Terra Nova season finale recap: Back to the Future
When it was over, I asked my friend the same question I had asked again and again during the two-hour finale: “This is good, I mean good, isn’t it?” I was really surprised how much Terra Nova had improved for its closer. Sure, a few skeptics of the show will say it wasn’t enough. But for me, the two parter directed by 24 vet Jon Cassar — saddled with the spoiler-heavy titles of “Occupation” and “Resistance” — was easily the best entry of the season.
We’re going to recap the finale, PLUS reveal the winning entries and runner-ups from last week’s Give Commander Taylor an Eyepatch Photo Contest (yes, that was real, and yes, readers participated, and there’s a couple images I am confident will brighten your day). Sound like a plan? All Shannons agree?
Let’s go: We open with a shot of the planet: Dry, dusty, no vegetation, smog. We’re back to 2149, bitches! We zoom into a dome. Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy cousin Lucas, having activated the Terra Nova portal to go both ways, has returned to the future. He’s planning to send a team of mercenaries called the Phoenix Group to take over the colony with the help of a new bad guy named Weaver. In the process, he’s hoping to kill his dad, Taylor. We learn they’ve commandeered the best army money can buy.
Terra Nova: Taylor gets the colonists organized for battle. Sadly, Taylor isn’t trying my set-the-portal-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff idea from last week’s recap. Instead, he places troops around the device, ready to blast any hostiles who come through. They could shut down the portal, but the invading bad guys would still pop into existence somewhere nearby rather than emerge at one convenient location. “We’re either getting 100 colonists looking for a new life, or an army bent on destroying our home,” sums up Taylor.
In the camp: Elisabeth makes a pre-war salad. Jim tells Josh that he must stay and protect the rest of the family rather than joining the troops at the portal. These home life scenes always feel a bit cheerfully forced. “We’ve been through a lot together and we’ll get through this too,” Jim says. “All Shannons agree?”
Portal: Expected a little more build-up to take advantage of the inherent suspense, but we jump right into the action. The portal is activated. Taylor, Jim and the troops get ready. And in comes … colonists. At least, we assume they’re colonists. They all kind of have that Peace Corps-backpacker “hey where’s the Farmer’s Market?” look. Here comes Josh’s girlfriend long-awaited Kara — she made it! Nobody, oddly, seems to be suffering the atmospheric shock like in the pilot, but we’re letting that go.
Then a scared-looking guy walks through, opens his shirt and — Holy Homeland! He’s wearing a suicide vest! “Please, help me,” he says, and explodes!
Carnage. Man on fire. Jim on the ground. Didn’t expect Saving Private Shannon.
NEXT: Terra Nova hostile takeover; What happened to Kara?
Infirmary: Jim wakes three days later. He’s really messed up in the awful way that anybody who’s had an inner ear problem can appreciate.
Yes, the Big Battle happened while he was unconscious. I know, it’s a bummer not to see it. But when you have a TV budget that already includes CGI dinos, you can’t stage the third act of Avatar. Plus, the suicide bomber was a shocking twist that played fair within the story’s own logic. By blowing up the portal, the rest of the troops could come through at another location where Taylor wasn’t waiting for them. (Why’d the Phoenix Group send any colonists through? Um, I’d guess it lowered Taylor’s guard and tested the reception — they might have otherwise opted to blast the first guy back through the portal.)
Jim now has a groovy cult robe and wanders around the war-torn colony. All voices sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. The Farmer’s Market, god damn them, they blew it all to hell. We see smug Lucas and ever-serious Mira are in charge, and nobody knows what happened to Taylor. Thankfully Elisabeth heals him up.
Later, Jim finds Josh and asks about Kara. She’s dead. Now, this is almost, but not quite, comical. I mean, all that effort to introduce and play up this character throughout the first season, and she gets about 10 seconds of screen time before being killed off. But the moment really works.
“If I’d just left everything alone she’d still be alive,” Josh says, then rushes forward to hug his dad. Man, Terra Nova, you’re getting to my little Grinch recapper heart here! Where have you been all season?
