Colony: Geronimo Review

Carlton Cuse writes a pivotal episode of Colony's first season that cannot be overlooked.

This Colony review contains spoilers.

Colony Season 1 Episode 4

“Propaganda is a truly terrible weapon in the hands of an expert,” Adolf Hitler once wrote. This is more or less paraphrased in layman’s terms by Proxy Snyder near the end of this week’s episode when he states, “Some people might say that words and images are the most powerful weapons we have.”

No, the tyrannical LA bloc leader/figurehead didn’t study Mein Kampf in preparation for his job. He stole the idea from a pair of graphic artists who were detained for orchestrating the Geronimo graffiti campaign. But, to misquote Picasso, “good artists copy; great artists steal” —and Snyder proves he’s of the latter bracket.

The show Snyder puts on for the LA bloc is a grand manipulative pageant that reframes most real life media circuses we’ve survived in a more sinister perspective, confirming what we may or may not have intuited from the start. He asks Luis Ortega, the man originally captured for making the Geronimo radio broadcasts, to play patsy for him, because he needs theatrics (or, rather the people of LA do). Ortega agrees, only because of Snyder’s guarantee for immunity and a transfer to a totally different bloc.

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And so, Ortega finds himself at the front and center of a huge weeklong trial against Geronimo for all crimes the enigmatic figure had either directly caused or inspired, with weepy testimonials from citizens who lost relatives in certain terrorist attacks. Snyder takes the opportunity to draw out this charade as long as he can so the public can demonize the easy mark and provide the city with a catharsis that he controls. If his droll nature gave us any doubts as to how fiendish the Proxy Governor is, they were put to rest when we saw the look in his eyes when he wordlessly told Ortega he was going to be executed anyway after the trial was over.

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“Geronimo” ends shortly after his public hanging, truly the show’s most haunting moment so far. We have yet to see how successful this forced emotional release is for the distraught residents of the LA bloc, but I definitely felt it on all levels. Carlton Cuse writes Snyder this time almost as a meta-foil for himself: both know how to unlock our collective trauma using imagery found in history books, corporate news channels, and viral videos. Both seek to influence how we think and feel and change our perspective on world events.

But if Cuse was to be analogous to anyone here in Colony, it would be with Geronimo himself, of course. His intent is more along the lines of the pair of graphic artists that were apprehended than they are with anything Occupation related. He’s here to rally us up on a spiritual level, to make us remember so we don’t forget and do that history repeating thing that Shirley Bassey once sang about. He’s got an agenda that serves the soul (if you believe such a thing exists).

What’s going on with Will and Katie this time? Phyllis’ sudden death at the hands of Broussard at the end of “Blind Spot” last week is enough to water the seed of mistrust planted in Will. His confrontation with Jennifer McMahon reaffirms his doubt, as she flat-out states that Katie is the most obvious choice for the leak. It finally starts to sprout in those moments, this seed, and it continues to grow and spread its roots throughout the rest of the hour. He even goes to The Yonk and questions her without being direct about it. Katie keeps her cool, but as an ex-FBI special agent and her husband, he can tell she’s hiding something.

An archetypal Adam and Eve conflict is playing out through these two, which makes me wonder if that’s another intentional motif called into play to make a statement, or if it’s just another convention used for dramatic purposes. But the real question is, once again, who are we rooting for? From the look of it, both and neither. The dichotomy between the power couple is a little on the nebulous side, since beneath their external differences, Will and Katie ultimately share the same motivation, which is to keep their family and save their son. They’re just taking different routes to the same destination. Or are they?  

Their son, Bram, continues to be an intriguing POV for the audience and a rebellious way to explore the Colony‘s immediate world. He goes beyond the wall with his friend this time, and he is in on his teacher’s plans to build a homemade telescope, which apparently were outlawed by the Occupation. Bram goes beyond the strained limits of Will and Katie’s lives to places they can’t be seen, cluing us in on mysteries we weren’t even aware of yet in a way that another supporting character, Maddie, can’t.

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Last night, I finally finished the first season of Wayward Pines, FOX’s answer to Twin PeaksThe Prisoner, and The Walking Dead. I had left off somewhere in the middle while it was airing last summer for one reason or another and didn’t think to catch up until recently. That show turned out to be an addictive grab bag of pulp sci-fi conceits and hamfisted sociological lessons, plus naked zombie Gollum things. (I mean, wouldn’t they make any show better?) Rewatching it may strengthen any perceived inconsistencies in its plotting, but it was a fun ride overall, and kept my curiosity/attention, which should be the primary goal of any self-respecting TV series.

I suppose it was inevitable to draw parallels between the Wayward Pines and Colony. Both have a quite a lot of superficial and thematic elements in common. Both tell a story about a family stuck within the oppressively structured society of a town with a wall built around it. Both are about the necessity of compromise for survival, the power of mind control, and the dangerous nature of ideals. And both feature former special agents stepping into key law enforcement roles in said societies to protect their families and take the system down from within. Although Wayward Pines was a sufficiently thrilling ride through the pastiche funhouse, it doesn’t have the same level of complexity or thoughtfulness as Colony. The former is a popcorn movie, and the latter is an art film. Colony expresses the theme of sociological horror with a sense of artistic responsibility that most network and basic cable series cannot commit to. Instead of a settling for being a half-baked distraction like most of its peers, it behaves as a life-changing experience.

The more I see of this series, the fonder I become of it. I love that it’s not afraid to leave a mark on you. I love that its premise is so loose that all kinds of genre stories fit within it and then some. I love that entertaining you is not its primary goal, but captivating you—a far more valuable ambition—is. I love that it makes you feel hurt and uneasy, questioning your future and past, as educating you about society’s horrors will.

And, above all else, I love that Colony is a work of art and a thoughtful piece of propaganda in itself.


5 out of 5