S1E10: In its own way, tonight’s episode of Terra Nova is actually a pretty interesting story about the evolution of the Terra Nova governing system and the man who upholds it—Nathaniel Taylor. The two entities are one and the same; while anyone in his or her right mind understands that one man having near-absolute power over a society of dozens (hundreds? It can’t be more than a couple hundred) is wholly uncivilized and entirely idiotic. However, the only person on Terra Nova who seems to recognize this flaw is Lucas, Taylor’s banished son who is working on his own two-way portal to head back to the future…where, as we’ve seen—unfortunately—they actually still do need roads.
“The two of us suffer from a Shakespearean relationship that borders on Greek tragedy.” – Lucas
Taylor and Jim are on the hunt for the mole, and they’re zeroing in on Skye. We learned a few weeks back that Taylor has a special place in his heart for Skye, and that he believes her parents are dead. We also learned that Skye is providing intel to the Sixers in return for them treating her very sick (but not dead) mother with their special non-Terra Novian medicine.
Developments this week: Lucas takes over the interactions with Skye, cutting out the middleman of Mira. Lucas is still working on his two-way portal, and needs Skye to use TN’s “The Eye” to pinpoint a specific coordinate or something that seemed like a whole lot of meaningless last-minute pseudo sci-fi in order to put the finishing touches on his device. And she gets him his special piece of data. And everything works out hunky dory. For the “bad guy,” that is.
“He’s a man. Not a god. But don’t tell him that, you’ll hurt his feelings.” – Lucas Beneath the surface of Terra Nova, the Taylor/Taylor’s missing son storyline has been a pretty hot driving force. We never knew exactly what happened between them—although we find out this week that Lucas always blamed his father’s for his mother’s death back in Somalia—and little by little, we’d find out exactly what led up to their current state of separation. Tonight, we finally see present-day Taylor face off with present-day Lucas. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as dramatic or emotionally amplified as we might have hoped. There are stare downs. There are dramatic speeches. But none of it rings as true as it should, considering the fact that this is the primary enmity in the series. As for Skye, Taylor and Jim find out why she has been acting as mole this whole time: the Sixers have her mother. Jim seems to instantly “forgive” Skye, understanding (or at least suggesting that he understands with his drastic change in facial expression) that the girl did what she had to in order to keep her mother alive and safe. The begrudging Taylor is less willing to forgive, although he does resist the banishment of Skye. Additionally, Taylor welcomes back the murderous soldier he expelled into the woods a few weeks back—during Taylor’s recent wilderness trek, he reconnected with the soldier, and employed him as his own mole in the Sixers operation. He managed to bring Skye’s mother to the safety of Terra Nova, where the brilliant Elisabeth so conveniently figured out how to duplicate the Sixers’ meds in order to save her. To me, this kind of seems like a huge plot hole. If this procedure was always available, then why didn’t Skye (who works in the hospital and should know about it) just alert TN to the whereabouts of her mother? If it just became available…then, well, that’s also silly. Either way, the more forgiving, less erratic side of Taylor shows a growth in both the man and a beneficial evolution of the Terra Nova law system: no more throwing people out because you’re in a bad mood.
“Control the past, control the future.” – Lucas (Was it just me, or did anyone else think of “Save the cheerleader, save the world” when Lucas said that?) So, Lucas has managed to develop the two-way time traveler. And, as many of us suspected, the rationale behind it is far more sinister than just “mining for resources.” Lucas ominously tells Skye, “Control the past, control the future,” before completing his device, and shouts to his father, “The next time we meet, I won’t be alone!” right before shooting way back to the 2100s. Next week is the season finale, which means we’ll be seeing more epic showdowns, heightened stakes, and probably a team-up between rivals Jim and Malcolm. But here are the things I’m really wondering: What, beyond the mining of resources, does the future want with the past? How can changing the past effect the future in the reality of this series—if at all? They mentioned in the pilot some theory that averts the well-preserved belief (in sci-fi films) that going back in time and changing anything can be catastrophic. But this can’t be foolproof, if at all accurate. Further, will we see the Sixers team with Terra Nova, like the Mia/Taylor bond we saw a couple of episodes back might have foreshadowed? And, most importantly, will there FINALLY BE SOME DINOSAURS ON THE SHOW FOR MORE THAN, LIKE, A SECOND?
S1E9: Well, the question is answered. On this week’s episode of Terra Nova, we finally find out who the traitorous Sixer mole is. And no, it’s none of the people I’ve rattled off as suspects in my past recaps. And yes, the choice is a bit more interesting than anyone I predicted. But somehow, I am left feeling unsatisfied by the reveal. Further, I am feeling even more unsatisfied by everything else that goes on in the episode “Now You See Me.” Mainly because, for all intents and purposes, it seems kind of like a whole lot of filler.
