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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Terra Nova: The Portal Doesn't Go Both Ways

Terra Nova
Episode 105
"The Runaway"

For the second episode in a row, I feel like the show has (i) taken a nice step towards fleshing out the complexity of the more interesting characters (e.g., Taylor is both paternal and fierce, open and guarded like a vault, good and bad; Mira is doing what she's doing to be reunited with her family; Malcolm has got some Occupy Wall Street in him) and (ii) revealed that though we might be 85 million years in the past, that doesn't mean that the creepy hand of 2149 isn't maybe still turning and manipulating things.  In a nutshell, tonight's episode focuses on Mira's manipulative use of a little girl (Mira is holding the girl's brother hostage which is ironic based on what we learn about Mira and her recruitment into her Sixer role) posing as a runaway to access a hidden container in Mira's old house and how Jim and Taylor view the use of children as weapons in the ongoing skirmish war between the Sixers and Terra Nova. Also, Reynolds thinks he is in a television depiction of 1950s era courting rituals. Lets unpack the episode and see what we see, mmm k?

I like this Commander Taylor voiceover opening; reminds me of Person of Interest with its efficient explanation of the show's basic premise. Dying Earth, portal, new beginnings, danger.  Boom, you newbie are now caught up.

We’ve got a Sixer inbound and all hell breaks loose on the wall. A chaotic manhunt through the jungle reveals the rogue Sixer to be a little girl. Oh dammit, we still have the Shannon Family-Astronaut Walk into Pangaea title sequence?  Totally not necessary with the Taylor voiceover opening. Note to producers, you don’t need to introduce the show twice.  I won’t even bill you for that little advice.

We return from redundant opening to Lil’ Sixer being treated in the clinic, "This won't hurt" is the oldest lie told by medical professionals.  When nurse tries it on Lil’ Sixer, she gets kicked for her trespasses and Lil’ Sixer takes off.  She doesn’t get very far as her tactical maneuvering has landed her under a desk.  Elisabeth gets Taylor to back off with the military pressure and tries simply talking to Lil’ Sixer.  Elizabeth finds out her name is Lea Marcos and both her parents are dead, mom by cancer, dad by Slasher attack.  Ah, she’s Angry Orphan Annie Lea.  Lea mentions she lost her bag during the chase and she’s generally pretty bummed. 

Lea says she ran away because she was hungry; Mira doesn’t feed her much beyond scraps.  Her grand plan was to make it back to the portal, back to 2149 and to her Nana who always has food and lives in New West Texas. Taylor gets nostalgic and tells Lea he remembers her from when she was a little peanut. He also remembers she had a brother, Sam. Taylor is wistful as he remembers when knew everyone's name in Terra Nova.  Good story grandpa. Can we move along now?  Lea knows Taylor as the bad man. Also, Mira will hurt her for running away. The Shannons have the unfortunate task of telling Lea that the portal doesn't go both ways. You’d thinks portals would be more open minded and experimental in the future.  Taylor admires her moxy and immediately sees her as a tool to be used in the fight with Mira.  Jim is less gung-ho.  But, she kind of hates Taylor right now so they are going to need to gain her trust.  Taylor is basically waving a sign that says “Volunteer your house for Lea to stay in Jim” when Elisabeth sees the neon blinking lights and steps up to offer the house herself.  Jim … is not pleased.  Josh … is even less pleased since he is going to have to move to the couch during her stay. What a douchebag that kid is.  Angry Orphan Annie needs some love you tool.  As Elisabeth introduces the family to Lea, she exposits to her (us) for no apparent reason that Maddy (I am abandoning my campaign to spell her name with an “ie” at  the end) is starting an apprenticeship at the infirmary with her tomorrow. Ok, YAY Maddy!

Before Elisabeth and Maddy are even done making up her bed, she climbs into it, throws a blanket over her head and passes out.  Though, not before playing with the light as if it’s the first time she’s ever seen such a thing … which maybe it is considering the Sixers live like animals in the forest?  Next day, Lt. Wash and a Red Shirt are out looking for her bag. Just as they find it, an Ewok nun-chuck thing knocks Red Shirt over and drags him out of sight and then Wash is down. However, this is not the work of Ewoks, but rather, a Sixer attack. Wash uses super sonic blaster on one of them while on her back and then magically levitates herself back into a standing position (that was a very in the Matrix move). A main feature of the Sixer attack plan seems to be screaming. Not sure how effective that is going to be in the long run.  Wash and a Sixer are running for the gun, running for the gun, running for the gun. Before they get to the gun, Wash takes them all out prehistoric ninja style. That is, until Mira shows up and bashes her in the face. That's the second week in a row we've had a punch to commercials.

The next morning, Lea has slept 14 hours and refused to bath. Lea is my three year old son as it turns out.  Maddy has dressed her in a yellow dress (now, if only her eyeball were completely white, she’d look just like Orphan Annie) but drew the line at brushing her ‘do. She’s also very hungry again. Since the primary caregiver in the family, Maddy, has to start work today, douchebag Josh is tasked with babysitting. God, they’ll all be dead by lunch. 

As we check in on Maddy’s first day rounds, we see her almost vomit as her mom undresses a festering wound. Outside in the compound, Taylor is filling in Jim on Mission: Bag Retrieval.  Suddenly, a Sixer inbound call comes up and hall breaks loose again. Lea hears the commotion back I the Shannon house and zombie girls the following line, "they've come for me." Josh reassures himself Lea that no one gets through the gate without Taylor's leave. Outside the gate, Mira is in full war paint … and there are lots of Sixers. In fact, I think this is the most we've seen of them at once. Taylor and his many sidearm guns parley with Mira right there outside the gate. You know, they have a very civil relationship for two people intent on killing each other (which makes me suspicious that there’s hanky panky, double cross going on somewhere). Mira wants Lea back. Taylor agrees to let Lea choose where she goes but won’t bring her out until Wash and the Red Shirt are freed.  Mira agrees (causing a heckle from her subordinate) and Taylor sends for Lea.  Josh runs to tattle to his mom and sister that Jim is bringing Lea to the gate.  No one likes a tattle tale Josh.  So Lea? What say you?   Lea pretty defiantly says she wants to say and that Mira can kiss her grits (I might be paraphrasing).  Mira’s very mature response is that they can keep Lea, she’s dead to Mira.  Man, that kid is going to have some time on the couch when she gets older.  As they're leaving, Taylor warns Mira that she’s come upon his gate twice; if there is a third time, Taylor is going to war. 

Taylor is now really super totally convinced they have a mole in the colony because how else could Mira have figured out they has Lea so fast?  Well, it’s the only colony in this time period so … if she was anywhere, that’s as good a guess as any but I digress.  Taylor wants Jim to find mole (they should task Anderson Cooper with helping him). Meanwhile, Taylor makes some inroads with Lea and gets her to reveal that Mira moves the Sixers around a lot. They make a playdate to look over some maps and figure out where her camp is. Hopefully, Paddington Bear is invited to the tea party portion of the gathering.  As Lea walks through the marketplace (that’s a generic term I use for downtown Terra Nova), the townfolk are putting on the full Magical Kingdom kindness tour of happiness; Lea is clearly loving the attention and affection. The “Lea is Awesome” tour ends with a family toast at the Shannon dinner. They also toast Maddy as the future Dr. Shannon.

When Jim uncovered link between a scientist named Stanley who was OTG (those damn kids have got me saying it now) during the suspicious mole-leak time period, Taylor pretty much wets himself  You see, Stanley came over to Terra Nova on the 6th Pilgrimage (you’ll remember that the Sixers are so named because they all came from the 6th Pilgrimage) but didn't leave with Mira when she rebelled (Taylor tells us that only about half of the 6P people did). Jim and Taylor find Stanley out doing science things and Taylor begins a third degree interrogation.  Malcolm comes to Stanley’s rescue and uses his shield of incredulity to protect Stanley from the fascist regime beating upon him.  He makes a cheeky remark about the lack of lawyers and denial of rights. When Jim steps in to just say they were asking some basic questions, Malcolm makes an allusion to his father, saying that “they” just began with some questions at the 2119 Edinburgh Hearings. I cannot wait until the Terra Nova encyclopedia comes out with the full mythology of the 22nd Century filled in (and the latter 21st Century too for that matter).

Maddy is prepping Lea on her placement test which will determine her proper level of schooling. As soon as Elisabeth and Maddy drop her at the schoolhouse door, Lea is outta there.  On the other side of Terra Nova, Reynolds works up the nerve to approach Jim and begins with, "as you know, I've begun the initial stages of the courting of Maddy."  Very nice approach with the dad-cop.   Before he can shoot Reynolds, Jim is called away by Wash to investigate a home break-at the McMillan’s.  Turns out the thief had a very specific destination; they’ve ripped up the living room floor and exposed a hidey hole (which is now empty).  The McMillans didn’t even know about the hideyhole; hey, who used to own this house?  Yep, you guessed it – Mira!!!  Anyone seen Lea lately?  Ruh-roh.  Jim and company track and corner her in the woods and ask her what she took. 

When we return, we learn she took some kind of container, which does not appear to be able to open in any way shape or form (perhaps its like a Snitch and it will open at the close? Harry Potter? Anyone? No? ok.). Anyway, Taylor and Jim are incensed that Lea was a plant and that Mira played them like a fiddle (I hope the art of the fiddle has not been lost in the 22nd Century or that its at least been rediscovered in prehistoric times.) Lea isn’t up on too much knowledge about the container or why Mira wants it; she only really knows that Mira is holding her brother hostage and she’ll hurt him if Lea doesn’t retrieve the container.  I am refraining from making Se7en references and jokes about what’s in the box because that movie is scary ya’ll and you should not joke about it … though Brad Pitt yelling in his whiny man voice about what’s in the box is pretty effing funny. Anyway, I digress more.  

