Notes While Watching: Colony — Episode 1

Summary:  The city of Los Angeles has been occupied by an unknown force. Former FBI agent Will Bowman and his wife Katie are separated from their son during the invasion, and are willing to do anything to be reunited with him. When they are offered a chance to get their son back by collaborating with the occupational government, Will and Katie find themselves faced with the toughest decision of their lives.


We start in a California house, with a presumable father making breakfast for his family.
Father drops and breaks an egg and gets super abnormally upset about it, says dammit and hits things. Mother comes in t join the family and we see a lot of pictures, including one that could be of a family member who isn’t around anymore.
Then we see their backyard, which has razor wire around the fence and they’re pulling their oranges off the tree.
“he’s a good kid” “they’re all good kids”
So here we get our picture that they don’t live in our world and that something is wrong.
Dad goes to work and we see a tank driving down the road and hear about transportation passes.
What are we going to do when this is all over?
Then we hear that Parko’s brother got sent up, last night. Families are separated. Dad is running some form of contact ring, he’s wished good luck as he goes to make some sort of delivery from a garage.
Most of the traffic on the street is bikes. Dad is upset because there’s some sort of blockade as he’s headed out, like border patrol. They want his id, he wears it on arm. He’s supposed to be carrying fuel cells. He’s cleared to deliver, through the border patrol.
He’s late. Then he trades out his LA id for a Santa Monica id, and is given a change of clothes to put on, as he’s going to go lay down in a freezer with a few other guys before they drop ice on top of them.
Ah, now we find out what is going on. Dad is going on this to find his son, who he was separated from. Oh, hey, there’s a giant fucking wall. Insert joke about Trump’s border patrol wall. Because, that’s what this is and what Trump wants and these are guys literally trying to cross over the border.
Santa Monica is different from Los Angeles. I guess there are different colonies. Now we have some video tension. LA drivers to containment area. Now they scan the truck. Then Santa Monica drivers pick up their truck. Santa Monica drivers don’t know about the people in the trucks.
Then, there’s an explosion from somewhere. Something has gone wrong somewhere else. Now we have dad coming out of truck debris and his friend is dead. He climbs out of the tunnel, there are a lot of bodies all around. And there are flying space things responding and he’s being picked up. So, something else has foiled his escape through the wall, although he would have made it.
This seems to suggest that people would still get through Trump’s wall and there would be an increase in the risk of violence.
Now, we’re not on guy anymore. We’re on a girl on a bike with a dog who is staring at a missing/lost bulletin board. A soldier tells her to move along as some pictures are taken down. Then there’s emergency response where people are picked up by the authorities outside a cafe with no explanation.
So now we have some form of totalitarian government as well. She bikes to a place where she cannot bring her dog. She leaves the dog outside and goes in to a home, a nursing home it looks like.
Apparently certain conditions are deemed not worthy of being treated. So, our girl is there to pick up insulin. She trades insulin for a bottle of booze. Then, the woman says that the insulin is bad, its cloudy and too hot. She leaves the insulin and takes back her bottle. She draws a gun to make sure everything stays copacetic. Then, she somehow threatens everyone and gets out. Now everyone is freaked out because if drones catch her with a gun, they’re all dead. So, having guns is prohibited and no one makes insulin because diabetes is an illness considered unworthy of treating. Then, she runs away.
Back to Dad’s kid at school. They’re trading food. Then one guy comes up, and he says no trading goes on without him being included, its his territory. He demands guy’s backpack. Guy fights him. Then the cops/authorities come and everyone runs.
Now we’re back on our dad who is in a detainment center with really poor conditions. Dad is demanding his phone call. The guard are called collaborating assholes.
Why he thinks he’s going to get a phone call when he’s been a part of what could be considered a terrorist attack is beyond me, especially in a totalitarian government.
Oh, the girl on the bike is the mom. Mom & Dad are smuggler families trying to get contraband.
Dad is missing. Oh, his name is Bill. Oh, we’re close to curfew, you can’t go out after curfew.
Bill & Katie are their names. So mom is risking everything being out so late at curfew.
Now we have sirens going off. Katie is biking home. Drones are out on the street. She drops her bike and goes to hide underneath a tank from the drones that are circling everywhere. She watches as the soldiers with the tank are picking someone up and detaining him in the tank. She’s about to lose her hiding spot (and her bike where she dropped it in front of the tank). Drone moves on as the detainment is done and the tank drives off of her.
Katie makes it home, but this is really fucking irresponsible. One parent is gone, so she risks everything for nothing. Like, what was the purpose of going out after her husband? Most likely, she isn’t going to find him.
Oh look, Katie has her bike back again somehow.
Katie is now talking to a black man who she’s friends with. Will is missing. No one seems to know what is going on. Bad government are the red hats.
“They went to ground after the arrival — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a list”
So, she doesn’t know what to do so she’s going to check the hospitals and he will make calls.
Katie heads to a very busy, cramped and bizarre hospital. There was an explosion at the wall. They say it was a gas leak, but it was caused by “those terrorist freaks” — the resistance. Now she goes all secretlike to steal some insulin while the nurse is distracted. She steals all of it.
They are the Sullivan’s.
So Katie calls the black dude up and they talk about the explosion in code.
Ok, paused the show so I can catch up here.
We’ve established that we have a totalitarian government lead by the Red Hats, who are seen as some to the traitors since the occupation. We also have the resistance.
The storytelling is alright, giving us bits and pieces of the world in ways that we can understand and relate to our world, although there is definite political leaning (I’m sorry, but the giant wall with the immigration control and Will, our protagonist, sneaking through with a latinx, until there’s a giant explosion and the government arrests everyone, including people uninvolved is pretty obvious).
