Tonight, Terra Nova was borderline competent. Not good, not decent, but passable. So it’s improving, but still not enough for it to warrant a second season or a continued investment in the first. The most important thing worth noting at the outset is that all the plots revolve around more-or-less ongoing storylines, which is a major plus.
As Now You See Me begins, Terra Nova is in lockdown because there’s a spy in camp and tact and subtlety is not the Terra Nova way. There might be a different reason for the camp to be on lockdown, but I cannot recall it. Taylor leaves base to investigate the grounds and puts Jim in charge because his actual second-in-command (Wash) is out on duty for the next three days. Though, it’s probably because he and Jim share an epic bromance, albeit one I don’t think Jim feels as keenly as Taylor does. I would bet that Jim is also confused by Taylor’s affections.
Taylor’s adventure tonight involves him being captured by and then capturing Mira, the head of the Sixers. It’s your typical “enemies must work together to defeat a greater enemy” (in this case dinosaurs) plot done typically. They both learn about each other (Mira is an ex-con who sided with some secessionist group back on Earth and is only doing this to save her sick kid, Lucas and Taylor have a beef about something that happened in Somalia); learn to respect one another, and go their separate ways with a nod and begrudging understanding. We even get the “In a different reality, I could have called you friend” speech. Like I said, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done a thousand times before, but Stephen Lang and Christine Adams have a decent chemistry. Lang works best when he has someone to be antagonistic with- Boylan the bartender, Mira the Sixer, etc. Most of the time, he’s with his bestest best friend Jim, but Jim’s way too bland a character, and Lang must suppress Taylor, holding back for someone who can play off his scenery chewing.
Skye also takes center stage tonight as we find out that she’s the spy for the Sixers. I feel foolish for not seeing it before. Her comfort with the Sixers. Her not wanting to see Josh hurt by them. How it would conveniently prevent Josh from being conflicted when Kara arrives. It fits. I also have to say that tonight’s reveal regarding Skye was built up and executed much better than The-Twist-The-Entire-Internet-Saw-Coming on last night’s catastrophic Dexter, and Terra Nova did it without an annoyingly blatant score and incredibly redundant voice over. (Think Dark Passenger again. Think Dark Passenger one more goddamned time.)
Unfortunately, the show decided to make Skye’s decision to betray the colony outside of her control. During the first scene, Taylor talks to her about how “syncillic fever has killed more people (including her parents) than anything else this place has thrown at us,” so we know that it’ll come into play later in the episode. It turns out that her mother isn’t dead, but the Sixers are holding her as a hostage for intel because they have the cure, which is apparently in a dirty sock. The vast majority of the time, I consider doing bad things because of a loved one’s kidnapping to be a very lazy storytelling device (which is why I totally expect it to be the reasoning behind Detective Holder’s betrayal of Detective Linden on The Killing next season). Terra Nova is no different. Sure, this concept moves the plot along and forces some sort of drama as people learn to trust again, but it virtually absolves the wrongdoer of wrongdoing and gives the writers an easy way to reset things back to normal after an episode or two. I find that cheap.
During Skye’s first meeting with the Sixers, Jim notices technobabble signatures indicating a meeting between the Sixers and their spy. He rushes out there despite being the interim President of Terra Nova and not appointing a successor. Of course, Taylor regularly rushes out into the jungle so maybe that’s standard operating procedure for the colony. Also, since Jim is the Sheriff of Terra Nova itself, does he have jurisdiction outside the camp? Well, I know there’s no jurisdiction on Terra Nova per se, but …
At the meeting spot, Jim discovers Skye’s blood sample, which he brings back for DNA testing. Skye destroys the sample before the analysis could finish, but Jim reviews the log of everyone who has access to the medical facility and narrows down the suspects to women because of partial results. Another piece of credit to the show for not outing Skye to everyone right away and realizing that even if the audience knows a secret the main characters don’t, it can lead to interesting storytelling opportunities. Especially when you don’t drag out the show’s singular twist for nine increasingly obvious and insufferable episodes.
I also thought Allison Miller (Skye) gave a good-enough performance to allow us to buy into her conflict and fear, but maybe I’m just comparing her to the dead performance of Landon Liboiron (Josh) after he stole the blue juice.
The final plot involves Zoe and the dinosaur she helped saved several episodes back. It’s time to release it into the wild, but she doesn’t want to because she’s grown fond of it. There are plenty of reasons to cancel Terra Nova, but I can think of none more worthy than Zoe. Not even Josh.
• There were a lot of dinosaurs tonight. Slashers, flyers, Zoe’s thing, Zoe’s thing’s mother. They look really bad and cartoonish.
• Particularly stupid bit of dialogue. Mira (giving food to Taylor): “Grubs.” Taylor: “Protein.” Why would he need to say that unless to condescendingly explain to the audience why they would eat grubs? Moreover, I’m pretty sure we’ve gotten the grubs = protein lesson before on this show. I think in Instinct.
• Elisabeth: “Jim, I’m a doctor, not a chemist.” Credit goes to Shelley Conn for pulling off that line.