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.

The Man in the High Castle: Truth

The Man in the High Castle features a lot of things, but a high castle isn’t one of them. Let alone one particular man inside of it. Despite the fact that Juliana on the Westside and Joe on the Eastside have to thread very carefully, around governmental officials (or, in other words, the enemy), the mystery of who the man in the title is, does and the influence he has, hasn’t even begun to unravel.

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Truth Be Told
Naming one of the episodes ‘The Truth’ wasn’t exactly half-measures, in case of Wayward Pines. Truth we got, and more than we’d ever expect to be lucky enough to have. Not to mention the series finale – well, at least we all thought it was, at the time – of The X-Files (two-parter ‘The Truth’). Does The Man in the High Castle follow its leads with episode 7, ‘Truth’, and reward the audience with (at least) a glimpse of what these Grasshopper reels are all about?

Danger
It seems like they’re trying awfully hard to stay away from Canon City; the place in the Neutral Zone where you’ve got the best chance to contact the resistance (and get some answers). Right now, the show’s just not exciting enough. ‘Three Monkeys’ was a great episode, because Obergruppenführer Smith (Rufus Sewell) was at the center of it; his whole persona screams danger. But ‘Truth’ sends the series back to snooze mode again.

A New Film
We pick up the story right where we left off. Joe (Luke Kleintank), caught in the act, by Smith. The empty Grasshopper folder in his hands. ‘What are you not telling me, Joe?’ Smith asks, and pulls out Frank’s (Rupert Evans) sketch of Juliana (Alexa Davalos). There’s no denying anymore. There’s butterflies going on in Joe’s stomach. Smith understands boys will be boys, but Joe’s got to make up for his mistake of leaving ‘the girl’ out of his report. A new film is going around, a ‘different’ one – whatever that means. Juliana should know something about it. Joe’s new mission: snuggle up to her again, get the film and take her out (and Smith doesn’t mean to a restaurant). We get a little backstory on Joe, too. He’s living together, with his girlfriend and her son. It’s all Smith needs to threaten Joe. Failure to comply – or forget to call in – means his family will suffer the consequences.

Mass Grave
Juliana and Frank kiss and make up. But the walls are closing in on them. Frank wants to leave the city, but something’s holding Juliana back. Did she see her sister Trudy at the market? It couldn’t have been; she was gunned down in the street. Her boss, Trade Minister Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) looks into it, after hearing Juliana’s basically been black-listed. He keeps her on anyway. Good tea pourers are hard to find. Besides, his ‘oracle’ (which turns out to be a book) told him so. He gives her the location where to find her sister’s body. It’s a mass grave. And Trudy’s in it.

Proof
At work, Juliana’s spotted by her father. He’s been working for the Japanese government ever since the war ended. Just making a living, what else could he do? It’s strange, though. He seems to have a high position in the surveillance department, but doesn’t know his daughter’s been killed. Anyway, now Juliana’s got definitive (and devastating) proof, there’s nothing keeping her from traveling to the Neutral Zone. Unless Joe has other plans.

Quantico: Inside

The 11th episode of Quantico – the one-word titled ‘Inside’ – serves as the so-called ‘Fall Finale’. In eleven weeks, Alex Parrish hasn’t exactly made any progress, finding the one(s) responsible for the bomb that went off in the pilot. Every single trainee has got something to hide; there’s no clear suspect yet. It’s just one beat around the bush at a time. Also, another bomb should’ve gone off long ago, but for some reason still hasn’t.

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Happy Holidays
We fall right in the middle of Christmas time at Quantico, FBI training center. Some people went home, because, you know, Christmas, but some decided to stay. Working cases that no one’s ever managed to close. Alex (Priyanka Chopra), Shelby (Johanna Braddy), Natalie (Anabelle Acosta) and Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri) are going to try to solve unsolvable cases, from inside a campus building. At least they’ve got something on their hands, while not spending the holidays with their loved ones.

