‘Colony’ Premiere Review: Cuse Control Activated!

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“Colony” is the latest from writer/creator Carlton Cuse, the creative mastermind behind the likes of “Lost,” “Bates Motel” and “The Strain,” all of which he wrote extensively for over the years. “Colony” marks the first show he played a hand in creating himself, rather than being a hired hand for, though he helped develop the aforementioned “Bates Motel,” which was, of course, an adaption of the infamous Hitchcock horror-thriller “Psycho.”

Here, he’s working in cahoots with “Hercules”-scribe Ryan Condal, who co-created the show with Cuse, and also serves as a writer. It’s a similar set-up to the one on “Lost,” where Cuse was partnered with writer Damon Lindelof, who himself has gone onto to bigger, if not necessarily better things (i.e. “The Leftovers,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “Prometheus”).

The “Lost” connections don’t end there, as “Colony” shares a star with that cult classic, Josh Holloway, aka “Sawyer.” It’s his first major role on TV since the short-lived “Intelligence,” this time for the USA network. Only time will tell if it fares better, but the set-up is fairly decent so far.

Holloway plays Will “Sully” Bowman, a former military vet-turned-special agent, who went underground after the invasion of what I’m assuming are aliens, though they are never called that, if I’m not mistaken, and we never see any of them within the premiere episode. However, we see various flying ships and otherworldly drones, so I’m guessing that’s the case.

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That said, given the massive walls surround the area we get a bird’s eye view of, I’d say it’s safe to say that the whole alien thing likely has an intentional double-meaning, as in aliens of the illegal, border-crossing variety. Apparently, in the future, the aliens have walls built to keep tabs on us, not the other way around. Watch your back, Trump!

In addition, apparently certain humans have teamed up with the aliens in order to live the high life and stay relatively safe, unlike the more heavily-regulated and closely-guarded general population, who has opted to resist “collaboration,” as it’s called here. As such, they are watched over by a military-like force and have to be home by a particular curfew after a certain time, which has not gone over well with certain people, leading to the rise of a so-called “resistance.”

Though Sully is not amongst the resistance, unbeknownst to him, his wife, Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies, late of “The Walking Dead”) most certainly is. When Sully is approached by the slimy Alan Snyder, the Governor of his “Block” district, and asked to collaborate to bring down the resistance, Sully balks at first, until Schneider offers to help him find his missing son. Not exactly helping matters was the fact that Sully was trying to sneak past the borders of his city to look for said son when an IED set-off by the resistance went off and he was caught red-handed.

In other words, it’s a sort of damned-if-he-does-damned-if-he-doesn’t sort of situation, so Sully opts to do as he asks, no doubt realizing he has a better chance of getting his son back if he cooperates than if he doesn’t. Katie also isn’t thrilled about the prospect, until she realizes that the circumstances offer up an excellent chance to bring down the collaborators from the inside, as well as to get her son back, after which she also signs off on it.

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All in all, this was a halfway decent set-up for a series, largely marred by the fact that it’s nothing we really haven’t seen before when all is said and done. Yes, the show comes at things from a slightly unique direction, and the way it reveals things slowly-but-surely is relatively interesting, but once you get the gist of what’s going on, it isn’t so different from, say, “Falling Skies,” “Revolution,” or even “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and some of the other old-school flicks dealing with fear of the “other.” (Think movies about Red Scare/Witch Hunt of the 50’s or the initial wave of immigration in the States, for instance.)

That said, I did like the whole “building a wall” gambit, though the show has yet to truly capitalize on it in a way that functions as a sort of satire of the whole immigration hullabaloo, nor does it take advantage of the Nazi-style fascism on display in a unique way. Unfortunately, “Colony” seems all-too familiar in the grand scheme of things.

Not helping are the characters, who are way too on-the-nose to be unique thus far. Holloway is nothing if not a likable presence, but it remains to be seen if he’s an interesting one in this case. Meanwhile, Callies is stuck with another turn-on-a-dime kind of character that tends to infuriate the masses, if public reaction to her role on “The Walking Dead” was any indication.

One minute she’s up, the next she’s down; one minute she’s scrambling to help a friend with an ailing kid (Amanda Righetti, “The Mentalist”), the next she’s jumping her husband’s bones out of nowhere. Granted, she had reason to think he was dead beforehand, but then she subsequently gives him the cold shoulder about his reasons for being gone, even though one can hardly blame a man for wanting to find his lost kid. (“We’ve got two more,” she says, in fact. Nice rationalizing!)

I predict that people aren’t going to like Callies here any more than they did on “TWD,” unfortunately, which is too bad, because I liked her just fine on “Prison Break.” Callies has a flair for strong women, but a knack for working with guys that apparently don’t know how to write them. Go figure.

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Still, it’s early on in the show, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and see how everything continues to pan out before outright condemning the show, much less the characters on it. That doesn’t seem fair to do at this early of a juncture. I just hope things do get better from here, because there is a glimmer of an interesting show here, despite all the recycled parts.

My advice would be to take advantage of the set-up and use it as a platform to make some wry observations about what’s going on in the news currently. They don’t necessarily have to go full-on satire with it, but a sense of humor wouldn’t hurt, which is not evident in the show thus far. It’s all played just a little too straight, and that sort of self-seriousness could backfire if the show doesn’t watch itself.

It’s a lesson that Cuse’s erstwhile partner Damon Lindelof seems to have learned himself, moving from the super-depressing first season of “The Leftovers” to the relatively more engaging and less stringent second season. Hopefully, it won’t take Cuse as long to get there and retool the show into something more fun. We shall see.

In the meantime, fingers crossed they improve sooner than later. Life is too short to watch retreads, when there’s so much other quality TV out there at the moment. The set-up is not without merit- let’s see where they go with it. Hopefully, it will be somewhere interesting. If not, better luck next time, all concerned.

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What did you think of the first episode of “Colony”? Were you hooked right away, or did it leave you cold? How do you think the show could improve upon its general concept? How about the general approach to the material? Did you like the cast? Any particular characters stand out to you? What do you think will happen next on the show? Will you continue to watch to find out? Sound off on this and more down below, and I’ll be back with a check-in later on in the season!