2011-10-04

Terra Nova – Episode 2: "Instinct"

by Yo Snyder

Okay, so no one listened to me (as usual) and this second episode of Terra Nova
decided not to advance any of the mysteries or plotlines introduced in
the pilot episode. Instead, we get a stand-alone adventure that almost
feels like an episode of Star Trek. Not
that that’s a bad thing, but I just have this feeling this show has a
limited life-span, and it really needs to grab and hold people’s
attention, so why not follow-up and continue those big mysteries they
introduced last time? Well, regardless of that issue, this second
episode wasn’t that bad, really. It didn’t live up to the grandness of
the pilot, but really, how could it? While a bit less ambitious and
certainly containing less substance, it was still enjoyable.

The citizens of Terra Nova are being terrorized by The Birds…well,
no, actually it’s some sort of breed of pterosaur. Still, the little
critters are pretty viscous. However, the threat of these creatures
never seemed quite as menacing as it was supposed to. Part of that is
due to the effects work. It’s not particularly bad, but the scenes where
these flying dinos swarm around the humans aren’t exactly convincing,
either. Still, there are a few really solid moments, like when the
massive swarm rises from the trees and heads to the settlement, and one
where a single pterosaur menaces a little girl. As I said, this whole
discovering a new species and learning how to deal with them as a threat
and get them to leave the settlement had a very Star Trek feel to it,
but that’s not a bad thing. Prehistoric Trek is kind of fun.

Some of the other elements in this episode didn’t click quite as
well. The family dynamic among the Shannons still provides some solid
heart and some lighter moments for the series, and I still enjoy them;
especially now that Josh isn’t quite as surly. A new character was
introduced, Dr. Malcolm Wallace which was introduced as an old flame
from Elisabeth’s past (and perhaps the reason the Shannons were
recruited for Terra Nova). I’m not sure what the point of this was. As a
scientific character, Malcolm was a fine addition and played a pivotal
role in dealing with the flying pests, but as a rival for Mrs. Shannon’s
affections, it just didn’t work. I never sensed there was any danger to
the relationship between Jim and Elisabeth (and why should there be;
she busted him out of jail. If that’s not a solid commitment, I don’t
know what is). The whole situation felt shoe-horned in to provided
“tension” or “drama”, but none of that materialized, so it was pretty
pointless. Another pointless sub-plot was Josh’s desire to get some 85
million year old guitar. It didn’t really develop the characters any and
felt kind of out of left field. Finally, there was a little too much
that happened off-screen. I know there are budget limitations for a show
like this, but it sounded like some of the most exciting parts took
place while we were stuck watching people just looking worried about the
exciting stuff that was happening elsewhere.

Despite some of these dead-ends, the episode overall was still
enjoyable. There were some great, light-hearted moments, and even though
some of the dialogue came off a little cheesy, it felt right for this
kind of series. The whole pterosaur angle was interesting even if it
didn’t live up to it’s full potential. Some of the discussions about
finding hope despite the bleak future they all came from were
interesting. Terra
Nova and the time fracture, plus the chance for a whole new beginning,
have provided that hope for people. Again, it seems a little circular to
think that the same people can produce a different result even with a
fresh start, and I’d still like to see that addressed. Our world is also
a world that needs hope, but quite frankly, we’re not going find it 85
million years in the past, or in elected officials, or in just about any
other of the contrivances we turn to. The Bible, however, tells us
about hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5), so if you’re looking
for hope and haven’t been able to find it anywhere else, why not take a
look?

Unfortunately, it looks like next week’s episode will also be a
one-shot. This is all fine and good, but I just think the show needs to
push forward with its serialized story-lines instead of focusing on the
unknown challenge of the week. Some pretty strong and interesting
mysteries were introduced in the first episode and I don’t think they
should waste time exploring those. However, apart from that, Terra Nova remains a fun diversion. We’ll see how long that can last.