Colony: Season 1 (2016) – The time: the near future. The place: Los Angeles. Under occupation of unseen alien invaders.
Set less than a year after the Earth was invaded and conquered by an alien race, the USA Network series Colony is set in a city cut off from the rest of the world by a towering wall that looks like Donald Trump’s wet dream. Will Bowman (Josh Holloway), a former FBI agent, smuggles himself out to look for a son who was trapped in Santa Monica when the walls went up. He’s captured and leveraged into working for the occupation forces—to collaborate, in other words—to save his family from retribution. His wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies), meanwhile, is working for the underground resistance and passes on intelligence she picks up from Will in exchange for their promise to leave him unharmed. Both are ready to sacrifice everything to protect their family and each other.
Colony has some similarities to the Amazon Prime series The Man in the High Castle, though it is neither as nuanced nor as heady, as well as such shows as V and Battlestar Galactica, reworked as a resistance drama that reimagines Europe under Nazi occupation as a modern American experience, except the alien overlords are never seen and their motivations remain a mystery. Like most USA shows, it creates the near future on a modest budget, and it works pretty well here. The series was co-created by Carlton Cuse, one of the producers of Lost, and he helps shape a show that effectively merges the familiar and the alien. This is the day after tomorrow, with the pop culture of our present and past still lingering in the background and armed drones patrolling the streets like big brother with a hair trigger.
The issues are real enough—how far will you go to protect the ones you love?—though the show doesn’t push too hard at the cost of such of the Devil’s bargains made by the heroes. The most powerful world leader, along with military officers and law officials, have all been executed by the invaders and low-level politicians, bureaucrats, and a few veteran power players and intelligence veterans who escaped scrutiny are left to manage what’s left of the cities. The series doesn’t necessarily demonize the collaborators—many believe they are protecting the survivors (a failed uprising in another city was quelled by massacring the populace) and others have their own reasons not so different from Will and Katie—and it acknowledges sacrifice of bystanders by resistance fighters (directly or indirectly) as collateral damage. Kathy Baker is particularly engaging as a seemingly cold-blooded collaborator who compartmentalizes intelligence in manner that suggests more than the show is willing to engage in.
But Colony isn’t about equating the two. Rather, it explores how and why people behave as they do in such circumstances and how they balance protecting family with responsibility to their neighbors and, ultimately, to the future. On that score you can bet that, when it comes down to it, our tarnished heroes are on the side of both survival and liberty. Peter Jacobson, Amanda Righetti, Paul Guilfoyle, Ally Walker, and Carl Weathers co-star.
The second season begins in January on USA