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.

Into the Badlands: Hand of Five Poisons

In episode 5, ‘Snake Creeps Down’, Baron Quinn (Marton Csokas) pinned Sunny (Daniel Wu) and his pregnant girlfriend Veil (Madeleine Mantock) against each other, was Tilda (Ally Ioannides) captured and rescued, did we see Ryder’s grandfather Penrith (Millennium’s Frank Black, now as white as snow, Lance Henriksen) who fed his grandson some fabricated story about a world outside of the Badlands – which doesn’t exist, according to him, did M.K. (Aramis Knight) get a new nickname (‘The Dark One’) and got Jade (Sarah Bolger) herself poisoned. Lydia (Orla Brady) is Suspect #1.

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The Power of Hindsight
With ‘Hand of Five Poisons’, we’ve reached the 6th episode, which serves as the season 1 finale. Obviously, AMC didn’t want to commit themselves too much. A martial arts show was still a gamble. The genre had never managed to punch a hole in a wet newspaper – on television. Besides, judging by the looks of it, the production expenses must’ve been high. Ordering more than 6 hours would’ve been reckless. It’s only with the power of hindsight, that it’s a shame the series has already come to an end. There may be terrific things up ahead, though; the first season of Breaking Bad consisted of a careful amount of episodes, too (7).

Baptism
Suspecting Lydia might have been the point. It looks like Jade staged her own poisoning, to get rid of her rival sister wife. And so it happens. Quinn bans Lydia from the Fort, sending her out into the wilderness, with nothing but a bag of figurines. She’s got nowhere to go but to Penrith, her father and spiritual leader. He makes her pledge to discard all of her possessions, kind of like the High Sparrow tends to do, and take a bath, as a way of long overdue baptism (the Walk of Shame hadn’t been invented yet).

Mole, Show Your Face
Sunny let the Widow (Emily Beecham) get away last time, which makes Quinn make his second bad decision in a row; lock up Sunny, leaving his fate in the hands of M.K., his new protege. It forces the real mole to show his face: Waldo (Stephen Lang). He breaks out Sunny, tells him to get on that boat – Sunny made a deal with the River King (Lance E. Nichols) to set sail at midnight – and live the life he was born to have. Waldo’d found Sunny as a young kid, wearing the same symbol M.K. got from his mother. In other words: they both must come from the same place, the place that ‘doesn’t exist’.

At the Dolls
Sunny first makes a stop at Downtown Badlands, at the ‘Dolls’. That’s where Quinn’s going to bring M.K., to get that whole virgin thing taken care of. When they arrive, Ryder’s conspired against his father with Jacobee (Edi Gathegi). No dolls here tonight, dad. Quinn, having seen the power M.K. holds, cuts his protege, who then goes all dark-eyes on their attackers. Quinn hides in the shadows, but he’s run out of luck. Sunny’s sword goes right through him. It’s the last clip he’ll ever make.

Two Bottles of Poison on the Wall
The Widow, wounded by Sunny, has Veil taken to her – because, you know, there’s only one doctor left in the Badlands, apparently. It’s interesting to see Veil getting to Tilda. Violence isn’t the answer, they both believe. Veil wants to make sure she’s brought home in one piece, and puts down three small bottles of different colors. Two contain poison, one the cure. When Tilda’s brought her as close to home as possible, Veil tells her the blue one’s going to make her mother better. But Tilda has her own choice to make. Would the world be better off with or without the Widow?

The Monks are Coming to Get You
Meanwhile, Jacobee’s gang has been thrown through about every wall available. But there are new customers, driving into town. Monks. They want to take M.K., but Sunny doesn’t want to leave the Badlands without him. Fights a long (and awesome) fight against three equally dark-eyed gravity-defiers. He doesn’t stand a chance, though. M.K.’s put in a box – just like he started the season – and driven off to god knows where. Sunny’s picked up by the River King and transported to god knows where – but a different god knows where. He’ll be back for Veil, I’m sure. But like I said, just when we’re hooked on this brilliant martial arts curiosity, it’s over. Hopefully next year, Sunny’s motorcycle ride will last a few more miles.

Into the Badlands: White Stork Spreads Wings

It’s week 3 in the Badlands, a fictional region, populated by martial arts armies, dollhouses, Barons and the question of what’s out there beyond the forest? M.K. (Aramis Knight), the kid with special powers – which he’s unable to control at this point – escaped, but is right back where he started from; in the hands of Sunny (Daniel Wu).

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War
It’s war. The Widow (Emily Beecham), as she’s called, ambushed Sunny and Baron Quinn’s son Ryder (Oliver Stark). They made it out alive – one more alive than the other – but the war is on. Quinn (Marton Csokas) goes after The Widow, with his so-called ‘clippers’ as backup. He finds her, fights her, beautifully choreographed, until he’s got her pinned down. She’s got nowhere to go, lying on the floor, unarmed. Quinn’s got his sword ready, but because The Widow is vital to the story and needs to stay alive, he gets a migraine. He doesn’t have long to live, we knew that, and now it’s starting to show. The headache overtakes him, The Widow flees through a secret underground pass-way, to an old house; their ’sanctuary’.

Apprentice
M.K. saved Sunny’s (and Ryder’s) life last week, during the ambush. He’s between a rock (Quinn) and a hard place (The Widow) and feels his best option is to start an alliance with Sunny. They both want to get out of the Badlands anyway. M.K. to find his homeland, Sunny to start over with his girlfriend and soon to be mother of his child, Veil (Madeleine Mantock), and leave the wars between Barons – which seem to break out every few years – behind. M.K. is going to be his apprentice. Quinn agrees, but promises to keep a close eye on him.

