Killjoys Creator Michelle Lovretta on Showing Truthful Relationships and Giving Your Audience Hope

Ken Woroner/Killjoys V Productions Limited/SYFY
Ken Woroner/Killjoys V Productions Limited/SYFY

Well, now that you’ve had a few days to think it over, have you gotten over that Killjoys series finale yet? It’s OK, neither have we. It’s so rare to have a series finale episode, like the one Killjoys delivered, that contained so much joy and hope for absolutely everyone involved. Team Awesome Force not only defeated The Lady (Alanna Bale), but Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen) finally stood up to Khlyen (Rob Stewart), made peace with John (Aaron Ashmore) leaving, and confessed her feelings to D’avin (Luke Macfarlane). It was an episode that seemed to contain absolutely everything fans love about the SYFY/CTV Sci-Fi series.

In Part 1 of our interview with creator Michelle Lovretta, she discussed her approach to writing “Last Dance,” and how things may have changed from the initial days of the series. Now in Part 2, she further discusses the series’ ending — more specifically why it was time for Dutch to stand up to Khlyen and leaving her viewers with a sense of hope for the future. Lovretta also delves deeper into the show’s decision to make the platonic relationship between Dutch and John the primary one for the series, and why she never wanted it to turn into a romantic one. Finally, Lovretta drops some fun hints about storylines that didn’t make it into the series and what may be next for her.

 

The TV Junkies: The relationship between John and Dutch is one that means so much, not only to the characters, but to all us fans. It’s so rare to see a friendship between a man and woman on screen, but you always made it very clear that is what was between them. Why was that so important to you, and did you ever get any kind of push back on that to go another direction, especially given that it’s the show’s core relationship?

Michelle Lovretta: We treat adult friendship like a lesser waiting room, a place to hang out and kill time while you wait for your Real Relationships and life to begin. I fundamentally disagree with that. I love friendships that go deeper and become family: Kenzi & Bo, Johnny & Dutch. In both cases, people behind the scenes occasionally tried to make them sexual or romantic, and I said no. So when Adam and I first kicked around the alternate reality storyline, I remember initially being super nervous for the exact same reasons the audience would be nervous. You’re in the final stretch so you don’t want to fuck up the core of the show, and I’m not into gimmicks. There had to be some deeper reason to tell this story at this point, something I wanted to say while we still could — and it turns out, there was. I wanted to talk about the edges of platonic love, and I wanted to talk about all the doubts it can be strong enough to contain.

SYFY/Bell Media
SYFY/Bell Media

Here’s the thing – we celebrate doubt and temptation in romantic love, so much so that it is absolutely fucking encoded into most of our romantic stories and movies. It’s an expected plot point, even a celebrated one, because it’s so satisfying to watch couples fight through it and stay together. But we don’t offer that same uplifting message for platonic love (which we rarely even show as existing, especially between women and men). The story we usually tell THOSE people is that a moment of illicit attraction, a stretch of awkward doubt, isn’t a sign to fight for what you have – it’s a sign to give up. Proof that you were never meant to be platonic, your friendship was a fraud, one of you was secretly always settling for “less” this whole time and will never be fully satisfied with friendship again. Your choice becomes a reductive binary: start a romance, or end the friendship. Gross. Yes, that can be true for some. But it doesn’t have to be.

When friends experience that stuff in real life, they don’t have many healthy, hopeful models on how to successfully navigate it, because we aren’t fucking giving them any. So I wanted to put one out there, one that I believed in. To show that mature and healthy love of any kind is a continual conversation, a thing whose terms you negotiate over and over as you grow, and that that’s fucking beautiful and normal. I love how Dutch and John handled it, and I love that the show got to say, ‘nothing can break you two apart unless you let it. A fleeting temptation or wondering what else you can be to one another is a healthy part of a romantic relationship, and a healthy part of a platonic relationship, because you’re both adults and the world is full of possibilities. It’s okay to wonder. That doesn’t deprive you of the right to choose.’ And I really like the choice Dutch and John ultimately made. Not everyone will, and I respect that. But I truly believe this is what they both want – John was just messed up by the Lady imprinting an attraction and forcing him to ask “what if”, causing him a crisis of faith. A romance with Dutch could solve one of his big fears, after all: growing apart and losing her. Lots of deep friendships are situational – work friends, college friends, single friends – that end when you change that core element. John was contemplating leaving their Killjoy partnership AND finding a romantic partner all at once, I think it makes total sense that he had an existential panic about losing her somehow in the exchange. But he won’t have to. And I think that’s all he really needed to know.

