Colony is a show on the USA Network about how this family handles life after these aliens have taken over the world. I wrote up some of my thoughts on it after a few episodes, but the first season finished up last week and I wanted to expand on that. A second season is coming next year, but I don’t know if I’ll be watching it. Be warned, there will be a few spoilers if you haven’t seen it.
I think a show like this can be done one of two ways. The first way is to just focus on the family and have the aliens be these things that you know are there, but they are so far beyond us that we can’t even comprehend why they are here. The second way is to set up a mystery about the aliens that our characters slowly uncover, either leading to a greater understanding of why the aliens are here or to figure out some way to defeat them. Colony tries to do both. Not 50-50, more like 90-10, and that is an issue, for me at least.
For me, being focused on the family could be interesting. However, I am more interested in the mystery. The family story would have to have fantastic actors and writing for me to be interested in them. For example, I really don’t care who the sister is sleeping with, I’m curious what the aliens are doing. To me, mystery is more interesting than family drama.
But the mystery leads to a bigger issue, because the only clue about the aliens we get in the first season is that The Factory where they send people is on the moon. We do see a couple minutes of the prisoners working, but we have no idea what they are working on or why the aliens need humans to do it. To me, the “Big Reveal” that The Factory was on the moon was no big deal. What the hell are they doing? That’s what I want to know.
But the biggest issue I have is with the last episode. In the second to last episode, the Resistance blew up a train carrying a VIP. They go into the train and discover that the VIP was one of the aliens. The first half of the last episode is them trying to sneak the body back to their base. The last half of the episode is them trying to cut into his spacesuit, and failing. They do manage to break off a bit of communication system, or something. Now, most shows would have waited until the last episode of the season to reveal the face of the enemy to make people want to come back for the new season. They could show the aliens to be ugly lizards, or humans from the distant future, or the humans taken to The Factory with mechanical things in their brains, or a Frankenspecies sewed together from several different species, or something. I’m sure the writers and producers etc. of Colony would say that they are subverting expectations by not showing the aliens when they so readily set things up for that. But really, not showing them comes off as either dickish, or clueless, as they have no idea what the aliens really are. It’s like as long as they keep things vague, they can go on for years without having to explain anything.
I just realized this vagueness also applies to an issue I had when I first wrote up my thoughts. It’s how they don’t really explain what happened during the Arrival. There are little hints, and talk of where people were, but what actually happened isn’t explained. For example, there are giant walls around various cities that are hundreds of feet high and thick. Did they just appear, or were they built? They have families that are separated, which would indicate that the walls went up quickly, but if they just appeared, that’s a massive display of power which you would think would be used to help spread the idea that resistance is futile. But as long as they are vague about the Arrival, they can just make up stuff when needed when they need something for an episode.