Triple C
Until Caleb Haas (Graham Rogers) walks back in. He’s in need of a quick tuxedo change. Bored out of their minds (you can only stand on one leg for so long), the girls decide to go with him, to the party of his parents. Shelby meets her father- and mother-in-law, and I would’ve expected something of an attraction between her and Caleb’s dad Clayton (Mark Pellegrino), but no. The moment when their sparks seriously started flying is saved for another day. Shelby’s mostly bonding with Caleb’s mother Claire (Marcia Cross) – a lot of C’s in the Haas family, aren’t there?

Trouble in Several Paradises
Shelby loves Caleb, she ‘really does’, but she doesn’t share his quest for truth. Especially now she’s learnt about the time he joined a cult and wanted to blow himself up, for a good cause. He was ‘just seventeen’, which is, like, just a few years ago, I imagine? Anyway, it’s enough reason for Shelby to end their on and off relationship.
One relationship already broken, is the one between Alex and Ryan (Jake McLaughlin). Ryan’s at the party, too, as ‘fate’ would have it, in full undercover mode, playing husband and wife with his former wife Hannah (Eliza Coupe). For another year, at least, they have to pretend playing house, according to Hannah. Alex is beyond jealous, but there’s not much to be done, except act like a jealous teenager who regrets ever dumping this pretty good guy. A brief kiss in an empty room is all she gets.

Do We Care?
The question is, why should we care about all of this? Showing the Quantico training period was a nice plot device, because there’s a mole, but it’s about time they’d focus on the more serious problem at hand. Like stopping another bomb from going off in the heart of New York City, nine months later.

Nine Months Later
Elias (Rick Cosnett) comes walking into the command center, with a head wound. Somebody tried to push him in front of oncoming traffic. Or so he says. Wouldn’t that have been a nice stunt, for the show? Why didn’t we see it, then? Perhaps because it never happened. When he tells Liam (Josh Hopkins) and Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis), the team flies out to investigate. Elias walks away with a smile on his face. Okay, that was too easy. Every time Quantico tries too hard to serve up one of the characters as the bad guy, it’s not that simple.

Blackmail
And it isn’t. The team discovers Simon (Tate Ellington), taped to a chair and detonator. If he lets go, a bomb will blow. Elias, after some persuasion, comes clean. He’d been blackmailed. He kidnapped Simon, hoping to lead the team to him and then find a way to dismantle the bomb, but his little plan blows up in his face.
They do find the bomb, the bomb squad freezes the timer so it doesn’t go off, so Simon can let go. When he does, the bomb goes off anyway. A different one. Somewhere else. When they step outside, they see the command center has been destroyed.

Patience, Man
At least Elias is no longer a suspect. He did however frustrate an FBI investigation. The only way to avoid jail time, is to jump out of the window backwards, which he does. So what have we learnt, after 11 episodes? The mole is still in their midst. His or her motive is unclear. His or her goal is unclear. I guess it will take another 11 episodes before he or she’s finally revealed, and then we’ll have the joy of rewatching the whole first season and pick up on all the clues that we’ve missed. It’s a risky move, though. It really tests the patience of the audience, especially now the soapy side plots are starting to get a little annoying. Quantico could use a little Wayward Pines truth serum, explaining the conspiracy in a single episode and go from there.

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.

The X-Files: Gender Bender

You’d better think twice when you want to take a girl home who doesn’t blink. You’ll have the night of your life, but it’ll be your last night ever. You’ll cough up some disgusting, orangey, slushy stuff before you die and she’ll shapeshift her body into that of a male, like a reversed version of Caitlyn.

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Mixed Bag
The X-Files has thrown a lot of different things into a hat, but the episode that comes out of it turns out to be a mixed bag. There’s a killer out there, sometimes male, sometimes female, who’s traveling south. He/she’s picking up people of the opposite sex in dark discos, where they’re playing that typical, very minimalistic compared to today’s standards, eighties dance music. Mulder and Scully quickly travel to a community full of people dressed in black – and without any kids around. It’s like the Amish meets Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom meets Wayward Pines. With a little hint at a UFO, to top it off, which is just too much. I’m surprised they didn’t bring in Deep Throat and Tooms for cameos, while they were at it.
They did bring in Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea), although he’s not Alex Krycek yet.

