This Colony review contains spoilers.
Colony Season 2 Episode 13
And so, an ending.
Not the ending, to be clear. It could very well have been if things had worked out differently, if real-life business deals had fallen through. But they didn’t, and thankfully, this is just an ending – to an era, to a setting, to a lifestyle, and to everything that’s defined Colony so far. It’s a bittersweet ending to be sure, one that’s been hinted at from the start of this out-of-control carnival ride the second season turned out to be. Looking back on the debris that each installment left behind, I get why so many plot devices were set up (The Red Hand, Burke and Bennet. etc.) and taken down within such a short amount of time. This really was a travelling carnival show, and it’s time for it to pick up and move on for now.
It’s clear to me now that Season 2 of Colony was designed to be a liquidation of sorts, a big blowout sale to get rid of all Los Angeles Bloc related materials and provide an reasonable endpoint in preparation for a.) being cancelled or b.) being renewed and having to move production to Vancouver, B.C. because of that whole not getting a tax credit thing. Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on your stance – the latter scenario happened. And now we know for certain we have a third season of Colony to look forward to.
So that makes “Ronin” an ending for now. We know the Bowman family will live to brood another day, this time in some place far less sunny and more overcast to make the show’s mood extra somber. (Seattle Bloc, anyone?) We know Snyder will tag along with them, not only because he’s a regular cast member, but because the show would never toss out its most convenient plot device. Perhaps he’ll hover around the Bowmans for an episode or two until he makes his true motives known. Or, who knows, the Season 3 premiere could very well pick up long after the Bowmans have ditched their new pet rat. We also know the dodgy alien conspiracy stuff that makes The X-Files blush isn’t going anywhere either, so we more or less have the same show to look forward to. More or less.
“Ronin”, the most fateful episode of the series so far, chronicles the expedited Total Rendition (read: evacuation and subsquent destruction) of the Los Angeles Bloc as mandated by the International Global Authority. Or, I should say, the events leading up to it. Remember folks, Colony goes for the quiet drama both for budgetary purposes and for dramatic effect. Still, there’s plenty of action to be had here, and most of it is crammed into the Black Jack’s raid on the Bunker.
But for an episode where any and all characters have less than six hours to evacuate the entire colony? There’s not nearly enough wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am finale greatness for my tastes. Now, I know not to expect much from Colony as far as spectacle goes, but how memorable would it have been if our final moments in the LA Bloc played out like an update of the last act from 1988’s Miracle Mile? Pretty darn, I’d say.
Instead, we spend the climax of our earth-shattering season finale witnessing what might be the most stressful family road trip ever televised. It’s so tense, in fact, one utterance of “Are we there yet?” could end someone’s life. The family takes a huge gamble that Snyder can get them through the gate, especially with the gauntlet thrown in the mix. And it doesn’t go as smoothly as planned – at all. So the final conflict which rounds out the season centers on the Bowman family appealing to the traces of humanity left in the Red Hat/Black Jack guards that stand in between them and their freedom. The guards acquiesce once they realize that our heroes’ warnings of LA’s Total Rendition are true, but it takes a convincing speech or two from Will and Katie for it to happen.
If this seems like an anticlimactic “final fight” of sorts, well…it is. Sorry, folks. There’s no big explosive action sequence to propel us into the new and moodier landscape that awaits us in Season 3. We get a thematic conflict instead, one that gently defeats an invisible foe the Bowmans have faced since day one: the violence perpetuated by indoctrination. All year long, the Bowmans have squared off agains despicable humans (Burke, Nolan, Alcala, etc.) – not aliens, mind you – who have sacrificed what makes them human to serve the current regime in power rather than sticking to their core values. If you missed the victory here, it lies in Will and Katie finally succeeding in reaching out to someone on the other side who is still brave enough to admit that they’re playing a senseless game arranged by forces that don’t have their best interests at heart.
It’s fitting to occupy ourselves (hehe) with tracking the Bowman’s escape from the LA Bloc – we should, that’s where the main story is and always will be. But what about supporting characters like Broussard, whom we’ve grown to depend on? Is he just another baby thrown out with the SoCal bathwater? I hope he’s coming back in Season 3 and this was just another fakeout like that gunfight scene last episode. Maybe he made a deal with The Occupation after those drones located him and he’ll be back in a double agent capacity? What can I say, this show sparks my imagination. It’s the kind of series that lives on in your head while you wait for the next episode.
Maddie gets her just desserts for betraying her family earlier this season. It’s not pretty, not something I wanted to see her character go through, and I don’t think it’s completely justified. I thought we avoided this outcome last week with the Nolan swap, but nope. She’s headed for The Factory along with all other citizens of the LA Bloc as part of the Extreme Home Make– er, Total Rendition thing. We first see her in this episode without a home, sleeping in front of The Yonk. The last we see of her is watching the Hosts’ ships descend upon LA, a tear falling across her bruised face from after struck by a Red Hat’s rifle. Part of me hopes we get to follow her adventures from here on out, that she’s eventually rescued, but I don’t want to be naive. Farewell, Maddie Bowman, whether that be for now or forever. (Mwa-ha-ha.)
