Cyberpunk 2077 is dropping in April 2020, but it already boasts the pedigree and promise to capture the imaginations of gamers worldwide. The wait may feel excruciating, but in the meantime, there’s a TV show airing now that could scratch your itch for cool, cyberpunk-infused storytelling: Killjoys, created by Michelle Lovretta – purveyor of sleek, sexy, speculative narratives like the series Lost Girl (which followed the life of a succubus straddling the human and fae worlds).
Killjoys began its fifth and final season on Friday, July 19. The stylish show has strong cyberpunk elements recognizable to many sci-fi fans, like a looming Company that needs no other name because its authoritarian rule is absolute, and the regular use of cybernetics to augment human bodies.
Killjoys follows three agents of the Reclamation Apprehension Coalition (The RAC), an agency of apolitical bounty hunters working across a planet and its three moons (The Quad). RAC agents are colloquially known as “killjoys,” and the titular killjoys: Johnny, D’avin, and team leader Dutch, find out that the agency motto of, “Take no sides, take no bribes, the warrant is all,” gets complicated when the very survival of humanity is at risk.
Killjoys showrunner (and avid gamer) Adam Barken spoke with IGN about the show’s evolution and how he thinks the term “cyberpunk” relates to it. Barken helped Lovretta develop Killjoys and was the only producer who had been there with her from the beginning when Syfy and Canadian network Space told them in 2017 that they had two seasons to wrap things up. That made Barken the logical choice to take over the day-to-day running of the show when Lovretta wanted to step back.
“I was up for it, but it felt so much like her show and her voice, so she said ‘I would only stay writing if you would run it.’ And I said, ‘I will only run it if you stayed writing,’” Barken admitted. “Thankfully she was always there, so the ending that we came up with while I was running the day-to-day felt very much like her vision.”
Despite the use of cyberpunk conventions from the beginning, Barken said the term was not exactly at the forefront of Killjoys during the development process: “[Cyberpunk] is certainly a word that’s come up. It’s one of those words that I’m not a hundred percent sure what the exact definition is. I grew up reading William Gibson and [Neal] Stephenson… so I think the times that the idea of cyberpunk would come up is usually when we were dealing with this mix of advanced computer technology and identity. I think aesthetically we knew we were in similar territory; we were dealing with one major corporation that controls things. It’s a world where people can modify themselves. That being said, I don’t think we [specifically] wanted to get into the cyber realm.” In fact, Barken explained, “One of Michelle’s influences was the great Peter Hyam-Sean Connery movie, Outland, which was like a mining western in space.”
After the first season, however, a concept referred to as “The Green” was introduced – a parasitic space goop which can be used to create a link between minds and share information across vast distances. “As we moved forward and got into concepts like The Green, I’d say that’s probably when we got more into the idea of cyberspace, or at least a realm that exists outside of physical reality. We internally would refer to The Green as like the Cloud, and referred to the way people interfaced with it in these computer-like terms,” Barken said.
“I think it was Arthur C. Clarke with the quote about how any technology at a certain point will look like magic to people who aren’t used to it, so that was the idea behind The Green; it would look somewhat mystical and magical, but we’d have logic and rules behind it that were a lot more like cyberspace,” he added. “So I don’t know that the term ‘cyberpunk’ was used a lot, but we were certainly living in that space.”
The Green is not the only Killjoys concept that might seem at home in Night City. In the Season 2 premiere, a new faction was introduced: hackmods – humans who were abducted into a black market slave trade where they were forcibly cybernetically modified beyond legal limits and sold as property. Their society wasn’t fully explored until the two-part Season 3 premiere (with a visit to a town called Rat City, interestingly enough). The ethical quandaries and identity politics explored across these episodes added to the richness of Killjoys’ universe, but also made a pretty strong statement in ours, since Lovretta made sure to cast amputee actors in all the major hackmod roles, including “bionic artist” Viktoria Modesta.
So if you’re counting the days until April 16, 2020, gather your party and enjoy these soon-to-be 50 episodes of a complete cyberpunk story. It just might take the edge off while you wait to burn the city with Keanu Reeves next Spring. Killjoys Seasons 1-4 can be streamed on Amazon and Syfy. The final season is airing Fridays at 10 p.m. on Syfy.