Television

Alien Invasion Series Colony Focuses on Human Intrigue

Collaborate or resist? There are no easy answers.

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"Colony," USA

Colony. USA. Thursday, January 14, 10 p.m.

New car! Private tutors for the kids! More food on the table! The bounties associated with her husband's promotion seem endless, and like any blue-collar wife, Katie is thrilled: "And to think Daddy said you'd never amount to anything!" Her voice, though, is flat with irony: Husband Will's new job is selling out the human race to its new extraterrestrial masters by tracking down the leaders of a nascent resistance movement.

A TV series about an Earth squirming under the bootheels, or perhaps cloven hooves, of space aliens is nothing new; we had three different versions of the voracious lizards of V, and those buggy things in Stephen Spielberg's Falling Skies have just finished a five-season run on TNT.

But the USA cable network's Colony is a very different bucket of BEMs. It concentrates neither on the alien overlords—they don't even appear in the three episodes I watched—nor the human underground that resists them.

Instead, it's a detailed and utterly compelling examination of the motives and morality of collaboration—like a Casablanca in which the protagonist is not Humphrey Bogart's heroic Rick but Peter Lorre's oily Ugarte. If that sounds dramatically counterintuitive and even confounding, get used to it; Colony is mostly about upsetting apple carts.

Among them are the conventional set-up mechanisms of the television pilot. Colony is set in a not-terribly-distant-future Los Angeles, about a year after an extraterrestrial landing. But details about what happened, why, and even to whom, emerge only in dribs and drabs.

Los Angeles and other big cities are walled off, suggesting the aliens don't have total control of the countryside, and they mostly stay aboard their orbiting ships, relying on human quislings—proxies—as their ground-based enforcers.

The result, at least inside the walls, is a totalitarian nightmare that looks something like an East Berlin redrawn by George Lucas, a crumbling landscape of concertina wire and security checkpoints patrolled by armed anti-gravity drones.

The city is dotted with the sort of furtive marketplaces we associate with crack sales but in Colony are the site of illicit barter exchanges of everything—from oranges to tortillas to insulin—that has fallen into short supply. The most absolute prohibition of all: guns. Violators are rounded up by the Department of Homeland Security, which predictably has switched allegiance to the new bosses, and packed off to an unknown but ominously named site, The Factory, from which nobody seems to return.

This is the landscape in which garage mechanic Will Bowman (Josh Holloway, Lost) and his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead) find themselves confronted by a stark choice. The government has discovered that Will's grease-monkey grunt identity conceals a past as a U.S. Army Ranger and an FBI agent. He and the family can be packed off to The Factory … or he can help the government track down Geronimo, the leader of a nascent human resistance movement. And as an additional carrot for cooperation, the Bowmans will get government help in locating their young son, who was outside Los Angeles when the wall went up.

Will's decision to accept the deal touches off an ever-widening circle of tumbling dominoes among his friends and family, creating double- and even triple-agents and spilling them into a world with no moral absolutes—or perhaps just no morals.

Even sorting out the predators from the prey become difficult. How high does the resistance's collateral body count have to reach before it becomes morally indistinguishable from the aliens? "There's nothing pretty or romantic about our conflict," one underground leader warns a new recruit who's aghast at learning that the resistance kills its own fighters rather than permitting their capture.

The question of what gives anybody the right to be the official utilitarian scorer to rule on which players get sacrificed and which get saved lurks in every frame of Colony. When Will, confronted by an old friend he's about to send to The Factory, pleads that he's only doing what he must to protect his family, he has no answer to the friend's Parthian shot: "Then everything's fine, as long as you still have your kids, right?"

The bleak existential questions posed in Colony are underlined by a grittiness that colors everything in the show, from its seedy urban cinematography to its universally excellent cast. Holloway and Callies cast off the one-note portrayals of their previous spotlight roles—Holloway's perpetually pouty bad-boy Sawyer in Lost, Callies' faithless and soon-to-be-zombie-chow wife in Walking Dead—for performances that alternate between anguished and flinty as they negotiate their rocky survivalist paths. And best of all may be Carl Weathers as Will's new partner, a cop with more affinity for doughnut shops than walking his beat. The longer he's on camera, the more complicated he seems. If you suddenly find yourself working for Hitler's Gestapo, is a hardy work ethic really a good thing?

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  1. It has come to my attention that some have lately called me a collaborator, as if such a term were shameful. I ask you, what greater endeavor exists than that of collaboration? In out current unparalleled enterprise, refusal to collaborate is simply a refusal to grow – an inststence on suicide, if you will.

    1. All hail… Wait, who is it this week?

    2. Just as National Socialist was shortened to Nazi so as not to offend the tender sensibilities of Soviet Socialists, so Nazi collaborator also lost a coupla syllables–the better to appease anti-choice Christian prohibitionists and the victims they turn into traitors by cruel and unusual punishment for tax-free victimless mischief.

  2. I’m with you dude…

  3. We’re going from dsytopian sci-fi to extremely dsytopian sci-fi.

  4. To be fair, at least Falling Skies, was of the Independence Day mode, where the humans won in the end. And in a nice twist of convention, when they went in space to destroy the alien invaders remote power source, in Falling Skies, they discovered that the aliens weren’t morons and had backup sources of power.

