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.