The Kindred
They’re invited to have dinner with The Kindred, as they’re called. Supposedly to show Mulder and Scully they’re not crazy, or dangerous. Whatever their plan was, the community looks exactly that. Crazy and dangerous, and hiding a lot. All Mulder and Scully can do is leave, only to turn around again and sneak back into their spooky village.

Thumb Seduction
One of the Kindreds is trying to seduce Scully, using a touchy-feely tactic – with his thumb. It’s their trick to get laid, because rubbing their thumbs on somebody’s hand makes their victims all mellow and mushy. Scully’s no exception, but it never gets that far.
Mulder’s following the others down an underground maze, where they’ve stored bodies. It’s the place where people transform from one sex to the other – and vice versa, I guess, but it’s never fully explained. Mulder overhears the Kindreds talk about Scully, rushes out of the cave, kicks in the door of the first house he comes across, knocks the guy off of Scully and they both leave.

Roadblocks
Then another victim surfaces: Krycek. He escaped death, because they were interrupted by a cop. Off the record, he tells Mulder and Scully the girl he was with, changed into a man. When they go look for him/her, who’s called Marty, they’re too late. Marty’s picked up by the other Kindreds, who seem to have travelled not by car, but shadows. It’s easier this way, because of all the roadblocks.

Grain
Mulder and Scully, and backup, hurry to the one place they could’ve gone to; the village. But it’s deserted and all pathways to secret natural underground transgender clinics have been shut off by concrete. Where could they have gone? Well, judging by the big grain circle in their backyard, they were obviously aliens.

Far from Coherent
After last week’s ‘Beyond the Sea’, Chris Carter must’ve wanted to go back to X-Files basics. ‘Gender Bender’ has got it all, but it’s far from coherent. He should’ve just stuck with the sect and what they were doing beneath the soil. That would’ve been enough. This episode is simply over the top and a little ridiculous.

Wayward Pines: Cycle

The first season of Wayward Pines came to a close this week, with ‘Cycle’, and that title’s actually a bit of a spoiler. David Pilcher, the once sympathetic inventor who transformed into a mad genius during its 10 week run, cut the power last week, inviting the hungry ‘Abbies’ in.

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Skepticism
Wayward Pines has been a steady performer, although a real hit it never really became – despite the positive buzz it created on a weekly basis. Summer may have had a hand in that, as well as the fact that it was advertised as ‘the first television series by M. Night Shyamalan’. The director has gone from Hollywood Genius and Boy Wonder of Movie Magic, to Overrated Has-Been. Every time his name appears, enthusiasm vanishes as skepticism moves in.
Whether Pines was a fluke or not, the show about a mysterious small town, where anyone’s past is a life threatening taboo, proved to be one of the most entertaining series of 2015.

Chain Reaction
Contrary to what’s considered the common TV drama rule – which is to stretch out a secret as long as possible – Pines started out with a lot of questions, but answered them one by one, in rapid fashion. Surprisingly, this tactic didn’t pull out the rug from under it. Every secret that got exposed immediately caused another interesting chain reaction. The show never ran out of steam; then you know you’ve got a keeper – but a second season’s still up in the air at this point.

Grey Sand Incubators
‘Cycle’ could serve perfectly as a series finale, but it leaves lots of opportunities to continue the story. After Pilcher sentenced everybody to death, because, well, they wanted to know who was pulling the strings, and defied his orders, the Abbies cried havoc on the streets of Wayward Pines – where paradise is home. They really were insatiable, using the town as an all you can eat buffet.
Ethan Burke brings a lot of people to safety – the bunker Theresa discovered, a few weeks ago. From there, they take an elevator up to the top of the mountain, where Pilcher is putting everybody who looks at him funny back in their grey sand incubators, including his own sister, Nurse Pam.

Blaze of Glory
The Abbies break (eat?) their way into the elevator shaft and come climbing up. Ethan knows what he has to do: send everybody to the nearest floor and stay behind himself – with a bomb. Matt Dillon only signed on for one season, it seems like. Once Abbie arms break through the floor – what material is this elevator made of? – Ethan sets it off, killing the Abbies in a blaze of glory.

