[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode]
Well, that was a cliffhanger. Eeep. Tonight’s Killjoys had A LOT going on, and it marked the last episode written by Season 4 and 5 showrunner, Adam Barken. Earlier this week, Barken and I got on the phone to talk about this episode and the season. In the first part of our conversation, he breaks down “Terraformance Anxiety.” Grab a drink and get comfortable. We spoke for a while.
First up, that fantastic snippy vibe between The Lady and Khlyen reached new fun heights tonight, and Barken says that grew from the vibe created by Alanna Bale and Rob Stewart, especially after seeing what Bale was doing in the role.
“[Alanna] is incredible and was from day one. The main thing we saw in her from the audition was a weirdness. We were looking for [someone] who didn’t look completely comfortable in their skin. She brought that in her performance…the way her eyes moved and the way she spoke, that felt a little off. She’s inhabiting a body she’s not entirely used to. We wanted a less extreme version of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character in Men In Black,” he explains.
“She’s not supposed to understand everything she’s experiencing and feeling. She had that naturally, the way she read. There’s something a little bit eerie about her. We took a chance. We were still writing the character and from the first day she was on set, we were so blown away…the tics she was doing, the way her head moved, which were her own thing. And the costume, she moved in it beautifully. She was really good at freaking out and having full out temper tantrums. She was a treat to work with.”
“Probably the last three scripts were more informed by the performances we were seeing. It’s one of the nice things when you’re writing while you’re shooting that you can write to that voice and imagine [the actors] doing [things]. There was something very funny about her and Khlyen, especially when they would bicker.”
“If I hadn’t seen them do that, I don’t know that I’ve braved that line, ‘If you love Q’resh so much, why don’t you marry it.’ I felt like, in a weird way, they could totally pull that off at that point in their relationship . It’s one of those things…once you see the actors, you take a chance and hope it would work. In that case it did.”
There have been so many complexities to the relationship between Khlyen and The Lady, and Barken says it was an opportunity to shift the point of view from the flashbacks we’d seen of him with Dutch and Aneela. “I think what we wanted to explore with The Lady was to give him the chance to replay one of those relationships he seems to always have with young women. He sees himself as a mentor, but this time, he wasn’t the all-powerful dad figure that he was before and it would be interesting to see how he would react there,” says Barken.
“We also wanted to see him in a situation where he would truly start to feel something for this person, as he did for Aneela and in spite of himself, Dutch. That seems to be his eternally recurring story and we wanted to see that for the first time play out in real time and see how and what it is that gets him in his heart. With The Lady, it’s that she’s almost human now and he thinks he can manipulate and control her and they have that connection and whether he can admit that or not, that’s what we wanted to show.”
In the episode. we also have to trust that Khlyen won’t kill sweet Gared when he’s used as bait, which Barken admits was a gamble, but it’s also a war. “In my head, [TAF] knew well enough that if Gared knew the whole story, he would probably, God bless him, somehow spill it. If we [gave him the earpiece], Khylen is smart enough to figure that part out and then once he does. he’ll think anything he hears over that earpiece is meant not for his ears,” he explains. “Khylen had already showed he was using him as an asset so he was inclined to keep him, but as Dutch would say, there’s a war, there are casualties.”
We also get a sweet moment for Gared with Fancy, and Barken says that came out of writing the calm before the storm. “Just before you get into the craziness of the finale, I always have the desire to check in on certain characters and really enjoy being able to see pairings we haven’t seen before, because often times we can shake loose interesting moments if you find the connection between two people ,” he explains.
“It’s natural to bring Fancy in as the tech guy [to wire up Gared] and then you see they have a connection because they both betrayed people who trusted them, and the issue and guilt of that is [whether] they can forgive themselves. That felt like one of those pairings that you don’t see tthat often and there’s a great energy to that scene because they’re two such different people. We had them together in Season 4 trying to figure out what was going on with the missing children, and that was also a moment of me realizing they were gold together and looking for a chance to do that again.”
One of the surprises earlier this season was that Delle Seyah had dream counseling sessions with D’av, so it was nice to follow that up with them having an actual, equally kind conversation, with a hint of bite. Barken loved giving them that moment. “That’s one of those relationships that grew in ways that we absolutely did not expect. While Delle Seyah and Johnny [have reached a sort of détente], with D’av it felt like a chance for these two parents to reconnect. That felt like a really nice thing,” he shares.
“At different times, they’ve been able to give each other the advice they need to move forward. This time, they’re not really talking about their child anymore. They’re talking about the loves of their lives, whether in the moment D’av realizes it. It starts out about Jaq and then becomes about that other person that’s incredibly important to each of them.”
“We want to show that these characters share a child and he’s really important, but he’s not the only thing in their lives. For both of them, they have a partner, a life mate who is also really important and also foremost in their mind as well and we wanted it to be about that.”
