Carlton Cuse Breaks Down 'Colony' Finale, Previews Season 3

"By the time you watch season two, you have a much better sense of the world and the rules of our world," the series' co-creator tells THR.
Justin Stephens/USA Network

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the season two finale of USA Network's Colony, "Ronin."]

"We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when..."

Bob Burke (Toby Huss) sings this familiar tune during the Colony season-two finale, resting in a hospital bed as he recovers from a brutal stabbing a few episodes earlier. At first glance, it's an ominous promise that Will (Josh Holloway) and Katie Bowman (Sarah Wayne Callies) still have some human threats in the rearview mirror, despite the fact that they've escaped the Los Angeles colony. 

It's a nod toward the future in another way, too. Colony was renewed for a third season days ahead of the season-two finale, and not a moment too soon, considering that the USA Network sci-fi series ends its second year in an incredibly dark and open-ended place: with the Bowman family driving off toward parts unknown, while the mysterious aliens (who may or may not be an artificial intelligence, based on the finale's cold open) mark Los Angeles down for complete rendition — in other words, a radical facelift for a show that's taken place almost entirely in L.A. since the very beginning.

With the Bowmans on the run, Los Angeles seemingly out of play (or at least dramatically reshaped) and several other character and story beats still hanging from the side of the cliff, The Hollywood Reporter checked in with Colony co-creator and executive producer Carlton Cuse about the season-two finale, and what's ahead in season three. 

This season of Colony began with the arrival. The season ends with a departure. Was that always part of the design of the season, to bookend it with a coming and going?

Yes. Look, first and foremost, I have to give all due credit to [co-creator] Ryan Condal, who so significantly shaped the story this season. He is a first-rate writer and showrunner, and so much about what is great this season came from his mind. Additionally, I have to also acknowledge Wes Tooke, who was really also instrumental in putting the story of this season together. Those two guys are amazing writers, and incredible collaborators.

I thought we don't like collaborators?

Collaborators in the very best sense of the word. (Laughs.) I think when Ryan, Wes and I were all talking, it felt like we wanted to maintain a high narrative philosophy for the show. In this age of television we live in now, stalling is not an option. It felt to us like we wanted to take the story to a place by the end of the season in this colony that was further than what the audience might have expected. 

Los Angeles has served as the setting for Colony since the very beginning. Can you talk through the decision to eliminate the bloc? Have we seen the last of L.A. on this show?

I wouldn't want to answer that question. It just felt again that the show — we're trying not to have the audience feel frustrated with unanswered questions. We made a conscious choice at the beginning of the series to throw the audience right into the deep end of the show, and not explain a lot of what was going on, and let the audience follow the characters and learn about the world as we go. The downside of that is the audience will have certain questions about what's going on. We tried to answer a lot of those questions this season. By the time you watch season two, you have a much better sense of the world and the rules of our world. One of the things I think a lot of people are curious about is, what's life like outside of the bloc? We've had a couple of seasons now where we've seen what's going on inside the L.A. colony. It would be great to set up what's happening in the rest of the world. That's really where we leave our main characters at the end of the season. That was the big idea, and it seemed like there was a certain poeticism to playing out the arrival in the first episode and then having our characters leaving the bloc during this cataclysmic event at the end of the season.

The climax of the episode comes when Will and Katie convince the Red Hats to let them pass through the gate. The collaborators cease collaborating, if only for this moment. What's the message here? How big of a moment is this for the moral center of Colony?

It was really beautiful, that scene that Ryan wrote. It shows that beyond all labels and obedience to authority, we're all humans, and we all have common desires. I love the fact that Will appeals to the guy inside the uniform. It's this big moment where he gets a character to transcend his job and the position he's taken to survive in this world, and to see the bigger picture, and do something altruistic. It was a really cool and well-executed scene. It's a really good moment for us in the overall evolution of our narrative.

Snyder (Peter Jacobson) tags along with the Bowmans and says he no longer wants to be a rat. Then we see him secretly activating a device in the car. Safe to say he's still hungry for cheese, and that he's still a bit of a rat?

It's like the story of the scorpion and the frog. The fundamental question is, can a character change his fundamental nature? That's a very pertinent question for Snyder. We're left at the end of the season with that question very much hanging there. Is Snyder going to be an ally or an enemy? That's going to be very compelling as we go into the next season of the show.

Broussard (Tory Kittles) chooses not to come along with the Bowmans. Why leave him behind? Why was this the right choice, narratively?

Ryan and I discussed this idea that Broussard is a classic loner hero. Shane riding off at the end of that movie. Broussard is not one to be just another passenger in the car. He has his own destiny which he has to sort out.

