Saturday, February 4, 2017

Colony, Season Two, Episode Four: Panopticon

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From the moment I saw the title of this episode, I was absolutely intrigued. I realised immediately that this would mean a shift in Colony.  For the most part, Colony has really been action based and a panopticon would necessarily force a more sedate telling of the narrative because it would have to preclude large gestures.  Panopticons are a mechanism of control in which the party being watched changes their behaviour because they are never sure if they are being observed at any particular moment. It's an insidious way of controlling a population because while not violent, it is effective in removing free will.  A person is forced to conform because the risks of being caught for aberrant behaviour is extremely high. 

The episode begins with a meeting of the Vorlaufige Globale Autoritat (VGA).  Helena Goldman comes before all of the delegates to account for what is going on in her area.  Helena is quick to point out that she's already replaced Proxy Snyder but that is not enough for the VGA, who are considering a total rendition on the Los Angeles Bloc. Goldwin instead proposes the kind of surveillance that was employed to stop the rebellion in Seattle.  The VGA takes a vote on this and for now, they decide to go ahead with the surveillance program but warn that they will be keeping a close eye on Los Angeles from here on it.  If Goldman doesn't get the block under control the next vote will be for rendition. Everyone will be watched. 

There's a lot going on with the Bowmans. Charlie and Will have just returned from a harrowing trip over the wall.  Gracie is steadily being indoctrinated into the government cult.  The fallout from her resistance involvement has placed Katie in jeopardy.  Somehow, the Bowmans must make a plan to go forward and acknowledge all of the pain that they've been going through. The warm feelings of returning home are short lived because Kate has no choice but to tell Will that Bram has been placed in a prison camp, after a failed attempt to go under the wall.  There are recriminations here on both sides. Katie blames herself, feeling that her involvement with the resistance encouraged Bram to join the resistance with his teacher and attempt his reckless plan.  Will is troubled that he didn't see what his son was up to. Both parents blame themselves and they are both right and both wrong at the same time, making the situation that much more complex. 

The first order of business for Will and Kate is to attempt to save the son they still have.  Charlie is clearly not the boy they lost contact with a year ago.  Living under Solomon's reign has made Charlie withdrawn, suspicious, watchful and quiet.  It's clear that his days of childhood are far behind him now. This is really evidenced by the difference between Charlie and Gracie, who having been with her family the entire time still retains much of the innocence of childhood.  It's Gracie who excitedly shows Charlie his new room and gives him a tour of the house.  For his part, Charlie is less interested in scoping out the house and more interested in collecting oranges should there come a time when access to food is limited.  Will tries to get Charlie to talk by bringing up his experiences in the military but Charlie simply blows him off.

Charlie is clearly not going to allow himself to be taken hostage again.  When Gracie's tutor rings the door bell, Charlie's response is to grab a knife and hide under the bed.  When he decides that he doesn't like the tutor, he places a book on the stove which starts a fire.  It's enough to freak the tutor the hell out and leave the house.  Kate tried to tell Charlie that they simply couldn't dismiss the tutor, so he decided to handle it his own way.  Things however aren't all doom and gloom with Charlie.  On some level he wants to regain part of who he used to be. Charlie grabs a pair of scissors to cut his hair and when Kate volunteers to help, he's happy to sit and have his hair cut in a style similar to what he used to have. Even when Kate suggests that the long hair reminds her of Will, Charlie is determined to be able to look in a mirror and recognise some semblance of himself again.

Cutting Charlie's hair is the only soft moment of the episode for Kate, who has a lot of explaining to do to Will.  Kate tries to explain that she just felt that she had to do something larger than herself in the face of the occupation, before admitting that she's being squeezed by none other than Jennifer McMahon . Kate admits to regretting her decision to join the resistance in the first place but it's not enough for Will.  All Will can think of is the compromises and sacrifices he made to keep the family together while Kate was playing revolutionary.  Will wants Kate to simply turn in Broussard, explaining that he killed Quayle when he attempted to turn on their resistance cell.  Kate is adamant that she cannot because having burnt Broussard, he will know that Kate is compromised if she reaches out.  

