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Not Your Shero: the women of Killjoys

Contributed by
Aug 10, 2018

Everyone loves a hero, but we worship a good villain. Strong women come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors, and sometimes that means looking up to a character who has no interest in being your role model. All this month, we're presenting Not Your Shero, a series that celebrates antiheroes, villains, and all the women way too busy wreaking havoc to save you.

Galaxies are vast, and they’re home to all types. Nowhere is that more apparent on television these days than in the intergalactic worlds of Killjoys, where royals and bounty-hunters-for-hire frequently clash on both a structural and literal level. The four planets our characters most frequently find themselves in, known as the Quad, play host to any number of conflicts on a sliding scale of danger, but they also serve as the backdrop through which to introduce us to some of the most powerful, badass, and complicated female characters on the small screen. 

The women of Killjoys are as varied as their motives. While calling them heroes does a great disservice to the intricacies of their character journeys, it’s hard to deny that each of them has had their own heroic moments — even if they’ve been a result of grudging compliance, a sense of inarguable rightness or their own selfish desires. Even the show’s most nefarious female villains, characters who have committed seemingly unforgivable crimes against our motley trio of Killjoys, find ways to win over audiences in the long run. That’s the best part of Killjoys, and why sci-fi devotees, as well as fans of conflicted baddies, will find something to love about the series, which just launched its fourth of five planned seasons on SYFY.

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It’s impossible to talk about Killjoys without talking about Dutch, played to perfection by Hannah John-Kamen. The quintessential antihero stealthed her way into homes and hearts alike when the show premiered in June 2015, and it was clear early on that Dutch had earned every bit of the reputation she’d garnered in the Quad as the highest-ranking RAC (Reclamation Apprehension Coalition) agent, otherwise known to locals as “Killjoys.” Raised by mentor and preceding RAC agent Khlyen, Dutch’s backstory was for all intents and purposes kept secret, and it was initially revealed that she had come from wealth and privilege until her family lost it all. As a consequence, a young Dutch, then called Yalena, was sent to a harem and tutored in protocol and etiquette with the endgame of marrying a wealthy royal. It was there she was discovered by Khlyen, who plucked her from a certain fate and trained her for another, developing her skills as an assassin and warrior. Dutch’s wedding day never came to pass; instead, she went on the run, assuming a new identity and eventually taking a job as a Killjoy alongside fellow wayward soul Johnny Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore) and, later, his older brother D’avin (Luke Macfarlane).

That was the version of Dutch’s backstory that viewers knew, but Season 3 of Killjoys changed everything after a mysterious figure named Aneela (John-Kamen) arrived on the scene and the real story finally came out. Khlyen had raised Dutch as his own, but she hadn’t been rescued from the clutches of forced marriage. In truth, Dutch was Aneela’s genetic identical, having been “birthed” in secret from a mixture of Aneela and Khlyen’s DNA and a neuro-parasite known as the Green Plasma and given the name Yalena, after Aneela’s birth mother. As Aneela’s biological father, Khlyen had quarantined her for her own safety after she became infected with the Green Plasma and became a new hybrid species known as Hullen. He'd also first planned to kill a young Dutch after learning of her incredible genesis — but found himself unable to do so after realizing how much her appearance favored Aneela's. Dutch’s true origins were hidden deep within her own memory, and the rest of the story is one that had already been told in earlier seasons. However, it’s the actual version of Dutch’s life that gives us a deeper knowledge of who she really is and how much she’s had to overcome when you take her creator into account. 

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To understand Dutch, you also need to understand Aneela, and the ways in which the two women are similar as well as the ways in which they wildly differ. If Dutch is the antihero of Killjoys, then Aneela has by and large been one of its biggest villains. Her connection to Dutch was evident from the moment she set foot on screen and we saw just how big a physical resemblance the two women bore to one another, but the choices they’ve made over the course of the series have established them as two very unique individuals in spite of their genetic link.

Yet they’re also both haunted by their respective trauma — Dutch, in struggling to understand her history, has been forced to reconcile her perception of past events with the reality of where she came from, while Aneela has become literally insane as a result of being infected with the Green Plasma before her young brain had fully developed. The obstacles they’ve independently faced have united the two women against an unseen enemy known only as The Lady, an entity who lives entirely within the Green Plasma and who Dutch and Aneela have both vowed to take down together. With that heroic quest in mind, one can understand, if not entirely absolve them from, some of their more questionable actions previously on the series, including Dutch’s early attempts to remain neutral in the midst of an early Westerley conflict as well as Aneela leading a deadly and wide-sweeping Hullen invasion against the Quad.

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The growing Hullen threat has infiltrated the lives of all the characters on Killjoys, both those who actively resist and those who would seek to manipulate it for their own gain. Delle Seyah Kendry (Mayko Nguyen) is the latter. Brilliant yet ruthless, Kendry established herself out of the gate as someone viewers loved to hate and vice versa, and since then her arc has consistently clued fans in to the breadth of her ambition and drive, as well as to the lengths she’s willing to go in order to ensure her own survival. When Kendry eventually became Hullen to achieve true immortality, it felt like a natural leap for her character to make given past decisions and her seeming disregard for morals, but when she encountered Aneela in the process it was their unforeseen connection that unexpectedly humanized both women. Even in the midst of an all-out war between the Hullen and the rest of the galaxy, Kendry and Aneela pursued a romance that also led to Kendry becoming a key advisor within the Hullen army. Later, in a plot twist as a result of Nguyen’s real-life pregnancy, Kendry became pregnant on the series as well, with a Hullen-created child made up of Aneela and D’avin’s biological material. 

Yet being a mother, or at least a surrogate, has not slowed Kendry down by any means. In fact, it may be her pregnancy that makes her a little more sympathetic as a character, but what’s also interesting about this development is that it highlights an aspect of female villains we don’t always see in genre: the maternal. That’s not to say that villains can’t be mothers (Cersei Lannister, anyone?), but it’s an even rarer sight to see a pregnant villain kicking ass and taking names when she’s mere days away from giving birth. Those story choices manage to add more layers to the characters, but they also make them more complex — and more interesting. Like Kendry, Aneela and Dutch are also made entertaining, not to mention relatable, because of their personal relationships, their romantic ties, and ofttimes reluctant reliance on other characters. When Kendry was forced to stick it out with the Jaqobis brothers in an early Season 4 episode, for example, the result was one of the most brilliant (and hilarious) sequences ever to air on the series. 

As Killjoys heads into its final two seasons, there are still many questions that have yet to be answered. Who is The Lady, and will Dutch and Aneela be able to stop her? What will happen to Kendry after she gives birth? And how will the dynamic of our core Killjoys change, especially with the RAC now under control of the Hullen? What viewers can rely on, though, is that Killjoys will remain the fun, funny, entertaining sci-fi romp that we know and love along the way — and its awesome female characters will continue to own our hearts, no matter which path they take.