[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
I’m reasonably certain a good time was had by all with that crackling, heartfelt Killjoys Season 4 premiere, penned by series creator Michelle Lovretta. This week, Lovretta graciously agreed to answer questionsÂ over e-mail about the premiere, the two-season renewal, her favorite episodes to write, and more.
“The Warrior Princess Bride” gave us some wonderful insight into how Dutch and Johnny’s relationship has evolved, and Lovretta says it was a mix of fixed ideas and things that changed as the series progressed. “We’ve certainly poked a stick at their friendship origin story a few times through the years, which I’ve really enjoyed. When I first wrote that scene in [Season 1] where John and Dutch are sitting in the rambler and talking about the day they met, I was already hoping we’d find a way to show the audience that moment, and in season three we finally did,” she explains.
“But ‘what happened next’ and ‘how did they become Killjoys’ was still a bit of a fascinating question to me. I knew some of the larger pieces, for sure, like how Dutch got her name. I’ve sat on that wee trivia tidbit since our early development days, so I’m really glad I got a chance to pull that moment out of my head and put it on the screen while we still can. It was just an opportunity I couldn’t resist, for a variety of reasons. Partly it allows me to tell a fun piece of backstory while we can, sure, and get in some good old Killjoys caper shenanigans.”
“But it’s also a way to pause and take a lighter breath after the finale’s crazy cliffhanger drama, while still moving the serialized story forward. Because while this may seem like a one off story, it’s not. Khlyen, as usual, is playing a more advanced game than everyone else, and Dutch and team will spend part of this season trying to figure out exactly what that game is. Why this memory, why now, is part of the riddle.”
The post-Season 3 renewal for two more seasons was a surprise for Lovretta, and it created a whirlwind of emotions as a certainty that they were cancelled changed to having 20 more episodes to wrap up. “It meant a heck of a lot of shock. I went from being confident we weren’t coming back to a sudden double order,” she says.
“A day before our greenlight I was emailing with our cast, asking how they wanted to to be told if we were canceled — call, text, weeping telegram? I know a lot of people think showrunners are being coy and that secretly we know weeks in advance, but honestly at a certain point it’s all in the hands of the business people.”
“[Often] all we can do on the creative side is sit and wait for the call. In between you hear a lot of backchannel updates [like] ‘it’s looking good!’ [or] ‘oh no wait, we’re probably toast,’ but after a while that becomes white noise because none of it means anything until you get the real call.”
“And this time, we found out we got two seasons worth of final episodes so we could plan our ending. I am and will always be grateful for that opportunity. I love this show, this cast, this big fat world of stories, and our amazing fans. I’m proud of what we’ve made, sad to go, and really happy Adam [Barken] and I have time to tell the ending.”
While Lovretta took a step back from day-to-day showrunning, she’s still heavily involved and writing several episodes. “I tend to write three styles of eps for us — openers, midseason origin reveal stories, and finales. Of the three, I think season openers are hardest — you haven’t got any ramped up, pre-existing emotional stakes to pay off or play with; it’s all about beginnings and setups and new character introductions; and it usually involves a bit more exposition than I’d like,” she points out.
“Premieres usually get allocated a bit more money to be fancy and blingy, though, and that part I love. Fun fact: suddenly having double your usual episode order means that our shooting schedule is tighter than ever now, so we had to shoot 401 in less time than any of our other season premieres. I’m very proud of the amazing work our EP director Stefan [Pleszczynski] did to make that happen and still buy us a little glitz and a lot of fun.”
“A couple of times I’ve elected to write back-to-back episodes for scheduling reasons — 301-302; 401-402 — but it nearly kills me each time. And I deeply love finales, but they’re also the most terrifying to write because you don’t know if you’ll ever be back, so you have to figure out how to leave the audience wanting more without leaving them on a too-cruel cliff.”
“So I’d say the most fun I’ve had is just writing those midseason ‘character heavy’ episodes (107, 207). By that point of the year we’re ready for a big character turn or two, and I have a set of production challenges I give myself so we can start putting aside resources for the finale. I find writing towards those specific limits really enjoyable.”
“Some of my fondest memories on this show are the hilarious horse trading meetings I had with our amazing S2 line producer, DJ, as I started breaking 207: ‘Okay, can you write an ep with no VFX, one less day, and a half day out?’ ‘Yes…but I need a bathtub, a decapitation scene, and a fight in the woods.’ That, my friends, is the joy of making television for me.”
Last week, Lovretta marked the beginning of the road with the series, posting a picture on Twitter from when they kicked off the Season 1 writers room four years ago. Asked what she’d tell herself now, her advice is simple. “Maybe sleep more,” she says. “Maybe sleep at all. You adorable idiot.”
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