformation. After they discover that the beacon was knocked off its flight path and crashed, Johnny also needs Dav’s unique relationship with the Green in order to find the pool.
There are detours along the way that facilitate a number of manipulative interactions that whittle away Dav’s trust in Johnny. By the time they’ve reached the pool, Dav has had enough, but even with surprise body armor, Johnny overpowers him, and nearly kills him—except that Dutch emerges from the pool and shoots Johnny in the back, before walking to shore and collapsing, as the Green crystallizes behind her.
Again—the end objective itself isn’t the point, especially with this plot. In fact, once they find the pool of Green that Johnny is looking for, things come to a head and wrap up fairly quickly. The point of this story is to make all those little subtextual character points main-text, needle those character insecurities until we get to see them in all their awful detail, and push those core relationships to their absolute limit. Things that characters would ordinarily equivocate on, shy away from, lie about—those get aired here.
What I doesn’t cease to amaze me over the course of the episode is how Dav does not, for one second, give up on his little brother. No matter how hurtful Johnny’s words are or how frustrated Dav gets. Yes, it would’ve gotten him killed if not for Dutch’s timely appearance: Johnny plays the “please kill me” card in their final fight, and it allows him to get the upper hand. But even dealing with a completely unrepentant Johnny (who’s already shot Dav), all Dav has to say is “Let my little brother go”. He never once believes that that’s the “real” Johnny, which lines up beautifully with his own history with mind control and just.
Somebody give Dav a hug. And maybe a therapist.
Bea and Delle Seyah
Back at the outpost after being captured, Bea tells Delle to not piss off the Warden. Delle pisses off the Warden, banking on her Hullen abilities to get her out, apparently not accounting for his Hullen-grade tranquilizers. Before Delle sours that relationship, though, the Warden casually mentions that her baby should cover most of her payment to get off-world—weird, since he traffics in organs, so you’d figure he’d be more interested in her uterus than the baby? Y’know, adult, fully-developed, etc.
When Kendry regains consciousness, the Warden has strapped her down, and is trying to induce labor. Kendry realizes that there’s more to this operation than simple organ harvest: The Warden is probably selling the children on the side. Bea confirms this, but is too frightened to try to escape. Kendry gives a chillingly inspirational speech, shows her healing abilities to the Warden, and convinces him to go into business with her and cut out his employers—while the laproscopic camera that Bea enabled records the interaction and sends the footage to his employers.
The Warden is arrested, and they’re free to go. Bea gives Kendry a hug and leaves, and then Zeph, Pip, and Pree show up (Pip and Pree have been deputized as Killjoys), and arrest Kendry.
Zeph, Pip, and Pree
Zeph and Pip have the awkwardest conversation about where their relationship is at, now that they’ve escaped the RAC. Zeph says she doesn’t do relationships, and I for one really hope that the narrative doesn’t try to “prove her wrong” or coerce her. Pip is obviously not super pleased, but wants to be respectful.
They use a Hullen doll to tap into the Armada’s records, and determine that Lucy is probably located in definitely-not-a-play-on-Orion’s-Belt. When they find her, though, Lucy has been reset to factory defaults in order to protect the location of the elevator. Because they don’t have the security code, or any idea where Johnny might’ve put a fail-safe to restore Lucy’s current state, Lucy starts a twenty-minute countdown til she “purges” them.
They try various vocal cues, after determining that that’s what the failsafe probably is, until finally realizing that the cue is a recorded song, not one of the crew’s voice. Specifically, the song that Johnny was playing the night he met Dutch, when he tried to steal Lucy. When they play it, Lucy comes back on-line, locates the beacon, and they zip off to save the trio stranded on the Debtor’s Colony.
After they’re reunited:
- Johnny is in really bad shape, psychologically
- Dutch is still inexplicably unconscious
- Kendry’s water breaks
More Insight Into The Hullen
“Dutch” serves as an interpreter this episode, teasing the truth out of Johnny, because Johnny’s performance is very convincing, and unlike Sabine in Season 2, the point is not to confuse and leave the audience wondering what the real story is. Conversely, we get a look at what Sabine may have been going through from a slightly different angle, and to what degree her behavior was purely manipulative in order to achieve her objective (get Khlyen).
