Adam Barken Deconstructs the Killjoys Season 4 Finale, “Sporemageddon” [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the Season 4 finale.]
Killjoys closed out its 4th season tonight with an episode that plowed through some rough terrain, with The Lady unleashing her fiercest weapon by unearthing memories and forcing the characters, and us, to revisit significant, and significantly painful, moments. I spoke with showrunner Adam Barken this afternoon about the episode and season, and what we can look forward to next summer.
Memories define us in so many ways, and Killjoys dove headlong into that when we discovered last season–that Dutch was made material from Aneela’s memory of a lost childhood and who she could have been. That she did this with the Green factored heavily into both of their identities. They’re forever entwined with The Lady because she indirectly made Dutch a reality.
“In Season 3, Michelle [Lovretta] had this crazy idea that Dutch was not a clone but was in fact a memory. That [gave us] a set up and we could play around in that. We don’t do time travel or some of the other tropes [but we could do this]. And we’d set that up with D’av, too, back in Season 1,” Barken shares.
“Before the [two-season] pickup, we talked about what The Lady’s power would be. At the end of each season, we’ve sent [someone] away–first D’av, then Johnny, then Dutch. We didn’t want to do that again. We thought if we had two seasons, we could do the ultimate thing and take away the one thing they rely on–each other. And what if they didn’t know who each other was or who they are in relation to each other?”
“And what if we had an enemy who could take away your knowledge of that enemy? At the end of every season, Dutch says she knows who the enemy is and now we’re going to fight it. How do you fight that? That became the question and that was just delicious. It felt like something fresh and something we hadn’t seen before ourselves, so we wanted to explore that.”
Tonight, The Lady essentially called in Aneela’s marker, cornering and enticing her with the promise of a seemingly impossible, perfect future and family. Barken says Aneela was the best tool to woo Aneela (or so The Lady thought). “[Aneela] knows from the get-go that [she’s not seeing Delle Seyah], but The Lady is devious enough to know that Aneela is the face she can wear to soften her up, and her mother is the coup de graceâ€¦to seal the deal. Aneela was always smart enough to know that The Lady couldn’t be trusted,” he explains.
“When D’av wasn’t strong enough and things were going pear-shaped, she realized there was another way to do this but [she had] to communicate to Dutch that she can use her memory of the spore to destroy the Green from the inside. And it was also showing that Aneela, for all her craziness, is still brilliant.”
Having D’av revisit the post-hook up fight with Dutch from “Kiss Kiss, Bye Bye” and Johnny revisit Pawter’s death from “Johnny Be Good” used a mix of the original footage interspersed with new. “Part of the idea was that we wanted to go back and reuse footage so we could bring audiences right back into that moment. There are some very clever [intercuts],” Barken points out.
“We reused as much Pawter as we could, but there were a lot of other people in that scene. We really wanted it to be about Pawter and Johnny and give him the thing he’d always wished he done, which was kick the ass of the guys and save her. And, of course, he realizes he’s being manipulated and it’s all bullshit.”
“Thankfully, Sarah [Power] was game and it was such a treat to see her again. She’s so wonderful. We knew we can’t bring Pawter back for real, but we can bring an image of her back that is hopefully beautiful and also painful for Johnny, and if it doesn’t give him closure, [it gives him] an ability to do what Pree tells Zeph later, to put the shadows behind him. Walking away with his brother is putting that shadow behind him.”
Barken says Pree having that conversation with Zeph was a natural fit for both who he is, and what Zeph needed in the moment. “Once we figured out that pairing, I always felt that Pree was the wisest and most experienced person in our little world, so it felt like he was the one to give advice there,” he explains.
“He’s wise enough to know, and I ascribe somewhat to his philosophy. It’s not a case of getting over it. With some trauma, it’s about time not healing the wound, but giving you the space to deal with it, and move past it and have it hurt less. The horrible irony is that just as she’s starting to do that, we take away her memory and that means she hasn’t been able to deal with it, and that’s something we’ll get to in Season 5.”
“[Zeph rushing ahead of the oncoming amnesia] was Stefan [Pleszczynski]‘s idea. I remember when we wrote the first draft he said, ‘It would be so dramatic to watch her lose her memory in real-time,’ and I thought, that’s lovely and the way Kelly [McCormack] plays it so simple and clean is heartbreaking.”
