S1E6: Oh, Terra Nova. You’re nearing the point where I can no longer “focus on the positives.” To be fair, this week’s episode is not completely without its strengths—there is one particular thing that “Nightfall” offers that I find to be a noteworthy plus. But surrounding that is a pretty substantial sum of negative. Now, I know it’s in poor taste to be this dismissive of a show, especially one as ambitious and high-concept as Terra Nova is. But it seems to me that the series is banking all of its energy on maintaining the air of said high-concept (a bunch of people from the deteriorating Earth of the 2100s travel back in time through a one-way portal set up by the otherwise oppressive government to start anew amongst the dinosaurs in a socialistic autocracy led by a rage-aholic with a dead wife and a renegade son who is somehow linked to the terroristic Sixers who live off in the woods and attack once in a while via help from their man on the inside, all in a space-time continuum that somehow can’t alter the future, unless it can—we’re not really sure), while not investing any real strength of creativity in the characters or their storylines. I will attempt to elaborate below.
“Sonic wave. SONIC WAVE!” – Taylor
A meteor takes out all the power in Terra Nova. Naturally, every single member of the Shannon family is in as compromising a position as can be imagined: Jim and young Zoe are trapped in the Eye (basically a subterranean interactive IMAX theater). Maddy and her hulking soldier boyfriend Reynolds are stranded out in the woods—his car and gun are also dead. Elisabeth is amid a risky surgery on Hunter, friend of Josh and his will-they-won’t-they Skye (who remains by Hunter’s side). And Josh himself gets pretty much no screen time, “helping” his seedy bartender boss fix a power chip that can create other power chips (meta), which can be then distributed amongst TN to supply the civilians with powered-up electronics.
Jim and Zoe, Stuck Underground
Jim actually rubs me the wrong way in this episode. Before the meteor, his intention is to take his youngest daughter—the one who barely knows him—to experience a special, educational, inspirational day with him. Once the power is out, he figures that one of them (the smaller one) needs to crawl through a tight passageway under the room to the outside and open the door. I won’t get into the fact that Jim basically manipulates his six year-old daughter into crawling through a shaft of unknown hazards from which he would not be able to rescue her. But this story would be better suited if the show attacked the idea that Zoe still isn’t too familiar with her father, who has been in jail most of her life. Perhaps he could try to comfort her, and she could resist, earning anxiety and anger within him for his time spent away from his family. It’s a longshot to hope for these things, I guess…but they’re certainly better than Zoe Faces Her Fear of Potential Spiders storylines.
Maddy and Reynolds, Sitting in a Tree
I don’t know how to feel about a subplot that literally has two people, sitting in a tree, kissing…the fact that they are covered entirely in mud, and anticipating death by raptor makes up for it a bit. Maddy and Reynolds have their moments of sweetness together—and it all feels more worthwhile due to the fact that we were made to understand that Maddy was pretty socially inept in 2100s society. But when you have two people spending an entire episode together, hiding and talking, and don’t progress anywhere with their characters beyond the fact that they finally kiss, it seems all for naught. Call me a TV traditionalist, but two people stuck in one place for an entire episode should lead to some deep reveals or harsh realizations about one another. A kiss can be the tag on any old episode.
Liz and Skye, Performing Surgery on Hunter
And here is the episode’s saving grace: Skye and Hunter, the latter of whom you probably barely even remember from previous episodes. Hunter contracts a pretty disgusting parasite and needs to undergo surgery—due to the whole no electronics thing, he can only receive a local anesthetic, so he’s awake the whole time. This is the best part of the episode because it makes headway in the significance of the Terra Nova community: I actually care about Hunter and Skye, a suffering boy and the friend who cares for him (and for whom he cares in a much different way), despite having spent minimal time with them. They are not members of the Shannon family, nor of the TN upper echelon, like Taylor, Washington and Malcolm. They’re just two average kids without much else in this crazy world but one another. And it works. I care that Hunter loves Skye and I care that she only thinks of him as a brother, but needs him desperately to fill this brotherly role. These characters actually work, because there is pain in them. The Shannons are all pretty well off, and more or less work to further the central sci-fi/political/mystery plots. But Skye and Hunter tug on the heartstrings. Even if it has to be attached to two minor characters, I hope to see and feel more of this in future episodes.
Taylor vs. The Sixers
Remember that box that Taylor and Malcolm acquired from Mira and co. a couple of weeks back? Well, it’s important now. And when the Sixers realize that TN has no power, they use a dinosaur-attack decoy to sneak in and steal back the box. The payoff: Mira actually gets the box and delivers it to Taylor’s estranged son, who lives alone in the woods. We don’t know what exactly they are, but the box displays computer images of his “beautiful” plan. The kid has gone nuts, hates his dad, and is hell-bent on completing his project. But honestly…he’d better get to it soon, because my interest in the destruction/preservation of this basically characterless world is slipping.