“I figure, there’s a parallel universe out there, somewhere, where we are allies.” – Taylor
“I’ve had that thought.” – Mira
The episode opens with a pairing we haven’t really seen before, and one I was kind of excited to explore (before I realized, come the opening theme, that we wouldn’t be seeing much of at all this week): Taylor and Skye, who apparently take annual walks together at the memorial of the latter’s late parents in commemoration.
Just as soon as we are introduced to this unlikely duo are we whisked away from it—Taylor heads out into the wild on a secretive mission, and entrusts the Number One position with Jim—Washington is doing something else…they explain it in passing…I don’t know. Just roll with it.
Taylor’s quest in the wilderness is to examine his renegade son’s rock drawings in order to see if he has made any progress in the development of a two-way time portal: he has. But that’s not all the bad news Taylor gets. He has a run in with Mira (de facto head of the Sixers), who takes him captive and treks him back toward her hideout. And bad news further still: there are a couple of dinosaurs who aren’t too fond of Taylor and Mira traversing through their territory. Long story short, there’s nothing like a dinosaur attack to bring two sworn enemies together.
“It’s no small thing knowing you’ve done right by your child.” – Taylor
The rule of television is, when two characters (especially two characters with a very extreme relationship) are pitted alone together in one location for the entirety of an episode, their opinions of one another will shift quite notably. As Taylor and Mira begin the episode as enemies, this experience causes them to end up admitting a mutual respect for one another. Plus, they bond over the devotion they have to their children—as well as their shared self-denotation as failed parents. Taylor banished his son into the wild when he found out he was a traitor. Mira left her daughter to grow up without her back in 2100, hoping someday to return to her with the financial means to raise her properly (this ties back into the whole “mine prehistory for resources” thing we learned about last week).
Of course, they both get home safely, and with a newfound reverence for each other’s ideologies. And as big a fan as I am of enemies uniting and character-driven episodes, this subplot seems a bit hokey, obvious and without a good deal of real substance.
“How did it feel, wearing the commander’s cap while I was gone?” – Taylor
“I wouldn’t want to do it every day.” – Jim
In other, more extended unlike-duo news, Jim takes his daughter’s soldier boyfriend Reynolds on as his Number Two this week. At the onset of the episode, Jim and Reynolds investigate a scene they believed to be a base of operations for the Sixer’s traitor (which they concluded by tracking down a communications signal leaving from the building). What’s more, Jim and Reynolds find some broken glass and a single drop of blood left in a beaker of some chemical liquid. Jim brings the liquid to his wife, and then to a reluctant Malcolm, in hopes of identifying the subject, but things go a bit awry.
When Liz retrieves the blood beaker from the lab the next morning, she realizes that it has been compromised. This allows them the suggestion that the Sixer’s culprit is someone who has access to the lab. The little information the team can derive is that the subject is a female. These two clues leave only forty-seven possible suspects as the Sixer’s spy.
“Remember. We’re the only ones with the cure.” – Sixer
But of course, we know who it is. We are told quite early on the episode, as a matter of fact, that it is Skye. So early do we find out, that it doesn’t even seem like she could be the spy. Never has such a long-awaited solution to a TV riddle been offered so anticlimactically (except maybe when we learned the identity of Mysterion). But what’s more perplexing is why Skye, of all people, would be working with the Sixers.
Oh, wait. We find that out, too. See, her mom is dying. And the Sixers have her. Apparently, the Sixers are the only ones “with a cure” to save her mom (I take this to mean that they’ll send her back to the 2100s once the technology is available…they don’t have much else in the vein of medical advancements). Skye brings them medicine and information, and they care (liberally) for her mother.
A few weeks back, I made a point of praising Terra Nova for its ability to make us care about two central characters who commanded a subplot of one episode—Skye and Hunter. Back then, I really felt for both of them. But this week, I don’t really have the same attachment to Skye, even though her plotline is more significant and more logically compelling. Skye seems to lack some of the charm that makes her a likable character in other episodes. Maybe she’s too caught up in furthering the plot. But if the plot doesn’t concern characters we love, then it’s not worth furthering.
We find out who the traitor is. Jim progresses in the investigation. Taylor and Mira form some sort of bond, and we learn more about their backstories. All signs point to this being a great, interesting episode. Yet, there’s something missing. The characters may be doing interesting things, but they themselves are not interesting to me this week. In fact, my favorite part of the episode is Reynolds’ nervous professions to Jim about how much he cares for Maddy. That seemed real (cartoonish, but real), and human. We need more human moments in this series, and from that, stories will develop.
S01E04: Now we're getting to the good stuff! The hints of mysteries to come, the "Everything is not as it seems" speeches, the scenes that make you start to rescind your trust in characters you assumed from the getgo were 'good guys.' This is a good sign for Terra Nova.
