As the showrunner and frequent writer for “Lost,” not to mention “The Strain” and “Bates Motel,” Carlton Cuse has already proved his ability to tease an audience into impatience for next week’s episode.
That skill is on full display in his latest venture, “Colony,” a dystopian drama co-created with Ryan Condal that premieres Thursday on USA. The question is whether viewers will feel Cuse has withheld so much, there’s not enough to keep them interested in the current episodes.
Will Bowman (Josh Holloway), his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) and two of their three kids live in Los Angeles in what is described as the “near future.” It must be very near, since you’ll spot a new-model Cadillac in one of the scenes. The Bowmans live on one side of a towering wall that completely surrounds Los Angeles. The city is under the militarized control of the Colony Transitional Authority, an arm of an invading extraterrestrial force.
As in World War II France, the population includes collaborators as well as an underground resistance. The CTA’s military unit, known as Redhats, routinely rounds up rule-breakers and suspected resistance members and ships them to the Factory, which is the dystopian equivalent of concentration camps.
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Will gets caught trying to sneak through the wall to locate his son, but instead of getting sent to the Factory, he is offered a deal by the local Proxy, Allen Snyder (Peter Jacobson): Go to work for the CTA and he can get his son back. He agrees but of course he can’t tell anyone he’s a mole, even his wife.
Meanwhile, Katie is drifting more toward the resistance, which would of course make her a target for her husband. The basic plot element is somewhat artificial but it’s workable.
Other elements of “Colony” are promising but don’t always deliver, including the intriguing parallel with World War II. Cuse and Condal build the framework for the conceit but fail to fill it in, with the notable exception of a mass execution scene at the Factory.
The whole wall thing may be a convenient plot element, but it’s getting a bit old. It all started with “Game of Thrones,” but then it became a defining aspect of Fox’s “Wayward Pines” and morphed into an invisible dome in “Under the Dome” on CBS.
Characters and details are what hold our interest, almost to the point where we don’t realize that the plot is fairly thin. That works for a while, but eventually, the series begins to feel flat and our interest begins to drift. In too many ways, “Colony” is one missed opportunity too many.
“Colony” airs at 10 p.m. Thursday on USA