    1. I don’t know what Independence Day movie you saw,but the one I saw,the captured alien fighter flew up to the Mother ship to turn off the shields of the other “carriers” with a virus so they could be destroyed (by missiles),and then left a big nuke to blow up the Mother Ship. The carriers still had their own power (they didn’t crash when they lost the shields) and weaponry (which they were going to use on the base where the POTUS was hiding,until the crazy guy flew his F-18 into the “carrier’s” primary weapon.)
      The Mother Ship was their entire civilization. once they lost that,the carriers were finished.

  5. those buggy things in Stephen Spielberg’s Falling Skies have just finished a five-season run on TNT

    I’ve never even heard of that – someone should fire their ad agency.

    But I have heard of this new show.

  6. “The most absolute prohibition of all: guns. Violators are rounded up by the Department of Homeland Security”

    Don’t get hysterical. No one is coming for your guns. Didn’t you hear the Leader? “If you like your guns, you can keep your guns. PERIOD.” how could he be more clear?

  7. they don’t even appear in the three episodes I watched

    I remember this show when it was a book named The Alien Years by Robert Silverberg.

    Nevertheless, I’m intrigued enough to check this out.

  8. Callies’ faithless and soon-to-be-zombie-chow wife in Walking Dead

    I think it was mostly due to the writing, not her performance, but her Walking Dead character was indeed awful. Rick should be glad to be rid of her.

    1. Elements in really bad movies become elements in really good TV shows.

  9. Maybe people should not have judged Neil as harshly as they had ?

  10. “The most absolute prohibition of all: guns”

    I guess the aliens read Machiavelli before invading?

  11. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
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  12. My first job out of High School was at St Paul and over the next 5 years Iearned so very much. Seeing the hospital torn down tears a small piece of my heart out. The Daughters of Charity and the doctors and staff of St Paul Hospital will always be with me.
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  13. So instead of the usual cloven-hooved Devils in Satanic Saucers oppressing God-fearing, blonde, Aryan, Creation-Scientist, Jesus-loving, altruistic True Christians? this one is sounding like a bunch of cynical, cowardly utilitarians interspersed with backstabbing parasitical traitors. If voters deserve the governments they get, it’s looking like teevee vidiots deserve the telescreen brainwashing they let themselves in for. The bright side for the networks ought to be dubbing the mess into mixed-economy socialist languages and make a killing on royalties. The downside is calling it science-fiction.

  14. My first job out of High School was at St Paul and over the next 5 years Iearned so very much. Seeing the hospital torn down tears a small piece of my heart out. The Daughters of Charity and the doctors and staff of St Paul Hospital will always be with me.
    ???????????www.HomeSalary10.com

  15. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.buzznews99.com

  16. I caught the first episode on demand on cable last night. It was pretty good. As described, the human drama dominates the story.
    The back story coming out in dribs and drabs is a convention we first saw in the TV show Lost. I think the people behind this show we’re also involved in the production of Lost. That makes me a little nervous for where this might be going, as the writers of Lost had no earthly idea where they were going and simply used mystery as a substitute for depth.

    There are many questions to this series that are going to be difficult to answer. Why did the aliens need human collaborators? Why did they need humans at all? Why are any of the humans collaborating? Surely the promise of short-term financial gain outweighs the certainty of eventual death and destruction that lies with the aliens.

    The only work we are shown the humans performing is the ordinary work of running human day today society. A society that is massively disrupted. The only task we see referenced for the aliens is some vague reference to going to the factory in the sky. But if the aliens needed labor for their factory, why on earth would you choose humans for that job. They clearly had something capable of building walls that are a mile high and a quarter mile wide. These walls run for hundreds of miles along Southern California. If you have something that could build that, why in the world do you need factory workers?

    1. As should be obvious, the prior post was dictated to my phone. Any errors or stupidity are due to Android, and are not my fault.

  17. Another thing that I found somewhat confusing was the collaborators zeal and gusto for their jobs. The agents from Homeland Security appear to be highly competent and intensely passionate about their jobs. This does not strike me as something that a collaborator would be. I’m picturing something closer to the armies in Afghanistan and Iraq that dessert on math when confronted with inferior numbers of the enemy.

    We are shown glimpses of petty cruelty by people working for homeland security. This part seems very realistic. Give anyone sufficient power over other people and this is a possible outcome. Place that same person under immense stress and tension, and vicious cruelty seems an almost certain outcome.

    1. They desert en mass. They might desert on math too, but that is a different point.

      1. “Dessert on math.” That’s awesome.

        Anyway, the pilot entertained me enough that I’ll probably watch the second episode. I was surprised the redhead from The Mentalist didn’t have more screentime, though. And Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad got killed off pretty fast. 🙁

  18. “If you suddenly find yourself working for Hitler’s Gestapo, is a hardy work ethic really a good thing?”

    That would depend on whom you’re asking, I’d suppose – I’m sure that Hitler would say, “Ja, es ist GUT!”

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  20. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.Com

  21. Funny how ‘Casablanca’ is still being referenced in so many different ways. For many people my age the question of collaboration was first addressed in ‘Red Dawn’.

  22. In other words, a reverse Disctrict 9.

  23. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.buzznews99.com

  24. My first job out of High School was at St Paul and over the next 5 years Iearned so very much. Seeing the hospital torn down tears a small piece of my heart out. The Daughters of Charity and the doctors and staff of St Paul Hospital will always be with me.
    ???????????http://www.HomeSalary10.com

  25. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.

    ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.com

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