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Review #3074: Terra Nova 1.5: “The Runaway”

Posted on the 19 October 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

The episode starts out with a “Newt”-like little girl showing up at Terra Nova, claiming that she ran away from the Sixers out of fear. It’s all a bit bland and overly sappy at first, and seems to just further reinforce the impression that the Sixers are just generically evil with seemingly no good reason for what they’re doing. But the twist takes things in a much better direction. The attempts to root out the other spy in the camp were a surprisingly solid piece of misdirection, which kept me from guessing ahead of time that Leah was also a spy. Though, I’m still strongly suspecting that Reynolds is the other spy.

Review #3074: Terra Nova 1.5: “The Runaway”

Until now, it was heavily implied (and perhaps even stated outright) that the portal went only one way, and now that’s been further confirmed. So how is it that the Sixers know a way of contacting 2149? Is the portal similar to the Stargate, in that for material objects the trip is one way, but radio waves can go both ways? The other interesting thing we learned was that only about half of the Sixth Pilgrimage went with Mira, so an unknown number of the ones who remained with Taylor could easily be spies.

And who are the “powerful people” back in 2149 that Taylor has pissed off? I was almost sure that “Terra Nova” would be going down a path in which the Sixers become more sympathetic and Taylor begins to look a bit more morally ambiguous for past actions. But this idea that Taylor really believes in giving humanity a fresh start, when that’s not the real reason for Terra Nova’s establishment, makes Taylor seem a hell of a lot more heroic than expected.

I’d assumed that the human government in 2149 was solely responsible for Terra Nova’s establishment. But these “powerful people” need not necessarily be government. And whoever they are, the Sixers seem to be their “arm” in Terra Nova. Terra Nova itself was probably never intended to be anything more than a cover for the main mission, but these plans were likely somewhat foiled when Taylor went rogue and built Terra Nova from the ground up. And given that Taylor was the first man through the portal, it would make sense that he was originally intended to help facilitate whatever evil plan is in the works, and ultimately rebelled against it.

There are times when “Terra Nova” begins to feel a lot like this cheesy relic from the 90s, and never was this more evident than during Lt. Washington’s fight with and subsequent capture by the Sixers. (I’m still disappointed that Guzman disappeared after the pilot episode.) To a small degree, I mean this as a compliment, because there was often a certain innocent charm to cheesy 90s TV shows (particularly those of the sci-fi/fantasy variety). But overall, I would prefer that “Terra Nova” were something I could take a little more seriously. There’s so much cool story potential here, and I feel like the execution just isn’t quite doing justice to the material; at least, not yet anyway.

It probably made a significant difference this episode that there were no Josh and Skye scenes this week, though Josh did appear by himself a few times. Thankfully, these scenes were fairly brief. And in one of the few moments where he ddid start to annoy me, Jim Shannon basically tells him to shut up. It was a rather glorious moment, to say the least. Unfortunately, we do get a fair amount of Maddy attempting to help out at the clinic, along with Reynolds attempting to “court” her. It’s not great, but at least it didn’t make me want to claw my eyes out. And it helps that Reynolds is really starting to look like the spy.

In concept, I rather like the idea of a soldier working under Taylor who is completely and totally ignorant of social norms, and has to get advice from Taylor. Though, I probably would have gotten more enjoyment out of seeing Reynolds talking to Taylor than seeing Reynolds actually attempting his plan. It also doesn’t make much sense for Taylor to have these incredibly old-fashioned notions of how dating should occur. Sure, maybe in 2011 I could buy it. But these are people from 2149. Taylor would have been born around the year 2090. I suppose it’s true that people would still tend to get a little more conservative as they get older, but I still think this was stretching believability a bit.

Though far from being a great episode, “The Runaway” at least seems to be a small step in the right direction for a show that’s had an enormously difficult time living up to its potential. This is the first episode to allow for a dominant focus on the mystery surrounding the “Sixers” and their agenda. In typical serialized storytelling fashion, we get a few vague answers, which seem to lead to more questions. But for what it’s worth, I found it to be noticeably more interesting than the previous two post-pilot episodes.

Rating: 7/10

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