The Twists and Turns of Colony

A new show starring Josh Holloway is always something to look forward to, just because of his portrayal of Sawyer in LOST, the tough teddybear on that mysterious island in the South Pacific. One of the writers on that show, Carlton Cuse, has carved out a new hard-edged-but-actually-a-sweetheart role for him, that of Will Bowman. And this time, it’s not an ocean that keeps him prisoner, but a massive wall, in Colony.

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The Pilot
We’ve talked about Colony before, after its first look special ‘Behind the Wall’, which, as it turned out, was basically the pilot episode with a few testimonials cut in between. Los Angeles has gotten a wall Donald Trump can only dream about, built by the ‘Others’. It’s a result of a war between men and… aliens? In any case, Will used to be a soldier in that war, but is laying low, trying to live an ordinary life, providing for his family. That’s his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies, Prison Break, The Walking Dead) and their two children. There’s one child missing, though, their son. Taken beyond the wall, and without telling Katie anything, Will sets out on a dangerous quest to find him. During an attack at the wall/border by the resistance, Will’s discovered by the officials and taken into custody. Proxy Governor Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson, House MD, Ray Donovan) makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Collect intel on the resistance and then, maybe, if Snyder feels like it, get his son back. All Will has been trying to do is keep his head down, so he’s not in contact with any resistance members, but he’s got no choice but to play ball. Katie, however, is part of a resistance cell. That last twist feels a bit too much. How and why would she keep such a secret from her veteran husband? It may have been better if they’d saved that surprise for later – like LOST used to do with practically everything, postponing revelations indefinitely – but I guess USA doesn’t have the luxury of gradually building an audience; they need viewers quick, and that means plot twists, please, as many as you can spare.

Brave New World
The second episode ‘Brave New World’ introduces, apart from a few continuity errors, a bunch of new characters. Snyder stays in the background – doesn’t even show up, in fact – and his replacement, story wise, as the one who gives Will his orders, is Phyllis (Kathy Baker, Medium, Boston Public). She pairs him up with Beau (Carl Weathers). Also walking around in the Colony universe: Jennifer, played by the extremely funny Kathleen Rose Perkins (Episodes, Trust Me) and George (Strike Team alumnus Brian White, The Shield, Men of a Certain Age, Chicago Fire). Will’s collaborating with the oppressive government at Homeland Security, tracking down the guy who played a vital role in the border bombing, Andrew (Craig Henningsen). When he brings him in, Will finds his friend Carlos (Jacob Vargas, Sons of Anarchy, Hand of God) in custody, too, ready to be shipped off to a place called ‘The Factory’.

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The Factory
Will tries to make Carlos his CI, but Homeland’s full of people who just try to survive. Phyllis gets her orders ‘from above’; her hands are tied. At least Will and Katie make sure Carlos’ wife and son are safe. Meanwhile, the so-called Red Hats who do the interrogations, break Andrew. He gives up the location where his people are hiding. Will’s called to come in, Katie overhears him on the phone and informs Quayle (Paul Guilfoyle), head of her cell. When Homeland arrives on the scene, Andrew’s people are bleeding out on the floor. Somebody knew they were coming. Will realizes there must be a mole. And I suspect, given the pace of the show, Katie will confess her role in all of this to him in episode 3. Together with a group of other prisoners, Carlos is sent to ‘The Factory’, which looks like a huge gas chamber, but it’s not quite clear what happens to them. There’re blue lights, then red lights, a lot of smoke, people in hazmat suits… The writers wouldn’t have shown all this if the prisoners were all just going to get killed. They haven’t made it spooky for nothing; there’s something going on, perhaps even something alien.

Well Done
For now, the whole occupation thing feels a bit silly. What motivation could the aliens (if they are, indeed, aliens) have for dividing the United States into specific ‘zones’? Are they transforming Los Angeles into an amusement park? (That’s not such a stretch, actually, if you know what I mean.) But all silliness considered, the show’s fast, looks great, there’s enough mystery to be captivating, so I definitely give it the benefit of the doubt. Shallow entertainment, but shallow entertainment well done.

