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TV Review: Colony (Season 2, Episode 4)

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‘Panopticon’ once again blows up the scale of the Occupation, but in a manner that flips the narrative genre. As any semblance of privacy in the LA bloc becomes a thing of the past, the viewer’s perspective is transformed from experiencing the world as the oppressed, to becoming Big Brother, through the eyes of Jennifer McMahon. 

The first scene sets the tone for this, and while it’s exempt from the narrative style that dominates the rest of this week’s episode’s, it does much to demonstrate the reach of the Hosts’ absolutist power and autocracy.

Governor General Helena Goldwyn is seen speaking in front of the Vorlaufige Globale Autoritat about the situation in the LA bloc. World leaders and representatives are asked to take a vote on whether the bloc should face ‘total rendition’, which is inferred to be a means of termination.

Thankfully for our heroes, the summit votes against this measure, but promise a re-evaluation of the situation in the close future.

Thus far this season, Colony’s rising star has been Will’s old team member Jennifer, and this is truly exemplified in ‘Panopticon’, as the entire hour is spent seeing the world through her eyes, thanks to the surveillance cameras installed by Homeland.

She keeps walls up that make it difficult for other characters or viewers to understand her motives, so instead this episode takes a different approach in uncovering her psyche.

Through the metanarrative format, viewers experience her living vicariously through the Bowmans, alone in her surveillance room where all pretences can be dropped and she is finally vulnerable.

The Bowmans represent everything she’s lost since the Arrival, and her obvious longing for their close ties gives insight into what drives her. Jennifer fools herself into believing that her attentive omniscience is about protecting them, when in fact it's escapism for her from the emptiness and loneliness of her life, as the episode sets up constant reminders of her isolation.

This week steps back from the action-packed and rapid developments that have occurred in the past two episodes, and allows the now reunited characters to breathe and resolve the personal conflicts that had marked their relationships.

Since the arc following the Bowmans in ‘Panopticon’ is exposition-heavy, the usage of a metanarrative is a stroke of genius, creating distance between the viewer and the characters.

As the viewer is aware of everything Katie and Will are revealing to one another, the exposition doesn’t provide any new information. However, the metanarrative puts the viewer in the place of the scientist, looking onto an experiment; it removes us from the emotional turmoil the Bowmans are experiencing, and gives us space to reflect on where each character’s allegiances and motivations lie now that the dust is settling.

The narrative style serves another function, as it also distracts viewers from the anticlimactic resolution of Charlie finally going home, after a season of building up to it only to be resolved within two episodes.

Along with the opening sequence, when we witness the global scope of the Occupation, it is also one of the first inklings that Will and Katie are no longer driving the narrative, like they were in the first season, but are instead being swept along rather helplessly by the overarching story.

The family reunion isn’t too disappointing however, and Jacob Buster’s performance shines, as he makes it clear he knows more about the reality of the occupation, in particular beyond the walls, than either of his parents.

His cold detachment, which thus far has ensured his survival, also makes his actions so emotionlessly pragmatic that he becomes unpredictable, as Katie realises when he sets a fire to drive Lindsey out their home. This makes him the wild card and could lead to interesting developments, particularly now that the secrecy and tensions between Katie and Will have been temporarily resolved.

The most gripping performance however, was undoubtedly Kathleen Rose Perkins’ as Jennifer. To make the viewer feel for her character so deeply with minimal expression is masterful.

After overhearing Will calling her weak and promising to manipulate her once again through the pretence of friendship, and having her boss demote her after stating that she lacked the constitution and skillset to be an officer, Jennifer still goes and erases damning footage from within the Bowmans’ home to protect them. Sadly however, in the end we witness her chasing a bottle of pills with a glass of wine, as she watches old videos of her and her dead fiancé.

This episode was both refreshing and oppressive, as ‘Panopticon’ sees the end of any illusion of privacy for Colony’s characters.

It also presents a previously unexplored manner of resistance, as Jennifer takes her own life as a way out from collaborating with the Occupation, which has ripped everything from her. Once again Colony shines with its masterful storytelling and compelling characters.

Colony airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on Sky One.

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