This Colony review contains spoilers.
Colony Season 2 Episode 10
In the past few weeks, Colony has gradually shifted into full-blown genre TV territory. The Bowmans are no longer tied to their Spanish Colonial Revival style residence in the Los Angeles suburbs. They don’t have quiet breakdowns because the secrets they hide from each other are so immense that they threaten to rip their relationship apart anymore. Also, guess what? They don’t have to live by the Host’s rules based on psuedo-morals they never believed in just to keep their comfortable home. And perhaps best of all, the Bowmans don’t have to devote their energy to maintaining illusions.
This means they can now spend most of their screen time actively, y’know, resisting the Occupation together as a united front instead of pretending to work with it separately. Now they get to be where the action is, at all times, and deal with all the plot devices, macguffins, conspiracies, shootouts, and other sci-fi conceits that the show’s target audience has come to expect from a show about an alien invasion.
Yet even as it transitions into a new and exciting format (again), Colony doesn’t lose sight of its original artistic vision for one second, continuing to translate the surreal and tense climate of the Nazi occupation of France during World War II into our contemporary world. This episode’s title is a good reflection of that. In the Garden of Beasts, a non-fiction book by Erik Larson, recounts the experiences of American ambassador William E. Dodd and his family in Berlin during the early years of Hitler’s rise to power. Although I haven’t read any of it (yet), I know it deals with his daughter Martha being hypotized by the luxuries of high society found in Berlin and eventually losing herself in the glamour despite the political dangers that creep up behind her. I’m guessing that Juia Cooperman (who wrote this week’s installment) wanted to draw parallels between this character and Maddie Bowman. But we’ll talk about her in a minute.
Ever since Will and Katie Bowman’s ties to the Resistance were revealed, they’ve come out of the closet as full-blown heroes. This has catapulted them into mythical territory overnight. Thats a good thing. Colony’s character spectrum is defined by extremes. Both sides of the the struggle have their own agendas that don’t have the best interests for you in mind, and that’s disheartening as fuck. So of course this show needs steadfast, reliable heroes that live up to ideals and never waver from their values. It needs people we can believe in, characters that don’t just stand up for humanity as a race, but as emotional beings who need trust and love and a family to come home to at night. In short: Colony needs champions, and it has them in Will and Katie Bowman. If this sounds sappy, that’s because it is. But this sappiness is a much needed antidote for Colony‘s always cruel reality.
Although Will and Katie are still definitely the foundation the series has built itself on, Colony is no longer just about them or their personal woes that stem from dealing with the Occupation. It’s an ensemble show now, and that’s made clear in “Beasts.” I mean, come on. Broussard hangs out with them the entire time – because he’s their freakin’ roommate now. When season one was wrapping up this time last year, I never, ever would have thought I’d be watching these three on the same team, but I gotta say – they work well together. So. Friggin’. Well. Hmm. Man, I hope the finale is just them having one big epic threeway in an grungy alley somewhere. How hot would that be? (Whoops, did I actually say that out loud? No? Just typed it? Phew. Good.)
Inappropriate yet inevitable fantasies aside, Broussard, Katie and Will are a thing now and I’d like to see that developed further. But I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time before something…y’know…happens. According to the incredibly convenient dossier files that were just hanging out on someone’s tablet in an evil (alien?) hummer that belonged to the IGA goons, Will is targeted for abduction via those space cryo-pod doohickeys we’ve been teased with all season. I’m not trying to make an ass out of “u” and “me” again, but I feel a certain major story-arc might be getting set up here.
If “The Garden of Beasts” has a mission, it’s to force Katie’s sister Maddie to pick a side already: is she with Nolan and the Occupation, or will she stay faithful to her sister,join the Resistance, and sleep on a dirty concrete floor 30 feet underground? Maddie chooses the former of course, and although it’s visibly difficult for her to do so, we have very little sympathy for her. We don’t want to see her go to The Factory of course, but generally speaking, we don’t like her much either. From the start, Maddie’s character has been stuck in a frustratingly one-dimensional moral gray zone. She’s been unstable, petty, and – at times – surprisingly shallow for someone that we should kind of care about. But if we do care about her, it’s not as much as Jennifer McMahon, a supporting character we still empathized with despite her self-interested attempts at treachery. Funny how that works.
But the fact that Katie put her neck out there and risked her life for her own sister, even though she knew it was most likely a setup, is further proof of her heroism. Katie (and Will) are strong because they continue to be vulnerable in a world where they’re surrounded by sadistic chickens who want to peck them to death for doing so. Those are metaphorical sadistic chickens, by the way. Not literal ones. That would be weird.
Meanwhile, Bram is the Bowman that’s feeling the most slighted at the moment, since he doesn’t have much to do now. Gosh darn it. He’s a character that needs his own ongoing story-arc too, and instead of moping around the new secret lair waiting for mom and dad to hand him an assault rifle and throw him in the trenches, he goes out to find his own adventure. Instead of getting caught up in the power struggle du jour like his folks always do, Bram goes off to check out one of the loose ends that was leftover from his time in the labor camp: Mya, the Resistance member who sacrificed herself in the spacecraft bombing after sleeping with him. He meets her mother to deliver the bad news only to discover that she’s just a junkie who can barely function around the house, let alone remember much about her own daughter. And when he finds Mya’s old sketchbook hidden behind the sad collages in her room, the music swells and I feel like shedding a tear or two. It’s simple, but it’s one of the most moving moments from the entire season – and that’s saying a lot.
It’s plain to see that Bram is about to go through his Anakin Skywalker phase. He’s seen the extremes that both sides of the war resort to, and is repulsed by it all. His own family, which doesn’t feel like one anymore despite the fact that they’re all under one roof for the first time since The Arrival happened, doesn’t view him as he wants to be viewed. He is misunderstood, slightly disenfranchised, and sidelined, although he’s been through quite a lot and is capable of doing more. He confides in Morgan that he feels his parents don’t trust him. And maybe that’s true, to a point. But mostly they just don’t want to lose him again. Duh, Bram!
Bram finds his Palpatine in Karen, the leader of the Red Hand movement. She sees his greatness and views him for who he’s become, not the son she wants him to be. But does she see the real Bram, really, or is she only looking how he would be useful to her?
Threaded throughout the rest of “Beasts” are scenes where Snyder confronts Bennett and other annoying Occupation related characters to tell them that he is on the rise again, and it’s…kind of glorious, actually. I don’t know why I’m rooting for the “good bad guy” here, but, well, how can you not love the devil you know?
All in all, “The Garden of Beasts” was another solid and eventful entry in Colony‘s impressive second season. Even if certain convenient plot devices are introduced to help make the impossible possible (I’m looking at you, Blackjacks), it doesn’t feel cheesy, campy, or forced in the least. They’re just more windowdressing used to decorate the big emotions this show specializes in.