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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"The Runaway" comes to Terra Nova

     On last night's episode of FOX's Terra Nova, "The Runaway," a young girl (Emelia Burns) is found in the jungle. She is an orphaned Sixer who has run away from camp. Elisabeth (Shelley Conn) and Jim (Jason O'Mara) take her into their home. Soon thereafter, Alicia (Simone Kessell) is captured by Sixer leader Mira (Christine Adams). Strangely, though, Mira allows Alicia to return home, and the girl to stay in Terra Nova.

     Taylor (Stephen Lang) grows suspicious, and they catch the girl trying to smuggle a box back to Mira. She claims Mira is holding her brother hostage, and that's why she has betrayed them. Jim disobeys Taylor's orders to try to rescue the girl's brother. He is captured by the Sixers, but Mira lets Jim and the boy go, after telling Jim that some people from the future want Taylor taken down, and he should switch sides. The girl and boy find a new home in Terra Nova, and Jim has something to ponder.

     "The Runaway" attempts to present the Sixers as something other than flat villains. Of course this is a welcome development, but it would come across a little more effectively if their actions matches Mira's words. For example, though Mira assures Jim she isn't a threat to him, Jim tells Taylor he isn't swayed because the Sixers injure his ribs. Also, if one stops to think about it, anyone who manipulates a child, sending them into harm's way as Mira does with the orphan girl, cannot be all that altruistic. Mira may be commended on her dedication to her mission, but her methods keep her from being anything more than evil.

     The information Mira presents, however, is interesting. Whether Taylor is a good guy or a bad guy remains to be seen. He has sacrificed much for Terra Nova, and spends his life trying to make the settlement work. But there are obviously things in his past he is ashamed of. The fact that someone from the future wants to take him down is not surprising. What is unknown is what anyone has against Taylor, specifically, and why they are using the Sixers to do so. If it was the people in charge of the portal, there would be easier ways to replace Taylor. It must be someone working behind the scenes.

     In a side plot, Maddy (Naomi Scott) interns with Elisabeth in the hospital. She soon finds it not to her liking. Maddy has the brains to be a physician, but not the stomach. This is not an uncommon problem, and surely Maddy can put her talents to use in the field of science without having to peer at gory injuries. What's a little weird is that Elisabeth seems to have no inkling of Maddy's weak constitution ahead of time. It seems like this would have come up before this internship arises, sometime in Maddy's life. Instead, not only does Elisabeth not see this coming, nor notice as it's happening, she appears to have no opinion one way or the other about it. This is a chance for some great character development, but it's wasted.

     The really strange part of the episode is when Taylor and Mira have their standoff at the gate. Jim asks a soldier if he has a spare rifle, and lo and behold, the man happens to have one slung over his shoulder! That's a bit odd, isn't it? Who carries two rifles?

     Terra Nova continues to be an interesting and visually stunning series with credible actors. The issue is the writing and depth of the characters, which are still too shallow to set it apart as an amazing series. Given time to work out the kinks, it is possible that Terra Nova can reach a much higher potential. However, at least during "The Runaway," greatness is out of reach.

     Terra Nova airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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     Catch up with streaming episodes of Terra Nova.

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