Mr. Robot is a dark show kinda uncharacteristic for USA. After all, it’s same network that brought us breezy comedy-mysteries like Monk and Psych. Which were great! But Colony, the decades-old channel’s upcoming series, could continue down USA’s new path of somewhat twisted genre TV. I watched the pilot and it’s great. Some spoilers within.
Friday at New York Comic Con, a screening of the Colony pilot was shown, followed by a panel with star Josh Holloway (Sawyer on Lost) and creators Carlton Cuse (also of Lost, who wrote and produced) and newcomer Ryan Condal. The show’s set to air in January. Without giving too much away—which, honestly, I don’t think there even is much to give away, since much of the backstory still remains unrevealed by pilot’s end!—it looks pretty dope.
Colony is set in Los Angeles in a seemingly not-too-distant future, or maybe even an alternate present day. Ostensibly, everything seems pleasantly ho-hum: Parents and teens banter over meals, folks walk their dogs, birds chirp and the sun shines.
But something very, very sinister happened here not long ago, and it changed human life forever.
The thing is, we’re not entirely sure what that something is. But we do see a massive fence-like wall that encircles the city, and that someone, or something, took the place over: a ruthless entity that’s now referred to by Angelenos as “the Homeland.” It installed a brutal, authoritarian government, complete with an evil and violent police force and human-hunting drones that detect dissidents for the authorities to arrest and send to labor camps. Who is the Homeland? Aliens? Robots? Time travelers? Demons? Just other humans who are really, really evil? The show doesn’t even hint at who the malevolent intruders might be. For now.
Through Holloway’s character’s family, we see that there’s no money (folks barter), and a curfew is in place. The creator says the story was influenced by the history of Nazi-occupied Europe, and the dangers of colonization and occupation by an evil governing force.
Main character Will, played by Holloway, is a married man with three kids—one of which went missing under mysterious and tragic circumstances once the Homeland rolled to town, before the pilot’s events. We don’t know what happens, and that’s the beauty of it. The show doesn’t explain major background, let alone spell shit it out or dumb it down for the audience. We just jump right into this world that’s familiar-yet-scifi and try to figure out the tragedy this family endured, and why.
Will, a former military man, is eventually hired by the equivalent of a mayor-governor-head honcho politician, who’s a member of the rich, comfy, mansion-dwelling upperclass that’s apparently sided with the Homeland. People like him caused LA’s population to bifurcate into drone-hunted have-nots and wealthy haves who are sympathetic to their overlords and who can still enjoy luxuries like booze and freedom. Will’s hired to hunt down detractors, and those terrorists who plot to work agains the Homeland. Or else, Will and his whole family get shipped to a labor camp.
And that’s pretty much all I can say. More definitely happens, but I don’t want to spoil too much. This is just the context of the show. And it looks great.
With Colony, it’s a show focused on the main character’s family and the dynamics between the different members. And that’s where the interesting stuff could be. As long as the show doesn’t rely on any crutch of HEY LOOK AT OUR VISION OF DYSTOPIA and focuses more on character relationships and histories, it could emerge as another real contender for USA. Holloway is great, and Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori on The Walking Dead), who plays Will’s wife, is phenomenal in her portrayal of a woman trying to hold her family together in the midst of it all. (Only thing I could’ve done without with is continued drone demonization, even in fiction. Those little guys can’t catch a break!)
NYCC panel moderator Ben Blacker (Nerdist) said it’s a great companion piece to Mr. Robot for USA’s growing portfolio of cinematic, genre-bending thrillers. If the rest of season one is just as solid as the pilot, USA could have a whole new fandom on its hands.