Rachael Ancheril‘s Rennika has grown since her arrival at the beginning of the season, and Barken says the plan was always to flesh her character out, and Ancheril made that very easy. “When we saw what Rachael could do, we fit the role for her. Right from the get-go, we always wanted the warden to be, if not a member of the team, at least certainly an ally. When we introduced her, she would be a fearsome, threatening antagonist, and we knew if [TAF] could flip the warden…they could flip the ship,” he explains.
“We were very interested in someone who wasn’t the stereotypical villain, who did that job for a reason and had a nobility to her. She actually cares about her prisoners, as much as she knows they need to be kept under lock and key. That [dichotomy] was interesting to us and Rachael brought both sides perfectly—the very tough, by-the-book, hard-as-nails person and you could also see underneath what was pushing her and made her tick.”
“And she was someone we wanted to pair with Johnny, not necessarily in a romantic way, but we were happy to let that go where. [Our intent] was to take Johnny and his normal, wisecracking self, and knowing he wouldn’t be able to talk to Dutch or D’av for a couple of episodes, give him somebody to draw that out of him and the warden seemed like a really interesting person to do that.”
The hint of an interest there gives us a fun inverse Bechdel Test of Dutch and Johnny talking about his love life, which also works twofold to cement that their BFFdom is fully restored. “One of the big problems of modern narratives is that it only exists as an adjunct to men. Hopefully, a show like Killjoys, for us it was always about each person having their own internal life and us as writers. and hopefully, the audiences, being interested in all aspects of their lives,” Barken points out.
“We never wanted to write characters that had no romantic life but that wasn’t the only part of them. When it comes to two best friends, it’s kinds of funny and ironic to be talking about it while rapelling down. It makes perfect sense. It’s important to these two characters because they love each other in a deep and true way and what’s going on in their relationships with other people is incredibly important to them. I’m really glad that comes across.”
The episode also brought us a pair of pep rallies as Dutch rallied the troops and Pree rallied Old Town. “I did write them going back and forth very close to each other because I felt like we needed to see that. It was very much an episode about wat people are fighting for. Like Khlyen says, ‘You can’t fight for something until you know what you’re willing to lose,’ which begs the question, ‘What are you fighting for in the first place,” he says.
“It was nice to see her give the speech and see what she’s fighting for is a sense of family. For Dutch, it’s a realization as she ‘s saying it, that this is what matters. This is a woman who started with the [RAC oath] of ‘Take no sides, take no bribes, the warrant is all,’ and that was fine. She’s now standing [in front of all the prisoners] saying she wants a family, fights for family and would be honored if they’d be part of it.”
“Pree is always fighting for the people of Old Town, telling them, ‘Whether you remember who I am or not, I know who you are and I will never stop fighting for you. I love you and I will fight for you because we are all Westerley. It felt like a good way for these very important and sometimes isolated characters to reach out and embrace the family around then. It felt very emotionally satisfying and in keeping with the show’s core themes.”
In a delicious nod to one of my absolute favorites, The Cutting Edge, D’av finally blurts out that he loves Dutch at a really inopportune moment and Barken enjoyed getting to put that on the page. “I’m a big suck. I was really happy to write the, ‘I love you,’ scene and figure out a way to do it in the most Killjoys way possible as they’re about to go shoot a bunch of things and blow stuff up, and that’s the fun of it and that’s what they love doing together. After his conversation with Delle Seyah, [he realizes] Dutch is the most important person in his life and Jaq is, too, but Dutch is who he spends all his time with,” he says.
“It’s important for him to say it out loud and be very sincere that he doesn’t need to hear it back even though he’d like to. The main thing was that he tells her, and he’s very clear about how he feels and he loves their life together and wouldn’t change anything about it. It felt like a very good and D’av thing to say to her.”
Finally, we bid a very big, boomy goodbye to Old Town and Westerley, which hit me right in the feels because I’ve been on that set. Barken understood the stakes of blowing up the town. “As our audience by now knows, the ninth episode of most seasons involve a death or loss of some kind. But since we knew it wouldn’t be one of the main characters, we had decided the main “death” would be of Old Town itself,” she says.
“And it had to be a lot more permanent than the Company bombing of Season 1. Those streets and alleys — and most painfully, The Royale itself — had to go. Watching the doors blow off the hinges, knowing we’d never be shooting there again…THAT was probably the hardest part. I spent a lot of time imagining scenes in that place, writing those scenes and sometimes just hanging out there to get the vibe of the show. Nothing to me is more Killjoys than that grubby little bar. I’m gonna miss her. Maybe not as much as Pree, but still…”
Killjoys airs Fridays at 10 pm/9c on CTV Sci-Fi Channel (formerly Space Channel) and Syfy. All of our Killjoys coverage, including 18 other Season 5 interviews so far and my mash letter to the show, is here. You can catch all four seasons and the first eight Season 5 episodes on demand on the CTV Sci-Fi Channel app and Syfy app and website. This episode should be available online tomorrow.
Images courtesy of Syfy, CTV Sci-Fi, and Adam Barken.
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