So, our protagonists are the Sullivan family. We have mom, Katie, and dad, Will, who are obviously smugglers of various types, with Will presumably having a military background. They also seem to be resistance fighters (“insurgents”). Then we have their kids. (As an aside, I could have sworn that Katie told the nurse that her husband was named Will Sullivan, but when I went to search IMDB to get the kids names, they’re the Bowmans — And more interestingly on the we show website and IMDB, I cannot find the name of the oldest son who is in the show, although I can get the youngest mia son’s name.)
Oldest Son is doing resource/food trading at a stadium, presumably some school related function as the “5 O” are in suits and everyone has a backpack. They make it clear in the scene that this kind of trading is against the Red Hats rules. So, his “good kid” is doing illegal smuggling to (because, repressive government). We don’t have any word on daughter, Grace, yet. And youngest son, Charlie, is missing. They were separated, presumably at the invasion.
I don’t understand why Will and Katie don’t seem to know what the other is doing, leaving Katie asking dangerous and stupid questions. I don’t know why Katie would take the risk to steal the insulin like she did at the hospital (or why insulin was readily available when they’ve already said some conditions don’t get treated). Or why the nurse, who doesn’t see her doing anything in particular, just walking frettingly, is so pissy (she’ll report her to homeland).
Ok, I’m going to start the show again.
Ok, the Red Hats come in and demand everyone put their hands behind their heads in the typical arrest position.
Now they’re looking for Will Bowman. Will lies about who he is and is taken, after being told that they never come to see them (which makes absolutely no sense with the kind of detainee place they have them at. Like, their detainment facility makes no sense for long-term containment and there seems to be no reason for it.)
You’re going to the green zone. And the Red Hat just grins at him. We have an entire cavalcade for Will. Who the fuck is he that he’s that dangerous? Now he’s escorted into a high society fancy party where people have it all. I guess these are supposed to be our government/traitors/people who went along with the enemy.
This guy has everything, including high-end rare paintings. And we have the weasel looking guy who is, of course, going to try to get him to schmooze and turn traitor, in exchange for some booze. Alan Synder. He’s the proxy governor.
Will is there to turn crisis into opportunity. He’s a special agent, a FBI fugitive hunter, an Army ranger.
All the military/cops went missing when the aliens came.
THe hosts are tired of the insurgency, 6 IEDs in the last several months. And Will is a rarity, because they got rid of most of them. They want him to infiltrate the insurgency and take down Geronimo, the rebellion leader.
Then, we have a show. We get to look out over the city and there’s a huge exploding thundercloud. It happens a few times a month.
The most important day in human history is coming. I just want you and your family to be on the right side. And when I tell you to piss off. “Occupation law”.
Snyder will send his entire family to the factory. When Will asks him how he does it, he says he’s taking advantage of his opportunities. So we’ve got him clearly established as the bad guy opportunist humanity turncoat and we have our protagonist family established as the good guys.
Oh, kid’s name is Brian and daughter is Gracie.
Cops show up, family enacts a plan to run and leave. So, the Bowmans already have a pre-established plan to disappear. Then, Will is back. The family is reunited.
Will is not a very good liar.
Now we have the obligatory shower scene — with a telegraphed something happened/something is in his head. And now we have the obligatory reunion sex scene, because I know that right after there was an explosion and an accident, that’s what I want to do. Man, that was super short sex.
Ok, now they are revealed as the Bowmans, not the Sullivans.
Now we have the tortured truth scene. Dude is being a dick to his wife. “You’ve got all the answers”. His wife called in favors. She’s part of the resistance I think.
Will thinks that his wife hates him because he lost Charlie. Katie is like, “dude, we have two other children”.
Yeah, Katie is definitely part of the resistance. And Will is set up to be a collaborator.
As they wake up, Snyder is in their house cooking with the Red Hats. Oh, ok, not Brian. Bram.
Ok, so Snyder is crazy. Here comes Will, who he wants to work undercover as an infiltrator/collaborator in the resistance/insurgency. And to facilitate this, he shows up at Will’s house, not once, but twice, with sirens and many Red Hats, both after curfew (so neighbors can’t help but notice) and during the day. Right, because the resistance is going to trust anyone who you’ve just buddy/buddy’d with, especially in front of his children, who will talk and then he makes an offer of all the benefits Will and Katie will have (food, special educational opportunities for the kids, security) which of course the resistance will have absolutely no idea about. Maybe Katie isn’t a part of the resistance, but I get the feeling that she knows those who are. Meanwhile, Will has already pulled the “they killed innocents” line — I’m telling you, this show is going to have a lot of parallels to the Middle East & South America. Its going to be really political but in ways that maybe a lot of people don’t pick up. It’s already using a lot of very obvious political imagery and vocabulary.
Our hosts are here for our benefit. There need to be controls in place or else there will be anarchy and once they set aside their needs, they’ll leave and everything will go back to normal.
Why is Snyder acting like he doesn’t already have an answer and like they have an option here? Will makes his son a condition. Like Snyder doesn’t know about Charlie.
Will gets ready to leave. Katie is drinking. Will does not know that Katie has this old booze. So, again, Will doesn’t know that Katie smuggles the way she has. And Katie doesn’t know that Will was doing illicit things either. These guys are super sexual with each other but have an entirely broken marriage, especially if Will thinks that Katie hates him.
And the sound as he walks away is like the sirens.
Now we have Katie off doing her thing on her bike with the dog the next day. She’s visiting her grandma for breakfast. Grandma rings a bell and they go in the house. There are a lot of people in grandma’s house and then grandma escorts her out back through a series of codes.
Yeah, I called it. Katie is part of the resistance. And Katie immediately goes and tells the resistance.

