Photo: Isabella Vosmikova/USA

Two years, three months, and nine days: That’s how much time the bloc has left before it’s completely purged of humans. “This isn’t a colony—it’s a death camp,” Broussard informs Katie, which is about as portentous a proclamation as you can get without adding, “Or is it?!” and twirling a mustache. There’s nothing like a countdown to extinction to rearrange priorities, and the Bowmans’ priorities just got rearranged in a major way. (If they can manage to stay out of a labor camp or the Factory long enough to put their changes of heart into effect, that is.)

What was great about “Free Radicals” was how significantly it moved the dial in terms of perception of the current state of affairs in the colony. The alien ship exploding was seen by everyone, and irrevocably alters the way people view their otherworldly overlords. To paraphrase a number of recent superhero films, if you make God bleed, people will stop believing he’s all-powerful. The destruction of the spacecraft didn’t just disrupt the relocation of a new round of humans to the Factory. It signaled that resistance can make a difference; if we can blow their ships out of the sky, then these creatures are vulnerable. And unlike the kidnapping of a guest at the end of last season, there’s no way for the collaborationist forces to sweep this under the rug and prevent the population from knowing there’s anything amiss. Which is probably not the result Alan Snyder was hoping for.

Despite some muddled middle acts, this installment of Colony reintroduces the thorny moral knots that constitute existence on either side of the resistance/collaborator divide. The opening sequence, featuring the mysterious couple who eventually turn out to be an ill suicide bomber and his recruiter/executor, is a strong example of the show again returning to the idea that all the people surrounding our protagonists are caught in the same vise grip of panic and uncertainty as everyone else. In attempting to blow up the checkpoint, Frankie kills numerous innocents along with her bomb-carrying patsy, all sacrificed without a choice, in the name of the anti-alien insurrection. It makes her look like a bad guy—similar to how Broussard, by halfway through season one, no longer seemed like such a noble freedom fighter.

But every time you think the resistance doesn’t do the right thing, and its terroristic methods do more harm than good, along comes Burke or some other security agent to make the alternative seem even worse. The young rebels caught in Will and Burke’s raid (the ones that don’t get shot to death in the initial assault, anyway) are lined up on their knees, and every time Burke doesn’t get an answer to the question of who runs their cell, he puts a bullet in the back of someone’s head. It’s gestapo tactics at their most authoritarian and loathsome; no wonder Will just stands there while a guy who escaped the raid unnoticed suddenly appears and runs out the door. If the alternative is certain death at the hands of Burke’s uptight sadism, letting a potential bomber live to fight another day surely seems the humanitarian choice.

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Bram may not be the sharpest tool in the labor camp shed, but even if he doesn’t realize he’s being used, there are worse fates than being a sex pawn so that a suicide bomber can blow herself up thousands of feet in the air. It’s hard to tell if his behavior is based in obliviousness to his pure functionality in Maya’s plan, or if he’s genuinely committed to the resistance (the former seems more likely, no matter his dim-witted boyish bravado). Either way, he doesn’t appear ready to give his life for the cause just yet. He certainly isn’t ready to view other people around him as mere pawns or objects, to be discarded or helped based on potential value added to the struggle. When the woman in the alien pod is sprung, and starts coughing up that disgusting viscous fluid, Bram’s first instinct is a noble one: He wants to help her. “So? She’s dead anyway,” Maya callously replies. The amorality of that viewpoint isn’t lost on Bram; if he wants to be a rebel tough guy, it also means chipping away a part of his soul.

Speaking of soul, who would’ve thought Maddie still capable of protecting her sister from danger? Her religious zeal has seen her be awfully brusque with Katie of late, but when Nolan reveals the downloaded data breach in his office, she keeps her lips sealed. True, she then goes to accuse Katie herself, only to be stonewalled in the presence of the ever-watchful spy cameras, but it still speaks to a blood bond that has the power to overcome even Maddie’s devotion to the alien cause. Which, let’s be honest: That hilariously stilted commercial with Maddie and Nolan isn’t going to be inspiring anyone to rally to their side anytime soon.

Will and Katie spent the first half of this season extricating themselves from the resistance, only to be faced with an impossible situation. The discovery of the countdown clock, and the slow extermination of humanity from the colony, doesn’t leave them any real way to just live their lives. They can either fight, and throw in with those killing innocents, or they can sit back and wait to be taken themselves. The two-year-plus time gambit is a wise move for the show—it gives every episode a ticking clock, and invests their actions from here on out with an urgency that doesn’t disappear with the completion of the next mission. Will is finally, fully, on board with fighting the oppressors—now if he can just keep his job, maybe there’s a way he can be of service, too.

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Stray observations:

  • Hooray! Lindsay is back! When she condescendingly tells Katie, “I’m there for you, too,” and Katie grits her teeth with an “I’m so glad” response, you can almost see the wheels of crazy turning in the young lady’s eyes. Shine on, you bonkers diamond.
  • The raid on the resistance safe house is one of the more exciting sequences the show has carried out in awhile, and doesn’t shy away from the brutal stakes of the situation.
  • Burke and Will hate each other so much, they’re both screwing up in job situations where they should know better. Well, Will should, anyway.
  • “To liberty.”

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