This Colony review contains spoilers.
Colony Season 2 Episode 2
The horror of Colony lies in the unseen. I’m not referring to the aliens themselves, or whatever secret mind-bending conspiracy lurks beneath everything; that’s on the peripheral. I’m talking about the invisible terrors of zeitgeists, borders, power dynamics, emotional violence, duplicity, withheld information, bureaucracy, persecution, guilt and shame. Forces that drive people to do desperate things they don’t want to think they’re capable of doing. Forces that Will and Katie Bowman must to cope with every minute of every day living under The Occupation.
At the center of “Somewhere Out There” are two dilemmas that mirror each other.
Dilemma #1: Will finds Charlie under the abusive control of a Santa Monica Bloc warlord named Solomon.
Dilemma #2: Katie learns that Bram has been taken into a labor camp thanks to proxy governor Nolan (aka her sister Maddie’s lover).
Both of these predicaments force our heroes to bargain, make deals with the devils who have the power to give them their family back, and ask for a small semblance of peace that their hearts are aching for.
Yet even if the situations are strikingly similar, their circumstances are not. In the lawless wastelands of the Santa Monica Bloc, bargaining with the warlords will only get you so far. When there are no rules, there aren’t many repercussions for doing whatever’s necessary in order to get what you want. Or are there? Will is faced with this question in this episode’s final moments when he goes on a shooting spree through Solomon’s base to exact revenge for the year’s worth of abuse he inflicted on his son. Yes, it was gloriously shot. Yes, it was a perfect climax. Yes, it made Will an official badass. But was it worth it…really?
Katie, on the other hand, doesn’t have that kind of luxury. She can’t take the law into her own hands. No one can in the Los Angeles Bloc, an oppressively bright world where The Occupation allows you to carry on with your life but only within the parameters they’ve set up. Katie can’t just storm into the labor camp where Bram is being held with a .45 and blow away each Redhat guard to get him back. Her hands are tied. She can only bargain. Beg. Pray. Worry. Sulk in her kitchen while being surveilled by Homeland Security.
So that’s what she does in “Somewhere Out There.” Katie nervously rushes around LA, searching for a sense of relief that can’t come soon enough. The feelings of woe and sadness she carried for Charlie’s disappearance have been mostly transferred to Bram now (he’s totally the new Charlie). Although we see her do the same mundane things we watched her do last year – biking through atmospheric scenes of Redhats frisking civilians while wearing the world on her shoulders, just to exchange liquor for information – it all feels a lot heavier than it used to. This is evidence of another unseen horror Colony revels in: the pain that you wear. My heart goes out to Katie Bowman perhaps more than any other character on this show, simply because Sarah Wayne Callies carries the emotional burdens of the show so well.
If Katie could barge into an alien labor camp and take down a crew of elite guards to get her son back, would she? I’d say yes, because she does the equivalent of this on the scale she can afford to. That’s why she and Will are (were?) together, after all: they both know how to storm castles.
Katie walks up to Nolan and confronts him directly, begging to see if there’s a chance that he can help Bram get back home. He refuses, of course, because he thinks she doesn’t understand the gravity of Bram’s actions. But Katie does, actually. It’s just that she chooses to see the forest for the trees. After Nolan reminds her how her son got himself into this mess, she puts things in perspective for him. “By going under a wall that aliens put up to pen us in,” Katie says. “That’s a crime? He’s a kid.” Of course, this immediately ends the conversation and limits her chances of getting any further support from Nolan.
This is a great point, though, and evidence of another unseen horror that lurks in Colony’s wheelhouse: laws that are created only for the benefit of those in power and the morals that society builds on top of them. As each episode passes by, we see how deep and well-structured The Occupation really is. We’re starting to comprehend how far ahead this invasion was planned and how masterfully executed it seems to be. Take, for example, “The Greatest Day”. A religious movement built around the alien presence that is mostly targeting impressionable young children. That kind of propaganda took years of planning. If my thoughts on the mysterious flashback we saw to 1969 are correct, then The Occupation was in the works for a while indeed.
But back to the drama. Even if Mr. and Mrs. Bowman both make significant progress in their own private quests for reunification, they realize they’ve become different people in the process. People they don’t recognize yet. And in the last act of “Somewhere Out There”, both of our heroes receive harsh introductions to themselves as they are now. In their minds, the Bowmans are still the Will and Katie we met in the previous episode right before The Arrival. They refuse to accept who they’ve become to deal with the unseen horrors that the world keeps piling up on them.
When both are confronted by who they’ve become here, in “Somewhere Out There”, it derails their world. Katie sees who she is now when Maddie stops by to berate her for approaching Nolan about Bram without her permission or knowledge. Katie breaks down and defends herself, saying that she’s only trying to keep her family together. “How’s that working out for you?” Maddie asks. “This is why you’re alone.” Katie is left alone to feel the truth of this, no doubt reliving all of the schemes she tried last year to keep things together.
And Will himself? He realizes who he’s become when he finds out a group of kids watched him beat in Solomon’s head with a tire iron. “I’m Charlie’s father,” he says in his defense, like that would mean anything to them. “Come with me. You’ll be safe.” They take another look at the angry man covered in blood and run away. “Wait!” He says. But then it hits him: he is no longer Will Bowman, the mild-mannered FBI agent who once accused his partner of having shady financial dealings with criminals anymore. Neither is he Will Bowman, the golden hero out to save his family and bring justice to the world. Now he’s just another lost soul capable of going to desperate measures to hold onto what they once had.
But at least we have Charlie back now, right? I wasn’t expecting him to be in the mix so soon. I also wasn’t expecting him to have that kind of hairdo. But I can’t help but admire how this show can burn through plot points so damn quickly. (And how most of the dialogue is fueled by exposition but is somehow never boring.)
Until next time, Colonizers! Er…there has to be a better name for the fan community than that.