Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Terra Nova "The Runaway"

 Non Spoiler Review:
A young girl arrives at Terra Nova, having escaped the Sixers. But what is she hiding? While that simple narrative isn't terribly compelling, nor the child actor (Newt would beat the crap out of her), it did provide the engine for driving several of the greater elements of the series. There is more of Mira and her backstory, and talk of the others who have grander plans for the colony, but they stop short of providing that bit of revelation we really need at this point.

This week was the better of the batch since the pilot, but Terra Nova still struggles with an uninteresting weekly plot in favor of its bigger mysteries. Most of the characters aren't really interesting me aside from Mira. The Shannons have been set up as this Disneyesque family to provide the fulcrum of the show, yet it's still failing to make me care at all for the five of them. But on a positive note, Jim was somewhat less of a dick. 

Spoilers Now!
Security finds a little girl sneaking around outside the gate, so she's brought inside and examined by Elizabeth. The girl is terrified, but Taylor wants to talk to her. Elizabeth manages to gain her trust and the girl reveals her name is Lia and she was fleeing the Sixers.

Her grandmother lives in future earth, she explains. And she also calls Taylor the bad man. He remembers her from when she was a baby, prior to the exodus of the Sixth Pilgrimage. They explain to her that the portal doesn't go both ways so she can't return to the future and visit her grandmother, which upsets her. 

Taylor thinks it's an opportunity to get intel on Mira. He suggests Lia stay with the Shannons, so she's integrated into their brood, but Lia doesn't seem to impressed with Zoe (like us).

Washington is ambushed by Sixers in the jungle, and Mira steps forward to ask what they've done with her. The Sixers later appear at Terra Nova with Washington as prisoner, and Mira demands the girl back. Taylor knows she's been tipped off by their insider. Then Mira decides she doesn't want the girl, and Taylor warns her about ever coming back to his gates again. They turn over the prisoners and leave. It's all rather contrived.

Taylor tries to convince Lia that Terra Nova is a happy place. Lia explains Mira never lets them stay in the same place for very long so Taylor suggests they look at some maps at some point to see where her camp was.

The B story is Maddie learning about medicine at her mother's side in the infirmary, but it's evident early on she just doesn't have what it takes to stomach the field and its many bloody maladies. 

Taylor and Jim investigate some Sixth Pilgrimmage members who didn't go off with Mira, suspecting some of them might be insiders. Malcolm steps forward to defend one of his men, Stanley, and accuses them of conducting a witch hunt.

Jim, Washington and Reynolds are then called to investigate a break-in at a house. Something was stolen from the beneath the floor, and they find out it was Mira's old place. Jim confronts Lia about taking something, and they realize she was sent to infiltrate Terra Nova. The item in question is a sealed container that Taylor and Jim can't seem to open.

Lia says she doesn't know what it is, but Mira has her brother and says she'll hurt him if she didn't get the box for her. Taylor has her detained until they figure out what's going on. The Shannon's are sad about Lia's betrayal. But Josh finds a note from her that says she had to.

Reynolds apparently is from the 18th Century because he wants to declare his intentions to court Maddie. According to the commander, he has to call at her house and talk to her father about his intentions. She accepts, and the two enjoy a walk together.

Jim goes off into the jungle to find Lia, but gets caught in a trap and taken prisoner by Mira. She says the boy was never in danger. She explains Taylor pissed off a lot of people in 2149 and they want him gone. Terra Nova isn't about starting over, and he'll see soon enough (she's learned enough from the school of villainy to not give away everything yet). She tells him to do what's right for his family and be smart, because they'll take Taylor down eventually. She has a daughter in 2149 named Sienna, and if she does her job they make sure she sees her again. She let's him go.

Jim returns with Lia's brother and they're happily reunited. Taylor's wondering why Mira would let him go at all. Jim doesn't confide in what she told him. Taylor gives the box to Malcolm to try to figure out how to get it open. He locks it away in his lab.

Lia thanks the Shannons for all their help and is off to stay with a new family who is more interesting.

The Verdict:
The Lia storyline did give a push to much of the show's mythology, with talk of the conspirators in the future, the mystery box, and the insider. Mira got some further development and it's hard not to like her given she doesn't reek of crazy like Taylor does. Maybe it's because she reminds me of Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome.  Perhaps this is all building to a season finale where Taylor is overthrown and Jim must choose sides.

Yet Mira stopped short of actually giving Jim (and us) any new information, which is the shot in the arm that the show really needs at this point, rather than continued focus on the daily tedium of the Shannons. If she really wanted to foment some discord and give Jim his doubts about Taylor, why not throw him a bone and actually tell him why they want him removed? Instead she falls back on the usual tease of "You'll find out!" The question is if viewers have the patience for an extended mystery.

Maddie's courting story is turning increasingly strange now that Reynolds seems to have no social skills whatsoever. Taylor must have recruited him from the Amish or something, because it all just doesn't make sense. On the other hand, it might be a sly way of implying Taylor's bigger goals for the colony by establishing some very traditional values? I'll actually be pleased if this is the direction of things and the Shannon's slowly get on to the fact that Taylor might have some puritan ideals for Terra Nova. But, at the moment, there's little evidence for this aside from Reynolds.

So it's gotten better, but the quick cuts and short scenes continue, when we really need some juicy character development moments that go beyond dinner chatter with the Shannons or Jim casually threatening Reynolds or Malcolm. Show us what's in the box!

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