EPISODE REVIEW: Terra Nova: “Occupation” and “Resistance” (Episodes 11 and 12)

Republibot 3.0
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Tonight brings us to the season - and possibly series - finale for Terra Nova, a frustrating little show that never had all that much potential, and yet still somehow never managed to come even remotely close to realizing it. Small targets are harder to hit, I guess. Ratings place this show on the bubble. It quite literally all comes down to tonight’s two-parter. If good, you’ll get another season. If not, well then this is our last view of the Shannon family.

So how does it end?

Actually, not badly:

PLAY BY PLAY

We start off freakin’ *great,* which is not anything I’ve *Ever* said about this show, with Taylor and the Terra Nova Forces (TNF hereafter) guarding the time portal, awaiting the bad guys. People start coming through normally, including Josh’s girlfriend Kara. Then one of the Pilgrims comes through with bombs strapped to him, and explodes. This destroys the time portal, kills Kara (Most. Anticlimactic. Subplot. In. History.), and Jim blacks out.

Wow!

Jim comes to in the hospital three days later to find that the colony has been taken over by the bad guys in a battle that took place entirely offscreen (Boo! Hiss! I can NOT believe you guys have $4 million/episode to play with, and you’re CONTINUALLY pulling this crap!) in a well-filmed sequence that emphasizes his confusion and damaged hearing (A bomb went off in his face, after all). The destruction and ruins are kinda’ interesting since they let us know how much of the down town set was real, and how much of it was CGI.

Taken home, we’re told (BUT NOT SHOWN!) that the Bad Guy Army (BGA hereafter) blew up the gate so the time rift would be “Untethered” and would drop them in some random location within a mile and a half of where the gate *used* to be. They attacked the colony before Taylor’s people could re-assemble (They were badly messed up by the blast), and Washington surrendered after 29 people were killed. Taylor’s in hiding, while Lucas, Mira, and some new Strawman we’ve never seen before, run the place. Strawman is the head of the Bad Guy Army, or so it would seem, but he’s really badly written, and played like a blithering idiot. Impossible to take him seriously as a villain, lacks all gravitas, so clearly he’s just there to further the plot, right? Dead by noon.

The colonists themselves are hostages, as Lucas and the BGA know Taylor would never risk their lives by attacking. Jim, meanwhile, manages to avoid reprisals from Mira by pretending to be brain damaged, crippled, and deaf from the blast. This is actually pretty clever. Despite all his talk of working for someone higher up - clearly not Strawman, though - Lucas is the guy in charge. He has Skye brought too him, and says - I paraphrase - “I should kill you for betraying me to your father, but you’re really hot, so you get one more chance. Also, because I’m really over-playing the crazy and telegraphing every thought that goes on in my head, I’m going to call you ‘sister’ in creepy fashion. It’s a little pointless affectation the writers thought up. I think you’ll like it.” Unimpressed, Skye goes home.

The Resistance begins, with Jim rallying the various characters: Wash, Boylin, the Legless Guy, Malcolm, etc. Most were already working independently (Excepting Wash, who was just drinking) but Jim coordinates them, and even has Josh work at Boylin’s bar, hoping for some occasional information. Jim sneaks out of town and contacts Taylor, and they’re able to give him information about troop movements and whatnot. Malcom is building the return gate for the BGA, but he’s going as slow as he can.

All goes well until Lucas tries to force himself on Skye, and then Josh punches him.

WHAT? They’re in a bar, he’s got the home field advantage *And* surprise, *and* access to any number of sharp and/or jagged objects, and he just *punches* the guy? He coulda’ cut his frackin’ head off! Of course Josh is immediately captured and beat half to death. Skye runs and calls Jim, who blows his cover, but takes out half the bar.

WHAT? We got an ex-cop who was in a coma for three days, only got better “A couple of days” ago, and somehow he’s able to hold off an entire bar full of trained and heavily armed mercinaries for like a three minute fight sequence? Unlikely. *AND* he had the element of surprise, and could easily have taken Lucas’ head off, but he didn’t. Like son like father. The Disappointing Duo. The two of them are captured and taken to the utterly illogical brig, where we get some inappropriate bonding, and the immediately-abandoned threat of torturing Josh to get Jim to spill the beans about Taylor. But then Lucas lets Josh go because….uhm…why exactly? Skye shows up. What, did she sleep with him (If so, he must not be very good, as it took less than ten minutes including undressing and re-dressing, and Skye’s expression can only be read as ’scowly’). Did she offer to sleep with him? What else of value does she have in this situation?

Yeah, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Lucas cattle-prods Jim for info, but Jim manages to find out what happened to make him hate his dad so much. Basically, Taylor lost a battle and a town full of civilians, including his wife and kid. The soldiers were allowed to each choose one person from the line of civilians (Huh?) knowing the others would be killed. Taylor saved his son, and his wife was evidently raped to death in front of their eyes. Lucas claims his father blames him. Again, the crazy is overplayed here.

In a scene so good it feels like something out of Stargate: Atlantis, Dr. Mrs. Jim manages to force Strawman to rescue Jim. The Shannon family escape, with Wash surrendering herself as a diversion. Lucas kills her. Her last words, “You have your father’s eyes.” (Quoth the Republispouse: “He really doesn’t“)

Once again I have to say “WHAT?” Wash *knows* she’s going to die, and she’s a trained and highly experience soldier, yet she doesn’t kill a single enemy during her distraction. Ok, she’s got no guns, but she’s a solidier: where’s the knives, jagged bits of metal, baseball bats, pointy sticks, home-made Bow and Arrow, *anything* that would be useful? Nope. Just stupid.