SYFY/Bell Media
SYFY/Bell Media

TTVJ: The Dutch and Khlyen relationship was so important to her and to the show. Is that why you wanted so much of the finale to focus on it? Did you always know you wanted to end with Dutch standing up to him once and for all?

ML: When I saw Season 5 in my head long ago when I began this show, I did see Khlyen alive at the end, and I did see him having a final confrontation with Dutch. But it wasn’t as fraught and violent and central as this turned out to be. But one of the keys to the finale for me was figuring out: why is this our end point? What story was I telling specific to Dutch in this five year chunk, that concludes most naturally here?

For me, that story is the healing of Dutch. And since Khlyen is the one who caused her the most pain, it felt right to reckon with that here. Rob and Hannah are always so great together, and now that Khlyen was human he could grapple more satisfyingly with genuine guilt he didn’t feel in previous seasons, which made it the right time for Dutch to name the damage he’d done her.

We don’t always show it on TV, but not everyone dealing with abuse and trauma walks a straight line toward their personal definition of healing. There are often relapses in progress, they may have to relearn lessons, redraw boundaries. We did that with Dutch and Khlyen a bit, so I’m grateful we got to show her final end point. We watch, over the seasons, as she lets down her walls and builds a healthy, loving family of her choice. She forges amazing friendships with women like Zeph, a thing she avoided due to her past. She reckons with Aneela. She calls her abuser an abuser. She’s able to do what’s best for John without feeling overly protective and possessive of him. She tells D’av she loves him. Other than her pottery skills, there’s not much left for her to work on as far as ghosts from her past. Dutch is whole again. She’s not Khlyen’s weapon, she’s her own person, and I love that. It felt right leaving her there.

@BridgetOnTV
@BridgetOnTV

TTVJ: There’s a real feeling of hope that the finale leaves viewers with that I really felt paralleled so much of what we’re dealing with in real life. Killjoys has always portrayed this world that we could aspire to, where no one judges who you love, but also has always made statements on social issues such as the treatment of women and class structure. Was that a goal of yours with this finale to make a statement on our world right now? 

ML:  The fact that we’re living in a time when some powerful men feel it’s okay to say ‘I can’t be alone with women or have business lunches with them and lol at the thought of friendship” maaay have influenced my desire to demonstrate the opposite with Dutch and John. And my desire to punch walls.

But part of why I let myself write the happy ending of my heart came from a conversation I had way back at the end of Season 3. I was tired as fuck then, frustrated with a few things, and my first Season 3 finale draft showed that negative headspace: it was the darkest one I’d written, and every character was left on a grim life and death precipice. Then I had this really great call with our SYFY executive Letitia [Baylor], who was really blunt, and said ‘Listen, lady, this is kind of depressing. It doesn’t feel like you. Everybody could die, and we don’t even know that your show is coming back.’ The network never knows at that stage and she was very honest, so I was very honest back, and said ‘That’s why showrunners leave everything on cliffs, because then the fans will want us to come back and help rally you for renewal.’ I was partly teasing – but it’s probably sometimes at least a little bit true.

@BridgetOnTV
@BridgetOnTV

What I got once I hung up was a little bit of clarity and maturity. I didn’t want to use our audience in that way, even unconsciously, or risk leaving these characters I love on a down note. So I went back and I got over my bullshit and fatigue and rewrote the Season 3 ender as if it were my last. I wrote from joy. The cliffhangers were still there but the dialog got funnier, the tone lighter and more hopeful (though still high stakes), all my beloved crotch jokes showed back up. And it felt right. It felt like Killjoys.