New Doctor
Because Quinn made the decision to kill his doctor – because… I’m drawing a blank here. Because he’s a terrible man? Your guess is as good as mine. I know, he said it was because no one can know about him dying, including the doctor, apparently, but that’s just silly – he needs someone else. Who better than the doctor’s daughter; Veil? She was called in earlier, to check in on Ryder who just wouldn’t wake up. She drilled into his skull, which released the pressure on his (swollen) brain, and he opened his eyes. The perfect woman to figure out a way to cure Quinn. Veil knows he killed her parents, though, so that’s going to be a little uncomfortable, to say the least.

In the Dollhouse
Sunny and M.K. are trying to find out where The Widow’s hiding. Their one and only lead is the girl who set up Ryder. A working girl, called Angelica (Teressa Liane) in the dollhouse downtown – if there is such a thing in the Badlands, but I’m guessing there is. Sunny pays her a visit, but she’s not just good between the sheets; she knows how to use a knife. Once again it’s a brilliant fight sequence, albeit short, with the two of them jumping through windows and jumping from one balcony to another. Unfortunately, the girl has no intention of being taken alive.

With One Hand
There is, however, a better way to get to The Widow. M.K. has a special relationship with her daughter Tilda (Ally Ioannides). He keeps bumping into her after all, so that should be easy enough. But M.K. is a stubborn kid. Doesn’t want to take Sunny’s word for anything. That’s why he’s taken to Waldo. It’s no surprise he’s played by Stephen Lang (Avatar, Terra Nova). If there’s another alternate universe being created, Lang’s your man. He does get more sympathetic, too. From ultimate baddie on Pandora, via hard-ass in the Cretaceous period, to cocky but also funny Man In Wheelchair on Into the Badlands. He teaches M.K. a lesson. With one hand. We’ll have to wait and see if the apprentice has learnt anything from it. Still, even though M.K. is a brat, he does have a softer side, which makes him likeable. Usually it’s one way or the other with younger actors.

Into the Badlands: The Fort

It’s like AMC ordered an adolescent but not too adolescent action drama, set in a world like Divergent, The Giver, Wayward Pines and The Maze Runner, with the boy from The Last Airbender, martial arts, samurai swords and motorcycles. Welcome to ‘The Badlands’.

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All of the Above
Yes, Into the Badlands is all of the above, and more. I can only imagine the pitch Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville, Charlie’s Angels) gave to the AMC execs. The best thing is, this new – very high conceptual – show isn’t as ridiculous as you might think. First of all, it’s beautifully shot. Not just the fight scenes. Everything. Forests, mansions, cellars, sewers, nights of heavy rain. Because nothing tells you where you are and/or when you are (‘Louisiana, 1924’, for example), you don’t know what you’re looking at. The past? Present? America? China? An alternate timeline, such as The Man in the High Castle? What’s going on here?

The Baron House Rules
It doesn’t take long before you’re sucked into this world – no matter where or when it takes place. It’s happening. Get on the bike or turn off the TV. Leading man is a guy called Sunny (Daniel Wu, The Man with the Iron Fists), a (lone) soldier in the army of the ‘Baron’, called a ‘clipper’. It quickly becomes clear he’s not to be messed with. Even without using his sword. For some reason, he’s got all of his victims tattooed on his back (just a small line, not their names or faces; that would be ridiculous). I guess it’s to scare people, who knows. Maybe it’s one of the Baron Rules. Speaking of which, Quinn (Marton Csokas, Xena: Warrior Princess, Rogue, Klondike), the man keeping everything together, may have as many wives as he pleases. That sounds like a nice bonus, because he’s on his way out. His son Ryder (Oliver Stark, Luther) should step in his shoes, but the brat’s clearly not ready for it yet.

The Great Beyond
And then there’s M.K. (Aramis Knight, Dexter, Boston Legal, General Hospital), the boy with magical powers. But not only that. He’s from a place far, far away. Somewhere beyond the Badlands. That place even has its own symbol, so it must exist, even though everybody believes there’s ‘nothing out there’ (where have we heard that before?). Of course, our hero’s the one most curious about it. So when M.K. gets thrown into the cellar, to be killed the next morning, Sonny helps him escape.

Pregnant
I like the fact that everything goes without saying. This is just how it is, in the Badlands. They’re called the Badlands, and that’s what they are. There are the Barons, like the seven Burroughs, one of them lead by a mysterious red-haired lady (Emily Beecham, Damages, The Village), who’s also quite interested in M.K. Sonny’s got a girlfriend, Veil (Madeleine Mantock, The Tomorrow People), who’s pregnant. Sonny doesn’t take the news very well. Quinn’s wife (his most beloved one, I assume) Lydia (Orla Brady, Fringe, American Odyssey, Shark, Sinbad) is up to something. It’s safe to say her agenda’s different from her husband’s. She saw Sonny help M.K. get away, so I expect Sonny either being sentenced to death or blackmailed.

Here It Is
Just when you thought an American martial arts series was never going to happen, here it is. The pilot couldn’t be more promising, which is a little surprising, given it’s directed by David Dobkin, someone who made a name for himself with Wedding Crashes, The Change-Up and The Judge. Okay, to be fair, he’d also done Shanghai Knights. I sure hope he can keep it up, because ‘The Fort’ was directed superbly.