Written by Chris Diggins
Colony, Series Premiere Plot Summary
In near-future Los Angeles, Will Sullivan (Josh Holloway) attempts a daring rescue. His wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) tries to help a relative in need. A job opportunity threatens to divide the family.
Originality is overrated. That’s not to say it isn’t something to strive for, of course. When you find something that feels entirely unique, it can be quite exhilarating, and such works often end up being some of our favorites. But that spark of originality isn’t necessary to being good, and by the same token, being derivative doesn’t necessarily make something bad. A familiar premise, dusted off and presented in an entertaining fashion, is more than enough to make a good show. And that’s good news for Colony, since that’s exactly what it is.
Colony is a new series by USA about a near-future Los Angeles in a world that’s been occupied by a mysterious group of aliens. Humans live under an oppressive government that has divided the world into separate blocs, ruled over by a system of “Proxies” who have collaborated with the alien race. Their only opposition is an underground resistance movement that strikes at random, using whatever tactics necessary to force these invaders to leave. In other words, it’s the same type of story we’ve heard many times before: in V, in Falling Skies, in Half-Life 2, even the execrable Battlefield Earth had the same basic structure. But we’ve seen this story so many times before because it’s an interesting way to explore how we hold onto our humanity (or fail to) in the face of overwhelming adversity and oppression. And while it may not dive too deep into this yet, this pilot does effectively hint at these themes and lay the groundwork for their future exploration.
To its credit, Colony also allows its world to unfold in a careful, deliberate fashion. We start with a normal morning in the Sullivan household, something you might experience every day. There are only small hints at the true nature of things: a lack of abundant food, a family photograph (with a missing child) that gives wife and mother Katie the slightest of pauses, barbed wire topping the fence of their idyllic suburban home. The particulars of their situation, the extent of this totalitarian government, even the fact that this is the work of an alien race is all parceled out slowly over the course of the episode, organically woven into the narrative rather than forced into obvious exposition. The only clumsy bit is one scene where Katie is seeking out black market insulin. The dealer she finds awkwardly explains all the reasons why insulin is so hard to find now, things Katie clearly already knows or she wouldn’t be there. Still, it’s the only writing that feels especially stiff, so it’s easily forgiven.
The show could definitely use some improvement when it comes to its characters though. Will and Katie, as our two main characters, function quite well, and it will be fascinating to see how the different ways they go about protecting their family play out and inevitably come into conflict over the course of the series. Holloway and Callies deserve a lot of credit for their acting here, keenly highlighting the drama without becoming overwrought. But other than them, we’re sorely lacking in compelling characters. The only other person of particular note is Proxy Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson), the human governor of LA, who puts a human face on the collaborators and couches his actions in terms of wisely accepting the inevitable while still retaining an air of menace. Every other person we meet, from soldiers to friends to Will and Katie’s own children, are one note archetypes with very little personality of their own. Even the extras are rather bland, and their dull line reads make a few key moments fall flatter than they should. Will and Katie certainly have the presence to carry the main plot on their shoulders for now, but if a solid supporting cast doesn’t develop soon it may be too great a weight for them to bear alone.
Still, if the purpose of a pilot is to intrigue you, I can’t say it wasn’t successful. I wouldn’t have watched this show if I hadn’t volunteered to review it for Pop-Break, but after watching I find myself genuinely curious about where it ends up going. Unoriginal as it may be, this is an interesting world, and the requisite bombshell twist at the end of the pilot does set up a good dynamic that could yield many dividends down the road. It won’t be winning USA the kind of praise last year’s excellent Mr. Robot garnered for them, but it’s solidly entertaining and I want to see more. What else can you ask from a pilot?
Rating: 8 out of 10