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Recap: 'Terra Nova' - 'Nightfall'

Some pulpy fun, finally...but was it by design or accident?

<p>Stephen Lang and Jason O'Mara of &quot;Terra Nova&quot;</p>
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Stephen Lang and Jason O'Mara of "Terra Nova"

Credit: FOX

I’ve been plenty hard on “Terra Nova” these past few months. I don’t regret it, but I’m running out of finding new ways to tell you the same reasons it doesn’t work. Because by and large, each episode is a variation on one of the systemic problems that keep this show from at least being entertaining. (I’m not sure it will ever get to “good,” but the masochist in me keeps hope alive.) No show with time travel, dinosaurs, and conspiracies that cross both centuries and realities should be this pedestrian. Yet, here we are. “Nightfall” was probably the best episode since the pilot, but saying that is damning it with faint praise.

But rather than have me tell you why it’s faint praise, I chose to follow the lead of the show and lean on my inside man to tell you what went down tonight. That’s right: it’s not only the Sixers that have a double agent in their midst. Me? I got my buddy Nyko on the scene to give you all the insider perspective. Who is Nyko? He’s a nykoraptor, of course: a fictional dinosaur made up for the show in case any remaining velociraptors might sue for defamation. (OK, fine: that’s probably not the real reason. But I like the idea of velociraptors and cavemen hanging out, both complaining about stereotypes perpetrated against them by modern pop culture.)
 
I asked Nyko to give me an up close and personal view of life in his homeland since Taylor and Company burst through the portal and set up camp. Take it away, Nyko!
 
***
 
Aw, thanks bro. Glad to finally offer my take on “Terra Nova,” because while it’s been great reading your takes over the past few weeks, it’s just different being here in the thick of things. But trust me: me and the other nykoraptors have been just as bored as you. Sure, we attack the occasional human over the age of 25. (We don’t attack CHILDREN. Sheesh. We’re not animals, Ryan. Well, yes, technically, we are, but not THAT kind.) But mostly, our hearts haven’t been into it. Back when it was just that one guy roaming about on his own, we used to play “Pin the Tail on the Taylor.” That was fun, though he was a surprisingly nimble dude. After that, the others arrived, they built that precious camp, and mostly, we’ve been amused watching them puff themselves up into a false sense of security. You humans are just adorable, I tell you.
 
But “adorable” doesn’t translate into “exciting television,” I’ll grant you that. We kick it old school (like “85 million years in the past” old school), so we’re used to things moving along at a leisurely pace. But I’ve gotten a glimpse through the portal, and man, the future moves FAST. You all have the attention spans of a pack of acceraptors after it chows down on a group of Sixers. The sugar rush from those would-be freedom fighters is intense! So it must be painful for you to watch what should have been an exciting premise marred down by an least half an episode of worthless stalling. I mean, we nykos are all about moppets crawling through tunnels and all, but wouldn’t you rather watch one of our giant bretheren barreling through the jungle like a battering ram? I know! Us too! And we’re dinosaurs! I can’t imagine how much more exciting for you that must have been. For you, it was a glimpse into the promise of what “Terra Nova” was supposed to be. For us, it was “Taco Tuesday.”
 
But good on “Terra Nova” for finally owning up to its inherently silly premise and straight up delivering some B-movie goodness. We nykos love us a good B-movie! We throw a tarp up over the fence surrounding the colony once a month and screen “One Million Years B.C.” for all the cinephiles in the jungle. So watching a meteor shower set off an EMP that left the colony helpless from attacks by either the Sixers or the various beasts in the jungle seemed like a fine premise for an action-heavy episode. After all, no colony 85 million years in the past in a dinosaur-infested jungle should have as many first-world problems as “Terra Nova” does. Did you hear how relieved Elisabeth was about the ability to once again make coffee? Ugh. And you wonder why all those pterosaurs kept interrupting the Shannons’ booty call: it’s bad enough that they had a third child illegally in the future. The pterosaurs couldn’t deal with the idea of a fourth child bearing their genes running amok. It’s just like Notorious E.M.P. always said: mo’ moppets, mo’ problems.
 
Nearly everything about what this nyko deemed the A plot worked: the EMP attack led naturally to Mira and company seizing the moment to retrieve her mystery box. Rather than have another annoying stand-off outside the fence, the Sixers used a combination of fire and weaponry to guide my main man Stanley right for the “Terra Nova” fence. (Ryan: don’t tell the other humans, because it’ll hurt their feelings: we can totally get by the fence anytime we want. We just don’t want a bunch of mopey humans in our neighborhood. Totally brings down the property values.) The fight that ensued over the box wasn’t exactly “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dino,” but still got actual ACTION onscreen. And given that half of the cool sequences of the show actually happened during commercial breaks during the first few episodes after the pilot, this is a major improvement for “Terra Nova.”
 
