Let's begin with a warning: There's a lot of silly dialogue in Colony.
Good guys ask bad guys how they "slap on a suit and a smile and dick over their own kind." Teen bullies harass their classmates by warning, "No trading goes on without me getting my beak wet." A moody ex-FBI fugitive hunter, when pressed about his past, mumbles about being "good at finding people." Most regrettably, a black woman running a bootleg pharmacy brags about how no one makes good insulin "except old Heloise." (Old Heloise seems an awful lot like Annie the Popeyes lady, doesn't she? That's because both characters are played by actress Deidrie Henry.)
If you had high hopes that USA would follow up Mr. Robot with another stirring original drama, don't fret: The pilot's unconvincing script doesn't spell Colony's early doom. Executive producers Carlton Cuse and Ryan Condal have conjured an urban dystopia with promising similarities to genre contemporaries (from District 9 to Fear the Walking Dead) and thematic forebears (They Live, Escape from L.A.).
Let's back up a moment, though, and say a few words for the late Spider, a.k.a. Charles Baker, immediately unmistakable as Breaking Bad's lanky miscreant Skinny Pete. We meet Spider as he helps smuggle former Special Agent Will Bowman (Josh Holloway) from Los Angeles into Santa Monica to find his missing 12-year-old son. He dies on the job soon afterward, thanks to an IED planted by an insurgency group called the Resistance. We knew poor Spider for all of … an hour.
Rest assured, Spider doesn't die in vain. Will survives the blast, then after being escorted to a slummy holding area, he's chaperoned to the Green Zone, a cordoned-off VIP area in Los Angeles for post-apocalyptic muckety-mucks and obedient compliers. The mysterious, unseen Hosts have besieged La La Land — and everywhere else on Earth, presumably — imposing a new world order that mimics John Nada's perspective in They Live. (No x-ray specs required.) Under the new Host regime, Napoleonic nobodies like Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson) control territory by proxy, governing armies of militant "Redhats" who keep the public in line by tearing families apart (hence Will's quest), compelling innocent civilians to slave work in "The Factory," and generally just acting like dicks.
Will is relieved that he's headed to the Green Zone, but that comfort is short-lived. Snyder barely allows him a sip of bourbon before laying out his offer: You were a super-duper special agent in your previous life, until we made all law enforcement disappear. You, you canny bastard, somehow slipped through the system. And while we appreciate the irony of this situation, we'd like to hire you to sniff out civilians who help the Resistance. In return, we might give you that father-and-son reunion you crave.
As with any serious job offer, Snyder gives Will a night to talk things over with his wife, Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies). However, she's as skeptical as her husband is desperate. She just spent her afternoon in the worst way: almost getting conned by black-market insulin peddlers, watching a man get kidnapped into a Redhat's SUV, and defying proxy law by openly brandishing a firearm to protect herself from the neighbors. To top it all off, she and Will are still struggling to assign blame for their middle child's unknown whereabouts. While both are sympathetic to the Resistance's cause, Katie has leadership potential written all over her.
After Katie gives Will her blessing to take the job, she steals off to meet with insurgent higher-ups and disclose that — fittingly, by proxy — she's their new woman on the inside. In the meantime, she and her kin will be eligible dependents for Will's fringe benefits, like all the insulin they need, social opportunities, even omelettes and bacon whipped up by Proxy Snyder himself. For Will and Katie, forging ahead as government collaborators is a no-brainer, no matter their respective endgames. At least this way, their oldest son Bram won't have to barter oranges for tortillas on the school bleachers and wet those bullies' beaks.
After one episode, Colony seems somewhat promising. Proxy Snyder is a terrific face for the faceless alien menace; he's irresistibly insincere as he assures Will that the Hosts will leave once they "satisfy their needs." Much like Snyder, I'm eager to watch Will's pursuit of Geronimo, the enigmatic leader of the Resistance. Also: How will his and Katie's missions imperil the Bowman family? Bad times are ahead. With a little bit of SFX razzle-dazzle, that's reason enough to hope Colony will become good TV.
Apart from all that:
- So far, the show has a neat supporting cast. Tory Kittles! What's up, True Detective?
- The Leftovers gave us a Departure, and now Colony has delivered the Arrival.
- I'm not sure we had to see the wall with photos of missing families tacked onto it. How much 9/11 allegory does this show need?
- I'm sorry, what was the name of Katie's bar?
- About that whole insulin discovery …
- For anybody out there who doesn't trust Carlton Cuse, I have one question for you: How could you possibly be skeptical of the man who gave us Nash Bridges?