The main takeaway I got was this: The Hullen may look human, but they really, really aren’t. The transition from human to Hullen isn’t conflict-free: Johnny’s emotions get the better of him, his sense of entitlement, and his utter inability to stay engaged with something that bores him. He’s unable to stay consistent, and it undermines his manipulation. But even in the midst of that, both Johnny and Sabine use their appearance and their hosts’ residual emotional connections to manipulate beautifully. And Dav, bless him, is as human and good as it gets, and therefore a fantastic target for manipulation. Put next to human!Johnny, maybe, Dav doesn’t look quite as spectacular, but Johnny is also much more articulate, whereas Dav just cares—Remember, this is the guy who let a Black Root agent go almost-free (there was a tracker on her) because he empathized with what it felt like to wake up a science experiment.
Johnny plays every card in his arsenal to get Dav to cooperate. He starts with the impersonal, and then takes advantage of their past, and then finally gets extremely personal. In vague order:
- Reminding Dav of all the reasons they have to not trust Kendry, who is in fact powerful enough to stop him, and more experienced at controlling her powers. (Dav cares too much for this to work, but they’re already separated.)
- Dutch is and remains Johnny’s trump card. He asserts that if they find the Green, they find Dutch. Dav will grudgingly follow Johnny anywhere for that. Ironically, finding Dutch is exactly what happens, although Johnny doesn’t seem to have any intention to get Dutch out once he’s there. (Dav figures out that no one having as much fun as Johnny is would give that up. Oops.)
- Nostalgia. Johnny reminds Dav of things they survived and accomplished together. He also guilts Dav over “leaving” him to care for an ailing mother and deal with an abusive father. (Dav is tired of being blamed for “abandoning” his family at this point, because it’s already been made clear that said abusive father kicked him out.)
- Emasculation, in a word—Johnny appeals to Dav’s potential anxieties around fatherhood, eventually zeroing in on two things: One, that Dutch won’t want anything to do with a child, much less Aneela’s/Kendry’s child, and he’ll get to keep one or the other in his life, but not both. And two, that he’ll be a terrible father, just like their father was to them. (Dav, hilariously, looks completely uninterested in “one last hurrah” before the kid arrives, so whatever insecurities he has, they’re probably not related to being “tied down”.)
There’s no clear answer for most of these, especially the latter ones; and really, all Johnny offers are articulations of deep-seated fears, and once Dav grasps that, he just puts his head down and tries to power through. He doesn’t let his lingering fear undermine his loyalty to his team and family.
Speaking of Dav—I did not expect to like him this much
The last two seasons have really dealt some blows to Johnny’s exterior “sunshine” persona, while Dav has gone from the suspicious, mistrustful loner we met in the series premiere to displaying some deep moral convictions, incredible empathy, and generally balancing out the chaotic, off-the-rails situations they find themselves in by reminding them that the horrible things they see aren’t normal, and aren’t supposed to be. When Dutch is unable to lead the resistance because of her lingering trauma and anxiety over her identity, he steps up and makes sure it doesn’t fall apart, no fuss. When Turin uses Dav and Fancy to locate all of the Cleansed RAC agents and take them into custody, Dav relieves Turin of his rank and arrests him. His military background has, in many cases, kept the situation from from degrading into something much worse.
After I don’t know how many iterations of toxically-hypermasculine soldier dudes in love with their guns, I am happier than I thought I’d be with an ex-soldier who steps in to remind a bunch of repurposed bounty hunters that, in fact, conventions exist around warfare, and they exist for a reason. And as someone who’s been a victim of people who abuse their rank and their position of authority, Dav knows as well as any of them how important those conventions and structures are, and what the cost of ignoring them can be.
Johnny, Part One
I really do love how these two episodes deconstruct the man-child/“charming sociopath” that’s been valorized in a lot of popular media recently (though I don’t think it’s meant to be a complete deconstruction): Hullen!Johnny is charming, and scary intelligent—at first. But he’s far too overconfident in his abilities, far too quick to become violent when he doesn’t get his way, and too arrogant to keep his cards close to his chest and play the long game. He responds to criticism of his judgments and plans with boiling rage, and when he doesn’t get what he wants through charm, he goes right for his gun to take it.
Next week on Killjoys…
Look, I know Dutch is upset because, wow is Johnny in bad shape, but—hasn’t Dav been slapped upside the head enough lately? Better question: Why on Earth did anyone leave Turin in charge of the Armada, with a way to manipulate the Hullen dolls? Also, baby shenanigans.