Terra Nova Watch: Season Finale - Occupation, Resistance

By Josh Raymer 2011-12-20 00:00:07 discussion comments
Terra Nova Watch: Season Finale - Occupation, Resistance image
What a revelation!

Who knew Terra Nova was capable of such a tightly-paced episode that could be well-written and deliver some genuine action? The 2-hour finale we were treated to tonight was the show we should have gotten all along – a combination of Lost and Jurassic Park with a family story at the core. The reason tonight’s finale was so wildly entertaining and tense was because it involved honest-to-God stakes. These weren’t nebulous threats like “Lucas is going to make the portal go both ways!” or “Mira is going to break into the colony and steal a box!” that we’ve gotten in the past. These stakes were life or death, killed or be killed. The enemy was very real and heavily armed. The constant threat of death or destruction was the engine that powered this episode and gave Terra Nova a newfound focus, even if this happens to be the show’s final hour. At least it was its finest hour.

One last terrible special effect for the road.

The first half of tonight’s finale, “Occupation,” got off to a rocking start with the arrival of the 11th Pilgrimage and one poor sap with a bomb strapped to this chest. We got some crucial information about how the portal operates and why destroying it wouldn’t do the colonists any good. Well done, writers (WDW from here forward). Following our final cheesy special effect of the season – that awful-looking explosion – we were treated to some spectacular effects work with the man on fire amidst the ensuing chaos. Jim’s coma and his awakening were also handled exceptionally well with the ringing noise and the quick shots of Terra Nova’s startling new reality. This was the closest Terra Nova has ever come to feeling cinematic and it set the tone for the rest of the episode in a very good way.

The long road to resistance.

The finale also impressed because the plot flowed smoothly from one beat to the next and didn’t hit any significant snares along the way. Blowing up the portal seemed like a questionable decision until it was revealed that severing the existing tether to 2149 allowed the Phoenix Group to come in behind Taylor’s defenses and attack a near-defenseless colony. WDW. We get a surprising gut punch early when we learn that the explosion killed Kara. Josh is understandably devastated and shares a nice moment with his father at their home. Unlike previous episodes, Josh has some great motivation for his actions later on and the character shows some real maturity during such a difficult time. In fact, all of the Shannon children were more likable tonight, even the insufferable Zoe, whose big moment was a heartwarming scene with Taylor in the second hour. The improved family dynamics had me hoping the Shannon family would come out of the finale in one piece, and after my feelings last week, that’s saying something.

Malcolm was utilized well in this episode and it was refreshing to see his normal bickering with Jim put on the back burner for the purposes of helping Jim avoid detection. Jim’s deaf-and-confused act was brilliant and effective, as was his escape from the colony aboard a Phoenix Group convoy. The map coordinates Taylor sent via bullet was another piece of inspired writing and it helped jump start the episode once the two biggest players in Terra Nova – Jim and Taylor – were reunited in the jungle. Before we proceed, however, I have to mention the amazing CG dinosaurs that were on display tonight. Both the harmless one and the ferocious, head-munching one served a purpose – the latter was used to ratchet up the tension in Jim’s climactic scene and the former helped illustrate just how heartless the Phoenix Group can be when it wants something. Dinosaurs that look good and serve the story? WDW.

Josh and Jim walk into a bar…and kick some ass.

Josh nearly made up for an entire season of worthlessness when he snapped and slugged Lucas in Boylan’s bar. Each time a punch landed you could almost see Jim’s son shed his whiny, selfish exterior and transform into a brave young man. Leave it to Jim to show his son how it’s done once Skye alerts him that Josh is being beaten to death. Jim’s bar brawl was one of the best fights you’ll find on TV and a great reminder that Terra Nova’s only cop can kick some serious ass. It also continued the sustained action established by the bomb deactivation and accelerated the storyline. With Jim’s secret revealed, it was time for him and his family to get the hell out of Terra Nova. Enter Mrs. Elisabeth Shannon…

…with the finale’s underrated badass moment. In an episode packed with defining character moments, this one stood out for me because I underestimated Elisabeth’s resolve. While she might be a doctor who’s bound by the Hippocratic Oath to save people, she’s just as willing as her husband to take a risk if it means saving her family. Her fake injection of the parasites into Weaver was a smooth move helped along by a pretty dumb antagonist (and someone who definitely deserved to get eaten by a dinosaur). With Weaver’s help, Jim went free and the Shannon family prepared to exit the colony. But things became more difficult once their attempted escape was discovered. The only person who could help was Washington, who feels responsible for the fall of Terra Nova – and the death of 26 soldiers – and wanted to redeem herself. She got a grand exit here as she helped the Shannons escape and uttered a chilling final line before Lucas shot her in the head. R.I.P. Washington. You were criminally underdeveloped but died a hero’s death.

