- SPOILERS AHEAD … AND SOME INVOLUNTARY CAMP REDECORATING …
It’s tempting to think of people fighting back against tyranny and evil as universally idealistic and possessed of good and noble intentions.
In a Disney Resistance – yes you may picture Sleeping Beauty and Snow White with guns, a cache of grenades and do-or-die attitude – that would be the case with everyone united against a common enemy (they may even a jaunty song of embattled opposition to tyranny).
However, reality doesn’t always accommodate those kinds of movie-of-the-week ideals, embracing more of a scarred, broken mentality that many of us are comfortable with, the resistors coming to resemble those who must be resisted in ways no one imagined.
Take the leader of the Seattle Resistance, Andrew MacGregor (Graham McTavish) who has gone from freedom fighter with a blog in the pre-Arrival days, when the Hosts were nothing but conspiracy theorist 0s and 1s buzzing around his computer, to mindlessly-cruel tyrant, broken by the Vichy collaborators of humanity to the point where he sees spies and double agents, all curiously looking just like the Bowmans under every bed.
His quest for the truth is long gone alas, replaced by a driving need to bolster his own rightness, his tattered credibility, a drive so complete and all-consuming that it makes him willing to torture children in the service of the greater good.
His greater good, of course.
He’d never admit to that though; in his frayed and twisted kind, he remains a man of nobility of purpose, the eager blogger committed to exposing the fact that aliens are on their way, and far from being ETs eager to phone home, M&Ms in hand, the gutsy lone voice tried his hardest to awaken humanity to the gravest threat they’ve ever faced.
Well, until he decides that evil and terrible things must be done in the name of goodness and truth such as playing with the minds of Charlie (Jacob Buster) and Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp), punching Bram (Alex Neustaedter) in the face when he steals the igniter caps that will unleash the bombs intended to destroy Seattle (taking millions of innocent lives with them) and tying up Will (Josh Holloway) and Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) until they crack under the combined weight of his bad cap and Vincent’s (Waleed Zuaiter) good cop questioning.
Counterbalancing MacGregor’s addled, cruel whatever-it-takes leadership but barely, Vincent is a man who wants to do the right thing.
I mean really wants to do the right thing.
He’s a good guy, stymied by fear that he will do precisely the wrong thing, a prevarication of intent that sees him trying to extract the truth from Will and Katie – sadly that is all they tell, though neither Vincent nor Macgregor will believe them for wholly different reasons – and in a move that dooms the camp and almost all who reside in it, calling the Occupation at the gentle, reasonable-sounding urging of Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson), thinking he is doing so in a way that both hides the resistance camp’s location and brings the firepower necessary to stop MacGregor.
Vincent’s is a heart of idealistic tenor, one that beating with the urge to do the right thing for the actual greater good; alas, it is used by Snyder to bring down hellfire and damnation upon everyone, including the Bowmans who barely manage to escape, sadly watching Charlie get shot in the back and die mere metres from safety.
It’s the big death of the episode and indeed the show, one of a thousand damning, desperately awful cuts that together add up to another chapter in humanity’s quest to destroy itself.
Not that anyone has set out to do that; the collaborators holed up in Switzerland think they are advancing humanity to some great new galactic stage, themselves along with it because why die for a great cause right, and the resistors striking at the heart of an enslaving force, all have fallen into the same trap possibly – aiding or fighting, as the case may be, the wrong side, history bearing down with frightening intensity.
In other words, each group thinks they are on the right side of history, a deliciously grey area that Colony exploits effectively episode-after-episode where no one is completely good or bad, even if it is suggested, and any in their right non-collaborative state of mind would have to think this, that fighting back against an authoritarian occupational force is always the right thing to do.
Colony plays though in the murky grey areas of rampant self-interest where everyone lies and dies, quite literally in this instance, at the hand of their own dogged self-justification.
Whether your Snyder, who is transparently out for whatever he can grab for himself – though his reaction to seeing Charlie’s grey dead body would suggest he is entirely immune to some basic humanity – or MacGregor, your ability to prosecute your case rests entirely on how well you can rationalise it to yourself or to everyone around you.
Much as the idealists in us would love to think a person’s position rests on well-established norms of morality, ethics or inherent truthfulness, the reality is that they have only a passing acquaintance with those norms, muddied and sullied by all kinds of self-interested realpolitik.
The genius of Colony, which is uniformly excellent week-to-week, is that it manages to explore the great grey chasms between idealism and on-the-ground reality while still telling a rip-roaringly good story.
You might think that an episode almost solely composed of interrogations, agonised deliberation and moral relativism, whether clad in righteous hues or purely utilitarian power-driven ones, might make for slow viewing but “The End of the Road” is gripping, immersive stuff, a cautionary tale about losing sight of the ideals of your cause to the extent that the differences between you and your enemy almost cease to exist in any kind of meaningful way.
We might think that good and evil, pro and anti are clearly defined in any given situation but as Vincent particularly demonstrates in this episode, this is a fallacy with reality far more messy and contrary and downright complicated than anyone would like to believe.
- Next up on Colony in “The Emerald City” …