Season five of the cult Space series about pansexual bounty hunters recaptures the chemistry of characters the audience knows better than they know themselves
KILLJOYS: SEASON 5 (Adam Barken) premieres Friday (July 19) at 10 pm on Space and streams at space.ca. Season 1-4 are streaming on Crave.
Warning: this story contains spoilers for season 4 of Killjoys.
In a modest studio complex on Toronto’s east side, Killjoys is coming to an end.
The cult Space series, which started out as a hangout show starring Hannah John-Kamen, Luke Macfarlane and Aaron Ashmore as sexy bounty hunters having space adventures, and gradually moved its heroes into an epic battle to save humanity from an alien infestation without ever losing its sense of fun or its great, big pansexual heart.
Last August, producers held a press day to mark its final weeks of production. The cast and crew were all at varying levels of exhaustion, having elected to shoot the show’s fourth and fifth seasons back to back, but while everyone worked harder and longer than in previous production years, they were at a point where they seemed giddy rather than surly. The end was in sight, and everybody still liked each other – a detail that lines up nicely with the final story arc of the series, which takes a little work to explain.
In season 4, Team Awesome Force lost. Our heroes’ elaborate strategy to defeat an all-powerful alien adversary known only as The Lady worked perfectly, right up until it didn’t – and the season finale ended with everyone dropped into new, fake lives, their memories wiped clean.
This was not where anyone expected the series to go when it started out as the fun adventures of some sexy bounty hunters in space. But as executive producer Adam Barken explains, it’s exactly where it needed to go.
“TV is a bit of a magic trick,” says Barken, who served as showrunner for the last two seasons. (Creator Michelle Lovretta served as writer and executive producer.) “You start off with a plan, and then you see what things excite you and interest you, what starts to come out naturally. And right from the beginning, one of the things that came out very naturally was this idea of memory and how it relates to family – and the more we explored that in every season, the richer the stories became.”
So season 5 opens with a family forgotten. John-Kamen’s Dutch and Ashmore’s Johnny – whose platonic partnership is a highlight of the show – are now married and running a bar. Macfarlane’s D’avin is still a Killjoy, but no longer remembers Johnny is his brother – or that Dutch is his beloved. The first arc of this final season is about getting the band back together, as it were – recapturing the chemistry and personalities of characters the audience now knows better than they know themselves.
“It essentially erases the years of interaction that you guys have all watched,” Macfarlane says. “Everything that happened is forgotten, so they’re sort of new to each other. And also I think one of the tensions that they’re playing with is, what is the pure state of these people and does it sort of supersede memory? Is there something purer underneath the memory? Will we actually be seeing a truer expression of these people without the experiences we’ve gone through for the last four years?”
“Deep, deep,” John-Kamen and Ashmore intone, playfully mocking their co-star… though John-Kamen does concede that there is something to dig into here.
“How do you find each other again, when you’re completely distant and completely alien to each other?” she asks. “What remains? What are the remnants from that past life, what is that connection? And how do you bring these characters back together?”
That’s the fun of the first two episodes, as the once and future Killjoys find their new lives destabilized by unexpected impulses. (“Even if you don’t remember things, who you are as a core person still comes through,” Barken says.) And even if we can feel reasonably confident our heroes will figure themselves out, that doesn’t guarantee the series will conclude in perfect happiness. In fact, at this point the actors don’t even know where their characters will end up.
“It’s not like somebody says at the beginning of the season, ‘So this is what it’s gonna be, and here’s your last script,’” Ashmore says. “But now that we’re coming down to the end, we’re like, ‘Is there gonna be a happy ending? Is everybody going to be okay? Are we gonna get blown to smithereens? What’s gonna happen?’ I don’t necessarily think that it’s going to be really dark, but it could be.”
Barken isn’t telling – the final episodes are still being written, he says – but the leads seem content that the show is ending on its own terms.
“After every season, we’ve never known if we were truly coming back,” John-Kamen says “So finding out there would be a season 4 and season 5, there’s been a wonderful kind of closure because we know that [we’ll be] saying goodbye to the show.”
“It’s, like, ‘Let’s make sure that we land this plane as well as possible,’” Macfarlane says. “It’s like when you do math you want the equations to balance out at the end so it makes sense. We’re all really invested in that right now.”