Episode Title: "Occupation"
Writers: Brynn Malone & Barbara Marshall
Director: Jon Cassar
Episode Title: "Resistance"
Writers: Terry Matalas & Travis Fickett
Director: Jon Cassar
Previously on "Terra Nova":
In 2149, Lucas Taylor (Ashley Zukerman) and a man named Weaver go over their plans to return to the past, ransack Terra Nova and plunder the prehistoric world with the army of soldiers that they've assembled. In the past, Lucas' father, Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang) gets Terra Nova ready for war. They're expecting either the 11th pilgrimage to come through the time portal… or an army. When the portal opens, the first people through are settlers and one of them is Kara (Romy Poulier); the girlfriend of Josh Shannon (Landon Liboiron).
But when Jim Shannon (Jason O'Mara) goes to Kara, a reluctant suicide bomber is sent through the portal, destroying it and knocking Jim unconscious. Sometime later, Jim awakens in the infirmary before wandering outside and discovering that Terra Nova has been sacked by the invading army, with Lucas, Weaver and Mira (Christine Adams) running things now. Jim's wife, Dr. Elisabeth Shannon (Shelley Conn) drags him home while explaining that the soldiers appeared near Terra Nova three days ago and conquered the colony quickly. However, Taylor is still free with his men out in the jungle.
Jim also comforts Josh over the death of Kara during the suicide bombing. He also learns that Dr. Malcolm Wallace (Rod Hallett) is reluctantly helping the invaders repair their own time portal. When Mira gets wind of Jim's awakening, Malcolm convinces her that Jim was left nearly deaf and dumb from the blast. After deciphering a message left by Taylor in recovered bullets, Jim sneaks out of the colony thanks to a distraction by Malcolm. Soon enough, Jim overhears Lucas and Weaver sharing their plans to clear out the jungle and wildlife with high end explosives… all in the name of reaching its resources more easily.
Jim meets up with Taylor and he relates Lucas' plans. One of Taylor's soldiers, Reilly (Emelia Burns) manages to disarm the bomb and they escape a barrage of firepower from Lucas. Jim returns to Terra Nova and for the next few days, he and his allies inside the colony continuously slip information to Taylor. At the bar, Lucas seems to be getting amorous with his "sister" Skye, causing Josh to start beating on him. Jim abandons any pretense of being crippled and tries to fight off the soldiers, but he is soon captured and tortured by Lucas for information on Taylor.
Elizabeth tricks Weaver into helping her free Jim, so that the entire Shannon family can escape Terra Nova. Over Jim's objections, Taylor's second-in-command, Lt. Alicia Washington (Simone Kessell) stays behind to cover their retreat after passing a message for Taylor on to Jim. When she is captured, Lucas executes Washington himself as his father watches from a distance. The Shannons and Taylor return to their rebel camp, but the mood is darkened by Washington's death. Back at Terra Nova, Mira returns from the Badlands with something Weaver and Lucas are very interested to see…
Back at rebel camp, Taylor figures out that Washington's last message was a coded suggestion to blow up Hope Plaza in the future and cut off Lucas' forces; which would also cut off Terra Nova from any more supply shipments or colonists from the future. Regardless, both Jim and Taylor agree on the course of action. First, Taylor's forces get a convincing mock-up of the enemy transport and weapons, while Skye leads her "brother" Lucas into a trap. The real cargo bound for the future is replaced by a container with Jim, a bomb and something sleeping under a cover. At the time portal, the enemy troops are none the wiser as Jim's container is sent back to the future.
Back in the distant past, Lucas breaks free and knocks out Skye before racing to the portal to warn his collaborators about the threat. In the future, Jim overhears Weaver boast about what they found in the Badlands. Before they open his crate, Jim injects the sleeping creature in his container, which turns out to be a very big and very hungry dinosaur, who goes on a dino rampage. Jim also manages to plant the explosive and simultaneously outrun an explosion and a dinosaur! Before that, Weaver is turned into dino-food.
In the past, Taylor finally comes face-to-face with his son, Lucas… and Taylor is clearly a much better fighter. After a beating, Lucas feigns remorse and a desire to be forgiven for his actions; which Taylor can't resist. Predictably, Lucas stabs Taylor and prepares to do so again before he is shot dead by Skye, who attempts to help her surrogate father to his feet. But when they get up, Lucas is gone. Jim reemerges in the past after Hope Plaza is destroyed. After getting the bad news, Mira and the remaining enemy soldiers leave Terra Nova for the Badlands.
Jim, Taylor and the rest of the soldiers are welcomed back into Terra Nova as heroes. Taylor's inner circle soon discovers what Mira and the Sixers found in the Badlands… a prow from an 18th century ship; which suggests that there are more time portals than anyone else was aware of. After some time to ponder what this means, the Shannon family reunites on their porch and watches a meteor shower.
