Recap: COLONY — It’s NOT About The Aliens

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Episode 1.03, “98 Seconds”
Directed by Juan José Campanella, Written by Daniel C. Connolly
Episode 1.04, “Blind Spot”
Directed by Nelson McCormick, Written by Dre Alvarez & Anna Fishko
Episode 1.05, “Geronimo”
Directed by Scott Peters, Written by Carlton Cuse

 

Playing catch-up is so much fun. And still an episode behind. Sigh.

Hello folks, and welcome to my multi-episode recap and analysis of USA’s Colony, brought to you late by life being life. (This, of course has never happened before.) But just as I binge-watched Lucifer to catch up and review over on our Horror4Me sister-site, I sat down this weekend and absorbed the 3rd, 4th, 5th episodes of Colony. The plus-side of such an experience is the realization that on a show about the aftermath of an alien invasion, the least important thing is the aliens, themselves.

Colony is about us.

COLONY -- "Blindspot" Episode 104 -- Pictured: (l-r) Carl Weathers as Beau, Felix Solis as Luis, Josh Holloway as Will Bowman -- (Photo by: Danny Feld/USA Network)
(Photo by: Danny Feld/USA Network)

I’ve drawn the parallels between this show and the original V miniseries before, and that is a good thing; but even more so than the WWII allegory of that classic story, Colony is about the experience of being occupied. If the show had been called The Occupation, or Occupied, or even Paris, then those titles would have fit, because the story we have here is about what we become under the rule of an occupying power.

It’s an experience that the vast majority of Americans have never known, and hopefully never will.

Of course, should one ask a Native-American, or one of the Japanese-Americans interred during World War II, they may tell you they have an opinion on the subject.

Plot-wise, Episodes 3-5 cover pretty linear territory: Homeland Security and Will’s division are on the hunt for the Resistance leader known as Geronimo, while Katie becomes more deeply entangled with the Resistance, endangering them both. That the man who calls himself Geronimo is just a figurehead, and the Resistance is using Katie for their own ends only complicates the world that our characters inhabit, as nothing is as it seems the closer one looks.

COLONY -- "Brave New World" Episode 102 -- Pictured: Kathy Baker as Phyllis -- (Photo by: Jack Zeman/USA Network)
(Photo by: Jack Zeman/USA Network)

Everything is shades of grey: Will’s boss Phyllis is not a villain, but an intelligent woman trying to keep as many people alive as she can, while caring for a husband who would be left to die by the rules of this new world without her. When Katie stages an attack at home to make it look like Will is a target, Phyllis clearly suspects she’s lying, yet when tapes of “Geronimo’s” broadcasts are found in Will’s son Bram’s room, she keeps them from the rest of Homeland Security instead of turning him in. The timing of “Geronimo’s” broadcasts is discovered by hidden messages in posters that appear throughout the city, and the man making the broadcasts is captured, only to be revealed as just someone playing the role of “Geronimo”.

The Resistance seems to really be fighting against the Hosts, but their methods are often as much a danger to the men and woman they claim to be fighting for. The ruthless killing of one of their own injured in an attempt to time the response of the Host drones by robbing a food truck leads to the death of nearly 20 men and women who join in the looting, and Katie’s realization that there will be blood on her hands by being a part of the Resistance. She makes a deal that she’ll continue to be a source for them as long as Will is kept safe, but when they ask her to point out Will’s boss, her identification of Phyllis reveals that the Resistance can get in and out of the Green Zone at will, because they have infiltrated the Red Hats, and Phyllis and her husband are murdered.

COLONY -- "Geronimo" Episode 105 -- Pictured: Sarah Wayne Callies as Katie Bowman -- (Photo by: Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network)
(Photo by: Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network)

Bram, meanwhile, is both conspiring with one of his teachers to use a telescope to see what the Hosts are doing in orbit, and discovering that his new girlfriend Pia has access to the outer world through tunnels under the Colony walls. Outside there are empty buildings and supplies long unavailable within the walls, but there are no signs of life. Maddie gets a new job within the Green Zone, working for a rich couple attempting to preserve the artwork left in the museums that survived the arrival of the Hosts, which reveals that some of the works of art were sent up to the Hosts. Her knowledge of the personal collections of the rich of L.A. becomes a bargaining chip she uses to gain a permanent position, and a supply of insulin for her son.

