Spoiler Heavy Reviews: Terra Nova – “Now You See Me”

by Kevin on November 28, 2011

I have some vacation time from my day job to use before the end of the year, so I spent today unwinding from the holiday weekend, putting up a Christmas tree, and catching up with the current season of Boardwalk Empire. A show like Boardwalk, with its detailed set and costumes, grand storylines and shorter, rich character sketches, makes tuning into Terra Nova all the more painful. Obviously these are two completely different shows aiming for completely different audiences and themes, but it’s still a tough job after knowing the great work being done on television.

Boardwalk Empire is doing a fantastic job this season bringing rivals together and offering up tense situations dotted with violence and powerful character moments. “Now You See Me” is an episode that attempted to do this, bringing our two leaders together and forcing them to work together. But instead of showing us anything of consequence and establishing what makes these characters rivals and not allies, we got a lot of macho posturing, one-liners, and grub-eating. It was extremely unsatisfying, to say the least.

“Now You See Me” finds the Terra Nova colony on lockdown under Taylor’s orders until the spy is found. Regardless, he’s stepping OTG to check on Lucas’ updates on the rocks. (Seems odd that with all the tech coming through the portal, he can’t find a few scraps of paper to write on.) He only gets to look for a few seconds before Mira shows up with a gun and takes him hostage.

Meanwhile Jim is in charge in Taylor’s absence (because he’s the “only one” Taylor trusts, for some reason), and all those minutes of new protocol lead him right to the Sixers’ spy, who turns out to be—gasp!—Skye! Yes, one of the show’s most promising characters in the early episodes who was then completely underused and made irrelevant in the subsequent weeks, turns out to be the ingenious spy who has been eluding detection all this time.

I’d like to say that the Skye/spy reveal was unexpected, but really, who else could it have been? It wasn’t anyone in the Shannon family, and the generic soldier type characters are so, well, generic, that none of them are capable of pulling off a surprise betrayal of their commander (even if it is Taylor). Once Boylan was cleared last week—despite previously seeing him meeting with Sixers—Skye was the only character left.

What I did appreciate was giving the audience the reveal but not the characters. Jim tracks the spy to some kind of building under construction, and Skye panics and accidentally cuts herself on the mirror she was using to communicate with reflective flashes to the Sixers. Jim finds the drop of blood and brings it to his wife, who does her best McCoy impression (“Jim, I’m a doctor, not a chemist”), leaving Malcolm to be the only one with the ability to try to isolate and identify the DNA in the blood. After Skye sabotages it, at least they figure out the spy is female. Go science, I guess.

And then there’s Taylor and Mira’s “adventure” in the jungle, which as I mentioned was completely uninspiring. First of all: why do they only use “sonic” guns on this show? Is it FOX’s call? Are they trying to dodge complaints from animal rights groups for violence on computer-generated dinosaurs? I’m honestly trying to figure out why either of these characters would travel into the jungle alone carrying something that can’t even effectively disable a medium-sized dinosaur.

What we needed out of this scene was something besides the lukewarm “see ya around” finale. These two are supposed to be warring factions, each believing the other means the end of whatever it is they want out of Terra Nova and the entire prehistoric world they’re in. Even after swapping war stories and escaping some dinos together, all the nasty talk throughout the series should have brought something out in both of them. Instead it was a lot of nothing, which is the least surprising thing of all.

Kevin’s Grade: C-

The Good

  • Taylor line of the night: “I know how to fight these bastids.” You sure do, Commander.
  • Of all the bad in this episode, one thing I’ll say is that it was better contained than some other weeks. Zoe’s baby dino notwithstanding, there was a focus to “Now You See Me” that kept the episode moving forward. Pacing counts, and its one thing Terra Nova does adequately.

The Bad

  • I talked a lot about what didn’t work in this episode already, so all I’ll add is that I really wish they’d put more effort into the science. Maddy usually gets a few facts right, but the others just rattle off CSI level nonsense.

The Weird

  • A fever that wiped out many of the early colonists? That’s the kind of stuff that makes much better television.

Things to Think About

  • Looks like the next episode brings the standoff we’ve been preparing for, and it’s possible that Taylor and Mira’s jungle getaway will set them up to join forces against Lucas and his army men. Or, more likely, the show will just forget about that and do something unrelated. Either way.

Next week: The American Country Awards, which apparently exist, are on next week, so we get a break from the dino madness. We’re ticking away to the season finale…

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