It's Jennifer who is shocked by Will's admission because she has been listening to all of the Bowman family's interactions on CCTV.  Jennifer has a difficult decision to make. Her new boss is determined to get to the bottom of the resistance plot and is certain that there's been something off about Jennifer's department.  He keeps telling Jennifer that she has to prove herself to him in order to save her job.  To ensure that he gets the results that he wants, Jennifer's boss assigns Burke to oversee everything that she has been doing. 

At this point, Jennifer doesn't really know what to do and she turns to advice from her co-worker, Jennifer is told that she should look out only for herself and that is how things are done these days. Jennifer is still on the fence and returns to her station to continue eavesdropping on Will and Kate. When Will suggests to Kate that he can handle Jennifer because she falsely believes that they are friends.  This is enough for Jennifer to get her back up and march right back to her boss's office. Jennifer's boss is pleased to see her and says that she'll be a great fit because having no family, she can dedicate her entire life to the Authority. I'm not sure if it's the dismal prospect of devoting her life to the authority, or the recognition that Will is acting on behalf of his family that causes Jennifer to change her mind about turning the Bowmans in.  Jennifer simply informs her boss that Will is back and will make a great addition to the team.  For her boss, Jennifer's refusal to snitch is proof that she is not fit for the job she currently and so he demotes her and tells her to pack her things.

Jennifer realises that Burke will be going through all of her files. Jennifer heads back to her office and deletes all of the files that she has collected on the Bowmans.  This is a lucky break for Kate and Will, especially when coupled with the fact that Will discovered that their entire house was under surveillance when the fire alarm didn't go off when the fire started.  Thanks to Jennifer, and Will being observant, the Bowmans have dodged a major major bullet.  It's now really important that Will and Kate keep their promise to have no secrets between them if they are to survive.

The Bowmans may have gotten a new lease on life but unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Jennifer.  She knows damn well that Burke is going to have her sent to the factory for deleting the Bowman files.  Jennifer returns home, opens a bottle of red wine and grabs a hidden phone.  On the phone is a recording of days gone by of her, her husband and her dog. A crying Jennifer watches the tape, drinks her wine and spills a bottle of pills on the table.  Jennifer repeatedly says that she's sorry, as she begins to take the pills.

Even as Jennifer is committing suicide, her actions appear on a computer monitor. It seems that no one is safe from surveillance these days.  The camera pans to a computer lab filled with people watching video of people who don't know that they are being observed. It's beyond creepy.

I really liked the change of pace for Colony because it made the episode that much more intense. The Bowmans have been running by the seat of their pants since the show premiered last year and Panopticon forced them to slow down and assess where their decisions have taken them. From here on out they are going to have to be a lot more cautious. Before having their family torn apart, their son tortured and Jennifer pushing Kate, it was possible for them to pretend that everything was gong to be okay. They were able to keep the fantasy going for each other and for their children and now they are going to be forced to deal with the reality of their world. 

Jennifer's sacrifice for Will was really heart breaking. It's clear that she lost her husband in the invasion but she's kept that to herself the entire time.  What hurts the most is that the writers didn't decide to reveal this part of Jennifer's past until they decided to kill her off, to make her death more meaningful.  Yes, it's a device used to give a greater impact to the death of side characters but the fact that Jennifer's death was in the service of Will, problematises her decision.  Essentially, we have a female character whose story was deemed unimportant and then only revealed when she sacrificed for a man. 

The big reveal this episode was the VGA.  Thus far, Colony has largely concerned itself with a small area of California while heavily implying that the Authority's powers are far reaching. This week, it became clear that the aliens have taken over the entire planet and that all decisions are made to benefit them.  Given Goldman's discomfort in the meeting, we now know that everyone is subject to the aliens and no one is safe.  Snyder, for all of his evil, was simply a small cog in a much larger mechanism. It makes resistance happening at a local level irrelevant and the wall separating the colonies means that humans cannot coordinate a strike against the invaders. The addition of the surveillance will make it that much harder for humans to form any kind of resistance.  Now that we know the scope of the Aliens control, I would like some kind of hint as to their end goal. Why exactly did they choose the earth specifically to enslave, given that the universe is large and contains so many planets?  What do the aliens want with the earth, given that there have to be uninhabited planets which certainly would have been easier to take control of?