The Doomed Women of Colony
Colony really matured during its second season and took some big leaps forward. A lot of the show’s effectiveness was due to a rich and compelling ensemble of female characters. Unfortunately, most of these women didn’t make it out of season two alive, potentially creating a major void for the future.
Caution – The story below contains major spoilers for Colony Season 2
Jennifer McMahon appears early on in Colony’s debut season and right away we don’t know quite what to make of her. She’s sort of eager, sort of not to be working with Will and Beau. She’s their nominal supervisor, but it’s made fairly clear early on that’s she’s a bit out of her depth at Homeworld Security. With a pre-Arrival backstory established as ‘online dating site database admin,’ Jennifer’s made out to be something of the office busybody, which is silly.
There’s not much for Jennifer to get up to during the majority of the first season other than appearing torn between loyalty to Homeworld leadership and a desire to be included in the serious business Will and Beau are pursuing. Thankfully, that tired dynamic is largely jettisoned in season two. With Will on the other side of the wall in the Santa Monica Bloc, Jennifer’s left alone to navigate a harsh state of affairs at the office.
She’s still looking for a way to make her mark and knows enough to understand Katie’s connection to the Resistance is the key to justifying her position at Homeworld. But that path isn’t a linear one. She’s spending a lot of time in front of those surveillance monitors, trying to figure out how to make her play while preserving some semblance of her humanity. With no real allies and jerks like Bob Burke breathing down her neck, drowning her in condescension, it’s a less than pleasant work environment. Still, she’s determined to hang on as long as she can, waiting for an opportunity to show her worth in a way that doesn’t result in getting innocents killed. That opportunity never quite comes together.
When she overhears Will’s dismissive assessment of her abilities over the hidden video feed, it’s a blow. He doesn’t know what she’s been left to deal with, alone, or how bleak things have become at the Homeworld offices. It’s a shitty thing to hear when you’re hanging on by a thread. Watching the scene play out before us, we can imagine Jennifer’s reaction is less about the outright disappointment of an old colleague labeling her a hack and more about blurring the distinction between Will and the forever glowering Bob Burke.
It’s all set up to provide Jennifer with a motive to finally sell out Katie and Will. But, at the last moment, she holds back and preserves their secrets. It’s a display of courage that the Bowmans will likely never hear about, making the sacrifice all the more meaningful.
Sadly, there’s only a grim path ahead for Jennifer. Shown the future that awaits her in the Orwellian Homeworld Security basement surveillance unit, Jennifer settles in for an evening reliving old memories of her husband and dog, washing down a handful of pills with a glass of wine. It’s a truly sad outcome for a character who came a long way over just a few episodes. I wish I could say there’s hope for Jennifer. We don’t actually see her body, alive or otherwise, being carted off to the Factory. But we’re not likely to see her again and that’s a real shame.
When Black Sails alum Jessica Parker Kennedy showed up as the enigmatic Maya, the Red Hand’s operative inside the labor camp, it was an exciting moment. In Sails, Kennedy’s character, Max, is a force of nature, a strong woman who makes no apologies for pursuing what she wants in a male-dominated world. After she was introduced in Colony, I had hoped Maya might be given a similar arc. But alas, she lasted only a handful of episodes before making the ultimate sacrifice for the cause.
But even before we met Max and her extremist friends, the culling of Colony’s women was in full swing. It began in dramatic fashion when Will’s old pre-invasion partner, Devon (Carolyn Michelle Smith), is drone-zapped into a spectacular puff of CGI blood whilst ascending the Wall, heading for the L.A. Bloc. We all knew poor Frankie (Lyndon Smith) was doomed not long after we first met her, manipulating one of the Red Hand’s latest marks into smuggling a bomb into the Green Zone. She doesn’t make it out of a filthy Homeworld interrogation room alive, taking her escape via the suicide pill stuck to the bottom of her foot.
Frankie’s mom and leader of the Red Hand, Karen (Laura Innes), nearly manages to survive to the end of the season before she’s gunned down during the raid on the cinema house HQ. Unfortunately for Lindsey (Erin Way), Karen lives long enough to greenlight the earlier attack on the Bowman household, leaving everyone’s favorite religious zealot in a puddle of blood on the entryway floor. Karen manages to take Noa (Meta Golding) with her too, inexplicably before giving Will or Broussard the scoop on how to contact her group beyond the Wall. By the time we’re at the end of the season and witnessed so many of Colony’s women cut down, it’s not at all a shock to see Morgan take a fatal bullet while defending the team’s sewer hideout.
Finally, things weren’t looking good for Maddie at the end of season two. She’s been cast out of the Green Zone, left to fend for herself, and ends up at a “Relocation Center” with a group of other displaced Angelenos. We don’t actually witness her ultimate fate, but our final glimpse is of her gazing skyward at the circling alien attack ships while Blackjacks are busy mowing down a bunch of hapless Redhats. Not good.
Again, it’s a sad end for a character who’s been forced to navigate a tumultuous path, making compromises all along the way. I ended up enjoying Maddie’s season two arc much more than I thought I might. She’s the counterweight to Katie’s idealism and heroics, but she’s also no coward. Hey, we don’t need to like her choices, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a good reason for her making them. Her path clearly went way, way off course but had things broken just a little differently, she might of have been fine.
But as bad as things were looking for Maddie at the end of season two, I’d wager we haven’t seen the last of her. It just feels like a thread the show’s not quite ready to tie up.
All in all, by the end of the season, Colony has racked up an impressive body count. And of all those we said goodbye to, the vast majority, the ones who really matter, were women.
Will and Broussard are fun to watch. And Sarah Wayne Callies is a fine actor who breathes real life into Katie’s complex world. But there’s plenty more room within the Colony universe for other strong women with staying power to arise. The season three trailer teases a very brief glimpse of a new female character working alongside Broussard. That’s a promising development beyond the confirmation that he didn’t go down with guns blazing at the end of season two.
It’s surely too much to hope for Jennifer’s miraculous survival but not necessarily a reach to think we’ll get some resolution to Maddie’s story. I hope we do. Colony has a good thing going and feels like it’s poised to take another leap forward. Let’s hope that leap doesn’t end up leaving the rest of its women behind.