Article originally published as COLONY Review on Seat42F.
USA has been stretching itself beyond what viewers had come to expect from them over the past few years, and their newest drama, COLONY, is no exception to that trend. Set in a dystopian future in which someone or something (I presume aliens) has conquered the world, or at least Southern California, the drama follows one family as they try to both fight back and get along in this new power structure.
The faces at the center of COLONY should be familiar. Lost’s Josh Holloway plays Will Bowman, a man who used to hunt people when he was a soldier, but now will do anything just to keep his family safe and intact. He is married to Katie, played by Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead, Prison Break), who feels slightly different than her husband, unhappy with the way things have become, and constantly pushing back in ways big and small against it. The main visage of the enemy is House’s Peter Jacobson, who plays Alan Snyder, a collaborator who seeks to get the Bowmans to do his bidding. So we have a pretty familiar trio of performers to television fans.
Now, a good cast doesn’t necessarily mean a good show, but in this case, COLONY is actually quite interesting. It takes a premise similar to TNT’s recently ended Falling Skies, but makes it more heavy and serious, and focuses on a few people instead of a group. In this way, it grounds the story more and zeroes in on the emotional heft of the situation in a more meaningful way. It gives all three actors a chance to be layered, as we can see both why and why not the Bowmans would want to be a part of the resistance. And as detestable Alan is, one can understand his reasoning.
What I like about COLONY is that it is one of those shows that feels like a lot of thought has been put into the setting and premise before anything was written down. There are many differences between the world that the Bowmans inhabit and our own. Yet, every choice the show makes to change things makes sense, and taken together, it begins to paint a picture of who the conquerors are. Considering we don’t see them at all, and they are generally only spoken about indirectly, it is super important to get some feeling as to what the characters think of their overlords. The detail in the program itself provides this.
It also manages to be dramatic without being melodramatic. For instance, something happens to Will midway through the first episode. While the moment itself feels a little off (given the drastically different health outcomes between Will and the man next to him), everything after the fact, from Will meeting Snyder, to Katie dealing with her husband not returning home, seems authentic. There aren’t sidelong glances and sobbing fits just for the sake of it. These are emotionally complex people, not crippled by their mental state.
Katie herself is far from an obedient housewife. In fact, of the two spouses, she is the least predictable and the one more likely to take risks, and arguably the most heroic. COLONY will not be accused of being sexist.
Besides the three mentioned above, two other main players exist. Amanda Righetti () is Madeline, the younger sister of Katie. Tory Kittles (True Detective) is Broussard, the Bowman’s connection to the resistance. Neither gets nearly as much development in the pilot as the core trio, so I’m not entirely sure what role they will play in the series. But I like that they are well established to be in the show without giving anything away about them yet. COLONY keeps its cards close to the vest.
COLONY is not (yet) my favorite USA show; Suits and Mr. Robot both edge it out. However, it has the potential to be something special, and definitely is worth checking out. It continues a solid upward trend for the cable network, and I am very interested to see where it goes next.
COLONY premieres Thursday at 10 pm on USA.