Josh Holloway’s shaggy hair was understandable, even endearing, in “Lost.” He was stranded on a deserted island, after all, and often appeared shirtless, therefore rendering the unkempt state of his hair obsolete. Unfortunately, thanks to the underwhelming plot and the lack of emotional connection with the characters, USA’s new science fiction series “Colony” falls as flat as Holloway’s hair.
Set in a post-alien occupation version of modern day L.A., “Colony” centers around William Sullivan (Holloway) and his family, who are trying to survive within the rigid rules imposed by their conquerors. Few details are revealed in the pilot about the alien invasion, but a deafening tone of fear and oppression rings clear. The L.A. landscape is plagued with partially destroyed skyscrapers as men in black uniforms (people who have chosen to work for the occupiers) exert their unchecked power on the rest of the civilians. The boundaries of the new regime are tested, and an overwhelming sadness undercuts all.
Depressing and wildly confusing, the alien invasion that “Colony” depicts sorely lacks excitement. For starters, there are no alien appearances in the pilot, only future-esque drones buzzing through the air and human slaves carrying out orders. The aliens’ anonymity could perhaps be a tactic to hook the viewers to continue watching further into the season, but instead, it takes away the most anticipated element of a sci-fi series. A show that promises an extraterrestrial invasion inevitably tickles the imagination, piquing the audience’s interest to see how the creators envisioned another life form. But the aliens remain faceless and nameless, and a human villain (Peter Jacobson, “House”) seeking to capitalize on the suffering of others is introduced instead. The plot could just as well be driven by an all-human regime, erasing the need for creativity and inventiveness all together.
Perhaps the show hoped removing the “fantasy” would highlight an aspect of humanity when it is put to an extreme. “Colony” attempts to make the argument that humans will turn on each other in the presence of fear, so long as they feel they do not have another choice. The palpable hostility and tension within the fictitious society, however, is not effective enough to drive this point home and only alienates the characters from developing depth and sympathy on screen.
Holloway’s character is perhaps most disappointing of all, as he embodies the epitome of heroism without even a tinge of complicated backstory to color his persona. Putting his family above all, he is willing to put his own life on the line to do the “right thing” without even a single moment of human selfishness. Juxtaposed with his well-developed and complex character in “Lost,” he appears on “Colony” as one-dimensional and boring. Even his relationship with his wife Kate (Sarah Wayne Callies, “The Walking Dead”) lacks a genuine connection, and a truly unsettling sex scene makes it even more off-putting. Even though the conditions of the occupation are so monotonously depressing, the characters’ personalities fail to show through, blending into the rest of the surroundings.
Slow-moving and hard to follow, the USA series premiere doesn't live up to expectations. “Colony” pales in comparison to the wild success of the network’s “Mr. Robot,” which explores colorful characters and intricate plot lines sorely missing from the sci-fi series. Lacking imagination and spark, “Colony” leaves gaping holes of unanswered questions that are so overwhelming, viewers are more likely to give up and lose interest altogether.