USA Network made its first bid into serious drama last year. Initially it seemed like a foolish decision for the network to move away from its enjoyable comedies and quirky dramas but it paid off with Mr. Robot. Mr. Robot was not only personally my favorite drama of 2015, it also got award recognition. Most notably winning the Golden Globes’ Best TV Drama. USA hopes to strike it big again with Colony and it looks like they will succeed. In just its first episode, Colony is a very solid series. Colony is not Mr. Robot good but few TV shows are that good.
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Show Don’t Tell
Colony drops viewers right into its near future, almost post-apocalyptic world with its pilot, “Behind the Wall.” This might sound daunting and confusing but it’s the exact opposite. Colony begins in a world that appears to be very similar to our everyday existence. It only slowly starts to reveal that things are not what they seem. This means there are several plot twists throughout the pilot and each one is exciting and spurns you onto the next moment. I obviously won’t spoil but each plot twist builds on the other and are wonderfully earned.
A good TV pilot will have at least one moment that grabs your interest and hooks you into the show. Colony has three such moments. Again this doesn’t make things crowded or messy like you’d assume. The plot twists occur in such a natural way, it doesn’t feel gimmicky. These moments are clearly designed to grab attention but they don’t feel very manipulative.
There’s also plenty of small details in Colony that make the world feel real. I won’t go to in depth to the premise of the show because it is best to go into Colony completely unsullied. I will say that the show falls under the Sci-Fi genre and deals with an alien invasion on Earth. Don’t let that scare you off, Colony takes place in a different reality but it’s very easy to understand.
The series doesn’t look radically different from our world but those tiny details that exist as signposts to show things are different. They don’t really draw attention to themselves either. They are a part of the fabric of the show. So it feels natural to see a group of adults riding bikes down the street, rather than cars. It makes sense to see kids trade oranges and tortillas on the high school bleachers.
Grounding Lead Performances
Colony‘s greatest assets are its leading man and leading lady. I’m sure that more than a few Lost fans are interested in Colony because of Josh Holloway’s involvement. I’m happy to say their interest will be rewarded because Holloway’s character, Will Sullivan, is great. Will Sullivan isn’t radically different from Sawyer but he’s the best kind of version of Sawyer. Will is more the caring and compassionate version of Sawyer from the later seasons of Lost than the rugged con-man from the beginning of the series.
The real star is Will’s wife, Katie, played by Sarah Wayne Callies. The last TV character Sarah Wayne Callies was godawful. Lori Grimes has to be one of the most annoying and idiotic TV wives ever but none of Lori’s many problems were due to acting ability. Sarah Wayne Callies was a talented actress saddled with a thankless role in The Walking Dead. Colony gives the actress a character that is more than worth of her talents. I found myself approaching the pilot coming for Holloway but staying for Callies.
Room for Improvement
If Colony has a downside though, it’s the supporting cast. The primary antagonist played Peter Jacobson is appropriately slimy. He was sadly the only character outside of Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan that grabbed my interest. The other supporting characters aren’t bad and could prove to be just as great as the leads but they are not immediately compelling.
The biggest question is Katie and Will’s eldest son, Bram. The simple fact that Bram is a teenager might send a chill down some viewer’s spines. Bram isn’t the typical teenager character. He doesn’t appear to be overly whiny or self-centered. In fact, Bram has a very appropriate reaction to the situation that he and his family are experiencing. All that being said, the extended sequence of the pilot that features Bram drags heavily. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s more just OK. Bram is mostly just completely overshadowed by his parents. Bram could become of the best teenagers on TV or he could be a complete bore. It’s hard to tell from the pilot.
Despite the uncertainty of Bram’s character Colony is more than worthy your time. Though the alien invasion gives the series an undeniably sci-fi bend it’s not just a story about aliens. In fact, the aliens aren’t even glimpsed in the first episode and I wouldn’t be surprised if they never appear. This is a human story about a family in a terrible situation. The situation just happens to involve aliens. Colony‘s pilot is not among the best I’ve ever seen but it’s the best I’ve seen in a while. There’s room for the show to grow but even if it stays at the level it is now, it will still be a very solid series.
Colony airs Thursdays at 10pm on USA Network.
(Images courtesy of USA)