Bar: Jim finds Washington, drinking and feeling sorry for herself for not being able to defeat the Phoenix Group. We know Washington’s not OK because she’s actually let her hair down. (We don’t really buy that Lucas and Mira would not have locked her up, but hey — we just had a suicide bomber, a man on fire and Kara blown up all in the first 10 minutes, this episode is running way ahead). Jim wants to organize a resistance. “We hurt them and we keep on hurting them until they’re gone,” he says.
Laboratory: Since the portal was destroyed during the attack, Malcolm is forced to assemble a new one so the bad guys mining the local valuable ore can start shipping material back. He tells Jim they put his assistant’s head through the window and let him bleed out for refusing to help (again, Terra Nova, wow — no “Go Away Spider Song” tonight). Malcolm promises to delay the construction process.
Mira and Lucas interrupt them. Jim plays shell-shocked and gimpy to avoid questioning. Meeting up with Elisabeth, they find numbers etched onto the bullets that somebody used to kill Phoenix Group soldiers — it’s Taylor, he’s giving them map coordinates, telling the friendlies inside Terra Nova his location (clever). Jim sneaks onto an outgoing transport to to find Taylor.
NEXT: Go rebel insurgents! Lucas gets incest-y
Command Hut: Lucas gets to have a moment with
Bucket Skye. He says he forgives her for betraying him. He also says that since they both loved Taylor they’re sort of like brother and sister. They he proceeds to touch her face and get all creepy.
Jungle: Phoenix Group leader Weaver isn’t adapting well to the new environment. He says he was bitten by something resembling a “winged spider snake” that growled at him. I totally want to see winged spider snake. But I grudgingly accept that it’s more effective to let our imaginations do the work on that one.
The bad guys roll out. I love that they even brought along menacing Phoenix Group decals to put on the side of the doors of the rovers they confiscated. They head out to a vantage point in the jungle where they’re getting ready to blow up to mine with “pyrosonics,” while Jim eavesdrops nearby. Weaver takes aim at a distant brachiosaurus with a rifle and … and … and he… he does. He does!
Weaver shoots and kills a dinosaur. Just for the hell of it. A murdered dino on Terra Nova, for certain, at last, it really happened. Jim looks devastated. Even Lucas is perturbed — and this guy will murder anybody who stands in his way and wants to kill his father, but don’t shoot a helpless brachiosaurus, man.
Jim sneaks away to find Taylor at the coordinates etched on the bullet. Now, I had a bad moment here. We hadn’t seen Taylor since the battle. We don’t know what happened to him. Suddenly it seemed very possible Taylor might step out of that rover wearing an eyepatch. And that would have ruined the entire point of the photo contest.
Thankfully, Taylor is intact. In an exciting sequence, they rush to dismantle a bomb before Weaver and Lucas have a chance to set it off. Any uncertainty about whether Lucas is truly willing to kill his dad is gone when he orders the bomb set off knowing Taylor is down there. When that fails, he fires a nifty air-burst rocket missile.
This kicks off the organized rebel campaign. Montage time! Jim and others covertly help Taylor’s rebels from inside Terra Nova. Lucas’ convoys get taken out left and right. Go insurgents! Keep fighting that guerrilla campaign against a foreign force invading your hostile land to secure its precious natural resource– hey, waaaaait a minute…
The Bar: And then, things fall apart. Lucas starts lecherously hitting on Skye, all the while insisting on calling her “sister.” Even if they’re not actually related, I love that Terra Nova, of all shows, is getting on board the incest bandwagon (Dexter, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Bored to Death all went there this year).
Josh loses his temper and starts beating the crap out of Lucas. But Phoenix Group thugs quickly get Josh under control. “I’ve been nothing if not generous in my treatment of you people,” says Lucas, ever the sweet talker. Skye runs off and gets Jim, who storms in and beats on Lucas. Great, now everybody’s in trouble!
NEXT: Torture on ‘Terra Nova’ (that doesn’t involve watching Zoe acting cute)
Brig: Josh and Jim are tied up in the colony’s, um … cave jail. Josh finally truly forgives his dad for losing his temper back in 2149, noting “sometimes you just can’t help yourself.” It’s a little disconcerting to have a father and son bonding over their mutual tendency to lose their temper and beat the crap out of people, but I like this call back to the show’s pilot. It’s like the Shannon Men version of Original Sin.
