Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: Terra Nova "Within"

Non Spoiler Review:
The impending arrival of the Eleventh Pilgrimage pushes Taylor to try to expose the Sixer spy. Speaking of whom, Lucas engages Skye to help him finish his equations to make the portal work both ways. There are a few new revelations, and it's all a big push to get things ready for next week's finale.

Within was a decent episode, but the bar for Terra Nova has been significantly reduced, so that's not really a compliment. It suffers from having to drag the weight of this season behind it. Plus we're saddled with a bizarre subplot regarding Maddie and her computer that make Zoe's ordeal around her pet dinosaur look like an epic storyline. The writers continually fail to make us care about anyone, and those few with potential (like Mira, Washington, and even Taylor) have been diminished. What we get in spades is Lucas' moustache-twirling villainy. 

I'm guessing this show is not going to be renewed. It's just too damned expensive to be worth it, and frankly, it's stealing a lot of my time for what I'm getting out of it. I hope it ends on a bang, much like how it's very similar British cousin Outcasts did when it was cancelled. Given it's borrowed heavily from that show, I would have liked it to have at least stolen the more interesting characters and plotlines, as well.

Spoilers Now!
Remember the portal terminus? If not, Taylor provides Jim with a bit of a recap how it was constructed after the Fourth Pilgrimage with pieces sent from the future—it fixes the portal on their end so people (like in previous pilgrimages) don't end up in wildly different places when they step through. The Eleventh Pilgrimage arrives within days so Taylor wants that damn spy caught. Jim goes on to question others having access to the hospital, including Skye. She says she was with Josh when the spy tried to contact the Sixers. 

Maddie blew her prometheum core on her plex (which is not code for anything, but sounds like it could be). As Liz informs her, with foreboding plot gravitas, she may have to wait until the next pilgrimage because they just don't have prometheum cores lying around. Josh recommends she talk to the bartering guy, Casey, who's in the wheelchair (very important). 

Skye asks Josh to cover for her alibi, so he immediately starts quizzing her. She says she stole copper tubing from maintenance for a new still, so that's good enough for him to agree to keep her story. Jim later confirms with Josh that he was playing chess with Skye at her place. 

Later, she sneaks out to visit her mother, and is paid a visit by Lucas. She recognizes him and says he's supposed to be missing, but he just wants to be friends (not), given he's already friends with her mother. He needs her to help him as he's nearly figured out how to make the time portal work both ways. To factor the calculations by hand would take months, but if he gives her the data, she can use Terra Nova's computers to do it in a day. If she doesn't, he'll toss her mother over the side of their tree house. So Skye sneaks into the Eye and runs the program.

Maddie tries to barter with Casey for a prometheum core. Conveniently enough, his wheelchair is acting up so Maddie suggests she might get him a wheel. Why Casey can't manage to find a replacement wheel for his chair means that Terra Nova's bartering system is in a very sorry state, and, as the chief barterer, he's even worse. Maddie asks Reynolds for a wheel (?) to give to Casey (as apparently any sized wheel will do, but this plot is just so ridiculous I'm not going to think about it).

Sky returns with the data for Lucas. He won't tell her what happens when the portal opens both ways, though, and sends her away. 

Jim finally gets around to looking for ways that the spy may be getting out of the colony, and he and Washington find a spot they put under surveillance. Conveniently enough they see Skye sneaking out. So he confronts Josh and warns him not to lie to him again. Taylor takes the truth hard, but will confirm this with Curran, his man in the Sixer camp (who apparently had no trouble at all infiltrating them after Taylor told him to do it a few episodes ago).

Taylor gives Skye some false intel about a convoy and they monitor her as she sneaks out of Terra Nova. They set up an ambush for the Sixers but they don't show. Jim suggests Skye didn't tell her, and that she hasn't given them anything that would actually hurt the colony in the past. He guesses they're holding something over her. But Mira's mad at her because she didn't tell her about the convoy that her own spotters saw go through the canyon. She wants better intel or else her mother doesn't get her meds.

Maddie finds out someone's already given Casey a wheel for a prometheum core—Boylen. She offers to trade her accounting skills for a core given his bar paperwork is a fine mess. He's not keen on the sheriff's daughter organizing his books, so offers to just give her the core. She takes it. Problem solved.

Lucas has solved his equations. He's preparing to go through the portal and warns Skye not to go back to Terra Nova as it won't be safe for her, given his employers will be coming through to take control. Skye confesses everything to her mother. She urges her daughter to confess to Taylor, so she does so when she eventually meets up with him. He finds it hard to believe her story about talking to Lucas. She mentions 2138 as the date Lucas gave her to ask him about. Taylor believes her and Jim sends her home while he and Taylor head off to the portal.

There's problems at the portal as the guards posted notice that it suddenly activates as Lucas shows up, and they're disabled with a blast. Taylor and Jim appear by nightfall. Lucas says he won't fire his gun given one blast at the portal could cut them all off from the future (which would solve all their problems right then and there, so they don't do it, of course). He rants about finally winning, then jumps through and disappears.

Skye tells Josh everything that happened, but is summoned to the infirmary where Curran has brought her mother back, as well as some of the drug the Sixers were giving her so Liz can synthesize it. Taylor's happy to see her mother, but says nothing to Skye.

The Sixer camp has moved on once Curran defected. Jim is surprised that Taylor's done such an about-face and allowed Curran, a murderer, back. Taylor explains he earned himself a second chance. He's made a big mistake that his son has never let him forget. The year 2138 was the date Lucas' mother died because Taylor couldn't save her, so Lucas has hated him from that moment on. Now's the time to fight, and they need to be ready for the pilgrimage. So Taylor addresses the colony (again) and lets them know their home will come under attack.

The Verdict:
I had some vain hope that Maddie's prometheum core story actually was going to have some greater affect (maybe it still will). Was it a harbinger of problems with Terra Nova's tech in light of the imminent invasion? Or something else? No...she just broke her computer. And then it resolves just like that with a surprisingly impotent Boylen. What was that all about?

Finally we get the conclusion of the Sixer spy storyline. Curran's infiltration of the Sixers happened conveniently off screen between episodes with no effort whatsoever. But I question Taylor's rather maverick (bipolar) way of making decisions—bringing Curran back into the fold after he murdered someone, especially after making such a big deal of banishing him. What will the people think? Surely Skye can be easily forgiven after that.

And the throwaway line that Taylor needs to keep in contact with the future? Really? He's kooky enough to just shoot the portal and end the problem right there, but of course, that would be character driving the plot, and we can't have that. My hope for some levels of grey in the good guys/bad guys ain't gonna happen. It's clearly evident Taylor (despite his crazy) is the hero and Lucas, after this week's maniacal dialogue (really, this was too much) is the villain. So bring on the finale to at least see what comes through the portal.

We also get some explanation how the portal fixes the position of their end of the time rift. But Lucas says his bosses are bringing in the tanks. Is he kidding? What kind of heavy equipment does he expect will fit through there? That portal couldn't handle three Wal-Mart shoppers walking abreast. 

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