You asked for more explosions, right?

Rattled by Washington’s death, Jim and Taylor decide the best way to survive the onslaught from 2149 is to destroy Hope Plaza and permanently detach Terra Nova from the future. It’s a risky plan that hints at a more focused narrative in the second season. By cutting the colony off from 2149, Terra Nova will be on its own and the effects of isolation open up some interesting storytelling opportunities should this show be blessed with a second season. But carrying out such a plan means sending Jim through the portal with a bomb and a sleeping dinosaur in tow. It also means ambushing Lucas, which Skye does with some well-aimed manipulation. Of course, Lucas escapes and makes his way on foot toward the portal without realizing that his father is waiting to pounce on him from the foliage. Those looking forward to a father-son showdown got what they came for as Lucas and Taylor finally came to blows. I do have two tiny gripes about their scene though: 1) sure, it’s his son, but Taylor should be smarter than to let Lucas reach up and hug him like that and 2) we of course knew Lucas would scamper off after being shot but it added a horror movie vibe to the proceedings that felt out place.

Despite his escape, Lucas isn’t able to foil his father’s plan and Jim gets sent back to 2149. It’s after his arrival that his insane plan is revealed: awaken dinosaur, run like crazy, plant bomb, outrun dinosaur to the portal before it explodes. No wonder Elisabeth was worried! We’re treated to some surprisingly vicious fatalities as the pissed-off dinosaur starts chomping on the Phoenix Group’s financial backers like a dog playing with a chew toy. Jim runs into some snags but manages to arm the bomb and set in motion his dramatic escape – tunnel exploding in a visceral clash of orange and blue, hungry dinosaur in hot pursuit and the only link to Terra Nova about to be eviscerated. Jim’s thankfully transported back (sans dinosaur) not far from where his wife is searching for him. I have to give the show props for delivering suspense and action in the final half hour. We’ve seen plenty of action heroes outrun an explosion but rarely has it looked as cool as it did tonight on Terra Nova.

Setting in motion what might never come to pass.

We’re left with an abundance of loose ends for a potential second season to address, beginning with the relocation of the Phoenix Group from the colony to the Badlands. While we’ll discuss their motives in a second, I got a whiff of Lost potential with this storyline. Anyone else thinking this could play out similar to the way the “castaways versus the Others” storyline did? I would personally love to see the best army money can buy clash with a group of colonists who must either survive or perish. Our other big cliffhanger is the discovery of wreckage from a 1800s ship that was found in the Badlands. How did it wind up in Terra Nova? My guess is that it came through a second fracture that opened long before 2149; perhaps the Bermuda Triangle? That would explain the Phoenix Group’s eagerness to secure the area – if they believe a second fracture exists, who better to lead them home than portal master Lucas? Let’s not forget Mira either, who took a backseat in this episode but is a total wildcard for next season. Now that getting back to her daughter seems impossible, who knows where her loyalties will fall.

Let’s wrap this season up with a big bow.

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t the biggest Terra Nova fan before tonight. I’ve rolled my eyes more times that I can count this season for a number of well-documented reasons. But the finale completely redeemed this show and showed me its true potential. Instead of a plodding, schlocky family show with boring characters and minimal action, Terra Nova can provide a cinematic experience on a TV budget. When you consider the staggering amount of expensive effects that tonight’s show had, it’s easy to see why the Terra Nova trotted out cheesy dinosaurs so many times this season. It really was saving the best for last. Hopefully the show has learned the value of withholding special effects for big moments and won’t repeat the same mistakes in its second season. While things look grim for that second season to actually become a reality, Terra Nova did everything it could to secure its future with “Occupation” and “Resistance.” It’s unfortunate the show can’t rewrite its past to save its future, but a killer finale is the next best thing.

Random thought from this episode

Is this the same show I’ve been watching for 10 weeks now?

Big question(s) we’re left to ponder

Will Terra Nova be renewed for a second season? If so, which cliffhanger will get the most attention next season?
discussion
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