Lucas says Josh can go free. He notes he wanted to kill Josh but, “I was persuaded otherwise.” Then see see Skye lurking in the corner. Now: Was I the only one who wondered what Skye did to convince Lucas to let Josh go? Are we supposed to assume she simply talked him out of it? Or did she grant some pervvy wishes from his Bucket list?
Then Lucas reveals why he hates his dad so much. Seems Taylor, his mom and young Lucas were all taken captive during a war in the future and his father was given a choice of saving either his wife or his son. He picked Lucas. His mom was killed, but not before some really bad things happened to her. We assume Lucas simply blames his father for saving his life — as nutty as that is. But, no: “He blamed me,” Lucas explains. “I could see it in his eyes. Every time I disappointed him. Every time I didn’t live up to his expectations.”
Then Lucas starts torturing Jim with a Tazer-like shock probe. Seriously. Did a cadre of Terra Nova rebels sneak OTG and make this episode with nobody looking?
At the infirmary, Elisabeth injects hypochondriac Phoenix Group leader Weaver with what she claims is a nasty virus to get him to covertly get Jim out of the brig. The Shannons reunite, then plot to escape from Terra Nova.
Washington offers to distract the guards to let the Shannons escape. We know where this is going. The Shannons run out while Washington wrecks havoc. She’s caught and forced to kneel before Lucas. He asks where the Shannons went.
“You know, you have your father’s eyes,” Washington says.
This is the best — and worst — thing she could say to him (and the best line of the finale). He shoots her. It’s a well-executed moment, so to speak.
Rebel camp: Taylor is upset about Washington and trying not to show it. Zoe recalls what Washington taught them during survival school, showing that a part of her lives on though the things she taught them. Zoe gives Taylor a hug.
Elsewhere, Maddy is making out with Mark Reynolds (why does everybody refer to this guy by his full name?). Our TV-sized version of Taylor Lautner is stripped to his tank top, giving his bicep some screen time. These two are not very good kissers; they’re pecking at each other like horny chickens.
Jim suddenly stumbles onto the solider making out with his jailbait daughter and actually says that he’s “just passing through.” I half expected Mark to formally declare his intention to stick his hand in Maddy’s shirt, but instead he just flees.
Later: Jim tells Taylor something Washington said before she died, a reference to a battle they once fought together. The bottom line is that Washington is suggesting they blow up the time fracture. Not the portal, but the time fracture gateway itself — in 2149.
This is, of course, huge. The colony will be permanently cut off from the future. No more new Plexes, or Crate & Barrel furnished condo cabins. Just 1,000 colonists trying to re-start the human race and survive. “We’ll survive,” Taylor says, “but first let’s kick some ass.”
NEXT: Lucas fights his father; Jim bombs the command station
OTG: Malcolm has finished constructing the new portal. The Phoenix Group loads up the trucks full of valuable meteoric ore samples. Skye hijacks one of the trucks and kidnaps Lucas by convincing him that she’s ready to betray Taylor. The rebels send their truck toward the portal instead — with Jim and some mysterious cargo in the back.
Only problem is, she needs a code. “You know, I’d beat it out of you, but I’m afraid you’d like that, dear brother,” she says, then does his signature creepy cheek stroke. We wonder how she knows that Lucas would like that and again remember that whole “she convinced me” line. Then she adds: “Guess I’ll just jack the starter” — which sounds dirty, but isn’t. She starts working on that, but crafty Lucas escapes, slams her face into the truck and takes off on foot.
2149: Hidden in the back of the truck, Jim returns to the future. The truck thankfully doesn’t take its payload to Wisconsin, and stops inside the building so Weaver and a couple bad guys can gloat over their cargo. Jim pulls out a big needle and injects something in the back of the truck. The bad guys open the door and — surprise! You’ve got a carno!
The carno roars and starts eating bad guys as Jim slips out looking for a place to plant the bomb (the same one the rebels dismantled during the last hour — yay, continuity). He drops it down the port shaft. You’re all clear kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home. Weaver briefly gets the drop on Jim, but the dino gets the drop on Weaver — and gobbles him right up, shaking him like a rag doll. We only just met Weaver, yet this is very satisfying.