(What? You want to know what those off-screen missions were like? Dude. SO. AWESOME. Life-changing. Breathtaking action mixed with genuine pathos that had me in awe of your species. But I don’t want to tell you more. I can already see your brows furrowing and lips trembling.)
 
All of this tied back finally to Lucas, Taylor’s son. Now, we nykos have seen him in the jungle all along, defacing every rock possible with his crazy equations. Now we know that the box contains even more variables from the future, transported by Mira in order to allow Lucas to do his work. At this point, half of the nykos think Taylor’s the bad guy, and half of us think he’s actually a noble man who is truly trying to create a better world for those sent back. You should see our online message boards: things are getting heated, Ryan. But mostly, we’re excited that the show is picking up threads seemingly abandoned from the pilot. We read all those articles about how this show was supposed to live and die by our affection for the family, but really, we’re all about dino action and portal intrigue at this point.
 
Because let’s face it, the family is getting in the way of the good stuff right now. Crucial episode time that could have been dedicated to fashioning tonight’s “Terra Nova” into “Helm’s Deep Plus Dinosaurs” was instead spent on moppets, awkward muddy first kisses, and pulling a parasite out of a dude we barely know. Did you read what I just wrote? “Helm’s Deep Plus Dinosaurs”! I am literally shaking with delight just typing that out. I’m a nerdy nyko, I’ll give you that, but still: who watching “Terra Nova” right now is a Maddie/Reynolds ‘shipper? Who viewed their “Attack of the Clones”-esque picnic and thought, “Hells yes, this is the show I signed up for!” Had the show snuck in a sneak-attack love story that gripped fans unexpectedly, sure, that would have been a welcome addition. I’m down with a solid love story in the middle of my B-movie, if it’s done well. But it seems like the show is just ticking off a box, rather than telling a story that’s vital to the overall proceedings.
 
It’s almost like “Terra Nova” is ashamed of being stupid fun, in much the way that we’re ashamed of just how stupid most of this show has been up to this point. When Taylor screamed, “SONIC WAVE!” or Mira implored her horde to drive my main man Stanley, “….ALL THE WAY TO TERRA NOVA!”, we were all in. We were munching popcorn with a fervor most “Terra Nova” fans wish we’d munch on Josh. (We’re getting there. It’ll be during sweeps. FOX asked us to wait until now. It’s a ratings thing, apparently.) How many scripted shows on air right now seek to completely and solely entertain at this point? Not enough, as far as we’re concerned. Not every band can write a “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band,” and not every drama can be “The Sopranos” or “Mad Men.” That’s just the way the prehistoric cookie crumbles. There’s a misplaced emphasis for many shows on being somehow “important,” when all these shows should be doing is having fun with the great concepts they concoct. We’re a bunch of dinosaurs amidst a bunch of people who should be fighting tooth and nail to stay alive at every given moment. Instead, they’re trapped inside Club Med, leaving us on the outside bored to tears and audiences at home feeling much the same way.
 
In short, “Terra Nova”, tear down the fence. No, not the literal fence between us and your delicious flesh. As mentioned before, we can get past that the way Richard Alpert could get past the sonic fence in “Lost.” (We’re streaming it on Netflix here as we speak. DON’T SPOIL THE END FOR US, MCGEE!) No, we nykos want the show to tear down the fence between what it’s trying to be and what it really is. Put aside any pretenses of being a solid family drama and just give us the B-movie goodness. There were glimpses of them tonight, and they were great. Accepting your limitations will actually allow you to get out of the rut you’ve been in since the start. Accept your status as an expensive pulp indulgence, and in doing so you’ll indulge what little audience is left. They have been waiting patiently for you to realize what they’ve known all along. Episodes like this give them hope that they haven’t been waiting in vain. Don’t let them down.
 
Well, that’s all for me, Ryan. Gotta get back to the pack now. Check in with you soon, buddy!
 
***  
 
Well, that was might nice of Nyko. Let’s hope “Terra Nova” heeds his wise words.
 
What did you think of “Nightfall?” A step up from previous episodes, or just another misfire? Are you intrigued by the mythological developments, or is the show moving too fast/slow in that respect? Should the Shannons be the focal point of the show, or should attention be directed elsewhere? Sound off below!
 

 

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