Colony, Episode Zero Offers Zero

USA’s new science fiction show Colony keeps its cards close to the vest. One way to describe it is Sawyer, a wall and a riddle inside an enigma. Occupy L.A., another. The half hour long making of ‘Behind the Wall’ is an exciting appetiser, it does, however, poses a lot of questions. I suppose that’s exactly the point, in order to attract the former LOST fanbase, in need of mythology.

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Sociology
From what we do know, Colony is another (militarised) occupation show, where the primary location or region is fenced in. A mashup of Under the Dome, Falling Skies, Wayward Pines, The Man in the High Castle, Into the Badlands, the movies Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Giver and Elysium. A potpourri of popular culture, albeit looking original – which is an achievement already. It probably means something, the sudden rise in dystopian stories. Is it a reaction to an increasingly dangerous world? A reflection of the threats the western world is facing? The wars abroad coming to our door, the limits of privacy? Or is it the exact opposite? It’s known that people in times of war, worry and insecurity generally prefer simple, positive TV shows; Colony doesn’t look like it wants to be simple. Or positive. Is there a sociologist in the audience?

Behind the Wall(s)
Not many other series get a zero episode AKA first look AKA warmup such as ‘Behind the Wall’. USA has got a lot riding on this. However, the way they choose to market the show, and specifically the cast and crew involved, is a bit awkward. The two leading actors don’t need an introduction. Josh Holloway is of eternal LOST fame, Sarah Wayne Callies will be forever tied to Prison Break – although USA apparently prefers her role in The Walking Dead. Speaking of Prison Break, that series once aired a similar special, called ‘Behind the Walls’. Or is that too much of a geek fact?

Awkward Marketing: The Crew
Anyway, the other key players in this production include: Carlton Cuse (LOST, Bates Motel, The Strain, I would’ve left out the fact he wrote the movie San Andreas). Ryan Condal (I would’ve just said he was a writer, without getting specific, like informing the audience he wrote Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules movie). The marketing department has an odd target audience, because they don’t just focus on empty blockbusters starring The Rock, but on other big movie letdowns as well, such as 2014’s Godzilla and Pacific Rim (like Colony, both were produced by Legendary Studios). Sure, the premise of the new series sounds like science fiction, but that doesn’t mean lovers of shallow action movies with either big creatures or giant robot suits are the only ones who might be interested.

Awkward Marketing: The Cast
When it comes to the cast, they’ve got Kathy Baker, of Picket Fences. Really, USA? A twenty year old show that wasn’t even that big a hit? You might want to be a little more 21st century. She starred in Boston Public, Medium and Against the Wall, for example. You could even mention Saving Mr. Banks, Saving Grace or The Glass House.
They’ve got Peter Jacobson, of House. That’s been a while, too. Besides, every actor on that show paled next to Hugh Laurie. Why not say Jacobson was in Ray Donovan?
They’ve also got Amanda Righetti (The Mentalist), Tory Kittles (True Detective, but let’s not forget Sons of Anarchy), Paul Guilfoyle (CSI) and Carl Weathers, ‘of Rocky fame’. Of course, his portrayal of Apollo Creed has been iconic, and there’s a new movie out (Creed), but he’s done more than box. He’s been in Arrested Development, The Shield, Brothers and Tour of Duty. ‘Of Rocky fame’ makes him sound twice as old.
But at least they’re being mentioned, which isn’t the case with Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy, Longmire, Boston Legal, Profiler), who’s nowhere to be found in ‘Behind the Wall’. Maybe she plays an alien and they don’t want to spoil it, who knows.

The Director
Despite a questionably put together ‘first look’, Colony looks very promising. The pilot is directed by Juan José Campanella (House MD, Halt and Catch Fire), who’s gone all out with handheld cameras. It gives the show – for as far as we can tell – a nice, gritty, documentary feel.
On January 14, 2016, the characters are going to ask themselves this cheesy line: Collaborate or Resist? After watching episode zero, I’ll definitely join, and take it from there.