This review contains spoilers.
1.2 Brave New World
Brave New World begins much like the pilot did: by focusing on a family trying to carry on its normal life in the middle of the Occupation. We watch as Will’s friend Carlos tries to buy chicken with his wife and son at the So Cal Grocery store, which is now under military operation. The red hats refuse to ration any poultry meat to the family for reasons they do not explain. After they make it back home to their trailer, a Terminator-esque drone swoops by and suddenly their yard is full of red hats too. As Carlos’ wife and son hide away from their oppressors in a secret compartment, they watch in horror as the soldiers drag their loved one away at gunpoint.
Thus begins the real plot-of-the-week for Colony this time around. It’s a fascinating one, although it frequently gets lost in a tug of war between Will and Katie’s competing storylines. The second episode of this lofty social sci-fi saga maintains the uneasy status quo established in the pilot while introducing us to another, more digestible state of affairs that will have a lasting impact on the formula of this series from here on out.
Sound convoluted? It is. But I kinda dig that.
The biggest revelation in Brave New World is that Colony isn’t just going to be a show about survival and forbidden romance in futuristic wartime; it’s also a show that’s going to mimic standard police procedurals.
Now that Will is employed by the Occupation as a detective (or something), the show allows itself to indulge in more action-oriented pursuits. I wouldn’t expect any large scale stunt work, as this show is still an exercise in subtlety. This episode provided us with a realistic sense of what to expect in this department, which appear to be shakey-cam chase sequences featuring cameos by flying robots made from CGI that make me long for a *batteries not included rewatch.
Will’s first day of work as Collaborating peacekeeper wastes no time in ushering in the new cop drama pastiche to the series, introducing three new characters in less than five minutes to boot. Yet nothing feels rushed, all new personalities are clearly defined, and the meet and greet goes smoothly. How does writer Wes Tooke pull this off? I’m guessing that he takes advantage of the degree of familiarity the audience has with this kind of procedural template and runs with it.
Will’s new “police job” resembles most of the CBS primetime lineup of crime dramas, casting and all. Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands) plays his boss Phyllis, a calmly resilient ball-buster who takes orders from Proxy Governor Snyder. We also meet Beau, Will’s new partner, who’s a good natured “cop buddy” who tells it like it is and has a funny line every now and again. And let’s not forget Janet, a neurotic yet sassy data miner who digs up dirt on the Insurgency. These are the kind of characters that wouldn’t be out of place on the set of Criminal Minds, which is why they’re so established so seamlessly in such a short amount of time. They’re tropes, but watchable ones with charming personalities.
The more Will gets lost in the nebulous power structure of the Occupation, the more we discover clues about what it actually is. The imagery conjured up here in Brave New World barely conceals the Nazi influence this time around. It not only gives us a better look at their swastika-inspired logo, but also presents us with an unsettling scene towards the end with naked prisoners forced to stand in a metaphorical gas chamber. If the strong WWII overtones weren’t obvious enough last week, they’re now more pronounced than ever, and I’m assuming we should get used to it.
Will and Katie may be working for two opposing sides of the war, but their goal is one and the same: get their missing son Charlie back from beyond the wall. Although their individual ideologies and moral compasses appear to be pointing in different directions, this power couple are a united front of man and wife when it comes down to this cause.
Both characters feel as if they’re starring in two wildly different TV shows that exist under the umbrella of a larger one. Will’s is a sci-fi clone of NCIS while Katie’s is a post-apocalyptic, humorless version of Jessica Jones. Somehow the two don’t compete with the other and manage to neatly fill in each other’s gaps. That’s something I find great, and it’s only making me appreciate this series more than I thought I would when I sat down to watch the pilot.
In a time of crisis, all you can really do is try to take care of your family. That means you have to make tough decisions that will put others at a disadvantage. This moral dilemma of Brave New World is also its lynchpin. As Will and Katie both struggle to maintain a safe and stable home life in the midst of localized global terror, they also take it upon themselves to help Carlos and his family hold on to their clan, too. But how far are they willing to go to save someone else’s hides?
When Carlos realizes that Will is working as a Collaborator, he reacts with just as much disgust as distrust, considering it a personal betrayal. Will defends himself, saying that he’s doing what he has to do to protect his family. “What about my family?” Carlos asks.
Yes, what about his family, Will? Speaking as someone who has the advantage in the situation and as a captor, how far are you willing to go to bail your friend out of his captivity? Will attempts to bargain with Phyllis to get him out, but she doesn’t budge. So he runs around with Katie, trying to provide relief for Carlos’ wife and son, yet this action could stem from guilt more than compassion at this juncture. But these are the kinds of grey areas that can and should be explored in an enigmatic sci-fi noir series such as this, and I find this food for thought quite appetizing, thank you very much.
As Colony continues to move forward with more mystery and food for thought than any other scripted TV series on the USA network ever, I’m eager to discover more about its world and the conflicted characters that live within it. And what that huge friggin’ wall is about.
Read Stephen’s review of the previous episode, Pilot, here.