So when it came time for this grand series finale, I had that lesson in the back of my head and I decided, not just for the audience, but for me, for our actors, for our crew, and for our characters specifically: I wanted maximum fucking joy. Happy endings are out of style, but these days, hope feels bold, man. Joy feels weaponized. We’re obviously not afraid to kill characters, we’ve done it in the past. But why can’t everybody live, for once? Why can’t the story be about all the good guys winning? Yes, in 99 other parallel universes they probably wouldn’t make it out unscathed, but I’m picking the one where the heroes triumph and make sex jokes. [laughs] That’s how we came in as a show, and that’s how I wanted to go out. I’m proud of that, and I’m glad that we put a little piece of joy out into the world, one last time. So thanks, LB.

SYFY/Bell Media
SYFY/Bell Media

TTVJ: Why can’t they have a freakin’ dance party and celebrate? That was amazing.

ML: [laughs] Right? That was another one that we fought for, and god bless the director [Stefan Pleszczynski], our line producer Claire [Welland], and Adam. I was like ‘guys, I know you’re going to try and make me cut this, but I really want it, pretty please.’ And they said ‘oh no, we want it too! We’re going to try.’ It was so great. I just wish I’d snuck on screen to be part of it forever. I can’t believe I didn’t, I’m just realizing that right now! You’re such a dumbass, Lovretta. You looked a gift-Pippin in the mouth!

TTVJ: Looking back over the series, are there choices that were made that surprised you? Things you didn’t expect to make as big of an impact that really did?

ML: Characters. I always hoped Fancy would be along for the ride, he was there in the initial series bible stage, but Gared, Turin, Zeph, Pip were later discoveries and wonderful surprises to the Michelle who wrote the pilot’s first draft. She hadn’t even “met” them yet. And they impacted *everything*. I love that about making TV – there are always discoveries and surprises in store for you along the way. You get to play with amazing and talented people who improve you and change your work. I’m really really lucky to have this career, and I know it.

Ian Watson/Killjoys V Productions Limited/SYFY
Ian Watson/Killjoys V Productions Limited/SYFY

TTVJ: What about stories you had to leave on the table and never did — whether because of time or resources?

ML: Oh shit, yeah. I’d be worried if there WEREN’T any. I had a crazy pitch for bringing Pawter back, to watch her grapple with what she’d done in Old Town. But it wouldn’t have been the Pawter we knew. It would have been “Illenore”, the rich entitled Qreshi version of Pawter before her time on Westerley, and the question would become: is that still the Pawter John loves? If you met your partner at a very different time in their life – before some formative experiences — would you still belong together? And would Illenore naturally find herself transforming into the Pawter we knew, or not? I find existential shit like that interesting, and it’s often only possible to explore through a genre lens.

My favorite thing that we didn’t get to do? Ha. Okay, hang onto your boobs. At one point, Adam and I were pitching around the idea that Aneela was stuck inside Dutch when she came out of the green Season 4. It was sort of a shadow Aneela, and so Dutch was feeling her feelings, including an attraction to Delle Seyah, who was mourning Aneela at the time. Long story short it would slowly become this complex, hot-as-shit but surprisingly mature, open relationship between Delle Seyah, Dutch and D’avin. Nothing at all sexual between Delle Seyah and D’avin, obviously. A very clear line there. [laughs] But the conversations we were picturing between the three were so fair and complicated and lovely, along with the potential for some amazing humor. It was hard to let go, especially when you see how great Mayko and Luke were with their polite awkward formality with one another at the start of Season 4. They’re so fucking funny as a pair. We really tried to find a way to do that, but it was taking other things off track. Sigh. May still write those scenes one day, just for me. Should I send you a copy?

TTVJ: What does life after Killjoys hold for you? I know you’ve spoken before about continuing the story in novels or graphic novels. Is there anything else you’re working on that you can talk about?

ML: Yeah, enough of our sweet fans have been asking me for spinoff comics or novels now that I’m genuinely considering it and thinking through the logistics. No promises, but I’m intrigued. I have also talked pretty openly about trying to take a year off, my own “oneyear” like Johnny’s, but new voices are already popping up in my head and I’m kinda falling in love with a few of them. So, much as I really do need to take a break for a little while… I think, just maybe, I’ll take my pen along with me. Just in case.

 

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