USA’s Colony begins the idealistic way any dystopian alien-invasion drama might begin: in a suburban Los Angeles kitchen, where Will Sullivan (Lost’s Josh Holloway) is making breakfast. Because eggs are good, and also because showrunner Carlton Cuse understands it’s many people’s dream to see Sawyer domesticated and off the Island, however many years later. Will and his wife, Katie (The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies) appear to be the epitome of an idealistic couple, down to the quaint house and the two kids and the orange tree in the backyard. But as we find out in the first ten minutes or so, like the world of The Others, appearances can be deceiving. (Fun fact: It’s kind of fun to see Holloway and Callies working together again: Both starred in the 2007 horror film Whisper. Didn’t see Whisper? It’s okay. Most of the world didn’t.)
Despite the couple’s seemingly charmed life, things seem to be a little off: There’s a barbed wire fence around their house, and Katie and Will’s relationship is definitely strained for reasons we’re not aware of just yet. Will goes off to work at the garage, where the strange, edgy atmosphere follows him. We soon get a little more insight into what will end up being one of the driving points of the series: Will and Katie’s third son, Charlie, was taken when the “arrival” happened, a.k.a. when the aliens came. Their son is now separated from them via a giant, impenetrable wall that blocks off their part of California. Will embarks on a daring mission to break through the wall get him back. And naturally, this mission goes horribly awry thanks to an explosion from a resistance group that destroys the truck carrying the storage unit Will’s hidden in.
Whereas most shows would try to use aliens in the “alien invasion” story line to drive the series, Colony is interesting because it essentially picks up in the middle of the action. When we meet our characters, not only has the invasion already happened, it’s happened so long ago that society has already acclimated to its aftermath. Because of this, the pilot kind of gets away with giving us a lot of exposition by using its main characters as windows into how badly fractured this dystopian society really is. As Katie bikes through town (there are many “luxuries” in this world, and cars seem to be one of them), we see a wall of photos depicting people who have gone missing and military men taking people away. Katie arrives at the house of a woman who makes insulin, and through Heloise (Deidrie Henry), we learn that the barter system is in effect for these types of “luxuries.” Katie attempts to trade a bottle of wine for the medication because apparently insulin is one of those things that isn’t readily available anymore. When she realizes the medication might be tainted, she rescinds her offer, forcing Heloise off with a gun. As drones hover in the sky and Katie backs out of the house, threatening to shoot, we start to understand what kind of a world we’re living in.
When Will fails to return home later, Katie immediately worries because Will is never late. More breadcrumbs are dropped (their oldest son, Bram, is worried about his mom going out “this close to curfew” while the insulin is apparently for Katie’s sister, played by Amanda Righetti, who has a son who is diabetic) before Katie leaves to try to find her husband. She bikes to his co-worker’s house in the hopes of getting information, but the only thing Carlos knows is that he went on a delivery earlier. He’s also equally terrified of Katie being out after curfew, mentioning that if the drones catch her, she’s in big trouble. As Katie hurriedly leaves, the drones do appear, forcing Katie to drop her bike and hide under a huge military van. One drone lands on top of the van, and for a moment, it seems like we’re going to find out exactly what happens if you’re caught after dark…but it turns out that the drone is there because someone else is being taken away. Katie escapes, unharmed.
NEXT: Let’s make a deal
Will, as it turns out, has been taken to a jail cell where no one really cares about your well-being. He asks his cellmate if he’s “ever seen one,” and we assume he might be talking about the aliens. They’re interrupted by “Red Hats” that come in, looking specifically for Will. They don’t tell him where they’re taking him, but when they arrive at a fancy house with an even fancier party, Will’s taken upstairs where he meets a man named Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson), proxy governor of the colony. Snyder offers him a drink and claims that he knows him not as Will Sullivan, mechanic from Los Angeles, but rather as Will Bowman, former FBI fugitive hunter and military man: a.k.a. Will’s true identity. We find out that Will had apparently hid his true past when everyone went missing in an attempt to protect his family. (Sidenote: I enjoyed the subtle nod to Josh Holloway’s real life Georgia roots with Snyder asking, “You’re originally from Georgia, right?”)
Snyder doesn’t care about who Will used to be, but Snyder does care about the fact that Will is valuable because the world is getting more dangerous as evidenced by the resistance’s bomb attack. He wants to collaborate and wants Will to head up the task force that would infiltrate the underground group resisting the alien government while bringing down its leader, the mysterious man only known as “Geronimo.” Snyder threatens that if Will fails to take the deal, he and his family will be sent to “The Factory” — it’s not explained what that is, but it sounds like a place you definitely don’t want to visit.
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Meanwhile, desperate for information, Katie turns to resistance fighter Broussard (Tory Kittles). He doesn’t have much to go off of but ends up being another source of casually dropped information as we get the sense that Will has some kind of deep, hidden past — the kind of past you generally don’t want people to know. Katie continues her search at the hospital, where she finds out about the Santa Monica explosion. She can’t get any help there — the nurses are so overwhelmed that they don’t even give her the time of day, and she even gets threatened with being reported to “Homeland.” But at least one good thing comes out of the visit: she’s able to sneak into a back room when the nurses are distracted, which allows her to steal a lot of much-needed insulin for her nephew. Katie calls Broussard when she realizes what’s happened, and they speak in careful code about Will’s situation. Slowly but surely, we’re starting to see more of the “big picture.”
Will eventually returns home, and the family has an emotional reunion. (At the risk of sounding like I’m 12, let me just say that I’m totally here for shower scenes and half-naked Josh Holloway in a towel.) He reveals the truth about his situation to Katie and tells her that they know about his past and admits that he got caught because he went after their son. Will further opens up about how he’s worried that she hates him because he believes the fact that Charlie disappeared was his fault. (Ah, source of tension revealed!) Will tells her he was offered a job to hunt down the resistance, and, well, Katie’s not too happy about that. But that talk will have to wait because when they wake up, they realize someone is cooking bacon — which, along with coffee, seems to be yet another luxury in this post-invasion world. The person cooking breakfast in their house? None other than Snyder, who tries to persuade them to take the deal over a hearty breakfast, in which he details all the amazing things they could have if they collaborated: private tutors for the kids! Around the clock security from Homeland! Much of Colony is built around smoke and mirrors, and Snyder’s deal, as good as it is, also seems to be a little suspicious. But we all know Will’s going to take the deal, and he does…on one condition: He gets his son back. Snyder is cagey but basically says he’ll help as long as Will does his job. Later that night, Katie and Will share a quiet but tension-filled moment where they toast to new jobs, which are really old jobs — as the curfew sirens wail.
Like any good drama, there’s more…because what would a show like this be without a tantalizing mystery to keep us intrigued? The next morning finds Katie biking to a house to meet “grandma,” which is really her going to visit a covert group of people hiding out in a little unit in the backyard of a house. These people are resistance fighters — the same people Will has been assigned to take down — and it turns out Katie is, too.
It’s clear that Colony, which seems like a combination of Lost meets Battlestar Galactica meets Falling Skies, is still trying to find its footing. But Holloway and Callies have great chemistry and make an intriguing couple, I’m loving the political parallels to France during World War II, the overall premise is interesting, and I’m a fan of things that start with a bang instead of a whimper. So far, I’m on board and eager to see where these ten episodes take us. What say you?