Watching the world fall apart is a heart-stopping proposition. When Will Bowman pulls up short on the mountain bike he rode from the Yonk to try and get Charlie, he has almost a front-row view of the walls coming down around the city. In one of the best effects yet seen on the show, alien ships deposit massive hunks of the metallic borders side by side, as advanced technology then fuses them together, sealing everyone in—and Charlie out. The look on Will’s face registers a host of emotions: He’s scared, frustrated, and frantically trying to process his next move, but above all, he’s dumbfounded. He just watched what looks like a complete alien takeover of his city executed in a matter of seconds. Something he presumably didn’t believe in five minutes prior is now the dominant force in his life. It’s enough to make anyone head right back to the bar for a stiff drink.
It’s a bold move having Colony’s second season begin by returning to the day of the invasion, jumping back in time to more than a year ago in order to see the events of that fateful day play out. One of the impressive aspects of the series’ beginning was how it didn’t unnecessarily hold viewers’ hands; the story began in media res with Will’s failed attempt to sneak out of the block and get to his son, an act that triggered the entire arc of the first season. There was no mucking about with long expository details of how this all happened in the first place. We just accepted the world as it was, and watched the intrigue unfold.
We spend time with each of the show’s main characters, but Alan Snyder’s situation is far and away the most compelling, for the simple reason that he’s the only one who gets a peek behind the curtain. It’s a nice twist to see that Snyder’s ego caused him to reinvent his own past following his promotion to Proxy by the collaborationist leaders. He said he was a provost at Stanford; we now know he was a purchasing manager for a subpar college. But that need to make himself more than what he is was apparently always inside the man. As we learn when he’s visited by the mysterious gentlemen from the “Institute For Global Advancement,” he’d been embezzling from the school for years. Snyder can’t help but puff himself up. He’s always in the position of convincing himself he’s in the right, despite choices that look bad, even if they may have been the best of a bad lot. Peter Jacobson sells Snyder’s past with some inspired work, right down to the schlumpy gait with which he resentfully walks around. This is a man who seizes on the opportunity to begin again—which might be exactly why he was chosen.
Will, on the other hand, is dealing with the awkward matters involving his colleague at the FBI. He suspects she’s dirty—we don’t get any details—but his attempt to request a transfer ends up doing nothing but poisoning the well of friendship between them just before the world goes to hell. It’s a bit too much of a just-so story, in terms of setting up the plot in modern-day L.A. (the partner we just met turns out to be the one person who can help Will in the search for Charlie!), and since we already know what happens to Will in the months following the invasion, there’s not much character shading to be added by having her around. But it’s possible this could lend some complexity to Will’s options. Here’s someone who may be able to utilize some old contacts, and might even provide insight into the man Will used to be.
If only Katie and the kids provided an equally compelling reason to revisit that day. Sure, it’s fun seeing things play out, given the hindsight we now have of Katie’s eventual involvement in the resistance. And the little issues signaling all is not right (the GPS going wonky, the power outage) are interesting to note, but watching her go through the paces of a standard-issue “save the kids, get to safety” tale doesn’t illuminate either her character or the narrative. But waiting until now to give us this flashback works in spite of these weaknesses, mostly because we’re now fully invested in this world, and we know where this is all heading—meaning the entire episode works as an hourlong exercise in waiting for the other shoe to drop. The only one who seems to sense the gravity of the situation is Eric. We still don’t know the full backstory of his special forces training outside of the dossier rundown we got last season when Will was on his trail, but Eric has the good sense to bail on the building before it’s blown sky high, and the personal tragedy he suffered that day compounds our understanding of his commitment to the resistance.
But despite the value added by filling in this history, there’s a whole set of plots dangling from last season beyond Will traveling outside the wall. Now that we’ve gotten to spend some time in the past, Colony needs to look to the future. There’s the factory, the new Proxy, Katie left to fend for herself inside the colony, and Bram rotting away in jail, all of which save the last have yet to really be addressed. Thankfully, the show has already proven its storytelling moxie; now let’s get that adrenaline running again.
- Welcome, everyone, to the weekly Colony reviews! The show ended up being so much fun in its freshman season, we decided to add it to the regular lineup. I’m looking forward to talking about it with all of you, both here and on Twitter, as we delve into this surprisingly rich world of race-against-time excitement and Josh Holloway handsomeness.
- I never thought I’d say this, but I’m curious to see what’s up with the kids. It was a brilliant move having Adrian Pasdar’s well-intentioned doof bring the world’s creepiest nanny with them into the safe zone in the season one finale; the emotional damage she’s doing must be even more noticeable by now.
- Snyder’s meeting with the alien was potent, even if it continues the whole mystery of, “Are they really aliens under those suits?”
- This episode nicely captured the disorienting feel of seeing the drones race through the city for the first time. Even though we got used to them last season, pulling us into the past helped to convey just how disturbing that must have felt.
- Will was awfully downbeat in this installment. Not much opportunity for his signature badass machinations.