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Review: “The Colony” is Shrouded in Mystery and Intrigue

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To collaborate or to resist—that is the question posed in the pilot episode of USA’s The Colony, created by Carlton Cuse and Ryan J. Condal, which aired on January 14. For the people living in this new, dystopian world, their choices in regard to this question could mean the difference between life and death. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

On the surface, everything appears normal when The Colony opens its curtains. We’re introduced to Will (Josh Holloway) and Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) Sullivan (actually Bowman), a L.A. couple with two children having what seems to be a mundane morning, consisting of breakfast at home and pleasant small talk. However, as the minutes go by, we’re slowly given hints indicating that things are very, very wrong. There is a tension in the Sullivan/Bowman household that shouldn’t be there, a deep sense of loss and fear that underscores all of their interactions. When Will accidentally drops an egg and it smashes on the floor, a commonplace household accident, the family reacts with dread and resignation. However, it isn’t until their son, Bram (Alex Neustaedter), goes outside to collect oranges that we’re finally shown the bleak reality in which the family is living: their beautiful home is surrounded by barbed wire fences tall enough to make it clear that whoever put them up didn’t want the people confined inside going anywhere.

As the episode progresses, we start to learn more about this society, although the circumstances surrounding how things ended up this way remain vague. It began with what residents call “The Arrival,” in which unknown beings descended onto Earth and forced all citizens into fenced off blocs. Apparently, this happened so fast that people were separated from not only their belongings but also their family members. In the case of the Bowmans, we learn that their 12-year-old son was left behind in the haste of “The Arrival” and trapped in another Bloc. It is this devastating event that serves as the motivation for all of Will and Katie’s actions in this episode, and ultimately drives each of their storylines.

We also learn that Will and Katie are harboring secrets of their own. As it turns out, Will is an ex-military man who went into hiding soon after “The Arrival” in order to protect himself and his family. In addition, they also seem to have some connection to the Resistance, the guerilla force fighting the occupation, although, at this point, it’s unclear what exactly that connection is—at least for Will. Over time, Will’s past eventually catches up to him, leading him down a curious path that’s separate from his wife’s. In actuality, the most interesting storyline to develop out of this is Katie’s, who becomes a spy for the Resistance after her husband is recruited by the Collaboration. Inevitably, this is going to lead to more strain in the Bowman household in future episodes.

Furthermore, strewn throughout this pilot are small nuggets of information about this new world which could give us a clue as to the Occupiers’ intentions. Their Occupiers have done everything in their power to isolate each Bloc as much as possible. The economy as it once existed was dismantled; now, the only way in which families can acquire supplies and resources is through bartering. Moreover, automobiles are almost nonexistent. The majority of citizens get around on bicycles, with a few getting the clearance to use vehicles for job purposes. The most interesting revelation, however, is that the Occupiers have deemed certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, undesirable. As a result, treatment for those conditions is limited. This, more than anything else, gives viewers some insight into the Occupiers’ potential motives. Could they be trying to groom a stronger human population in order to suit their own needs? It’s too early to tell whether this theory will pan out, but I’m willing to bet that the Occupiers aren’t doing it for humanity’s sake.

Part of the reason that I’m so certain of this is that the characters in this episode repeatedly make reference to a mysterious and ominous Factory, to which people are randomly sent. As of now, we have no clue where the Factory is or what it consists of, but we do know that it’s used as a threat to encourage cooperation.

Despite the few tidbits of information that we are given in this episode, the majority of it is shrouded in mystery, for which I’m immensely grateful. Nowadays, it’s rare for a show to take the slow burn approach to storytelling. More often than not, television writers choose to spell things out for viewers rather than allow them to figure things out on their own. For The Colony to begin the story in medias res, they’re adding to the anticipation and the intrigue. In the long run, it’s a brilliant technique, one that is bound to entice viewers to keep tuning in—including this viewer, who can’t wait to see what the show will do next.

You can catch the next episode of The Colony on January 21 at 10:00 pm EST on the USA network. You can also watch the premiere episode by visiting http://www.usanetwork.com/colony.

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