At this point in Terra Nova‘s run, I should probably focus on what the show is and not what the show should be or could be. Unfortunately, what the show is is bland, unexciting, and uncreative. It’s plodding, but not in a good way. One often gets the sense that the writers are just spinning their wheels hoping that they could find a tone that hits. To be entirely fair, tonight’s episode, Proof, was probably the first that gave the impression that they are aiming at a larger picture with greater continuity. Unfortunately, it still felt compelled to occupy the majority of the screen time with a poorly conceived Nancy Drew template featuring Maddie and her hero, Ken Horton (…or is it?).
Maddie, the super smart middle child of the super Shannon clan, learns that Ken Horton (Robert Coleby, who plays his role a bit like Billy Connolly), a renowned geologist that she respects and admires, is coming back to camp after a research expedition. With her medical internship over (did we ever find out she had one?), she enlists herself to help him, but trouble’s afoot. After discovering that he fails to remember things about his own life, she grows suspicious. She checks his DNA against an envelope he licked. It matches, but she soon realizes that Terra Nova Ken Horton is really the real Ken Horton’s research assistant who murdered the actual guy to take his place on the new world. She does this through the use of that crazy super computer we saw last week, so let’s thank the writer who came up with that plot device because that will almost certainly come in handy over the next few weeks.
Even though Veronmaddie Mars has no real evidence against fake Horton, instead of playing it cool, Ken decides to kidnap Zoey. It’s a stupid plan that villains in situations like this tend to favor. Maddie confronts him, exchanges herself for her sister, and he sets her to die from a poisonous spider bite. In a particularly idiotic moment, he says that no one would suspect him for her death, despite the fact that he saw Maddie send Zoey back to camp to get her father, the Sheriff of Terra Nova. I also think Horton does a takeoff of the Scooby Doo “meddling kids” line at this point. Jim arrives in the nick of time, knocks Horton out, and it’s all so very predictable. We do not know what happens to Horton, which is disappointing. How Terra Nova deals with crime, in particular a murder on Future Earth and an attempted murder of a minor, should be a question worth exploring, but instead we just get the typical genre knock-out-throw.
The other two plots, thankfully, focus on continuing plot threads. Although angsty Josh’s boring love for his stupid girlfriend on 2149 does not seem worth endangering the entire community, at least it is an attempt at a storyline that both has stakes and unites the Terra Novans and the Sixers. They could have gotten there more cleanly, maybe involving characters we care about or with a love that inspires greater emotion than a teenage crush, but it’s something. Tonight, Mira calls in her favor, which is for Josh to steal a blue drug from the medical facility. We finally learn in this episode that Mira actually can contact the future even with the portal closed by having Josh talk to Kara via hologram. It’s only a short conversation, but this device of the Sixers is not presented with the gravitas worthy of such a development. It turns a crucial element of Terra Nova into a lie, so making its introduction secondary to Josh and Kara talking again(!!! It’s love!!!) does it a disservice. Besides, if Jara is so integral to the series as a whole, Josh should be a more important main character. Or maybe he could have mentioned what it is he likes about her at least once.
Despite stealing his mother’s access card, Josh breaks into the medical facility by throwing a rock through the glass door. If he was trying to make it look like a break in that’s one thing, but he needed the access card to enter the locked medical cabinet- so why wouldn’t the access card open the door? If it failed there, it probably would fail inside. Coincidentally, the access card also doesn’t open the medical cabinet, so he blows it open with a sonic gun. Boylan finds a patsy, but Josh, racked with guilt, admits his complicity to his parents. He then sells out Boylan who reveals to Jim and Taylor that the Sixers have a machine that talks to the future.
The C-plot stars Taylor who seeks out the soldier/murderer from two weeks ago. That they decided to bring this back “solved” one of my biggest problems with that episode- a lone soldier in the woods with a grudge against Taylor could be lucrative to the Sixers. Taylor just letting him go was a bad leadership decision. Tonight, Taylor finds the killer and informs him he could earn his place back in the community by infiltrating Sixer society as a spy and discovering their mole. So I guess his job is pointless now.
As I have mentioned before, the pacing on this show is terrible and tonight showed it once again. The Boylan/Josh plot should have played out over time. Josh’s guilt should have affected the character for at least one episode if not longer. The tension of Jim’s noose closing around Josh or Boyland’s neck should have risen to a fever pitch before coming to a head. At the very least, it should have been the main plot of this episode; it had a greater potential for suspense than the stolen identity of a man we have never seen or heard of before and will probably never see or hear of again. If Terra Nova wants to delve into darker and more intense territory, it needs to focus on these ongoing storylines instead of making them a back-up to stand alone plots. The past three episodes have seen an increased presence of The Sixers and their impact on Terra Nova, but it still isn’t strong enough. It almost seems as though the show isn’t confident enough to fully subscribe to being an “adult” series, but it’s traveled too far in that direction to succeed as anything but.
• When Maddie discusses her theories with Zoey, the youngest Shannon spawn keeps talking about Ken Horton being a vampire with such saccharine dialogue as “maybe you should feed him garlic!” and suggesting that a plastic surgeon removed his fangs. Zoey isn’t a character, she’s a horrible creation from a Cute Machine that hasn’t updated its programming since Michelle Tanner began to talk on Full House. Whether it’s the lines or the acting, she’s uncomfortable to watch.
• When Malcolm discovers that Maddie is reviewing Ken Horton’s DNA, he offers to help because he can make the machine work faster. Now that the show’s seemingly (hopefully) abandoned Malcolm’s “wants to bang Elizabeth” trait, I think he is becoming somewhat bearable.
• Maddie retrieved Ken Horton’s DNA from an envelope he licked. It’s 2011, and we don’t lick envelopes now.
• Did you hear about Community being removed from the NBC midseason schedule? Disappointing news indeed.