Thursday, August 4, 2016

Colony: Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

The pilot of this dystopian does exactly what it needs to do – introduces everyone, what their issues are and what the stakes are as well as setting up the world setting

Which is interesting because of how subtly it was done. It didn’t scream “dystopian hellhole” from the opening scenes – no, people seem to have relatively normal lives. I appreciate how it started with such a very mundane opening scene of breakfast and then introduced just a hint of the underlying problems: Shortages of basic supplies we take for granted

Our main characters – Will, Katie and their children – go through a relatively normal day with these constant little hints: radios talking about travel bans, ominous flying machines, fear of the police – all of it escalates as we see Katie bargaining for insulin (in a world where the occupiers don’t feel the need to treat diabetes).

While people don’t lead happy lives, the fact they don’t lead utterly hellish lives of pain and privation is, I think, an important touch. Especially since the (presumably) alien overlords (they talk of “the arrival” and “the invasion” and we see a lot of super technology) are largely absent and it is collaborators who are actually the face of oppression. They are the ones who round up dissidents, enforce the curfew etc etc. There’s a resistance and some of the people even call them terrorists. The fact the dystopian isn’t constant hellish torture is perhaps the key to selling this – because people probably can keep their head down, keep quiet, play along and not face any consequences. We also see very clearly that the Collaborators enjoy a much higher quality of life with much better food, drink and general luxuries.

I am interested in how the Resistance is portrayed – they’re planting bombs, some call them terrorist and those bombs are even called IEDs. No direct comparisons are made with real world insurgencies, but I have to say I’m surprised in the present political climate to have an Insurgency presented as, at least potentially, good guys.

Our main characters deviate from their “normal” lives when Will tries to leave the walled city of Los Angeles to find their missing third son – and gets caught up in a Resistance strike which ends up with him being caught. And exposed as an army ranger: which is rare skill set these days as all police and soldiers were rounded up and disappeared shortly after the occupation (another of Will’s friends, Broussard, talks about this).

He is recruited by Schneider, the collaborator governor, who enjoys an incredible level of luxury next to the shortages of his fellows. He wants Will to hunt, infiltrate an expose the resistance. Of course, Will isn’t a fan of this idea, but he’s even less of a fan of his wife and children being shipped to the ominously named “factory”. There’s also the carrot – maybe they’ll help him find his lost son. There’s also the perks of the higher standard of living for them and their children. There’s also the technology the aliens have that Will has just seen so well displayed – what chance do they have against it?

In the end, after a lot of painful debate and arguing with his wife, it’s not really a job they can refuse. Literally.

And he’s closer than he thinks – because Katie, his wife, is a Resistance member who, technically, can now offer the Resistance a person on the inside… well I have to admire her willingless to make lemonade from these lemons.

So far I’m pretty impressed with the pilot, it has a level of nuance and conflict which I’m intrigued by.