Thursday, January 14, 2016

REVIEW: 'Colony' - Will Searches for His Son and Enters into a New Job with the Occupation in 'Pilot'

USA's Colony - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

In near-future Los Angeles, Will attempts a daring rescue. His wife, Katie, tries to help a relative in need. A job opportunity threatens to divide the family.

Colony makes it a stylistic choice not to put a face to the occupational entity that is currently controlling the Los Angeles area - and quite possibly many other cities across the country. It instead choices to focus on the humans in this new world. How do people react to such incredible circumstances? This occupation has changed the way of life. Some people have decided to go along with it. Take the opportunities and create a better life for themselves and their families. Others have decided to resist. Their humanity is being taken away from them and they will fight until the very end in order to maintain their dignity and individuality. And then, there are those who decided to live under this society. Follow the rules and live in this new world hoping that nothing bad will happen to their loved ones as a result. That is an interesting place to set this show in. It establishes the human condition and a strong emotional through-line for the piece. So much of this premiere episode is set up for conflict that's about to come. But it's captivating because of the intense focus on how changed this one family unit has become as a result of this new world.

The show starts with this family unit - the Sullivans. Will is looking proudly at his two children as he prepares to make breakfast for the family. And yet, it becomes immediately known that something is off with this reality. Will is frustrated when he accidentally drops an egg on the floor. This means his plans for breakfast have changed. That's because the whole world has changed. They live in a world where so many things have been rationed for them. They only have a limited number of things. It's a world that this entire family has adjusted to. But underneath the surface, there is so much pain within this family. Will and his wife Katie are both fighting to preserve this family. They want to keep it together. That's why they've fallen in line with this society. But both are willing to fight in order to get what they want as well.

Both Will and Katie are very capable as characters. Will is willing to sneak past the border into another colony block just in the hopes of finding his other son who was separated from the family when the occupation first started. Meanwhile, Katie goes to a black market in the hopes of finding insulin (which has been outlawed to thin the herd of the weak) for her sister's son. Both of them are willing to break the rules if it means helping their family. That's what truly defines them as characters. The repercussions of those actions set them on a path that may actually tear the family apart. Both Will and Katie believe they are right in their beliefs. They have gone in hiding in order to protect their family. They don't what Will's reputation as a FBI agent to bring any harm their way. But this family is being thrusted into conflict and that makes for some truly captivating drama.

Will's attempt to find his son is thwarted because the resistance detonates a bomb at the border. It seemingly kills Will's traveling companion. More importantly, it lands Will in lockup which is a very dangerous place in this world. Anyone caught disobeying the rules will be killed or sent to a labor camp along with the rest of their family. This could seriously destroy his family. He will do anything in order to make sure that they are safe. He is then provided an opportunity to completely change his fate and his family's livelihood. He is taken to Proxy Governor Snyder. He knows who Will really is. He and the rest of the occupational force want him to infiltrate the resistance in order to eliminate that threat completely. It's a new job that can radically change the lives of his family. They will no longer be forced to ration. They can have everything they want in this world. They will be given special privileges that could completely alter their perspectives of the situation. But it's really Will's only choice too. The alternative is probably death. Snyder is a man that Will doesn't respect all that much. And yet, he really has no choice but to do what he's asking. Katie supports his decision. But that only sets up a wonderful twist at the end of the premiere.

Katie is actually a member of the resistance. It's something that Will doesn't know about. She is actually fighting to preserve her family and the world that they used to live in. She wants to fight the occupation. Even Snyder believes that these visitors are only here until they get what they need from this world. Katie is fighting to preserve a way of life. There are actually several clues throughout this episode that something more is going on with Katie. She is very adept at taking care of herself - especially when she ventures out after curfew to find Will. She knows how to navigate this world. She even has a coded message she can talk to her resistance friend in to learn what has happened to Will. That's a skill that indicates that she is much more than she seems. All of that is confirmed in the final scene of the hour. She is actually pretty respected amongst the resistance as well because she is able to deliver a message to their leader that Will has been hired to kill all of them. It's a twist that could pit Will and Katie against each other. Or it could unite them as they face this world together. It's a complicated situation. Katie chooses to stand by Will's side and support his decision to work for Snyder. But she too is motivated by the need to protect her family. This reveal should lead to many interesting plot complications in the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pilot" was directed by Juan José Campanella with story by Carlton Cuse & Ryan J. Condal and teleplay by Ryan J. Condal.
  • Peter Jacobson does an excellent job at playing Snyder with such cool menace. He has made this position really work for him. He's the governor sitting on top of the world watching as this radical change happens. To him, it's an absolutely beautiful sight - even though he doesn't always know what the occupational force is doing.
  • This is another show where the focus on a family means young kids play a crucial role in the drama. So far, Bram and Gracie aren't that distracting or annoying. Bram's one big scene by himself largely just showcases how much bartering defines the economy of this world - and just how willing he is to fight to protect himself.
  • How soon will Snyder actually deliver on his promise to reunite Will with his lost son? He says that he will help but that will probably only come after Will has eliminated some high level targets in the resistance.
  • It's currently unclear how Katie's sister, Maddie, really figures into the show. She's played by Amanda Righetti so that means she will be important. But she's largely just a connection to the old world and the values that Katie is fighting for.