Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Terra Nova "Instinct"

Non Spoiler Review:
Terra Nova attempts an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. The colony suffers attacks from winged reptiles, so the race is on to find out why and how to combat them. Josh also wants to buy a guitar at the market, but doesn't have enough money (yes, that is the B story).

After a promising start, this sad entry really left me disappointed. Not only was it full of short scenes whose sole purpose was to advance the plot, but a lot of major action took place off screen. Add in some really annoying moments with Jim behaving like an ass, and a real big head scratcher that seems to run contrary to the show's time travel mythos, and I really couldn't wait for this one to be over.

Every show has its weak moments as it finds its legs, but there was a sense that the writers are gearing this towards a young audience rather than a more adult Lost viewship. The dialogue was not up to par at all.  Seaquest, anyone?

Spoilers Now!
Two red shirts are enjoying a ride in the rainy jungle when they get a flat. It's not too long before things start moving around in the trees and they get eaten.

Meanwhile, the new arrivals are getting survival training, including Josh and Maddie. Maddie's braniacism gets her to be teacher's pet. But Josh is on latrine duty for stealing the rover last week.

The Shannon's are decorating their new home. When Jim and Elizabeth begin to get hot and heavy, they're interrupted by some screeching pterosaurs perched on the fence (which appears to be right next to their house). 

In the morning, Taylor grabs Jim to find their lost supply detail. He suspects the Sixers. While on the trail, Jim wonders why they'd want Taylor dead. He tells him Mira has an insider in Terra Nova, and puts Jim in charge of finding out who it is, given he's a cop and Taylor is just a soldier. But they do find the bodies.

At the hospital, Elizabeth has a reunion with Malcolm the head of sciences, whom she knew in the future from university. He's been there since the Fifth Pilgrimage. He meets Jim, and seems surprised to find him there.

Elizabeth does an autopsy and finds a claw in one of their boots. She stays late (with Malcolm), which fails to impress Jim in any way. He has to deal with dinner with the kids whom he hasn't really learned anything about for two years. He really just wants to bang his wife (which appears they haven't gotten around to yet).

Elizabeth determines there's a new predator in the region. Jim's more interested to hear that she dated Malcolm. They're woken up by more pterosaurs on the fence (at this point one might assume they killed the the supply detail). And then they attack and force Jim and Josh back into the house. 

Malcolm determines the bite marks match (apparently the Shannon's house is the only one who gets all the excitement in the entire colony). Malcolm suggests the pterosaurs must have been disturbed, so wants to observe them and develop a protocol to deal with them. Taylor disagrees and seals off the compound until they can determine the threat level. 

Jim asks how the recruitment process works in Terra Nova. Taylor explains people in Terra Nova make suggestions and he sends those requests back (what what what???). Jim finds out Malcolm made the request for Elizabeth. 

Josh finds a guitar in the market but doesn't have the 60 terras the seller is asking. So he comes back with some stuff he brought back in time, but he isn't interested. Josh won't trade the one thing he wants, his necklace, which was his gift from his future ex. He and Skye notice the pterosaurs grouping on the fence, so Josh realizes they better make a run for it. The market is attacked by the flock.

In the aftermath of the attack, Malcolm tells Jim this species is migratory, which is why they've not seen them before. This could be just the first wave. Using some readings from balloons they detect thermal readings of thousands of pterosaurs in the canopy outside the village. Taylor remembers when they were digging at the beginning of the colony they found thousands of eggshell fragments. They had made the soil fertile, which is why they built there. So the pterosaurs are coming back to breed. 

Taylor orders everyone indoors and everything secured. Malcolm needs live specimens to figure out how to combat them, so Taylor and Jim go hunting. Jim uses the opportunity to confront Malcolm about not expecting Jim to be there. He recruited Elizabeth and pretended to be surprised so he could have another shot with her. With his peacock feathers suitably fluffed, Jim takes off with Taylor. 

In the very next scene they're back, brought samples, and Elizabeth has discovered pheromones that might be used to lure them away from the breeding ground. 

A swarm of pterosaurs attack Terra Nova while Malcolm and Elizabeth try to synthesize the pheromone. They succeed, and Taylor and Jim head out to disperse.

The Shannon house seems to be taking the brunt of the attack, as the kids, plus Skye and Reynolds are holed up inside. They manage to get in through the air vent, knocking out Reynolds, so they take refuge in the bedroom. Zoe is missing, hiding under the coffee table. But Josh rescues her. He phones his dad to let him know they're okay. 

Taylor and Jim start spraying the pheromone from their rover as they drive out of the colony and all the reptiles follow suit. In the morning they come back so they appear to have survived and everything is just awesome now. It looks like they had quite a battle as they're all bloodied. They jettisoned the drum in the valley and headed for home. 

Malcolm theorizes in nine years they'll migrate to their new spawning grown. Elizabeth and Jim head home to their tired kids, and enjoy some private time together. The end.

The Verdict:
The simplistic plot and linear nature of the story was startling, as it seemed to be suitable only for kids. Scenes were short and rapid-fire and it never really let up at all, making the episode very disjointed. The dialogue was a little too quirky and light for a drama.

Jim's character didn't win any points either. He was a total ass and took the opportunity to berate Malcolm rather than focusing on his more important mission. Apparently we're to learn from this episode that being a cop is much better than a nerdy scientist (who are really cowards and just want to name things after themselves).

The other high point was enduring Josh lamenting over buying a guitar. I am anxiously anticipating more on this gem of a story arc.

I guess they did blow their effects budget last week, if two main actions scenes (finding live specimens and leading the pterosaurs away from Terra Nova) occur off screen.

Some questionable design choices: Why are so many houses, even the market, right next to the outer fence (that is made of wood)? Shouldn't there be some bit of a buffer zone?

My main problem comes with how Taylor gets a message back to the future to recruit new colonists. Did I miss this explanation? After last week stressing that this is an alternate timeline and that the trip is one way, Taylor casually mentions he can communicate with the future? 

Definitely a firm thumbs down on this one.

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