Reunited with Taylor, Jim delivers Wash’s last message to Taylor. Translated from “Braga” to “Sensible” it means basically “Go back to the future and blow up that end of the time tunnel with the nuke we aquired earlier in the episode.” (It’s not a nuke. Nukes are bad. This is a fairly PC show, so even bad guys wouldn’t use nukes. It’s a Pyro-something-hoobajoob-Doubletalk device). There follows a pretty good sequence - which again feels like it was lifted from SGA - in which Jim is smuggled back to the future and Lucas is captured. Things go relatively easily for Jim. He releases a T-rex in the future as a distraction. It eats Strawman and - evidently - the mysterious guy they work for. Back in the past, Lucas escapes, gets in a fight with his dad, begs for forgiveness, then stabs his dad. Skye puts two bullets in him. (Lucas, not Taylor). Despite not being the beefiest of guys, nor the most conspicuously badass, Lucas manages to survive this and drag himself off into the jungle without anyone noticing until it’s too late.

Jim gets back from the future just in time, the time tunnel is destroyed, and the BGA abandon the colony, heading north into the badlands. The main cast all go back to the colony and are welcomed as heroes.

Wondering why the BGA bugged out in that particular direction, they discover that Mira had been sent up there to find something, and ship it back to the future. They swapped out the canisters to get Jim through, and never bothered to check out what the intended cargo was. They open it up and find…

…The figurehead of The Black Rock from “Lost.”

No, seriously: figurehead from an 18th or 19th century ship, inexplicably discovered in the badlands. And what else is out there?

The show ends rather abruptly with the Taylors on their porch, watching a meteor shower

The End.

Very likely for good.

OBSERVATIONS

This is at least the third time they’ve simply not bothered to show us the actioney stuff when we *really* needed to see it. And for a great big climactic showdown, there really wasn’t much in the way of action or fighting. That said, this was genuinely pretty good. It felt a LITTLE bit padded out, but not nearly so much as most of the previous episodes have. Definitely there was more here than could be fit into one episode, even if it wasn’t quite enough for two. (The barfight and the whole prisoner/interrogation/Skye does whatever/torture Jim stuff was all padding)

Wash’s sacrifice isn’t surprising, though seeing her as a drunk in the bar is. She’s been kicking with Taylor for ten years, and she’s gonna’ give up to his punkass son? Unlikely. Seeing her skanking around with the BGA in the bar seems unlikely too. It’s out of character, *AND* I can’t believe ANYONE would trust her.

What really irks me about this episode, though, is the confused notion of hostages. The way it works is: if the rebels kill one of your soldiers, you kill ten hostages. Taylor’s people are killing BGA thugs left and right, and the idea of killing the colonists never apparently occurs to them. Not even to Strawman, who, allegedly, is a professional general-for-hire.

During the “Let’s Torture Jim” scene, I kept thinking “What’s with all the posturing, dude? You’ve already won.” Indeed, 9/10ths of the stuff Lucas does in this ep don’t make much sense. Why is he even bothering with his dad? Just fix the stupid time tunnel and bring in reinforcements. But, nooo…

The scene with Zoey trying to cheer up Taylor were awful. Conversely, the scene where Sky puts two bullets in Lucas out of nowhere was just wonderful: Abrupt, violent, quick, just like life. Sometimes you don’t get to kill your arch nemesis. Sometimes he just gets hit by a bus. Alas, they had to go and screw it up as a dangling thread for a season that’ll likely never get made.

Mira is not a serviceable villain. She’s a lapdog for Lucas. Lucas is not a serviceable villain, he’s merely a lapdog for someone in the future, and he’s hampered by bad acting and bad writing. The show kinda’ grinds to a halt whenever these guys are onscreen, though it does get better when Taylor is kicking the crap out of one of ‘em.

The pseudo-Nazi flag the BGA were flying was a bit too obvious, don't you think?

There's some serious numerical retconing going on here tonight. When we saw the 10th pilgrimige in the future, there were hundreds of people. When we've seen the colony from the air, it's huge, and there's hundreds of people always milling around. Tonight we're told that Taylor only has 100 troops, and that the colony only has 1000 people, total, and that each pilgrimage was only 100 people.

Man, they really were culling from the Lost Screenwriters Guide, weren’t they? It’s like Branon Braga said “Wow, you know what would make Lost even better? If I got rid of the flashbacks, and made it suck!”

You’ve got your colonists/crash survivors.
You’ve got your exotic, pretty, conveniently un-exitable location.
You’ve got Dharmaville/The Colony
You’ve got the Sixers/Others
You’ve got Lucas/Ben Linus
You’ve got a mysterious group away from the main local that somehow know what’s going on there, and interact with it, despite the fact that it’s impossible to do so.
You’ve got soldiers of fortune
We've got The Black Rock
You’ve got daddy issues galore. Man oh man have you got daddy issues!

Well, that’s about it. I like to get these up less than an hour after the show airs. I’ll hold off on making any final comments and observations about the series as a whole until we learn whether or not it’s coming back for a second year.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Yeah, it’s not terrible, and there’s nothing to give up offence.

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