In spite of its awful title–I actually find it, like, deeply and viscerally disgusting–“Vessel” was an episode good enough to keep me watching this show for at least one more week.
There are some tropes on display in this episode that are usually pretty annoying, but that I think are mostly well-executed here. I do tend to have a soft spot for badass pregnant women in fiction, though, and so I’m willing to forgive quite a lot just because I love the characters of Constance and Jenny.
I actually like Constance and Jenny so much that I’m not even going to write much about the rest of the episode. Dutch is still mysterious, and she’s mysteriously in possession of some fancy musical instrument that usually only belongs to royalty. The newly introduced Delle Seyah Kendry is fascinating, and I kind of liked the dynamic between her and Dutch, although I thought things were wrapped up a little too neatly at the end. I kind of liked that D’avin was so good with the girls, although I also sort of hated that his basic human decency (learning their names! gasp!) is played for laughs.
Back to Jenny and Constance, though.
If the show really feels like they must write an episode dealing with young women who are in a sort of fertility cult where they are surrogates for wealthy people, I generally approve of the way it was done in this episode. These aren’t poor, sad, ignorant girls. They are interesting young women who are trying to make the best of what life has handed them.
Jenny, it turns out, is something of an engineer, but when her family couldn’t afford to keep her she got sent to be a surrogate. However, this doesn’t stop her from continuing to develop and use her skills. Unfortunately, Jenny dies in the episode when she kind of inexplicably decides to suicide bomb the men who are trying to capture Constance. It’s an effective tactic, though, and Jenny’s sacrifice clears the way for the remaining girls to escape.
Sadly, I don’t think Jenny’s death is treated with a truly appropriate amount of gravity–the team just keeps on with barely a pause to think about what just happened. Obviously this sort of “job of the week” show is going to have some kind of disposable single-episode characters, but I’d prefer if Jenny wasn’t so disposable, especially when I’m still not sure why she didn’t just throw the grenade instead of walking it to the bad guys herself. This makes her character seem not just disposable, but senselessly disposable in an effort to elicit a cheap emotional response from the audience that isn’t backed up by the other characters in the show.
Constance, however, is a consistently great character, in my opinion, and I think this is shown best in her interactions with Dutch, who seems at first to think that all the surrogates are sad, brainwashed waifs who need a Strong Female Character to rescue them. Dutch is quickly disabused of this notion, however. Constance actually has a pretty realistic view of her situation, she’s not afraid to advocate and make choices for herself, and she clearly knows her way around a gun.
I loved the conversation when Constance is going into labor and Dutch stops to ask what Constance wants. Dutch has so far bit a bit of a cipher, and she’s only being very slowly rounded out as a character, so it was nice to see her have a sort of human moment here. It also makes me happy to see women supporting women–especially women like Dutch, who is (so far, anyway) so much a totally stock version of the badass fighter type of Strong Female Character.
Constance is a character with a different sort of strength, and I enjoyed seeing Dutch increasingly come to accept that over the course of the episode. By the end, when Constance refuses the opportunity to help raise the child she bore in favor of dedicating her life to helping other young women like herself, Dutch seems to have come to truly respect her and again supports Constance’s choice.
This unconditional support for and respect of women’s choices was a strong theme in this episode, although it felt a bit buried by the end underneath the sheer amount of exposition “Vessel” contained about the Killjoys universe and its politics. I definitely feel like I have a better grasp on the politics of the Quad after this, and I’m looking forward to more intrigue with Delle Seyah, but I would have liked to see a bit more character development at this point. “D’avin and John are nice to women” isn’t character development, and was, frankly, a bit undermined anyway when they were discussing Dutch’s bangability at the end of the episode.
I’m glad to see things moving along in the show, even slowly, and I’m not ready to quit watching yet, but I still think it’s uneven and inconsistent.
3 thoughts on “Killjoys is improving, but at a glacial pace of fits and starts”
I found it horrible. Sure, it’s your “choice” (as a poor girl with no other social option) to deliver a baby to riche people who exploits you, and then keep the tradition alive by facilitating a process in wich your body is obviously not yours, you’re being put in danger by (blood purity obsessed) upper class people who don’t give a damn about your health (and send killers after you) because they don’t want to face the risks of pregnancy themselves!
Congrats! As long as it is you choice, it’s toootally ok. Oh, and female sacrifice (here to “deliver” a baby to people who maintains them in surrogate slavery and poverty in a patriarchal culture-their parents wouldn’t/couldn’t afford a daughter) is so admirable. An entire convent+ two women died, and the only woman who refuse to sacrifice is deemed a coward (she is also the only one to be critical of the exploitation from an insider perspective). She was as pragmatic as the Killjoys are, yet she is “bad” and deserves to die (I would really have like her to get the women to resist both here patriarchal culture& the wealthy 9 families). That was really depressing. Reminds me of all the subtly anti-abortion episodes & movies you get where the choice rhetoric is used to drown social critics (and being critical of an exploitive systems is represented as bitterness and magically becomes “shaming”).
Plus, I hated how D’avin was (really) paternalist to the women (sure, he knows their names…and use it to treat them like children (“put on you shoes” and “stop crying”). Oh, and John’s “hairpulling”: urrgh.
I didn’t think they tried to hard to make things all about “choice.” I thought it was more about young women in bad situations creating a family with each other and trying to wring some meaning out of lives that they had minimal control over.
Agree about D’avin for sure, though. I thought my eyes were going to roll right out of my head when they were acting like it was such a big deal that he learned the girls’ names–and not, you know, a very basic human courtesy that takes just a tiny bit of effort.
To me, Constance’s speeches, the other surrogate’s sacrifices really rings a bell about how women are ultimately supposed to be about care and sacrifice, (and that’s how surrogacy tends to be presented irl, we focus on surrogate’s choices rather that on wealthy people’s entitlement to children) when focusing on individual ways of coping with a horrible system, we avoid naming exploitation, and fighting this exploitation (despite the fact that women find ways of resistance and rebellion under patriarchy since forever) . Actually I’m surprised (ok, not so surprised) that there wasn’t any form of resistance in the surrogate community ( after all they are even trained and they have weapons- but only seems to remember it after the engineer’s conversation with John)., And then, they would become Fury Road’s female gang of bikers. ^^ Perfect crossover.