Terra Nova: A Thing of the Past

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In the early moments of its two-hour season (and probably series) finale, Terra Nova took off its training wheels and put on its big-boy pants, giving us a brief glimpse of what we'd all hoped the show would be in the first place. But like a tyke who's not quite ready for grown-up activities, it didn't take long for the show to faceplant and poop itself. Yes, Terra Nova took a major step toward becoming a legitimate television show with the season-ending double-feature of "Occupation" and "Resistance," but aside from a few fleeting scenes that were intriguing only if you consider them in the context of the rest of the series, good lord was the finale bad!

However, it was also immensely entertaining. There were too many good moments in this episode to not recap 'em, so let's pass on the thematic examination (which was something along the lines of: "Don't forget to recycle!") and get right to the play-by-play.

Things started off in the future, where Lucas and a mystery man were prepping a private army of hundreds of beret-clad guns-for-hire to invade the Terra Nova colony. Cool start! A war is brewin'! Back in dino-land, Taylor had amassed a defense of about 15 people around the terminus (the portal to 2149), and they were ready to unload hot lasers or sonic blasts at the chokepoint where either an army bent on total destruction or the innocent 11th Pilgrimage with everyone's girlfriends would come through. For once, it was a pretty good military plan! That is, until one of the innocent pilgrims showed up with future dynamite strapped to his chest and blew up the whole portal.

And he didn't only blow up the portal, he 'sploded Josh's girlfriend Kara, who had just come through seeking a life of jungle love with Josh. Pretty cool of her parents to let her come by herself, btw. Her transformation into pieces of her former self meant Josh has been keeping his grubby boy-band mitts off "Miss Terra Nova 2011" Skye for nothing. It'd been a long time since we'd seen Kara, and I think we were supposed to be sad she died. Wasn't she blonde when we met her in that hologram or whatever? Anyway, it was a bold move of Terra Nova to kill off such an inconsequential character so early on in the episode, but necessary so that Josh could use it as an excuse to do something really stupid soon after.

The blast concussed Jim, who woke up three days later to see all the expensive sets that Fox built for the show in ruins. Had Terra Nova been canceled while Jason O'Mara took a nap in his trailer? No. After melodramatically stumbling around with ringing ears and looking at his burning home (which was still on fire for some reason), Elisabeth told him the Beret Army marched through another random time-space rift and took over Terra Nova while Taylor was busy playing with the now-exploded portal. And that's when Terra Nova, with one foot already on the cancellation train, decided to pack the proposed story for Season 2 into two hours of television!

As chief of Terra Nova's dazzling security force--you know, the one that can't catch a teenage girl mole or keep people from sneaking in and out of the encampment willy-nilly--Jim was a high-value target of the Beret Army. So of course they just let him walk around freely and didn't check on him or give any sort of medical examination when he escaped incarceration by pretending to be a crippled amnesiac. Apparently the Beret Army put more effort into designing its eeeevil flags than taking courses on how to squash rebellions, because Jim roamed around the camp like the Dalai Lama, organizing a coup full of people who probably should have been guarded.

But in order to really make the rebellion start rebelling, Jim needed to locate Taylor and his army, who went missing after the assault on the portal. Hmmm. How could Taylor get word to Jim regarding his whereabouts? Maybe he could sneak a mole through Terra Nova's porous defenses? Or maybe he could go low-tech and reflect light from a mirror in Morse code? Oh, I've got it! How about training a giant dragonfly to pass messages back and forth? No, we've seen all that before. What Taylor needed was an ingenious new way to relay information that's so crazy, no reasonably sane person could ever think of it. What he needed was the most ridiculous thing ever. I'm guessing the brainstorming session went something like this:

Commander Taylor: Men! This may sound crazy, but hear me out. What if we engrave our map coordinates--stay with me here--on bullets? And then we use those bullets to shoot those punks from the Beret Army? Then when Elisabeth Shannon extracts the bullets from the bodies we shoot, she'll tell Jim about the bullets, and he'll figure it out! How could it NOT work?

Colonel Kiss-ass: It's genius!

So THAT happened. After Jim figured out where Taylor was--I repeat, from map coordinates etched into bullets that were shot into the enemy--Jim hitched a ride with the bad guys just in time for them to show us how evil they can be and give us a heavy-handed lesson on why we should all be using eco-friendly Tupperware. One of the bad men shot a dinosaur (an herbivore, too!) while the others planted bombs to clear the forest to expose the nougat-y meteor ore that's so prized in the future. Jim expressed his grief, as shown in the movin' picture above. There was a really trite bomb-defusing sequence as the good guys saved the forest, an unnecessary rocket-launcher firing courtesy of Lucas "The Most Reckless Asshole on TV" Taylor, and some really funny, futile bomb-detonator pressings after the bomb was disarmed. But really all you needed to take away from the sequence was that the bad guys were bad, the good guys got away, and Jim had a bomb he'd use later.

Back at Taylor's La Resistance camp, we learned of a major character's death. I'm speaking, of course, about Gonzales. He was 22 years old and a good man, a good soldier. Before the team could secure the perimeter, some Carnotauruseseses took him out while he was on duty with his good friend Bailey. The saddest part is that Gonzales was engaged to be married. Tragedy. I'm really going to miss him.

(Note: I have no idea why Taylor had to give some unseen dead soldier a full backstory, but Gonzales instantly became one of Terra Nova's most well-developed characters even though he never appeared on screen. R.I.P. buddy!)