The capture of the man playing the role of “Geronimo” spurs Proxy Governor Snyder to claim that the leader of the Resistance has been captured, and he is far from pleased to learn that the man is just a figurehead. He is even less pleased by the news that all signs point to the real “Geronimo” being inside the Green Zone. Will and Beau use the information from a teen caught with some of the posters to find the source of the propaganda materials, which turns out to be a hidden printing press run by a couple who are just trying to inspire the people to resist… the Resistance is just taking advantage of the broadcasts and “Geronimo” to hide what and who they are.

COLONY -- "Geronimo" Episode 105 -- Pictured: Peter Jacobson as Proxy Alan Snyder -- (Photo by: Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network)
(Photo by: Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network)

Snyder basically goes full on mustache-twirling villain here, but this too is grayer than it appears. He turns out to be answering to a Governor-General, and his claims of capturing the leader of the Resistance have great risks, considering that “Geronimo” is anything but. He has a plan though, which he doesn’t quite tell to a woman named Helena, who appears to be above him in the food chain. He makes a deal with the captured man – who is revealed to have been a  small-time actor before the Arrival named Louis – to play the part of “Geronimo” one more time in a public show-trial. The actor stands trial and Snyder will spare his life… a deal that Louis takes. Of course Snyder lies, and after an emotional and dramatic week with testimony from many citizens whose family members have died because of the actions of the Resistance, he reveals to Louis that the deal was a ruse. Gagging him so that he can’t protest, he has his men drag Louis to a scaffold, where he is hanged before the public. The stunned silence of the crowd isn’t quite the reaction he expected.

 

Aaaaand Episode 1.06,  “Yoknapatawpha”!
Directed by Nelson McCormick, Written by Ryan Condal

Because I couldn’t not watch the latest episode, and there’s even more happening here that tells us about how the world of Colony came to be.

Or rather, we hear a version of events that may or may not be true, because the source is Provost Snyder, and considering our experiences with him so far, he may not be the most reliable of narrators. As the previous episode was ending, Will was being taken by Snyder to meet someone as the Resistance was gearing up for a huge operation. Disguised as Red Hats and armed to the teeth, they attack Snyder’s convoy, swiftly killing almost everyone but Will and Snyder, with only Will’s training saving them and turning the tables.

Elsewhere – and I couldn’t tell if it was another Colony Bloc or somewhere outside one –  Helena tells someone on the phone that New York is not pleased about Snyder’s actions, and that plans have been made.

COLONY -- "Blindspot" Episode 104 -- Pictured: Josh Holloway as Will Bowman -- (Photo by: Danny Feld/USA Network)
(Photo by: Danny Feld/USA Network)

Will manages to get Snyder to the Yonk mere moments after Katie gets there, and after she has hidden the evidence of her own involvement in the attack on Snyder. Will hopes that they can hide out there until the real Red Hats arrive, but he’s wounded and there is no working phone. He’s also, of course, not aware that Katie is with the Resistance, nor is he aware that as soon as he leaves to find a payphone, that Katie has called them to let them know that Snyder is at the bar. She extracts another promise that Will will not be harmed and then finds herself with the joy of playing host to a man she despises.

It is here that their awkward attempts at conversation reveal that Snyder was a University Provost at Stanford before the Arrival, and that he was relocated to L.A. by the Hosts to serve as Proxy Governor. He doesn’t know what happened to the previous members of the government, and he tells Katie that L.A. is one of seven Colonies on the West Coast and that the spaces between are places that she really doesn’t want to be. Will returns with the news that Snyder’s personal Red Hats are on the way, and he and Katie argue about letting the Resistance have him, with Will insisting that the next one could be worse: Snyder is the devil they know.

