Colony: “Puzzle Man” (S3, E2 review)

Networking has lost much of its lustre in the alien apocalypse (image via Spoiler TV (c) USA Network)




Even with aliens laying waste to us, our planet and and any sense of integrity we had as a species – did we have any? If we did, the likes of Trump are seeing to it that it’ll be long gone before Colony finishes its run – it seems that humanity is really, I mean really, REALLY bad at posing anything that looks remotely like a united front.

Yes, everyone, even as some of us collude with the enemy, dazzled by the religious glitz of The Greatest Day, and the enemies of the aliens occupying us speed towards well ahead of schedule to wage war with the Rapps – the plot is tad reminiscent of Falling Skies but given Colony‘s far superior storytelling to date, expect a far better tale of the enemy of my enemy is my friend played on Earth’s green and pleasant lands – humanity still can’t get it together!

STILL. What the hell is it going to take for a little bit of warm-and-fuzzy Sesame Street-esque caring and sharing?

I doubt anyone can say right now but as the Bowmans meet up with the resistance people near their camp – who are ridiculously charming and friendly and invite them in for tea and cookies; no, no they don’t – guns at the ready and any semblance of trust long gone, it becomes patently obvious that everyone is a suspect and no one is innocent until to proven guilty.

You can well understand why of course since so many people are either collaborating with the aliens or quietly standing by in the hope they won’t get whomped or sent to The Factory – which incidentally ceased to exist, along sadly with its captive humans, when the Rapps’ enemies blew it to smithereens – and there’s no guarantee that a smile and a wave means anything more than “I’m lulling you into a false sense of security before I kill you or turn you in”.


With no TV or internet to while away the time, paper shredding suddenly became all the rage (image via Spoiler TV (c) USA Network)


Case in point, and a justification for all the paranoia in the world, most of which seems to reside in the lady who meets the Bowmans on an isolated bridge to retrieve the gauntlet, is the presence of Snyder (Peter Jacobson) who has feigned exhaustion with the collaborators and their alien overlords but remains, self-serving as always, in their employ.

He is going along with Will (Josh Holloway) and Kate (Sarah Wayne Callies) and the kids, two of whom, Charlie (Jacob Buster) and Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp) he coaches in the art of lying like crazy (awww they grow up so fast!), simply so he has a bigger catch to hand over to the Global Authority who continue to talk like they have everything under control, even as the aliens, no the other aliens, come speeding towards Earth for their own greatest day (chances are the two aliens’ agendas aren’t going to be mutually “great”).

Exhibit A for slimy, collaborative humanity – although kudos to Colony‘s writers for making him a nuanced character with many layers such as the hitherto-unarticulated (well to the Bowmans anyway) that he had/has a daughter – Snyder is the reason that the resistance, at least the ones who usher the Bowmans onto an automated freight train (“Because people getting herded onto freight trains never ends badly”) for the journey to Seattle, trusts no one.

Turns out when they get up to Seattle, where they are greeted, not by tea and cookies (will they never get sustenance? Martha Stewart would be appalled), but by guns and bright lights in the eyes, that everyone is a tad friendlier although even here the friendliness is guarded, the reason for which becomes clear when the Bowmans and their escorts arrive at the resistance camp to find not everyone is getting along.

The shots are being called by a mysterious figure in a hut, who may or may not be a dissident alien – certainly everyone seems very tiptoe-y around him and there’s a fascistic level of fear at play, something the Rapps seem inordinately fond of – and it becomes very clear very quickly to the Bowmans that they won’t be singing “Kumbayah” around a campfire anytime soon with their new “friends”.

Suffice to say that while the gauntlet and the Bowmans are now snugly within resistance hands, and their goal is a laudable one of kicking the aliens off plant earth, it’s not exactly happy families, and the end of any alien occupation, if that’s even possible (especially given the insidious spirit of collaboration polluting the human race), won’t necessarily be some kind of happy ever after Hallmark moment.


Being a kid, already hard, gets even harder when aliens are plotting to extinguish the human race (image via Spoiler TV (c) USA Network)


That is the brilliance of Colony which is unstintingly unsentimental in its depiction of life in the brave new world of alien-occupied earth.

The depiction of the us vs. them dynamic is as realistic as it comes, along with all of the consequences that come with it – rampant authoritarianism, fractured loyalties, glib disregard for them, lying, subterfuge and the list goes on and on.

Tempting though it would to depict some sort of noble us defeating them narrative, one in which the heroes are virtuous and good in all their ways, and the anti-heroes are most assuredly not, the reality is the world, and it appears even the galaxy god help us all, doesn’t work that way, and pretending otherwise wouldn’t be realistic nor would it be in the service of  the kind of gritty, in-your-face drama at which Colony excels.

One man who knows all about the grim nastiness of life, war and messy geopolitics is Broussard (Tory Kittles) who, surprise surprise is holed up in non-destroyed L.A. where the buildings are intact but the people taken away to The Factory for resource-ful purposes. (They are all, of course, dead, but it appears the Rapps have fallen to repopulate the colony from elsewhere, just like they did in Seattle.)

His main activity, well when he’s not wandering the streets and homes of L.A. alone in some of the eeriest, most atmospheric footage to adorn the show, is piecing back together mountains of coloured shredded documents, much like the “Puzzle Women” of post-reunification Germany, from whom the episode draws its title.

It’s laborious, lonely work but Broussard, ever the dog with the bone, sticks at it, only pausing to help spirit mum Claire (Hannah Levien) and her son who, like many people have hidden away from the Rendition, into the San Fernando Bloc, and to talk to Dispatch, a mysterious but friendly woman (hello love interest!) who keeps Broussard company even when it’s clear he’s doing just fine without it.

Naturally these small moments of helpfulness and companionship don’t quite go to plan – this is Colony where no one can stay happy for long and where life under occupation is grittily, horrifically realistic – and Broussard is left to flee the city for Seattle with Dispatch, as she’s known so far, where no doubt he’ll join the suspicion-fest that is the resistance camp.

While “Puzzle Man” isn’t a completely perfect episode, it gets far more right that it gets wrong, continuing to present us with a world that was already broken before the aliens arrived, and which continues to fall into more brokenness even as the more noble elements of humanity try their best to reverse the damage.

Will they succeed? Possibly but as World War Two demonstrated, and Colony echoes, and will no doubt continue to echo, winning is one thing, making the peace work quite another, and the road between an horrific maze of duplicity, mistrust and the very best and worst of everything humanity has to offer.

Next up in Colony … “Sierra Maestra” and all kinds of mystery, secrecy and the suggestion that humanity may be getting their hands a little two wet in the alien-fighting pool …


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