As mentioned in our preview, the new USA Network dystopian drama Colony is a show that exists at the intersection of many family premises. Aliens. Spies. Spying on Aliens as they spy on us. Watching the pilot, two things instantly came to mind: Childhood’s End alien-overseen military state, and The Man in the High Castle’s alternate geopolitics.
However, the second episode of the show brings in a new ingredient in this cauldron of familiar ideas: The Americans. Colony’s latest instalment focuses on the deepening divide between husband Will (Josh Holloway) and wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies), which crescendos in a tragic conflict of interest. Their dynamic at points recalls the complex relationship between Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) on the FX spy thriller, a relationship that also typically sours because of moral disagreements.
Will and Katie — a much more loving couple than Philip and Elizabeth — live under the shadow of heartbreak after the relocation of their son. As a result, they are both driven by a need to, as Katie puts it, “do what [they] can for the people that [they] love.” The two characters exist to atone for not doing more when it mattered most. Unfortunately, neither of the sides they independently answer to — the “collaborating” Los Angeles government and an opposing “resistance” movement — shares this moral imperative. Each of these organization seeks to take out the leadership of the other, leaving Will and Katie opting for whatever option will help them protect the people they come across from the looming danger. In this specific case, the family of Will’s ex-coworker.
Both characters are already compromised, placing their faith in different angry gods. Kate begins to report to one of a higher-ups of the resistance — with direct ties to their leader, Geronimo — who in turn extracts information from her about Will’s conscripted maneuvers. The consequences are instantaneous, as the mother and child Will and Katie were trying to protect are killed. Katie’s game-changing park bench meeting is likewise textbook The Americans which is certainly not a bad thing at this point.
Will’s own boss attempts to ease his conscience about working against the resistance by reemphasizing the consequences of their rebellion. (“Every defense mechanism in this city was wiped out within eight hours. Do you really think a handful of guerrillas is going to make a different against them?”) From their perspective, the right side is the one that will be able to save more lives. It is ultimately up to the audience of Colony to decide on which is the bigger baddie: the authoritarian government or the enclave of people who may anger these new alien overlords who might in turn opt to wipe out humanity.
Like The Americans, Colony too presents us with a cold war but one that is clearly set to warm up quickly — no matter how much Will believes his work can keep the peace. Colony raises current and worthy questions, particularly during this election season: Is a drastic change to the status quo ever possible? Is it advisable? And how far can good intentions take a society when both compliance and resistance will result in a pile of corpses? Colony is shaping up to be a worthy entry in the pantheon, by providing us with something closer to The Americans than the cheesy alien fanfare we might have expected from the premise.