Overall:  This story has been done before. Its even a trope, “Mutual Masquerade”. “Friendly Enemy” “Living with the Enemy” (Batman/Catwoman, Buffy/Angel, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, etc. etc.)  They telegraph this way early into the episode, even with the promotional image (Katie and Will on opposite sides, looking out with the Red Hats — the government — coming between them).  I’m actually not sure that the basic plotline of the show is going to be that compelling.  The acting seems alright, but the leading of the audience is really heavy-handed.  I think what will be interesting about the show is the political subtext and its application to the real world.  I don’t really see anything that makes me care about the Bowmans.  Ok, they live in an oppressive regime, but is it really that oppressive?  We’re supposed to see that things are terrible, but what we see is that food options are limited, but they still have fresh, healthy food (an upgrade from what people experience today).  We know that their lives are tightly controlled and people are abducted, but we have no context for these abductions or the controls (and in alien/super technology world, the curfew doesn’t make sense).  Other than the missing (which we already know can be from simple separation and not just abduction), we don’t really see a lot of actual material harm occurring.  For an oppressive government, there isn’t a lot of oppression (and really, why do we need things like the wire on the fence, who does it help or hinder?).  They haven’t established the evil of the aliens except that the people who help them, Homeland/RedHats just live lives of luxury, while the rest of the people have to work and still live fairly nice lives.

This is not to argue that the Establishment (Aliens/Homeland/Redhats) is good, but that they aren’t actually being portrayed quite evilly (with the exception of abductions to the “factory” and deeming some diseases as unworthy of treatment).  So, the portrayal is off.  I can think of two possible reasons for this.  First, its not truly intentional.  Given the audience, the assumption may be that the clues they have left are grisly enough that they don’t need to portray the government as any more evil *at this moment*.  In this case, they will continue to build upon the evil in newer episodes.  The second is that they are going to make a case that the Establishment isn’t as evil as people think, and its just perspective, which could make things more interesting.

In any case, we’re looking at some form of a civil war with a greater outside evil and I think its interesting that the outside force, the Invaders, are never described.  They could just be humans masquerading as aliens to appear more scary, with fear being the strongest motivator to control people, especially as long as they don’t make their lives too bad.  Again, I think this will be the interesting political subtext because I just don’t care about the Bowman family.  They don’t have real characters.  I haven’t seen much emotion other than the sexual tension between Katie and Will and going through the “I love you” motions of the parents with their kids.  (But, again, if Katie really loved her kids and had their well being at her heart, why the hell did she leave them to risk her life and go looking for her husband after curfew when they already had one parent and sibling missing?  Why would you risk leaving your children without an adult/parent to help them in this world when you know that your husband is capable of surviving AND that sometimes people just poof and that your husband’s past made them more prone to taking him? )

I just don’t really care about them and I don’t find anything compelling about their family because they represent so many of the tropes out there.

We’ll see, though.

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