It’s a dumb thing to clarify, but I’m slow like that sometimes, so I asked if Aneela is dead. Barken reminds us that Dutch’s existence is tethered to Aneela’s (which I keep forgetting is a thing) so all signs point to, “No.”
“Two big clues you want to consider–the last person you saw Aneela with in the Green is her father…and everything stems back to a father’s desire to save his daughter. And, as we set up in Season 3, the idea always was, if Aneela dies, Dutch dies too, because she’s her original source, and Dutch ain’t dead,” he laughs.
Khylen is also pre-teased when Dutch finds the box. “We wanted to give everybody something both scary and a moment of grace,” Barken says. “Seeing the box is scary for Dutch and always had terrible connotations, but she realized it was for Aneela, to get this message from Khylen that he was still here.”
The biggest shock and awe of the finale of course comes from the collective amnesia and reset that includes a married Dutch and Johnny. It’s not lost on Barken that returning everyone’s memories after they’ve had other lives, including a marriage, is going to complicate the pre-existing relationships. [See my Haven coverage for where I typically land on body-hijacking stories. I’m reserving judgment on Season 5 of Killjoys until I see it.]
He explains that they will lean into that complexity next year. “We’ve never played, ‘Will they or won’t they?’ Michelle’s intention was always to tell the story of a deep, platonic, loving relationship between a man and a woman, so in a weird way, what’s the worst we could do? [We could] force them to think they’re in a relationship, with all those icky feelings like in Back to the Future when he’s kissing his Mom,” he says.
“We never like to do something and push it away. Those things are going to come to fore and what happened to them, realizing that, and what effect that has on their relationship, is going to play a big part of the drama to come in Season 5.”
The reset will last a little while into Season 5, but Barken says we’ll see our characters again. “We know what we love about Killjoys, so while our desire is to give the audience and our actors a chance to play in a different world, we don’t want to do that to the point where people feel like they don’t know what the show is anymore,” he shares.
“Dutch is good enough and strong enough that it doesn’t take long for her to start realizing something is up and then the challenge is, ‘How do you get everyone else to see the truth?’ But being Killjoys, even if you do that, there’s a bigger, worse threat coming [behind it].”
As for what remains underneath that amnesia, Barken says our characters stay true. “It’s standing by our philosophy of what identity and personhood is. Even if you take away their short-term and medium-term memory, and she can take away what you think you are, there’s still a part of you that The Lady can’t touch,” he points out.
“It’s that part that Dutch and then the rest of their team have to reach down and find to beat [her]. Turin is still Turin. Dutch is still Dutch. There’s something about who we are that doesn’t change and that’s one of main themes in Season 5.”
Barken says The Lady’s end game is primal, and she’s following through on what she told Dutch, Aneela, and Johnny. “What she wants, she states very clearly. She’s not a liar when she says, ‘I want what every living thing wants, more time and a family of my own.’ She has a plan and it involves using our team and Westerley,” he teases.
“That final shot that shows those factories in the distance is a big part of the plan. What her family is and what that looks like is the big new thing for Season 5. She is part of a very, very ancient race, and she’s the last of their memory and she’s got to figure out a way to beat time and bring her family back. We don’t do time travel. It’s very much a case of what you can create in this time, now. She’s reaching back into who she was and what her race was and figuring out a way to make it possible for them to return.”
With just three days left in production on Season 5, Barken is wrapping up shooting and then will move over to finish up post-production alongside fellow Executive Producer Karen Troubetzkoy. “She is the fourth pillar with Michelle, Stefan and myself. She’s been doing the heavy lifting of post-production, and then we’ll finish together,” he says.
“It’s bittersweet, but there’s definitely a feeling like we’re in a place where we achieved what we set out to do and that’s a great feeling. In telling the particular story of these three people, of this woman and her journey, why we started where we did, why we finish where we did, I feel like we did it right. The issues of family, past, and trauma, we found ways to tell those stories and bring them to a conclusion, or point to a resolution. The foremost thing is to finish this and finish this well.”
Finally, a personal note. This season, we brought you 22 exclusive interviews with the cast and crew. A massive thanks to everyone who made themselves available to chat about the show. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did writing them. All of our Killjoys coverage is here.
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