I don't usually like to discuss shows in terms of extra-textual elements, but there were two moments during Terra Nova's run time – but not on the show itself – that I think are impossible to avoid mention. The first was a set of three ads part-way through the episode. First, a Toys R Us ad for a Christmas sale. Second, a Victoria's Secret ad featuring lots of ladies in bras. Third, an ad for the upcoming Napoleon Dynamite series. If there's any better indication that Terra Nova is aiming to be all things to all people, I haven't seen it.
Of course, it's not really succeeding in that, largely because, well, it's incompetent. For example, at the end of the last episode two weeks ago, we got a preview for the explosive next episode, which had the invasion arriving in two weeks! Two weeks later, what do we get? It's not the invasion. It's....basically a boring part two from the last episode, where Skye's actions as the spy get released. The promo for the real finale next week seemed almost – if not totally – identical to the promo from the last episode. In other words, it was a bait-and-switch. If Terra Nova as a whole can't be described as a massive bait-and-switch, I don't really know what can. You want drama? An exciting premise? Dinosaurs? War between factions? Here, have a storyline about a girl who needs a part to get her computer fixed!
I mean, I have no problem with shows that take a breather before a wild climax. This was something that Joss Whedon shows did extremely well, with Angel's finale being a perfect example, or Buffy's “The Prom.” This...was not that. This was the show thinking we still really cared about the Sixer spy plot and the revelation that it was Skye.
For a minute, I almost did. When Skye's mother told her to stop spying after Skye came clean, there was actual acting going on! There was, for a minute, something close to a reason for why I vaguely cared about this character once upon a time. But it was fleeting. Then we're right back to Terra Nova going through the motions of putting its plot into effect. I just don't care. I don't care about any of these characters, so this drama doesn't work.
Of course, it hurts that the villains have moved into cartoonish territory. Both Mira and especially Lucas lose any kind of depth when they threaten Skye's sick mother if she doesn't do exactly what she's told. The character development we've seen from Mira the last couple of episodes? Gone. Totally gone. Lucas, having an interesting rivalry with his father? Nah, it's just Freudian bullshit.
Each of the characters also seems to be playing roles from different kinds of series. The Shannons, other than occasionally Jim, are acting out roles from a generic family drama, regardless of setting. Stephen Lang is reinterpreting pulp science fiction. Lucas is chewing scenery like a Star Trek guest star villain. Skye's doing a legitimate drama when she gets the chance. It's a bizarre hodgepodge of different elements, never baked into something great, even though many of the ingredients are available.
- Lucas threatens Skye's sick mom. Because, you know, VILLAIN.
- “The two of us, we suffer from a Shakespearean relationship that borders on Greek tragedy.”
- “One blast from your pistol could fracture the whole thing. And you could be cut off from the future for good. What would happen then?” I dunno, the show would turn awesome?