[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.]
Tonight’s Killjoys was a gift for the Zeph fans who’ve long wondered about her backstory, a complete romp for the boys, and a strange, emotionally manipulative dance between Khlyen and The Lady. There’s a lot to unpack, so I went to the source—writer Julian Doucet, who kindly jumped on the phone with me last night to discuss the episode.
With only three episodes left (don’t start), the stakes are high to get everything done and also let go of some things holding our heroes back. Doucet named Zeph and loved getting the chance to fill in her history in 508. “It’s a name from a village where my grandfather’s from. She’s a Zephyr, she brings all the knowledge. Michelle [Lovretta] had a very clear idea when we first started talking about where she came from that it was kind of a misogynistic cult, weird space-Amish kind of situation,” he recalls.
“We also put it together in the room. We talked about it a lot. We knew that she was from some sort of weird sort of farm cult on Leith. We were trying to find ways to tell that story that didn’t step on too many of those tropes…and found a fresh, interesting way to…[do it].”
“We’re always very mindful of not wanting to put [out] challenging…images that are going to forward the narrative of people harming women. [We] all worked really hard on trying to find how to tell the cult story [and] we liked this idea of how the women couldn’t read when they were younger but they would sew and it was their sort of secret language. The holo tapestry came from there. They had been premier scientists and turned away from it.”
In the middle of a drug-induced fever dream, Zeph finds herself very pregnant and talking to Pip. “That was sort of the weird guilt of losing him. The, ‘What if she had stayed?’ and her complicated feelings. He was the person who had to not only seduce her into this world of, ‘You should have stayed with the Madelines…life would have been safer….nobody would have died. There’s a lot of good you can do here,’ because the great mother, in her crazy way, loves her and picked her to lead,” Doucet explains.
“[In the dream], her family’s finally accepting her. And [in reality], Pip was the only one in her life [before TAF] who had accepted her. I just felt like he was the only to be the seducer to that other side, but at the same time, the only one who would wake her up and say, ‘You’re falling for this. This is bullshit. Come back and know yourself.’ And so that’s why, for me, he had to be the snake in the garden, but also the angel who delivers her and wakes her up.”
In a fun bit of casting, Zeph’s sister, Zaia, is played by Kelly McCormack’s real-life sister, Hilary. Doucet felt very lucky to pair the women onscreen. “It’s so great because they have all of the history, like you don’t have to do anything. They just walk together and you feel it,” he shares.
“That was probably one of the most magical [things]. They look like these two sort of angelic sweet [women from Midsommar]. The aesthetic is so similar. We were filming them at the same time, I guess, which is weird. Having Hilary there was great. My only little worry at the top was that she would be a credible opponent for Dutch. And then [when we met, I saw] she was like tall and strong, and [knew] we were fine.”
Thankfully for Zeph and for us, she didn’t go home in alone, as Dutch came along for morale support and the emergency ass-kicking as needed, which also gave us a wonderful scene of Dutch claiming Zeph as her sister. “I think losing Aneela and the blanks of Zeph’s family story being filled in opened her up in a new way. Zeph is so different from the women that Dutch was raised around,” Doucet points out.
“I was thinking about this. Dutch is way more comfortable around these very brainy, fierce, smart-but-spoiled rich girls who she’d grown up with that she knew how to put tin their place. Zeph is guileless. She says what she says and thinks what she thinks. She’s an authentic like Dutch and that was really destabilizing for Dutch for a while. She’s a full boss who also wants the last word and to run the show.”
“It was really great that they came to a place [of equality]. Zeph always admired Dutch’s power and agency, things she’s fought for for herself. To find their friendship on their own terms and to earn each other’s respect through their actions and loyalty and the love they show their team—that’s what wins Dutch over in the end. She’s fierce, protective, she’ll go to the wall for the family she loves and it was really fun to write to that.”
We also discovered that Fancy is quite the Renaissance man and Doucet had a ball with those reveals. “Fancy works when he is mysterious and sort of this like formidable silent presence looming in the back. [We asked]. ‘Who is he?’ And of course, it evolved from there that he could do all these amazing things.,” he laughs.
“We knew he could build weapons and was an amazing fighter and could fly ships and he could do all this other stuff, but he can also cook and he likes to read. And so that for me was really fun to play with the team’s expectations as much as the writers and the audience’s expectations [and make] Fancy multidimensional.”
The boys descending into a bonkers and accidentally deadly game of laser tag was completely on brand for our Jaqobis, and Doucet explains that it was initially a budget-driven choice that then actually made a lot of sense. “We knew we had to train this army [and] we had to keep them on the ship because we were going to Leith [for an on-location shoot later]. We shot [episodes] seven and eight together,” he says.
“We had to come up with all kinds of scenarios. In the end, just having this game of laser tag as the women were Thelma and Louise-ing on a road trip, it’s sort of like the boys are having game night. It became, ‘How can we tell this story with the pieces we have?’”
The brothers also have a little time for a little post-near-riot bonding. “We haven’t had a lot of moments to be sort of brotherly and in the way that you have Zeph and Dutch getting wasted in the rambler, we just to give them that kind of reset because everything’s been go, go, go, go,” says Doucet.
“Johnny worked his stuff out. Dutch has worked her stuff out with Zeph and is cool with D’av. [It was a good time] to get those two guys on their own [to check in with each other]. D’av is terrible at [trying to set up Johnny].”
“You want him at your six in a platoon but at the bar, Johnny’s actually this smooth operator. He can charm anybody. [The attempted setups came from] D’av because he is happy and whatever he has with Dutch feels good. And I think there’s a part of him that, they have their friendship and they have that thing but he wants [it for John, too].”
Finally, we have the very layered, conflicted scenes between The Lady ad Khylen where Khylen has his first real shot at ending her and doesn’t, perhaps because he finally sees something redeemable, especially when she starts to plead her case. “The Lady doesn’t know how to feel and that’s part of the problem. Khlyen, as messed up as it’s been…with Aneela and Dutch, she wants that for herself,” explains Doucet.
“He was her most constant companion in The Green. She’s known him for hundreds of years, but not as a human. It was all done by observation, not from natural instinct. Suddenly she’s in this body and has the power of her age, but she has these emotions, these longings of a teenage girl…whether it’s for approval, for admiration, for dominance or rebellion, it’s all big swampy mess.”
“She gets sick because her body’s falling apart. That’s when we revert. We become our most childish and our most helpless and vulnerable. And so, and I think that’s why Khylen [can’t kill her]. He recognizes something in this girl that reminds him of his girls and that’s his arrogance. He thinks he can save her.”
Killjoys airs Fridays at 10 pm/9c on Space Channel and Syfy. All of our Killjoys coverage, including a new interview with Kelly McCormack, is here. You can catch all four seasons and the first seven Season 5 episodes on demand on the Space Go app and Syfy app and website. This episode should be available online tomorrow.
Images courtesy of Space Channel and Syfy.
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