Hope Plaza begins to explode and Jim runs for the portal — with the carno right behind him. Normally, I’m not a fan of characters outrunning explosions, which travel at the speed of sound. But here Jim is outrunning explosions and a dinosaur at the same time, which makes it kinda awesome.
OTG: Lucas finds his father and they fight. Taylor wins and pins him. “For the first time, I’m glad your mother’s dead, she’d be so ashamed of what you’d become,” Taylor says. Lucas begins to cry pitifully and says he only ever wanted his dad’s forgiveness. “My God, is that what you think?” Taylor says.
Taylor helps up his son, they embrace — and Lucas stabs his father in the side. Yes, it’s like Return of the Jedi in reverse. Just as we think Taylor is goners, Skye rescues him by shooting dear brother
Luke Lucas. A moment later, it’s a cheat when Lucas is allowed to sneak away unseen while wounded and only a few feet away, but I don’t mind. Lucas started out a tad goofy, but I ended up enjoying him as a villain.
As soon as word gets out that the portal is destroyed, the Phoenix Group mysteriously abandons Terra Nova. We learn they left for a place called the Badlands, but there was an artifact from that mysterious location that they left behind — a ship’s bow. From the 18th century. Which presumably means … another portal? But one going to a different time. Which could mean, if it’s located in the same time stream as 2149, the Butterfly Effect could come into play — they could change things in the 18th century and therefore impact everything we’ve seen? Overall, the finale accomplished what a finale should: The main story threads were largely satisfied and some intriguing ideas were launched for a potential second season
So clearly I enjoyed the first finale, but what did you think? And are you ready for the results of our Give Taylor an Eyepatch Photo Contest? Last week, I did a call for entries based on a recap line about how all Stephen Lang’s studly warrior character needs to be complete is an eyepatch. I woke up the next morning and found … zero entries. I got nervous. Perhaps trying to enlist readers to create silly photo illustrations wasn’t the wisest idea. I started drafting an excuse to include in this recap for not having any pics (about how, like Maddy, I keep everything on my Plex, then lost the images when my core blew). I even asked a colleague to create an example of our own, so I’d at least be able to show you something. But then a reader entry came in. Then another, and another. I was pretty thrilled with what we got and posted all that I could get cleared. And here they are…
NEXT: ‘Terra Nova’ Give Taylor an Eyepatch contest photos!
Here are the runner ups in the Give Taylor an Eyepatch Photo Context:
This is a handsome one, Taylor really rockin’ the eyepatch here….
Bit of a Taylor goes Pirates of the Caribbean…
This one uses one of Taylor’s finest moments. The Commander vs. the Komodo Dragon:
Here’s my entry, with help from EW photo guru Jef Castro. There’s Commander Taylor with eyepatch. And we’ve added my favorite character to tease, Zoe, because she’s always getting into trouble and needs his protection. And Taylor is keeping one good eye out for any threats — like that crazy prehistoric Marlin.
But I think you’ll agree that these two are the best of the bunch.
Here’s the first winner:
Love this one, from reader Martin. It shows us the tender side of Taylor that we always suspected was there. Taylor is either hugging, or riding, a brachiosaurus. Perhaps a little of both? I could have asked Martin, but I didn’t want to know. Like all great art, I think the interpretation is best left to the viewer. Extra points for adding Maddy and Zoe watching from the sidelines.
Finally, my favorite. This deserves a medal made from Terra Nova’s priceless meteoritic ore and even has its own title.
Introducing, “The Most Interesting Time Traveler in the World”…
This is from Chris at whitehautephotography.com. Yes, a spoof of Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” ads. We haven’t seen if there’s actual bottled beer 85 million years ago, but if Commander Taylor did have access to suds, I’m sure Dos Equis would be his brand of choice after a hard day fighting off Carnosaurs.
UPDATE: Just posted an update on Terra Nova‘s renewal status, plus my six ways to save the show.
My thanks to all who took the time to create an image. I believe that all Shannons would agree these are great. And thanks, EW readers, for checking out these Terra Nova recaps and your comments. I’ll put on my recap hat again for the second season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Until then, I’m blogging TV news and analysis at EW’s Inside TV and you can follow me on Twitter here.
[All photo images from Fox except the Dos Equis spoof; brachiosaurus shot includes a dino courtesy of BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs]