Terra Nova: Now You're Playing With Portals

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For most serialized sci-fi dramas, "Previously on..." segments are a staple. Things be all complicated and stuff, and a refresher course before each episode is necessary to jog viewers' memories and help them keep things straight, as well as catch them up on stuff they may've missed.

But Terra Nova, a sci-fi show created for the masses, doesn't ever use "Previously on..." segments, oddly enough. There's a reason for that: The show doesn't need 'em. Because episodes like "Within" basically serve to recap things we already know. They're an hour's worth of the characters catching up to what the audience has been told over the last few episodes.

"Within" was like opening a bunch of Christmas (or "holiday"!) gifts from your family after telling them exactly what you wanted in a detailed list. We already knew that Lucas was working on making the portal work both ways and that Lucas's employers were planning to come to Terra Nova to mine the planet for all it has. We already knew that Taylor and Lucas had a falling out. We already knew that Maddy really, really likes to study. We already knew that Skye was a spy for the Sixers, thanks to goofy storytelling that exposed her as the mole at the beginning of the last new episode.

Quick note on the mole storyline: Maybe I'm the crazy one here, but for my Terra Bucks, the most interesting thing about smoking out a mole is the build up to finding out who the mole is. It isn't showing us how a security force goes about trying to trick a teenage girl over the course of two episodes. That's just backwards storytelling that has no regard for tension. And what kind of spy uses her interrogator's son as an alibi? Why is it that everyone who should stay as far away as possible from Josh ends up in some weird partnership with him? I'm looking at you, Boylan. These people, I tell you! I'm beginning to think that coming through the portal requires a lobotomy. Yeah, I said it. These people are dumb.

So, since everything that happened in last night's episode was stuff we already knew was going to happen, let's look at where things stand now. Taylor ended the episode with a rousing speech, prepping his colony for an all-out war against the goons who are sure to come through on the 11th Pilgrimage. There's only one problem: Did the citizens of Terra Nova agree to take up arms and risk their lives? Everyone nodded and seemed ready to kick some ass, but isn't the colony a collective and not a military operation? If I'm the assistant director of agriculture at Terra Nova, I might think twice about picking up a rifle and shooting at super soldiers form the future. I'm just here to grow butternut squash, man! I didn't sign up for no war! But whatever, Terra Nova was never here to make sense.

Case in point: Maddy's storyline, which I'll recap in detail because it was awesome in that "what is the point of this?" kind of way way. I love Maddy and all the odd adventures the writers send her on. I'm guessing she's the go-to character when episodes come up 10 minutes short, as she's the planet's jailbait. Last night, the "core" (read: battery) for her "Plex" (read: future iPhone) ran out, which meant her studying had to come to a halt. Do NOT cut off Maddy's studying, ever! You won't like a Maddy who can't study. She'll cut you. So Maddy went to see the Wheelchair Man of the Marketplace to negotiate a swap, and actually tried to give him an abacus in trade. Adorable nerd alert! But wouldn't you know it, he had no use for an abacus. (He says that now, but just wait until his calculator gets stolen by rabid dino-rats.) What he DID need, though, was a new wheel for his wheelchair. Seriously! He had a flat tire on his wheelchair. Times like these are what make Terra Nova essential TV, folks. After Maddy asked if she could trade him one, it was then, and only then, that he realized he needed a new wheel. I'm not in a wheelchair, so I wouldn't really know, but I would assume that if you are confined to a wheelchair, proper maintenance of said chair is pretty important. Anyway, Maddy eventually found a wheel (perfect fit!) at the military scrapyard where there are plenty of spare wheelchair parts lying around. But just Maddy's luck! Someone else got Wheelchair Man a wheel before she could! So Wheelchair Man told Maddy to ask Boylan for a replacement core, thus making every scene that came before as useless as an abacus. Maddy approached Boylan to ask for a replacement core and offered to help him with his bookkeeping (note: I think that's the only word in the English language with three back-to-back-to-back sets of double letters!). Boylan realized that she was the daughter of the head of security, and after having learned his lesson by letting Josh in all his shady enterprises, wisely decided it was a good idea not to employ her. Finally, someone learned something on this show! So instead he just gave her the core she needed. And that was another problem solved by Maddy, Teen Detective, in the most pointless way possible. I was kind of disappointed the episode didn't end with a shot of her holding an apple, though.

One more thing: Terra Nova has a knack for having its dino-cake and eating it too when it comes to combining high-tech and primitive living. When it's necessary to move the plot forward, the super-advanced technology works! There's a security cam catching Skye sneaking out to go OTG! When it's necessary to create an obstacle, the super-advanced technology is just a bunch of nuts and bolts! "Oh no! Our walkie-talkies don't work!" said the soldier guarding the portal who didn't hear Taylor's warning. The Sixers can cure Skye's mom's disease, but they can't cure their own disease. Terra Nova has a cure for the Sixers' disease, but not for Skye's mom's disease. Everything falls into place when you make shit up as you go along, eh, Terra Nova writers?

"Within" took essential steps for the series (surprise, there's going to be a fight!), but they were steps Terra Nova has been telling us it would take for several episodes. The path was already beaten (to death), and we just watched an hour of Terra Nova walking it. Boo! I guess that's what happens when there is only enough story for six episodes and you've already used up your memory-eating virus and killer bird-osaur plots. (Yes, I have to mention the virus and the birds in every Terra Nova story.) It's no secret that Terra Nova isn't a good show, but I'm now hopelessly addicted to how odd it can be. Don't go, Terra Nova!

Notes:

– Lucas used the portal to totally FUS RO DAH those soldiers. All of you who are knee-deep in Skyrim had to have thought the same thing, right?

– There once was a girl from Nantucket
Whose given nickname was Bucket,
She fell for a guy
And became a Sixer spy
But then the Terra Nova writers said "fuck it" let's just drop the whole love thing with Josh and expose her as the mole because who cares.

– Chess metaphor alert! And a weak one at that.

– How's this for leading dialogue? Taylor: "What are you going to say to me that would ever even convince me that you've talked to my son?!"

– Jim Shannon is my kind of guy. Notice how he immediately interviewed every single hot girl in Terra Nova first? Who was that medical chick? (see pic at top) Rrrowr!

– Curren is now a mole for Terra Nova in the Sixers camp, obviously. How convenient! It must have taken the writers a whole weekend to write this season!


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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