Back at Bad Job Choice Central, Maddy is about to toss her cookies as her mom goes t drain a pustule that looks like a ginormous white pimple.  Gross. Thanks for the nice interlude.

Jim has doubts about not believing Lea; what if she is telling the truth this time. Jim is the character in the Boy Who Cried Wolf that kept schlepping out to see what the boy was crying about every freaking time, well past even the boy finding it funny. Dumbass.  Taylor only sees a trap (which is probably why he’s a Commander and Jim doesn’t even have his own rover). Go home and be with your family Jim, let this one go, says Taylor.

Back at the Shannon’s, Josh snits about how maybe Maddy is just perfect and not super perfect or some shit. Dick. Even numnuts Jim tells him to for the love of god, be quiet. When Josh snits back to his room he finds a note left behind by Lea that says, "I'm sorry, I had too" followed by some eyes crying. Jim immediately accepts this as indisputable proof that she was telling the truth about Sam the Hostage; the pre-mediated sadness of it all really sells it for him I think.  Of course, he doesn’t stop to think that If she was clever enough to infiltrate the camp and steal the container, isn't it possible that she picked up on unbelievable collective gullibility of the Shannon family and is still playing them? I think Taylor would agree with me here.

Maddy and Reynolds are in the marketplace and he wants to try out some more of his romance prose; he’d like to formally declare his intentions for her and then repeats her full name in case she is confused.  He clarifies that wants to "court" her. Heh, is that what the kids are calling it these days. *Rim Shot* Reynolds explains that father figure Taylor has specific rules on courting rituals. I find these Many Faces of Taylor to be Fascinating and I hope they really explore them. 

Jim has snuck out into the jungles to find Sam. Because Jim sucks at forest survival training, he gets caught up in a hunter's trap and loses his gun in the process. Its all very Luke in the ice cave except its dinos about to eat him instead of a Wampa.  Something sonic blasts the dino that's nipping at Jim's head. Oh hi Mira!  After freeing Jim from the trap and bringing him into her forest canopy lair, she tells Jim that Sam was in no real danger, she only threatened Lea with his safety in order to motivate Lea to do the very best she was capable of.  What’s in the box Mira? No answer. Ok, let's talk about Taylor and Jim instead. Mira knows Taylor likes Jim; though it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that, Jim, reveals that he knows she knows he knows she’s got a spy in the colony.  Then, they rehash how Jim saved Taylor’s life in the Pilot when the rogue Sixer tried to assassinate him and Jim left weeding duty to flying tackle him.  I guess Jim owes his job to Mira. So … what's your job Mira? Well Jim, its complicated. You see, Taylor has really pissed off some powerful people back in 2149 AND they want him gone. Gone?!? Jim sucks on his Kool Aid and clutches his pearls at the thought, why its Taylor that makes Terra Nova work, you can’t make him gone.  If you are smart Mira, then what's Terra Nova really about, hmmm? Mira says she wants Jim to be on the right side if history. If not for him, then for his family. There’s going to be a reckoning soon and when its comes, she warns him that he doesn’t want to be next to Taylor.  Mira’s motivation is that “they” (presumably the powerful people in 2149) have her family and if she completes her job, she gets them back.  You can see how she knew the kidnap and threaten Sam thing would work on Lea … pay it forward Mira.  Who's “they” Mira?  Instead of answering him, she sets him free. Looking back on it, that was a maddeningly vague and unsatisfying conversation in which more questions were raised than answered. Jim is not a good investigative cop.  If this was happening in 21st Century Virginia, Gibbs would have made Mira spill her guts already.

Wrap Ups! Back at camp, Jim has brought Sam to Lea. Taylor wants to know if Jim was convinced by the Sixer lifestyle. Jim non answers by saying he was too distracted by them breaking his ribs.  Taylor also asks Jim if there's anything he should know … Jim doesn't say anything of note, especially not about the powerful people putting a bounty on his head. Taylor sends him to get his broken ribs taped and its clear that some of the sheen has come off of his Saint Taylor statue. We learn from Elisabeth that she has freed Maddy from her epic fail of an apprenticeship. Taylor is having Malcolm try, unsuccessfully, to open the container. No luck so far. We see Malcolm put it away in a rolling cabinet … given his political views n the state of democracy in Terra Nova, Malcolm has rocketed up my list of suspects (though that list contains everyone who’s last name isn’t Shannon). Lea gives Jim big hug and says thank you. And we close on that happy scene.  Oooh, I feel trouble’s a brewin’.

Dear producers, I understand her storyline is tied to Josh having plot but I am not happy about the 100% less Skye featured in this episode. Please correct this situation.

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