Of course, it goes without saying all of this feels…abrupt. Especially since our heads are still spinning from the twists and turns and twisty turns Carlton and Cuse’s writing staff have thrown our way all season to wear us down, disorient us, make us look the other way while it pulled rug after rug out from underneath us like Wil E. Coyote. Never before have I seen such immense plot density in such a small season. It literally feels as though three seasons worth of storylines were crammed into a small episode count. I mean that in a good way.
In my book, the only years of television that come close to this level of wild ambition and high-speed momentum are Veronica Mars Season 2, Babylon 5 Season 4, and Buffy Season 5. Hear me out. Veronica Mars disposed of its main setting by the end of its second year and dazzled viewers with the shocks and intricacies of its ongoing mystery arc while introducing new characters and juggling the leftover baggage from year one. Colony does the same here. Due to threats of cancellation, Season 4 of Babylon 5 was designed to be the final year of the show, so all of J. Michael Straczynski’s plans for two seasons worth of storytelling were crammed into one long thrillride just so he could say all he wanted to say. Guess what? Colony essentially does the same thing here. Meanwhile, Buffy Season 5 threatened the stability of the core group (the “family” of the show) and forced them to live together on the run – just like on Colony started doing a few episodes ago this year. (I guess you could throw Season 7 in here too, since Sunnydale was demolished and all, but whatever.)
In that respect, I may as well bring up something else this episode reminds me of: “Not Fade Away“, Angel‘s series finale. There are echoes of that episode’s premise to be found in the the framekwork of “Ronin”, such as main characters having a finite amount of time to say goodbye to what they know and love. In a perfect world, “Ronin” would have been stretched out to a two-hour finale in which we got to see more moments in which characters got to do this. Yes, we get tearful reaction shots in operatic montages that signal the closing of this chapter, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Why can’t we follow Broussard’s journey to find Angelica, the girl we saw him spooning with back in “Company Man“? Surely she’s the real reason why he stayed behind.
The closest we come to a moment like this is when Katie takes the Bunker Gang (sans Morgan, RIP) to hide out at Carl’s abode. Remember Carl? He lead the spiritual book club that Katie attended back in “Sublimation” and served as a sounding board for those feelings of guilt she internalized over the course of the first season. I like that he’s brought back here as a plot device to grant asylum to our heroes while they decide what their next moves are, I just think it’s a missed opportunity for Katie’s character. We could have a nice little scene here between her and Carl that provides a sense of closure or insight into Katie’s never ending struggle to find peace. He could impart wisdom onto her about the transience of things in a piece of dialogue that could help Katie access hidden reserves of inner strength she has to face what’s ahead. Something. Anything. But nope. No thematic closure for us in that department.
I suppose the real justifcation behind these criticisms probably boils down to lack of screen time. What I admire about Colony‘s storytelling practices is that it doesn’t believe in stretching things out (for the most part). There’s a payoff to be found in each episode. Ongoing Occupation conspiracy arcs and obfuscated alien Hosts excluded, you don’t feel as if you were teased when the credits roll. (At least, I don’t.)
I originally planned to sit down and write a very detailed look at the characters’ journeys throughout the season for this review. But then I realized that although Colony is well-written and I am constantly cheerleading it because of that reason, it’s not the kind of series in which a ton of character development happens. Not saying that the characters are shallow – although that’s totally up for debate at this point – but they don’t exactly evolve much despite their transgressions. If there are any characters I can safely say have evolved throughout the course of two seasons, they would be Bram and Maddie, two of the peripheral Bowmans. This is mostly because their circumstances have drastically changed and they’ve learned hard lessons because of it.
But Will and Katie, the anima and animus of the show? They’ve been through a ton. Their circumstances have changed, numerous times, and will continue to. As characters, though, they’re more or less the same people they were when the season began but with a different set of challengea. They’ve survived a great deal but have grown very little. That might be exactly why they’re heroes on this show, however. In an ever-changing world where chaos reigns and nothing is certain, we can depend on Will and Katie to be there through it all, welcoming us into their family.
Katie and Will’s constancy make us feel safe in an uncertain world. Even if they don’t have many transformative character arcs to speak of, they provide us with sanctuary. They are strong enough to be vulnerable in a world that discourages it. I’m not sure what’s in store for Colony’s future, creatively speaking. Much like The X-Files’ production move from Vancouver to LA back in 1998, this show’s move opposite relocation up will change the look and feel of the show – plus a lot of other things. And who knows: this might mean more money to spend on special effects, sci-fi props, and action sequences. But I do know as long as the Bowman family is there in some form week to week, I’ll still look forward to tuning in.