That devil then tells them that he has found their son alive in the Santa Monica Bloc and that he is trying to bring him back. He claims that he is negotiating with Helena to bring him back, and that he keeps his promises. Of course, we know that he made a promise to Louis, too, and that didn’t turn out so well, but they don’t even if it’s obvious that he’s trying to make them see how much they need him alive. If he appeared a little vulnerable when telling Katie about his past, here he is the manipulator we’ve seen before, and it’s not pretty. The sudden arrival of Katie’s Resistance contact disguised as a Red Hat sends Will and Snyder into hiding as Katie pretends to show the “Red Hat” that there is no one else here. It’s a really odd scene and one that is jarring in that every other time we’ve seen the Red Hats, we’ve seen how brutal they are, and here – playacting on both sides aside – the fake one is polite if firm.

He’s also alone, and that, too, is unnatural. Will knows that the Red Hat is Resistance, and Snyder pushes Katie too far, so she almost throws him out onto the street and into Resistance hands. Will stops her and Snyder – idiot that he seems to be in such matters – arrogantly keeps pushing, and threatening them with both the knowledge that anyone who replaced him would be worse, and that he’s their only hope for getting their son back.

Outside, the Resistance troops are told that the promises to Katie are no longer relevant, and Will is fair game, while inside Snyder reveals to Will that he has met the Hosts, and they are terrifying. Sounds on the roof signal the Resistance making their move, and the Siege of the Yonk begins. Will takes out most of the attackers before he’s almost killed by one of them, and only saved by Katie shooting the man in the back. Her contact gets the drop on them, and demands the location of Snyder, only to find what appears to be signs that he’s escaped as Snyder’s men arrive. Will reveals that Snyder was hidden under the bar, and he orders Will to find the Resistance and kill them.

Katie has to deal with both killing the Resistance member and the knowledge that “Geronimo” was a lie, which makes her tenuous position with the Resistance even worse. What she doesn’t know is that they have decided that she is responsible for all the failed missions, and that she must be a double-agent.

Again, if your only experience with Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies is Sawyer and Lori, or the abysmal Intelligence or the popular Prison Break, you need to set all that aside. Holloway’s Will and Callies’ Katie are fully formed three-dimensional characters here, and aside from the larger issues of freedom and alien invasion, the core of this series is their relationship. Seriously, this show would sink if they didn’t have the chemistry they have together, because at its core, this is a story about family. That family is in an occupied world, which throws all the standard family drama stuff out the window, but together they are part of the larger story about who we are and what we are under duress.

  • Are we Will? Fighting to save and reunite his family, while trying to use the system to save lives?
  • Are we Katie? Also fighting for her family, but getting caught up with people whose words and actions belie their claims?
  • Are we Snyder? Doing anything to survive, manipulating everyone and reveling in the perks of an unearned position, at the expense of those around us?
  • Are we the Resistance? The goal of freedom from tyranny might be noble, but the methods are monstrous… how far would we go for an ideal? Would we become the monsters we claim to be fighting?

To varying degrees, every person on this show is operating with self-interest at the core of their actions. Even Will and Katie aren’t immune, despite couching their actions in the larger goal of finding their son and bringing him home. Everything we see on this show – and all the death that has been and will be – is the result of Will making the objectively selfish decision to sneak into Santa Monica to find his son. I say objectively, because his actions put his wife and his other two children at risk, let alone his friends who helped him. Katie is trying to protect her husband and children, but she also seems to need to be a part of something bigger than herself. While the Resistance fits that bill and seems – initially – to be the noble fight against the Host’s dominion, we see that her actions have opened her and her family up to reprisals from the very people she is trying to aid.

This is good storytelling, folks. I hope you’re watching. Luckily we have the news that as of the 4th episode, Colony is getting a second season. The basic human struggle to be free and to make sense of the world we live it is, of course, more than any series can cover in the 10-episode run of the first season.

After all, the Nazis controlled Paris for 4 years…

 

Colony airs Thursdays at 10/9c on USA.

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Timothy Harvey

Timothy Harvey is a Kansas City based writer, director, actor and editor, with something of a passion for film noir movies. He was the art director for the horror films American Maniacs, Blood of Me, and the pilot for the science fiction series Paradox City. His own short films include the Noir Trilogy, 9 1/2 Years, The Statement of Randolph Carter - adapted for the screen by Jason Hunt - and the music video for IAMEVE’s Temptress. He’s a former President and board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City, and has served on the board of Film Society KC.

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