Colony’s second season is demonstrating a remarkable penchant for unexpected and deeply effective eruptions of violence. As Will, Devon, Charlie, their anonymous fellow traveler, and the Coyote scale the wall, the sheer height and intensity already adds a fraught element to the sequence. But when the drone suddenly appears overhead, stumbling upon their escape plan, the assumption is…capture? Cutting the rope? It’s unclear, beyond knowing this can’t be good. But when it fires up its weapons and literally blasts Devon into a bloody mess against the wall, the speed and brutality of the execution is shocking in its raw visceral impact. Sure, we know there’s no way Will is going to die—he’s the hero, after all, and this is only season two—but still, after everyone but the two Bowmans gets vaporized on the spot, we’re almost prepped for that kind of twist. Instead, the slow, lingering presence of the drone somehow identifying them and then drifting away is fascinating in its own right, and births a new mystery. Why do the aliens have a soft spot for Will Bowman? Or is it Charlie they’re keeping an eye on?
“Sublimation,” the third episode of this season, manages to find good ways to liven up what is largely an installment of depressing conversations. Jennifer is almost certainly going to be demoted when it’s revealed she can’t follow through on her promise to deliver Broussard (which, honestly, was a ridiculous thing for her to promise her boss before she had even the faintest assurance from Katie). Will’s not sure what kind of fractured life he’s going to find on the other side of the wall. Bram’s barely getting by in the work camp, and now he’s going to function as a stoolie (sorry, “spy”) for Snyder, a position that may hold the promise of eventual escape, but which puts him in even more danger from both guards and inmates than he would have been on his own. And poor anxiety-ridden Katie spends the episode essentially saying goodbye to her daughter, having reached the limits of her ability to (in her own words) “live with a sword hanging over my head.” The world of Colony is always one second away from exploding in violence and terror, but Katie Bowman feels her world collapsing in a sad and ignoble arrest, almost the opposite of an explosion.
Saddest of all, it took the loss of half her family before Katie even realized the effects of her actions. It’s one thing for someone to make sacrifices for a greater cause when they have a clear-eyed sense of responsibility and awareness of the likely result, but Katie was swept up in the righteousness of her cause. Even when she would make compromises with Will, trying to keep from falling too far down the rabbit hole of the resistance, she had a fundamental sense of urgency and necessity to her mission. “I think I put my ideals ahead of my family,” she confesses during her spirituality group meeting, which is something many a freedom fighter before her has done, and possibly with the same degree of understanding. If everyone were more worried about those closest to them than about fighting back against an occupying force, there would be no resistance. Would life be better? It’s unclear, but there would almost certainly be less hope—and that shouldn’t be undervalued as an ideology of survival.
Before it quite literally disappeared in front of his eyes, Will’s friendship with Devon was getting him through his own insecurities during the trip back out of the Santa Monica block. The show hasn’t always known how to process Will’s feelings toward his wife. Backwhen she was just being quiet and mysterious, or surprising him with sex in the bathroom, he could roll with the punches. But her betrayal left him staggered, and rather than simply bottle that emotion up, or tease it out gradually, we get a too-pat exchange between the former partners, where Will sums his state of mind up in broad terms and receives and equally generic answer. He doesn’t know what’s waiting for him over the wall? It’s ”the rest of your life,” as Devon retorts. That may be decent fortune-cookie wisdom, but as dialogue, it’s on the trite side, a step backwards for a show that has made strong advancements in the strength and subtlety of its storytelling. Far more devastating is the silent beat that follows a still shell-shocked Charlie asking his father why he didn’t come get him before the walls came down.
Bram, by contrast, is still stuck between his hormones and his survival instincts. The talk with Snyder is a good one, unfolding the situation at the work camp with adroit efficiency. Bram wants to be an adult, to follow in his father’s footsteps, and inside the camp, that means cutting a deal with Snyder. After spending last season immaturely resenting his father for taking a job with the ”enemy,” Bram is finally starting to see the shades of gray between the solid black of the resistance and the blinding white of the alien collaborationists. True, it took being severed from that life altogether to show him there were still daily concerns of existence, but at least he’s growing as a character.
Jennifer, in some ways, has the most heartbreaking arc of all in this episode, despite being the most marginal of the main characters we’re following. Colony has always done a good job humanizing its antagonists (we even see some sad wannabe red hats in that intro), and Jennifer—who began as just another agent trying to take down the resistance—has been revealed in all her uncertain frailties. I mentioned last week that she wanted to do the ethical thing right up until it threatened her security, and that’s exactly what happened. She demands Broussard, because it’s out of her hands. When delivering the bee-bug wasn’t enough, she told Katie time was up. But to her surprise, the Bowman matriarch gives up. Her family is more important now, and if that means turning herself in, that’s what Katie’s prepared to do. It’s an affecting moment when Jennifer can’t even believe her (“You’re trying to manipulate me!”), she’s so convinced Katie is some Machiavellian schemer. But there’s no fight left; sometimes people are just as they appear.
Will’s return stops the gears of Katie’s surrender from turning. Presumably, now that he’s back, he’ll be able to keep his wife out of the slammer, and maybe even retain Jennifer’s job through the force of his authority. (We’ve seen how much value Bennett places on past experience.) Katie spent her last day with her daughter opening Grace’s mind to the possibility of questioning things, of refusing Lindsay’s teachings of blind obedience to their alien overlords. The greatest day for Katie isn’t some fairy tale, as it is for Grace; it’s the chance to be with her daughter, to try and impart wisdom and love for as long as she can. We always hear the hoary advice to live each day as though it were your last, but Katie, in carrying out that plan, did as much good for her child as herself. It’s often hidden beneath the mysteries, murders, and breakneck action, but Colony’s heart is bigger than it lets on.
- I honestly thought we were going to get a look at the workings of the red hat recruitment center today. That’s been far and away the biggest source of outright villainy in this series (these cops are really the worst), so I was expecting some “behind the face masks” time. Instead, we got an explosive opener I didn’t see coming. That’s how you kick off an episode.
- Devon bonding with Charlie over scars was a nice beat, too. “Maybe we tell your dad you got that one walking into a wall.”
- Maddie and Nolan’s scene was brief but illuminating. She’s taking to her position with the zeal of the newly converted. There was no sign of it in her exchange with Katie, but Maddie’s rebirth as an alien fan is going to be a source of tension.
- Bram doesn’t even know how to pic a fight intelligently.
- Still, Snyder presenting his bribe to Bram was funny. “How would you like…some new boots?” Bram: “You trying to get me killed?” Snyder: [Pause.] “Fair point.”