Series 1.02, “Brave New World”
The realities of what Will’s new life are more of a nightmare than he could imagine, and secrets Katie is keeping threaten to expose far too much, on the latest episode of USA’s Colony.
We’re teased with quite a lot of new information this episode, although none of it is actually complete answers to the largest questions Colony raises. First off we see the beginnings of the changes to Will and Katie’s home life now that Will is working for the Colony Transitional Authority, and they range from minor to potentially catastrophic. The addition of tutors for the children and a car for Will — in a city where the general public is forbidden to have cars — is likely to draw attention from those around them, and not the good kind, considering the feelings the general public seems to have for collaborators. Obviously, Will’s job with the trucking company is a thing of the past, so the idea that they are going to try and put out the story that he got a promotion and the car came with it seems pretty much destined to fail, and Katie trying to keep their eldest son in his regular school is an invitation for disaster as well.
It doesn’t help matters that the deal Will made with the Proxy Governor isn’t quite what Snyder claimed, because Will is far from in a position of authority in this task force put together to take the Resistance leadership down. He’s actually just a tool in the box of a woman named Phyllis, and gets put in his place pretty much as soon as he walks in the door of the Transitional Authority offices.
Here we also get a sense of some of the whys and whats of the invasion — or as Phyllis calls it, “the Arrival” — with the confirmation that the FBI and the Special Forces were basically hunted down and killed by either the aliens and/or their human agents.And we learn that the alien occupation is actually fairly recent, only months old in fact, which puts the giant walls and the almost complete transformation of society into stark perspective. Will also gains a partner in Beau, who is, in the tradition of all such relationships, jaded and cynical and regarded as a screw-up by his superiors. One does wonder how he shall factor into the larger arc of the story.
Their first job is to find the man behind the bombing at the LA checkpoint, but he’s not at all a dig deal in the Resistance, just a guy doing whatever for the money. While Beau wants to drag the investigation out to enjoy the perks of the job, Will figures that the man isn’t bright enough to stay low, and will come back to see his girlfriend. The show makes a point about him not being the brightest bulb, and that’s good, because he does, in fact, do that fairly stupid thing. This leads to a chase scene and the dummy caught, ending with a visit from an alien drone that lingers a bit ominously. Bringing the guy back to the holding cells, Will discovers that his friend Carlos has been picked up by the Red Hats. Carlos is, quite understandably, pretty angry that Will is both working for the CTA and that he lied about who he really is, but Will assures him that he will help his family and get him out. Phyllis, however, is less than clear that she’s willing to let Will have Carlos as an informant.
Meanwhile, Katie is dealing with the impact of Will’s new gig on her relationship with the Resistance, and this, too, is worse than it initially appeared. With her old bar allowed to reopen by the Transitional Authority, and her inside line on them through Will, you’d think that she would be allowed time to develop that insight, but no, her contact wants info about the same faction of the Resistance that Will is hunting, and fast. Another complication is the arrival of Carlos’ family at the house, and Katie’s begging for aid from the Resistance to help them fall on deaf ears.
Maddie finds herself the victim of the new social-stratification that has become the norm of the occupied LA while working as a waitress at a party for the colony Water and Power authority. George, an old friend of her and her (I believe) husband Rob, has become third in command for Water and Power, and he “rescues” her from the party and they sleep together. Afterwards George makes it clear that he can’t be seen consorting with someone like her for appearances-sake, but hey, maybe they can have a secret thing if she wants. Maddie, understandably insulted and angry, storms out.
Will returns home to discover that Carlos’ wife and son are in the guest room, and he and Katie take them and head out to find them new ID’s. Of course Will’s new car gets them pulled over, but his new Homeland Security badge seems to give him more clout than he thought. Their contact for fake papers puts the wheels in motion, but the conversation Will and Katie have while they wait reveals that Katie hasn’t let Will know about her work with the Resistance, and that Will’s plan to use the bomber to find its leaders is going to cause more than a few problems. No one is happy about the place they have to leave Carlos’ family, but it’s the only option they have.
Will returns to Homeland Security, and Katie meets with one of the Resistance higher-ups and is basically told again that helping individual people is not the goal of those fighting the aliens. She’s tasked with helping make sure that the Resistance knows when Will’s team is closing in on the splinter group that the bomber is part of, because they know the identities of too many of the Resistance, and can’t be allowed to be captured. Her contact also tells her that something big is about to happen… something that could turn the tide against the aliens and their human agents.
At Homeland Security, Will discovers that Carlos and the other prisoners are being taken to The Factory, and that his request for Carlos to be freed has been denied. Phyllis reminds him that they are trying to save lives, but they are not in control of the situation, and that the best they can hope for is saving as many innocent lives as they can and keeping things from getting worse. She holds the buses to The Factory so Will can have a chance to say goodbye to Carlos (and let him know that his family is safe) but Carlos’ fear and anger are more powerful than anything Will has to say.
We also learn that Los Angeles was completely conquered in 8 hours.
At home, Will’s anger, pain and disgust at what he is being forced to do are eased somewhat by Katie’s insistence that he is protecting her and their children, but a call about a break in their case sends him out into the night. Katie hears enough to give the Resistance a heads up, and they kill the splinter group before Will and Beau arrive, causing Will to realize that there is a leak somewhere.
And at The Factory, Carlos and the other prisoners are forced to strip, then ushered into a shower-like room…
The most interesting thing “Brave New World” does has little to do with the actual action of the episode, although there are plenty of things going on here. No, the most interesting thing is the revelation that the “bad guys” and the “good guys” are not as easily labelled as anyone would like. The Resistance is putting “the big picture” of striking against the aliens ahead of individual lives, and that focus allows for a lot of innocent men, women and children to fall in the service of an ideal they aren’t actually committed to. One has to question any group that is willing to let the people they are supposedly fighting for suffer in the name of an ideal… something that we have seen — and continue to see today, sad to say — lead to massive death and destruction throughout human history.
On the other side, Homeland Security seems to be the obvious villains, but what Phyllis says makes a disturbing amount of sense. What could the Resistance possibly accomplish against an alien power that can conquer a city the size of LA in less than half a day? What will anything they do lead to, aside from making this awful situation even worse? Will thinks Phyllis is ex-CIA, and if so, she may likely be used to making those terrible decisions, but she’s using logic here, no matter what the emotional response feels like it should be.
Sacrificing the safety of the women, men and families that you are fighting to free from a seemingly unbeatable enemy, or trying to crush those who would fight so you can save as many people as possible from the devastating reprisals that would surely follow a large-scale uprising? Which terrible choice is the right one?
Is there a right one?
Two episodes in, Colony is subverting the alien invasion tropes right and left, to its benefit. Last week I compared it to the original V miniseries, and if one discounts the half-baked 2nd miniseries, the goofy TV series and the uneven reboot, we may finally have the worthy successor to that World War II-inspired story here. The parallels to the Nazis play out in the “shower” sequence at The Factory in a way that 1980’s television could never have shown, and we have just enough connection to Carlos to feel the hair rise as he and the others are ordered to strip and crowded into what looks terrifying like an oven. That there is more to it than it appears, that there are still far more questions than answers, and that we may finally have a TV series that Sarah Wayne Callies and Josh Holloway can shine in is — for this reviewer — a most welcome surprise.