- SPOILERS AHEAD … AND NO FURTHER STORYLINE OF ANY KIND, THUS UNDERSCORING HOW STUPID THE WHOLE TV SYSTEM IS, PERPETUALLY LEAVING US WITH HALF-TOLD STORIES
The making of TV shows is a curiously cruel business.
Unlike books, which arrived fully formed, or movies which come with a complete narrative good to go – even if a series, trilogy or franchise is truncated or doesn’t proceed, there’s a reasonably complete story within each constituent film or book – TV shows are at the mercy of the accounting gods, the Excel-embracing denizens of the various studios at who’s say-so a program often lives or dies.
Granted they are necessary in that, without their careful-shepherding of funds, many amazing creations would not exist; but they, and the risk-averse system of which they are a part, are a relic of a bygone system when ratings were king and networks lived and died on the strength of a single transmission of a episode.
We’re way past that now, with cable and traditional networks, increasingly bested by streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, the frontrunners of a cable-cutting revolution transforming the TV landscape.
The instinctive reaction to these seismic changes, such as that by USA Network to cancel sophisticated alien-invasion show Colony, is to circle the wagons, batten down the hatches and make yourself as small a target as possible; makes sense, at least partially, since funding isn’t infinite.
However, in a viewing landscape full to brimming with multiple hundreds of scripted shows, not to mention a plethora of reality TV compatriots, surely the better option is to be bold, take chances, come up with a show that is innovative, clever, insightful, gripping different.
Everything that Colony has been in its exquisitely well-told three seasons.
True, you won’t get everyone flocking to watch this or any other show; the days of the mass hit TV show that everyone watches are long gone, with even shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones still only reaching a small portion of the total viewing public.
But that doesn’t matter here in the days of niche viewing where capturing a devoted following, especially beloved by your advertisers, can allow you to survive in a way the big networks can only dream about.
Now, I’m neither an industry insider nor someone from behind the scenes in Colony, and I can’t possibly know how recent changes such as losing tax credits in California and its move to Vancouver really affected one of the most intelligent explorations of how power and influence can both corrode and galvanise a society, but surely USA Networks had a one-of-a-kind show in Colony?
Admittedly it didn’t execute everything perfectly, with rather too much Lost-like obliqueness in its lack of reveals, but as we journeyed with Will and Katie Bowman (Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies) and their family, and those they knew along the way such as Proxy Snyder (Peter Jacobson) and rebel leader Broussard (Tory Kittles), one thing became very clear – this was no ordinary tale of alien invasion.
Eschewing the usual big, awe-inspiring arrival of ships through the clouds – think Independence Day or War of the Worlds, Colony dove down into the very heart of things, offering up a tale of humanity both flawed and noble, collaborative and rebellious, people willing to sell their souls to new alien overlords and those who fought their treason every step of the way.
It’s a classic storyline that’s been played out countless times down through the history, but Colony gave it a modern resonance, a glossy, technologically-buffed retelling that captured your attention because unlike many modern shows that prioritised mass killing off of characters or wildly-extremely story arcs, Colony took its time unspooling its engrossing narrative.
Likely too slow for some, and that’s fair enough since not everyone likes their stories told at a stop-and-smell-the-narrative-roses pace, Colony took three seasons to bring us to the point at the end of “What Goes Around” where the enemies of the aliens who seized our planet with the help of their human collaborators came bursting through the clouds, shields glistening in the sun.
It was an impressive sight, presaging a war we will never see play out – unless, of course, the campaign to #renewColony succeeds in convincing Netflix or another platform to save the show – preceded by an episode that balanced heart-to-heart confessions such as those between Katie and Amy (Peyton List), and Katie and Will, who went off to fight at the frontlines, with some striking action sequences that spoke of the willingness of some people to do the right thing and others to cowardly acquiesce to save their own skins.
We saw the nobility of sacrifice for the hoped-for greater good when 150 Outliers, led by Will, reported to the IGA’s Outlier facility to fight to save the Seattle Colony (and others) and the same noble dynamic play out on a smaller, moreintimate scale when Katie set out to find her kids Bram (Alex Neustaedter) and Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp) against a backdrop of the growing march to war.
We also saw, and thank goodness for some completion before a thousand plot threads were left unceremoniously dangling, Helena Goldwyn (Ally walker) and pretty the entire IGA leadership in Davos killed in seconds by a mysterious, invisible assassin wearing a reflective material that hid its from sensors, guards and some sophisticated shielding.
Sure, there were plot holes – how did the RAPs still not have a defense against their great enemy after eons of fighting them across the galaxy? And if you have the power and technological wherewithal to cross the stars, how could you see your enemy coming?
Those can all be answered by narrative convenience of course, and the battle about to wage, begun in a relatively-small commander bunker in Switzerland, and honestly the scene was so striking and justice-satisfying that any quibbles about events leading up to it could be discarded for sheer spectacle alone.
The thing is, Colony‘s great strength, and it was on display in “What Comes Around”, is that it took the time, gloriously-immersive time, to tell its story, to build up to this great climactic moment which Netflix-miracle aside will never find its fulfilment.
That aside, and even if it doesn’t have its story continued in televisual form, there’s always comic books or books to finish things off, over three seasons we had the distinct pleasure of watching intelligent writers tell a carefully thought-out story that didn’t dwell purely on spectacle, a fallback for many an alien invasion tale, but chose to go micro, looking at why such an invasion would happen at all, and how humanity would either be complicit in it, stand by self-preservingly or actively fight its very occurrence.
“What Goes Around” brought everything to a beautiful end in one sense, underscoring the impressive bravery and hope of the human species against almost impossible odds, and the willingness of its bottom-dwellers, for that is what they most assuredly are, to sell their very humanity to gain some warped measure of advancement.
Who knows who would have triumphed and what would have been left of us after two extraterrestrial species, locked in violent, ancient enmity for eons, had finished using our home as a battlefield?
One thing we do know however – Colony would not have been satisfied with some sort of simple, easy ending, some glib good vs. evil final act, no doubt finishing as it began, with clever, insightful storytelling, rich characterisation and a willingness to dive into the very worst and elevate the very best of humanity in the hope of telling a captivating story that shone a knowing light on the human condition.
- And that my friends is that … no “next week on …”, no resolution and no ending to one of the finest sci-fi shows I’ve had the good fortune to watch. Of course, hope springs eternal and if any news emerges of a last-minute reprieve, I will shout it from the blogging rooftops …