Tonight's episode, "The Runaway," brings an unexpected visitor to the Terra Nova society. During a twilight woods excavation, Lt. Washington and her protegee, Maddy's Hemsworthian love interest Mark Reynolds, discover a young girl hiding (from them). They take her back to camp and try to treat her medically, but she resists all help, kicking and throwing a violent fit. Of course, the Shannons are the ones capable of getting through to her: Elisabeth talks her into giving her name (Leah), and revealing her origins: she lives among the Sxiers, both her parents are dead, she's got a twin brother, and she has been told that Nathaniel Taylor is "the Bad Man." She claims to be trying to find the portal in order to travel back to the 2100s so that she might live with her grandmother. However, Jim informs her that this is impossible—one-way portal; that's an important enough factoid to keep repeating.
Side-note: I noticed something else that was repeated in this episode—Zoe's carnivorous Venus flytrap. Could just be an innocent mention, but I'd be willing to bet all my Obamadollars that somewhere along the line, this plant comes into significant play.
But back to the episode: the Shannons take in Leah, while Washington and Reynolds head into the woods to find Leah's misplaced backpack. Lo and behold, they are ambushed and taken captive by Sixers. Led by Mira, the Sixers pay a visit to Terra Nova with their hostages, demanding that Taylor give up Leah. But both parties agree to leave it up to the child: Leah chooses to stay with Terra Nova; the Sixers release their hostages and retreat. Taylor threatens them with war if another invasion is attempted.
“Did the overachiever just kinda-sorta achieve? Instead of open-heart surgery, did she just do an appendectomy?” - Josh
So all is well and good. The little girl chooses the good guys, and even manages to bond with the soldier with the attachment disorder. That very man and his faithful sheriff start up a healthy round of McCarthyistic interrogation, looking for every otherwise-innocent member of the Sixth Pilgrimage to find out who among their society is the ominous spy. Of all people, Malcolm shoots in and comes to a fellow scientist's rescue when the questioning gets a little too heated. We can see from Jim's face that he might be coming to realize that Malcolm is right, and their behavior is unjust.
However, the Terra Novians soon learn to never trust little girls: it was all a ruse, and Leah was just biding her time until she could get into the former residence of Mira to retrieve a locked container hidden beneath the floorboards. She is caught before she can reach the borders, and interrogated by Taylor and Jim. Leah reveals that Mira insisted that she would kill her brother if Leah didn't get the package for her, but Taylor doesn't buy it. Jim is less of a cold-hearted jerk (granted, his son didn't run off to join the Sixers or become a waterfall graffiti artist or whatever it is Taylor, Jr., up to) and decides to believe Leah.
Off in the woods, searching for a runaway Leah, Jim gets snagged in a Sixer trap and is almost eaten by whatever kind of dinosaur is known for its slow reaction time and relative jumping skills. The dinosaur is disposed of by a Sixer, and Jim is taken hostage.
"That's the way they used to do it." - Reynolds
"Technically they will do it that way. In the future. Of course, they’ll also wear corsets." - Maddy
And here comes the payoff. Not just of this episode, but of the entire season so far. Up until now, we've been served the idea that these people are living in a nice little, moderately dysfunctional society, with a few loose ends here and there. But Terra Nova comes right out and explains to us here, "There's a whole lot more going on." Mira explains to Jim that Taylor got on the bad sides of a lot of people back in the 2100s, and that he's up to no good. She dismisses the idea that Terra Nova is about a "fresh start," but refuses to reveal what she believes the society/project to really be. All we know: it's a bad thing. Which is a good thing (for us). Mira also earns a few of our sympathies by revealing she was never actually going to hurt Leah's brother, and that she just wants to see her own daughter again.
Jim is released. Leah is safe, and is reunited with her brother. The two are given a new home in Terra Nova. It's probably the happiest, Spielbergiest ending in recent television, especially considering the foreboding message of evil one scene earlier. And then of course, there's the mysterious container: unopenable (they can travel through time...but they can't open a box). Malcolm keeps it in his cupboard, as ordered by Taylor, until someone invents a key. Or a hammer. Or something.
So all that at the end there—Mira's whole shpiel—that's what we were waiting for. That's where the fun comes out. It's nice to see Jim and Elisabeth raise their kids in dinotopia. It's nice to see nerdy Maddy come into her own (a subplot this week has Maddy shy away from medicinal practice, and become officially 'involved' with her soldier of love). But the real fun is these mysteries that are building up. Taylor's "not what he seems" arc. The Sixers "unlikely good guys" story. Maybe it's none too shocking to some of you out there, but it's a fun twist. After all, I seem to recall another series that had a group of people suddenly stranded in a natural paradise/wasteland, initially fearing some "Others," who turned out to have a lot more going for them than anyone had thought. And that one turned out to be pretty addicting.