For the two hour season finale, the cast and crew of "Terra Nova" gamely attempted to give their best effort to what could be the final episodes of the series. And it was neither really good or bad, it was simply okay. But the episodes were better by far than the majority of the series to date.
There were definitely parts of the finale that worked. It's not every series that's audacious enough to have the lead character outrun an explosion and a dinosaur at the same time. In fact, the dinosaur's rampage in 2149 was one of the most enjoyable sequences on the show, especially when it got its teeth on Weaver. The idea of Terra Nova falling quickly to the invaders and Taylor's soldiers forced to become the new Sixers was also intriguing, even if it never quite lived up to its potential.
If the producers really wanted to sell the concept of Terra Nova under enemy control, then it badly needed to give us a really juicy villain. Someone seems to have realized that Mira wasn't fitting the bill and she was written out of a substantial part of the two episodes. Weaver was evil comic relief, which brings us to Lucas; Taylor's super crazy prodigal son. There were so many problems with Lucas, but his inconsistent characterization was especially egregious. In his earlier appearances, Lucas at least gave off a mad genius vibe. But once he was in charge of Terra Nova, Lucas behaved like an idiot who was more interested in bedding his surrogate sister than actually following through on his plans.
The show glossed over whatever Skye did or promised to secure Josh's release, and the entire angle only made Lucas seem skeevy rather than threatening. It's weird the way that so many TV shows have featured incestuous themes this year, especially on HBO. How does this even come up in the writers' room? "Hey, I've got an idea! Let's have Lucas consider Skye to be his sister… and then constantly hit on her!"
Ashley Zukerman speeds a lot of Lucas' screentime shouting orders and threats, but he never comes off as a convincing menace. By the time Taylor gets through kicking Lucas' ass, "Terra Nova" digs into one of its most frequently used tricks: hugs! Taylor actually hugs his murderous offspring right up until Lucas stabs him. Proof positive that there is too much hugging on "Terra Nova." I mean, Zoe hugs Taylor and the Shannons are constantly hugging each other… but the most unlikely hug (aside from Lucas' hug) was the one between Josh and his father after the death of Kara. If there's a "Terra Nova" drinking game, "hugs" has got to be a category.
After building up Kara's arrival all season, it was safe to expect more than a minute of screentime for her before she walked through the time portal. It seems like a waste, but if the producers were so intent upon killing Kara off immediately, then she should have been the unwilling suicide bomber. That alone would have helped give the villains more credibility.
There were other troublesome aspects of the finale, but Jim's attempt to portray himself as deaf and mentally rattled by the explosion was just plain dopey. It also underscored the incompetence of the Phoenix soldiers and their leaders when Jim and Washington were allowed to walk free and undermine their operations at ease. Fox and the producers also hyped this finale by promising "the death of a beloved character," but Washington doesn't quite fit the bill. She's certainly been with the show almost from the start and Simone Kessell is pretty watchable. But we never learn enough about Washington to really care about her. Why did she come to the past? Does she love Taylor? And why is she so loyal to him? Any of those are reasonable questions that should have been answered before Lucas blew her brains out.
On the more positive side, permanently cutting Terra Nova off from the future is an intriguing idea and it could be worth exploring. I just don't have much faith in the show's current crop of writers. An occupied Terra Nova could have (and should have) been intense, and yet it felt like a lot of potential drama was left on the table. The closing moments of the episode features the characters questioning the revelation from the Badlands in a way that seems designed to entice us for a second season. But nothing they say is convincing and the Shannons put it out of their minds to enjoy a meteor shower with the kids. That kind of sums up the show. Introduce a potentially cool idea in a piss poor way and then completely ignore it.
Even up to the closing moments, "Terra Nova" tries to convince us that the series is about the Shannons and that it has a heart. Except that's just not true. It has some artificially saccharine sweetness, but that's a poor substitute for actual emotions. Taylor is the only character on this show who is worthy of being cared about. And that comes down to Stephen Lang's ability to rise above the material and offer some emotional resonance in his reactions to Washington's death and the apparent demise of Lucas… which doesn't even last a few minutes before we see that Lucas must have miraculously survived getting shot multiple times.
The final question for "Terra Nova" is this: does this show deserve a second chance? Before the season started, no series seemed to have as much breakout potential as "Terra Nova." But the series has not lived up to its own hype or expectations. Barring some drastic behind the scenes changes, it's hard to see that changing no matter what happens with the show's chances for renewal. However, I find that I don't care whether the show comes back or not.
There are plenty of TV shows that I'm passionate about. "Terra Nova" isn't one of them. But I really, really wanted to love it.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.