While ‘Lost’ was on the air, Josh Holloway seemed like a breakout star who’d have no trouble finding new projects to exploit his particular brand of roguish charisma. Unfortunately, that hasn’t quite been the case. CBS’ idiotic ‘Intelligence‘ was canceled quickly, and his few movie roles haven’t amounted to much. Now he’s back on TV as the lead in the USA Network’s alien invasion drama ‘Colony’. Will this one stick?
At some unspecified point in the near future, a Los Angeles family sits down for what seems to be a normal everyday breakfast. The first hint that something might be off comes when we notice the razor wire lining their backyard fence. Soon, we learn that the Earth has been invaded and colonized by a mysterious (never directly seen) alien force. Los Angeles is a police state surrounded by a gigantic wall. (Did Donald Trump build it? He did, didn’t he?) The human government still in charge is made up of collaborators who enforce the new rule of law, which includes strict curfews and oppressive surveillance.
The family’s dad, Will Sullivan (Holloway), goes to work as an auto mechanic. His coworkers talk about people being abducted and hauled off to a labor camp called “the factory.” Without telling his wife, Will pays a coyote to sneak him out of the city in the back of a tractor trailer truck. He’s desperate to get to Santa Monica to reunite with his 12-year-old son who was separated from the rest of the family. Sadly, this plan goes awry when a human resistance faction sets off a bomb at the border crossing, killing a number of “Red Hats” (the collaborating military forces). Will survives, but is quickly arrested and detained.
While Will rots in a holding cell, his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies, formerly of ‘The Walking Dead’) panics after he doesn’t come home on time. She breaks curfew to go searching for him and makes contact with a man we presume to be part of the resistance movement, who tells her about the explosion.
Eventually, Will is removed from his cell and ferried to a mansion in the Green Zone, where he’s brought before Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson from ‘Ray Donovan’), the Proxy Governor for Los Angeles. Snyder knows that Will isn’t who he claims to be. In fact, his real name is Will Bowman, and he’s a former Army Ranger and FBI agent renowned for his skills as a fugitive hunter. Snyder repeatedly refers to the alien overlords as their “hosts” and assures Will that, so long as humans cooperate with them, they intend to leave the Earth as soon as they get what they came for – whatever that might be.
Snyder offers Will the chance to “turn crisis into opportunity.” He wants Will to work for him, and go undercover to infiltrate the resistance and ferret out its leader known only as “Geronimo.” In exchange for his services, Snyder promises protection for Will’s family, as well as many luxury comforts, including reopening the bar his wife used to run. Will is uneasy about all this, but says he’ll think about it. Snyder has the military return him home.
After a quick round of reunion sex, Will tells Katie everything. They have a big fight about his possibly becoming a collaborator, which she despises. The next morning, however, they’re woken up by the Proxy Governor in their kitchen, cheerfully making them breakfast. He says that he needs his answer. Will accepts the offer, on the condition that their missing son be returned to them. Snyder responds, “Good things come to the loyal.”
The episode ends with Katie making a clandestine visit to a resistance safe house, where we learn that of course she’s a member of the resistance (possibly even Geronimo herself), though Will has no idea of that. She informs the others that they now have someone on the inside. She’ll use her husband to get information about the aliens that they can use to fight back with.
Episode Verdict / Grade: B-
A Carlton Cuse production, the pilot episode is very slickly made with expensive production values and good visual effects. It also maintains an effective atmosphere of paranoid tension throughout. On the other hand, it’s also very derivative of countless other alien invasion stories (the most obvious being ‘V’). Everything in it feels extremely familiar and rote.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if a later plot twist reveals that the never-seen aliens aren’t really aliens at all. I suppose that could lead to something interesting.
Holloway is fairly appealing in the lead as an everyman dad who’s not really an everyman at all. However, he overdoes it with the soulful puppy-dog eyes routine. As Sawyer, Holloway was always the most fun when he was a smartass. This show doesn’t give him any opportunity to play that side of his range, at least not so far.
I’ll continue to watch for a bit. I have a feeling that the show will either get a lot better as it goes, or possibly a lot worse. If it falls apart as badly as Cuse’s ‘The Strain’ has, I’ll dump it before the season is over.