New Management
Thankfully, there are people loyal to Pam and she’s woken up again. Pilcher’s in the middle of one of his Blofeld-esque speeches, still refusing to turn the power back on – Kate’s pointing the gun at him, but that doesn’t seem to have any effect – when Pam comes in and shoots her brother.
With the power restored, the Abbies gone – for the time being – and new management, it looks like Wayward Pines is back in business, but no more surveillance, no more reckonings, no more ‘always answer the phone’.

First Generation
Ethan’s son, Ben, gets hit unconscious by a projectile flying around because of the elevator shaft explosion. When he wakes up, it’s three years later. Wayward Pines has been ‘reCycled’. It looks like the so-called ‘first generation’ has taken over. The town’s back in full surveillance mode, and people are being crucified if they try to leave. It’s like Michael Scofield gave his life getting his brother out of Fox River, but his actions put Lincoln right into Sona.
Shyamalan has expressed his interest in a season 2, ‘if it feels right, creatively’. Let’s hope it does. Maybe found a second town like Wayward Pines, somewhere else? On a side note: the Abbies apparently are the next phase of human evolution, so wouldn’t the survivors eventually evolve into them as well? In other words: human beings will cease to exist, no matter what. Maybe that’s an interesting angle to explore.

Zoo: First Blood

Clever, scary, pretty and intriguing. CBS’ newest series Zoo, based on the book by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, is a very enjoyable, professional adaptation. Don’t expect too much down the line, though.

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Apeshit
Directed by veteran Brad Anderson (Fringe, The Wire, Forever), ‘First Blood’ sets things up nicely. What if, one day, after caging and killing animals for sport, the animals decided to fight back? Well, that’s not a what if anymore; in Zoo, Jackson Oz (James Wolk) encounters some pretty weirdly behaving lions. If they were monkeys I’d say they’ve gone apeshit – and apeshit is what’s to come, trust me; wait until you see Oz’s pet at home.

Animal and Pizza Lover
So that’s the premise and the big mystery. Lions – and soon other animals too – attacking humans, on a global scale. Fired reporter and secret-but-not-that-secret blogger Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly) – the ‘girl with the genie tattoo’ – is on to something: she believes it’s the new food supplier of the zoo that makes the animals act so crazy.
She comes in contact with Mitch Morgan, an animal coroner who doesn’t like the word coroner. He doesn’t particularly like much, actually, but it’s a great character. Billy Burke (Revolution, 24, Major Crimes) takes a break from portraying moody good guys and scary bad guys. He’s an animal and pizza lover in this, and it must be his most realistic role to date. There’s an instant likeness about him, but it could just be the glasses.

Chewed Off
Then we have Oz’s friend Abraham Kenyatta (Nonso Anozie), who died in the book, but surprisingly survives in the show. First he has to escape from 5 lions, out of a tree, with his feet basically chewed off, though. The most annoying character must be Chloe Tousignant (Nora Arnezeder), but that may be the point. In the book, she’s pretty hysterical and unreliable, too.
One character we have yet to see, is Delavane, who’ll be played by Carl Lumbly, ladies and gentlemen; Marcus Dixon from Alias.

Nitpick
They’ve done a very good job adapting the original source material, with a lot of clever solutions concerning the lion attacks. A closeup of a pupil here, putting a lion in front of James Wolk in the editing room there, they’re very smart collages. CGI lions probably wouldn’t have cut it.
Speaking of lions, they’re males. If I remember correctly, they’re all female in the book – which fuels the mystery; where are the men? I guess male lions are simply scarier on film, so I’m not going to nitpick.

Alberta Green
It was a great joy to see Alberta Green again – watch the first season of 24 – but alas, it seems Tamara Tunie’s got her one and only scene of the season. It sure would be great if she showed up again next year, if a second season’s in the cards, of course.
That brings us to The Big Reveal, or ‘The Truth’. Zoo holds an inherit risk, in the sense that there’s a high conceptual mystery going on, which at some point – preferably in the season finale – should be revealed. Anyone who read the book, knows one shouldn’t expect a Wayward Pines-esque payoff. The reason the animals go haywire is quite simple and the story kind of falls flat when it’s discovered. Let’s hope the series has found a way to put the emphasis elsewhere; far away from the question why everything that’s happening is happening. If it doesn’t, get ready for the truth of a big anti-climax.