During San Diego Comic-Con last summer, I saw a panel for the new show, Colony. Colony was created by the producers of Lost and stars Lost’s own Josh Holloway. San Diego Comic Con is an interesting place to promote a new show since the audience is already predisposed to liking it and are incredibly enthusiastic to hear behind the scenes information. Panels do such a great job of setting up the premise and getting in the minds of the creators of a show, I was so excited by the end of the panel to start watching the series. Unfortunately, that sometimes means getting excited for a show in July that isn’t scheduled to air until January, as was the case with Colony.
Colony came in on the heels of the brilliant series, Mr. Robot. If you aren’t checking out USA’s original programming after that, then there may be no hope for you. But if you have watched and loved Mr. Robot (which is available On Demand), I won’t presume that you will enjoy Colony as they are completely different types of television. While Colony is technically a science fiction show, it performs episode to episode like a mystery and spy thriller.
Colony is set in a dystopian central Los Angeles which, after an alien invasion, has been surrounded by a large impenetrable wall and is now under a military occupation of the “Colony Transitional Authority”. This authority, made up of many former government workers, was put in place by the aliens to keep the human population peaceful and under control. The ruins of the armed invasion, referred to as “The Arrival” show up around the city throughout the series and the government officials often refer to how much worse it could be if they’re unable to keep the peace. The conflict arises less than a year after the occupation when Will Bowman (Holloway) is captured by the authority and his background in law enforcement is found out by the Proxy Governor Snyder, who is also an unrepentant collaborator with the extraterrestrial invaders or Hosts.
Will was on a mission to find his son Charlie, who was separated from the family during the invasion. Will had been hiding his true identity from the proxy government to protect his wife, Katie, and two children that remain with him, Bram and Gracie. However, once he has been captured he is pressured by Proxy Snyder to work for the Transitional Authority to track down leaders of the rebellion who are actively fighting against the occupation of the Hosts and their surveillance drones. This job offer will put Will squarely on the side of the Collaborators, or the privileged class of humans enforcing the alien occupation of the Los Angeles Colony, though Will’s only other choice is to be sent to The Factory, a facility that runs on slave labor reminiscent of labor camps during war time.
Though his wife Katie is understanding of his decision to join the Proxies, she is uncomfortable with Will helping the Hosts, even if he was forced into it. She decides to join the rebellion and use her relationship with Will to pass on government information to The Resistance. Eventually, Katie finds herself in over her head and Will, though not a true believer in the cause, is good at his job and begins to make inroads into finding the leaders of the rebellion and shutting them down, unknowingly putting his and Katie’s life in great danger.
Colony is such an interesting show and while the marketing asked the audience to choose a side, collaborate or resist, each episode showed the pros and cons of each side and how murky these decisions can be. Will does not agree with the military occupation and totalitarian rule of the Proxy Government but also loathes the Resistance terrorist tactics of rebellion and the loss of innocent life. Katie is strongly in agreement with the Rebellion and the moral need to stand against the government and the hosts but feels immense guilt whenever the group kills a Redhat (what they call the military policemen). Colony expertly explores the politics in play of choosing a side or just trying to survive in the current climate. There is also smart commentary on propaganda, loyalty, partnership and the murkiness of choosing a side. Is any side all right, does a greater purpose absolve you for doing wrong? These are big themes and the show deals with them in a nuanced and innovative way that excites me as someone who has always been interested in how stories are constructed in media and how themes are utilized within plots.
However, more important than the themes this show explores, is the fact that it’s just a legitimately intriguing and absorbing thriller. Each episode sets up the stakes and lets you know that even though there are these all-powerful aliens capable of leveling whole cities, the biggest threat to these characters are their neighbors and close friends, maybe even their spouse. Who can you trust and can you trust anyone completely? Will they sell you out to save themselves? It has been less than a year after the occupation when the first episode of the 10 episode season starts and we do not see a single alien until the season finale, but I was hooked all the way through. Unfortunately, in terms of season two, I’m left with the same issue I was after San Diego Comic Con: I have to wait until January!?