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TERRA NOVA Forgets It’s Supposed to Be Ambitious
When I take myself out of the newest episode of Terra Nova, the biggest problem the series faces becomes very evident. There aren’t enough dinosaurs. As has been the trend so far, “What Remains” is a perfectly well done episode of television, using the common plot device of memory loss to take a closer look at the base personality of some of our characters. It’s a tried and true storyline, but that’s the thing. It has been done and been done very well by many other shows. After last week’s “Instinct” that dealt with the consequences of disrupting migratory patterns, we get something you could see on any series. Terra Nova should, at least in its infancy, be telling stories only it can tell.
Ultimately, though, Terra Nova does do plenty right. As a drama, the smartest move it can make is to focus its storylines on the characters and the conflicts between them. Jim and Malcolm’s rivalry doesn’t take precedence, but it does inform whom these people are. It makes what’s happening to them more believable ,because they are going through believable emotions.
It’s curious for a series to do an amnesia episode so early in its run. This is something usually saved for Season 4 or 5, after we’ve had a few years to really build up the characters, and then the amnesia can act as a way to take us back to the earlier version. Here these are the earliest versions of the characters we know, so when they go back in time mentally we have nothing to compare the change to. Using Elisabeth as an example, except for her initial confusion regarding where she is ,you’d hardly be able to tell she thinks she’s in college, because she seems to be behaving the way she has since the pilot–she just doesn’t remember her family. The character seemingly retained all her knowledge of medicine and some genetic engineering. That doesn’t make sense. Are we supposed to believe she knew everything a doctor should and more when she was in college?
Taylor is a better example of how to wipe someone’s memory. He thinks he’s in a war in Somalia and his wife and son have been kidnapped. This is a more savage, terrified Taylor bent on saving his family. He becomes a completely different person, and his talk of the war makes me want to learn more about him. As I said in my review for the pilot, Taylor is the most interesting character on the show and is deeply involved in the bigger mythology. We need more of him.
The side stories involving the kids and their respective love interests felt pretty flat and boring. The only interesting bit was finding out whom the mole at Terra Nova is and that the Sixers have a way to communicate with the future. It looks like Josh will become a pawn of the Sixers, which is immediately more interesting than any of the girls he has crushes on.
I think this episode would have played out better at a different point in this series’ lifespan, at a point where we’re sick of seeing dinosaurs. Right now I want to see a more ambitious show, something that takes full advantage of where they are.