After investing so much of her life in the Greatest Day, Madeline (Amanda Righetti) ends the season with a front-row view of the worst day. Earlier in the episode, she starts to realize that something's wrong, and she panics. "I made a mistake," she says. What are you expressing with this character? To make a modern analogy, is Maddy similar to the person who passionately supports a politician, only to be shocked and appalled when that politician comes to take away their healthcare?

(Laughs.) It's really weird, because Ryan and I created this show at least a year before Trump emerged anywhere on the scene. People read so many parallels of our modern political landscape into the show, and really, we were telling a parable about occupation — particularly the occupation of Paris during World War II. The context that the show is being watched has so changed. Here, we created this idea of this beautiful woman who decided that latching onto a powerful politician was the right methodology for her survival. That has weird coincidental echoes to our current political landscape. She bet on the wrong horse, and I think, fundamentally, this show is a lot about how characters devise different strategies to survive in this world. Some of them are successful, and some of them are not successful.

Do you view this as the end of Madeline's story?

I think we'll have to wait and see.

Outside of Madeline, the Bowmans stick together. The five members of the nuclear family are intact at the end of the season, which is a big improvement over where we left them a year ago. Why keep them together? 

This was a long-standing goal of the show. Right from the very beginning, from the opening frames of the pilot, the intentions of our characters were to put this family back together. That's a mission that's taken two seasons to complete. Now that we are together, they're setting off to face an unknown world. It seemed like a cool story to tell.

We learned last week that resistance fighters outside the colony are aligned with one of the hosts. Snyder learns this week that there are "moderate aliens." How much are we going to start getting into the dynamics and conflicts within the alien culture as we move forward?

When Ryan and I were first discussing the show, we loved this idea that we were going to try to avoid a lot of the absolutes that exist in the alien-invasion genre. Some of those absolutes include the aliens are good or the aliens are bad. The reality is that there's a combination of [the two]. Most societies have people on all sorts of ends of the political spectrum. For us, I think we wanted to illustrate the fact that not all of these aliens were of a hive mind. They weren't homogenous in this way. It seemed like an interesting idea. It's something we want to explore more as we go downstream. If you think about it in another context, in the United States, there are political factions that say, "Let's bomb the shit out of the Middle East," while others are saying, "We should go build schools." Some people say let's invade, and others say we should stay out of there and shouldn't have a single soul on the ground or be involved in the least. In a political landscape, there's room for all kinds of different opinions. We wanted to convey that our alien society is no different.

A full season after revealing a VIP for the first time, we see even more of how these creatures operate, via what appears to be a veritable brain transplant in the cold open. Can you speak at all to what we're seeing here? 

If I were to answer that question, Ryan Condal would kill me. (Laughs.) Again, I give a lot of credit to Ryan for this very cool idea of these aliens being ... again, we're not sure what we're seeing here. Is this artificial intelligence? What exactly is the essence of our alien creatures? It's a question we hope the audience is intrigued by.

The episode briefly checks in with Bob Burke for the first time since Will stabbed him a few episodes ago. He sings, "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when." Is that a promise, that this character is out there in the universe, with a score to settle against Will?

We love Toby Huss. He added so much to the show. He's just such a tremendous actor and an amazing guy. In the landscape we live in now, there's a lot of issues involving scheduling. We really sincerely hope we can continue to use Toby in the show downstream. But he has other shows, too. He's on Halt and Catch Fire. So there are scheduling issues, but we love him. 

A few days ago, Colony was renewed for a third season. What can you say about season three?

I'm very excited that Ryan and Wes and I get to move forward with our story. We have a bunch of big ideas we plan to deploy in season three. In the finale, we very consciously set up that our characters were going outside the L.A. Colony to explore the world beyond. The move of the show to Vancouver is going to help us really open up the world of the show. USA has been a great partner. They have encouraged us to go to unexpected places with the story and supported bold storytelling choices. We're thrilled to get started on the next chapter.

You and Condal have spoken about Colony as having several seasons' worth of material. As you approach season three, are you still looking toward a longer game, or will you put the show in a position to end on a third and final year if necessary?

No, there's certainly more than another season of story to tell. Exactly how much story to tell? I think the real answer is we're not at a place where we know that number exactly yet. We have an end point we want to get to. But there's still a lot of story to tell and still a lot that we're interested in telling. We still want to tell stories in this world.

Final question. Early in the episode, Will and Katie listen to a numbers station over a radio. Will says, "The numbers only make sense to someone who knows what they're listening for." Does a line like that exist on Colony purely for the longtime Lost fans like yours truly?

(Laughs.) That's Ryan's line. I think it's connection to Lost is purely coincidental. 


What's your take on Colony's second-season finale? Are you rooting for a third season? Sound off in the comments section below, and click here for more Colony coverage.