With all forces communicating, it was time for the Terra Novans to strike back. They launched a coordinated attack involving Washington whoring herself out, Jim placing the most obvious tracking bug ever on a car, and Taylor's men sneaking up on Beret Army soldiers in the woods. Things were going great! And then Josh got involved. Ugh, Josh.

Because Jim has no parenting skills, he thought it would be a good idea to put his grieving and unstable son to work at the hangout of choice for the soldiers responsible for killing Josh's girlfriend. In the best-case scenario, Josh would lose his temper while serving soldiers drinks, fall and hit his head on the end of the bar, knock himself into a coma he'd never wake from, and be buried with his guitar and shoes while "Over the Rainbow" played. But instead, Josh punched Lucas, and La Resistance's plan was derailed because Jim had to rescue Josh after Lucas became my favorite character ever because he gave Josh a footlong knuckle sandwich with extra swagger. Lucas's eyes when he threw that punch may be one of TV's best moments of the year. After a bar brawl with the first-year students from the local Stuntman Community College, both Josh and Jim got thrown into the brig, also known as the Tron room.

Clearly unsurprised by Josh's never-ending effort to redefine stupidity, Jim told Josh that what he did was okay because everyone wanted to punch Lucas in the face. This is the same father who told Maddy she was smart to stick with her hunches despite everyone else (and some things called "facts") suggesting otherwise, and broke 2149 law by having Zoe and increasing the human population while the planet was begging for homicide. Josef Fritzl (Google him) is a better father than Jim Shannon.

In the brig, Lucas gave his villain speech and let Jim in on a secret: Lucas HATES his father because he thinks Taylor gave him a funny look once, and that obviously meant Taylor hated his son. Seriously. All this father-son beef, which is in direct conflict with the survival of the human race, started because Lucas is more sensitive than a braces-wearing 14-year-old girl on her period for the first time.

Elisabeth got one of the bad guys to rescue Jim from captivity with the old "I put brain-eating parasites into your bloodstream but LOL really I didn't psych!" trick, and the Shannons all gathered to run away to Camp Taylor. But first they needed to create a diversion! Washington, who was finally allowed to let her hair down in the finale in an effort to make her look better and give her a shot at finding another job on a different show, sacrificed herself by slapping a few guards, allowing the Shannons to escape. Then Lucas shot her after she wasted her last words on earth saying, "You have your father's eyes." I would have gone with "You smell like old cheese." It was the third major death of the episode after Kara and Gonzales. Fourth if you count the Brachiosaur. But let's be honest here, no death stings as much as Gonzales'. He was engaged! So sad.

With the Shannons and Taylor's men reunited, Zoe could be cute and Maddy could make out with Mark. Phew! But really, the plan now was to wrap up the season with a satisfying storyline that would also leave the door open for a potential Season 2 (it won't happen). The strategy? Send Jim back to 2149 to blow up Hope Plaza, the future's only connection to the past, and isolate Terra Nova from future invasions carried out by resource-raping corporations and armies with funny headwear. Oh, and supplies and hope.

What happened next was a whirlwind of double-crosses and breakneck pacing coupled with an "Ahhh screw it, let's wrap this up" mentality. La Resistance, with the help of Skye taking advantage of an too-trusting Lucas, captured a bad-guy freight car and swapped the cargo container with a new crate, one that was filled with Jim and an unconscious dinosaur. How they managed to squeeze the giant lizard into a box that would have difficulty fitting an average-sized Great Dane is one of Terra Nova's greatest mysteries, one that it will take to its grave. Jim was portaled back to 2149, unleashed the dinosaur (which grew exponentially in size after being released) on the future bad guys, set the bomb, then ran across a bridge toward the portal with an angry dinosaur and a giant explosion on his heels. It was awesome. Jim escaped, Hope Plaza was obliterated, and one pissed-off dinosaur really got the short end of the stick. I really had hopes that the planet would fight back and the dinosaurs would fend off the invaders, but instead, one got shot and another got blown up. How cool would it have been if Taylor had dug a giant hole under the terminus and filled it with dinosaurs so that anyone who came through the portal would fall into a dinosaur buffet? That would have shown more respect for the dinosaurs, especially consider they were the reason we all watched the show in the first place.

Back in the past, Lucas and Taylor had a long overdue father-son moment, where they both realized that Lucas is just a crazy person for trying to kill his species because he's insecure. They hugged, and it was sweet until Lucas interrupted the good vibes with a stabbing motion and a knife into Taylor's gut. What an ungrateful little shit. So Skye shot him. Hooray! Except Taylor and Skye looked back later and Lucas was gone.

Then there was some bit about a crate containing the bow of an 18th century boat (Lost is facepalming in its grave) and all the army men left for the Badlands, but that's only stuff you'd need to know if Terra Nova stood a chance of getting a second season. Nice try, writers.

Despite being filled with some really idiotic stuff, "Occupation" and "Resistance," capped off the year's most disappointing show with an incredibly satisfying finale. It dropped the Disneyfication, actually killed people (poor Gonzales), and finally used its idea of time travel well. It's obvious the producers, in hopes of seeing this thing go for seven years, opted to play the slow game in Season 1 when they should have skipped the memory-eating viruses and prehistoric pigeons and jumped straight into the war with the future. Instead, we got a somewhat watchable four-hour movie that might have made the cut on Syfy, with several episodes of irrelevant mess in between.

I'm actually going to miss Terra Nova, as it provided almost the same kind of entertaining weekly turd-fest as The Event. But have no fear: Some network will shovel another poor excuse for science-fiction our way soon. And then we'll all tune in and meet up here once again. Thanks for reading, folks. Time to get to work on some Maddy and Mark fan fiction.

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