- SPOILERS AHEAD … AND THE END OF THE WORLD … KIND OF
If you are ever looking for a master class in how to end a season of taut, nuanced drama in the most tense and gripping way possible then you should immediately turn to “Ronin”, the finale of what has been by any estimation a brilliant second season of Colony.
Always possessed of a fierce intelligence, and preference for allowing the slow burn to take precedence over the short term and flashy, a failing of many other shows in our hyperactive new golden age of television when more and more things happening in a single episode is never enough, Colony excelled itself with “Ronin”, where the alien guillotine was lowered inch by razor sharp inch and it was every person for themselves.
Well, that’s if you’re Snyder (Peter Jacobson), a man so wrapped up in his own self-survival that he manages to scuttle out from beneath the jackboot of impending doom each and every time, smelling if not like roses, then not like a corpse, a major achievement in a world where that seems to be the only constant.
In this episode alone, Snyder managed to ferret out that Total Rendition of the L.A. colony was impending – so impending in fact that when he finally got Governor-General Goldwin (Ally Walker) to admit it was underway, it was but six excruciatingly short hours away – garner a barely believable promise of a new position with the Global Authority in Europe from his golden-haired frenemy, stitch up a deal with Will (Josh Holloway) to be spirited out of the bloc, and then double-cross them as they’re speeding hell for leather out of the doomed city.
Not bad for a day’s work is it?
Bram (Alex Neustaedter) was reluctant to get in the car with him, as was Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp), proof if you needed it that the children have a better sense of who to trust and who not to than their parents Will and Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies).
As it turns out, they were right on the money with the shell-shocked Bowmans too exhausted and stressed from escaping certain death, and horrified by the arrival of a fleet of alien spacecraft to wipe out the bloc, that they failed to notice Snyder press a bright red blinking button, hidden in his hand.
It was hardly surprising that he acted this way; he has, after all, demonstrated over and over that he is the ultimate collaborator, a man who will sell everyone and anyone out to get what he wants.
See that bus speeding by? Snyder has just pushed you under it.
The futility of his actions, spurred on by a promise by the head Blackjack who is overseeing L.A.’s wiping off the brand new alien-drawn map that he will want for nothing if he succeeds in returning the alien gauntlet, is evidenced by Maddie (Amanda Rightetti), who, stripped of Nolan’s (Adrian Pasdar) protection, finds herself in with the rest of the human cattle being readied for slaughter.
In scenes eerily and frighteningly reminiscent of gas chambers, hundreds of people are herded into giant warehouses, the ever-increasing overcrowding finally alerting Maddie to the fact she is well and truly screwed.
After clawing her way up from another one of the alien-oppressed plebs to a Green Zone local with privileges, luxury and, more importantly than anything, diabetes medication for her son, Maddie found herself the victim of a power play by Nolan who, like Snyder, is too blind to see that all the promises in the world mean nothing when you have Hosts (again, thank you, OUR planet, not theirs; the Hosts tag is the most galling of all the injustices wrought by the invaders) who are as self-interested, even more so, than we are.
In fact, after witnessing a Rap being operated on at the start of the episode, where we witnessed that they are either machines or cosseted away beings who never leave the safety of their ships and beam themselves virtually into robotic bodies – the latter is unlikely given the frantic efforts to recover a kidnapped Rap earlier in the series, and the palpable tension accompanying the episode’s opening scene – and hearing that they are up to their necks in infighting between hardliners (currently in the ascendancy) and moderates, you have to wonder if you are better doing a Snyder or a Nolan, or accepting your fate like Maddie.
In the end, the results is the same, and Colony has affirmed over and over, that all the collaborators is doing is buying themselves some time, nothing more.
This is a zero sum game for humanity, and the only hope, wafer slim though it may be, is to slip the noose like the Bowmans do, gallingly with Snyder’s help, is to resist and try to overcome.
Admittedly, at this stage that doesn’t look like the most promising of strategies, but unless you’re prepared to throw your lot in with the Raps, something many people can’t stomach, it’s pretty much your only choice.
The brilliance of Colony is that it doesn’t sugarcoat this grinding new, short on great options reality.
Echoing the searing truth that anyone who has ever lived under tyranny knows all too well, there are no real happy ending, just varying degrees of unhappy ones.
Sure, hope springs eternal – the Bowmans wouldn’t be escaping the L.A. colony nor would Broussard (Tory Kittles) be staying behind to give the Total Reditioners hell if they didn’t see some chance of making a difference – but it is always prefaced and followed by the uncomfortable presence of everything going mortally pear-shaped at just about every turn.
One reason among many why “Ronin” such a stellar season wrap-up is that it doesn’t indulge in faux-tension building devices – there is no ticking clock, no countdown on the side of the screen, no near escapes (well mostly) and no real promises of everything turning out OK – preferring to let time tick down to the grim certainty of the bloc, and all its inhabitants (including the Red Hats who find themselves kicked well and truly to the curbs by the Blackjacks), being extinguished in what looks like being a hellish cataclysm of fire.
The show’s willingness to tell it like it is, to evoke the nightmare of Nazi occupation, of every totalitarian ruler who has ever imposed their will on a cowering population whose choices are few and options scant, is what makes it such a tour de force of dramatic storytelling.
While it is cool to see the aliens, the ships, the sci-fi trappings, what really makes Colony tick, makes it soar in fact, is that it is not cheap, glitzy storytelling dependent on bombs, explosions and contrived narrative devices.
It simply tells the story of people, in this case the entire population of the earth, who find themselves, shorn of their home, their freedom, their rights, their humanity and just about everything else you can happen, and who have little to no recourse.
A story that compelling, which is horrifically playing in constant, grotesque variants all across the globe right now, doesn’t need overblown narrative bells and whistles – it just needs to be told, something Colony does with superb elegance and quiet ferocity, and which thanks to a late in the piece renewal for season 3, it will continue to do, giving voice to anyone who has ever suffered under the brutalist self-interest of dictatorship.