- SPOILERS AHEAD … AND THE UNEASY SENSE A MONSTER IS LURKING BENEATH THE HAPPY FACADE OF THE
Sometimes the darkest shadows lurk in the most well-lit of places.
Dazzled by the light, you don’t notice them at first but take a look around – the darkness creeps in on the edges, flirting with the tendrils of light, subduing them and mixing with them in murky pools of half-light.
Katie Bowman aka Laura Dalton (Sarah Wayne Callies) knows just how unsettling that feels by the end of a “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”, an episode which adds meat to the bone of the idea that if something is too good to be true, it often is.
Not that the now mother of two, mired in grief after the death of her son Charlie but channeling it into a fierce mother lion determination to make things as normal as possible – school for Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp) and a job and social life for Bram (Alex Neustaedter) – in a world where normal has long ceased to have any real meaning.
On one level, her work as an Advocate in the new model Colony of Seattle, where she takes a real interest in the people she’s helping – this is not Collaborator Katie at work but Got to Make Things Right Somehow Somewhere (even if it means effectively sleeping with the enemy) Katie – is going swimmingly well.
She’s helping families like the Winslows, who are about to depart the Colony in frustration after being stuck in Tier 2 hell for months (and figure it’s about better “out there” than in the limbo hell of a refugee camp), to get into the fabled glory that is the Seattle Colony, a place set apart from other Colonies by Everett Kynes (Wayne Brady), the man who came up, rather insidiously, with the algorithm used by the Global Authority to sort people into their respective roles.
Yes, to no one’s surprise, the robotic aliens decided that a cold, impersonal algorithm would be the perfect way to subjugate humanity (like the sorting hat in Harry Potter but with WAAAY less whimsy); Kynes doesn’t see it that way, possessed of a love for stats that is frightening in its calmly rabid devotion, a man committed to the idea that he can run the perfect Colony on maths alone.
Don’t mistake his apparent idealism for some kind of soft touch.
This is a man, so we see in a flashback, that took on the might of the Global Authority when Seattle was another rebellion-strewn, fiery Colony in trouble, and won, leveraging effective Kim Jong-Un type control of his own personal alien apocalypse fiefdom.
His Colony is a model for all the Colonies that are being renditioned and repopulated, largely because it is Stepford Wives-level peaceful, with everyone buying into the idea that they have lucked upon heaven here on earth.
Katie, largely driven by the need to believe this or her entire post-Charlie’s death veneer crumbles in an instant, buys into it wholesale, hosting obligatory neighbourhood parties where the latest Stasi-like additions to the local police force are warmly welcomed.
There’s a distinct feeling that behind all this bonhomie are a bunch of very scared people, who know things aren’t quite right, but can’t prove it and so keep buying into Kynes’ Occupational idyll.
But you know, you just know, that someone as arrogant and sure of himself as Kynes, who has staked a lot on Seattle working, isn’t going to settle for everything being left to chance, and the revelation by Will (Josh Holloway), who most definitely does not buy into the Seattle is paradise bullshit, that people keep disappearing (perhaps into pods?) would suggest that Seattle’s beneficent ruler has a lot more going on below the surface and behind the scenes than many people realise, and more to the point, want to admit.
That becomes more than a little obvious when Katie pushes to find out what happened to her clients the Winslows – her friendly supervisor and “friend” Michelle (Nicki Micheaux) seems to a tad reluctant to show her where they’ve ended up but eventually relents … sort of – and she goes to the housing block they now supposedly call own only to find it empty.
Worse still, as the camera pans back to reveal the entire front of an old 1960s apartment block, with Katie silhouetted, housewarming pot plant in hand, it becomes painfully and nightmarishly clear that all the people who are supposedly resident are nowhere to be found.
The look on Katie’s face says it all – she believed the lie because it suited her grief-stricken state but it no longer seems tenable to believe in the lies … unless of course you want to keep living, in Seattle or anywhere else for that matter.
Times the discomfort Michelle felt revealing where the Winslows were supposed to be, let alone where they actually are (nowhere good, I’m betting) and you get some idea of how well Kynes would react to someone like Katie poking around.
Will, of course, has long been a disbeliever, a source of tension, mounting all the time between he and Katie who remain locked in the grief of months before, each papering over in their own way and failing to talk or find any common ground.
Trying his best to bring some justice to proceedings, and unable to see Katie is doing that in her own way, Will is acting as a private eye of sorts, trying to track down the missing husband of a recent intake family who may be one of the missing abductees.
That he isn’t is revealed as Will, ever the law enforcement officer, tracks him down and finds he’s abandoned his family; nothing evil of an alien nature at least, but definitely evil in the douchebag vein which explains why Will, feeling he’s witnessing the falling apart of his own family, doesn’t handle this man’s subterfuge at all well.
The irony of Will and Katie being on seemingly different pages is that they are actually on the same one – lost in grief’s destructive aftermath, trying to craft order and meaning where there is none, and both aware, Will openly, Katie not so much, that something is desperately wrong in pretty, perfect Seattle.
There are telltale signs everywhere – Gracie is learning physics already, Bram is delivering groceries that are apportioned out as “allocations”, everyone is friendly at the neighbourhood parties but not really friendly at all – much as I imagined East Germans must have been when you didn’t know if your neighbour was Stasi or not and if one stray word could doom you – and there’s an overwhelming sense of being watched.
It’s so palpable that you can almost reach and touch it but while Will seems happy to, Katie is not, well not until the end when she realises there’s no playing pretend, and making nice and normal in a world that long ago sold its soul to the alien devil, taking all semblance of real humanity along with it.
- Ahead in Colony in “Lazarus” … something bad is happening … you know it, I know it, and now the Bowmans, and yes Snyder, know it …