Most people try to do the right thing. There’s a level of empathy that’s ingrained in the vast majority of us—it’s the rare person who doesn’t feel bad seeing someone else suffering—and so we do our best to alleviate the pain of others, especially if there’s a personal or preexisting connection. It’s one of the reasons we get annoyed, or frustrated, or just numbed to suffering we can’t do anything about, whether we see it on TV or up close. There’s a helplessness no one likes to feel, and it’s easier to feel nothing, or even irritation, because that can be controlled. But when we get an opportunity to do good, to help someone, it’s satisfying precisely in that it lines up with our moral compass. We want to do right. We want to do it, right up until it becomes a liability to our own stability and comfort.
Colony has gotten quite good at a number of things, but chief among them may be a clear-eyed sense of ethical flexibility within people caught between wanting to be a good person and their own security. Showing the pressure bearing down on each character makes their narrowing set of options look progressively less like options and more like rueful inevitability. Will Bowman has changed, as he admits to Devon; he’s willing to do terrible things to get what he wants, and he can’t let himself mourn the way the world has forced him to make those changes. Jennifer feels bad for Katie, struggling to parent the one child she has left in her home. She’s friends with Will—“Please don’t destroy what’s left of his family,” Katie says, and Jennifer wants to comply. And she will, right until the pressure weighing down on her becomes too great. Each of these characters is facing some terrible dilemma, thanks to this world that forces everyone to choose between bad and worse. The problem is, it’s not always clear which is which.
“Somewhere Out There” is a strong return to the present day of Colony, an episode that gets better the more you reflect on what it manages to do. Everyone is granted an empathetic point of view, no matter how opposed it may be to the wishes of the protagonists or the audience. (Okay, everyone except the asshole cops, beating people and sexually assaulting Katie at the checkpoint.) Sure, there are some new challenges that feel rushed or predictable, like Jennifer’s new jerk of a boss, threatening her job and ransacking her house over the course of a single day. But even his brusque idiocy makes sense in context: This block kidnapped a host and the ones who did it got away. That sets off a high-stress atmosphere among those in the upper echelons, who are scared their positions of authority might make them even bigger targets than people further down the chain of command. Nolan may be a bit of a coward, but his perspective is also wholly understandable; the entire block was shaken up during the ouster of Proxy Snyder, and he’s not sure how stable his new position is yet. Katie is trying to do everything she can to get her family back, but her desperate actions potentially only harm her chances. Maddie, who needled Nolan to the point of breaking over Bram’s plight, can’t believe her sister would go behind her back. “This is why you’re alone,” she hisses at Katie, and the barb stings, because there’s just enough truth in it to sink Katie emotionally.
Will’s reunion with his son is both the most potent story, and also the most awkward, because the nature of kids, especially those who have been physically tortured and brainwashed into obedience, flies in the face of how we expect people to behave. Tracking down Charlie was great, thanks to the decision to show how easily Will adapts to the unpleasant bounty hunting Devon has taken on due to her block’s lack of governmental authority. But once Charlie’s back—the result of a negotiation with petty crime lord Solomon—the show grinds its gears trying to get at a meaningful relationship between frantic father and damaged son. Charlie’s scars are emotional and physical, but it’s still hard to understand his fractured faith to the criminal who abused him. But once Will again leaves, to enact bloody revenge on Solomon and his crew, things turn thrillingly dangerous. From the moment Will lets loose with the first shotgun blast on the guy who stabbed him, we realize the former FBI agent has made a decision. These people hurt his son, they’ll hurt more, and they need to be put down. Between the warehouse shootout and the close-quarters fight Will has with the husband of his bounty target (with a stab wound, no less!), the moments of violence in this episode are visceral and compelling.
Bram’s story, by contrast, feels a little perfunctory, if only because it’s so predictable. He lies to avoid being shipped to the factory, and gets labor camp assignment instead; he makes moony eyes at a young woman imprisoned alongside him; he keeps his head down but still faces dangers from the hardened men surrounding him. It’s all standard-issue drama, even if it gains potency by dint of our knowledge of what it’s doing to Katie and the others. Thankfully, we get a fun if slightly implausible twist: Snyder is running the labor camp. I was wondering how the show planned to reintroduce him, and this is an effective tactic, as it places the former Proxy on an inevitable collision with his duties. The odds are good he’ll betray his responsibilities to help Bram sooner rather than later; he’s too hurt by his own estranged relationship with his daughter to not see a way to suture that wound by helping Will’s kid, whom I’d call a “proxy” for Snyder’s own, but come on, we’re adults here, and that would just be goofy.
Speaking of goofy, holy hell, was that “initiation” ceremony Maddie underwent just shy of a full-on Skull And Crossbones fraternity ritual. Hilarious oaths about keeping secrets from friends and family aside, it served one crucial purpose, which was to add a contemporary bookend to the 1969 flashback that opened this installment. The mathematical music coming (so they believe) from the beacon on the moon was the clearest evidence yet there really is some alien presence at work, rather than merely incredibly technologically advanced humans. And when Maddie picks up the cube, and goes full-on star child from 2001, it speaks to either alien tech or an unbelievably cool method of hypnosis. Colony is getting less coy about its foreign invaders, but that’s because it can afford to: When everyone is standing next to a ticking time bomb of one form or another, exhausting “what’s real?” games become secondary to the all-too-human drama underlying every scene.
- Seriously, this show has really improved its dialogue. All the tense encounters, from Will and Solomon to Katie and Nolan, felt charged with a realness and humanity that testifies to the quiet quality of Colony.
- Another testament to the show’s narrative chops: No turgid scene where Devon and Will hash out his request for a transfer prior to the invasion. Aliens have taken over the damn planet—that petty shit is water under the bridge.
- Speaking of which, nice alien launch sequence, both in effects and the logical need for Bram and everyone to clap their hands over their ears.
- Hi, high school teacher Adam Busch! Bye, high school teacher Adam Busch!
- Of course Nolan would claim credit for a snap judgment that saved Bram from a much worse fate. That guy seems way too chickenshit to stick his neck out for anyone.
- “Hello, Mrs. Bowman. You look… damp.” Oh, Lindsay, you creepy weirdo. Never change.