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“What Remains” was built around the clever idea of an infectious disease causing memory loss. The story also introduced a “new” species of dinosaurs and even explored smuggling through the time fracture, but all that was just smoke screen. This episode was really about human feelings and their uncanny ability to overcome hurdles thrown at them, be it memory loss, jealousy or a striking intellectual gap.
It was understandable for Elisabeth, the doctor, to be part of the expedition to check out the outpost, but it was much less so for Taylor. For a commander, he seems to be slightly too involved in routine tasks, but that is a minor quibble as the disease story was so well put together that even the underlying theme wasn’t visible at first. From the arrival at the outpost, to the first assessment of the situation, down to Elisabeth’s first symptom (wondering who Zoe, her daughter, was) everything was engrossing.
And it only got better. Ever since it premiered, Terra Nova has been very good at avoiding mistakes commonly found in soap operas, though at times toying with the same material, and here again it was done effortlessly. Because of Elisabeth’s memory regression to her university years, what couldn’t be done without irritating many viewers was now suddenly somewhat acceptable. The writers could have thrown her into Malcolm’s arms, but they chose the high road. Although with her university student’s memories her husband was a stranger and she was “almost” dating Malcom, she was clearly attracted to Jim Shannon as soon as she met him in the outpost. This was a touching and skillfully constructed allegory of the fact that they are “made for each other,” as memory loss and age difference (Elisabeth in her mind was much younger than Jim) couldn’t keep them apart.
A few elements of the Jim and Elisabeth storyline are worth mentioning, because they are very good pieces of storytelling. The forgotten ring was well used, but not nearly as well as the common cold. One could suspect the ring was part of a larger plan from the start, while the cold virus was introduced through Zoe in a way that was less likely to draw any attention. This might be taken for granted, but writers fail too often to elegantly plant things they intend to use later in the episode. Those two details were remarkable, but a personal favorite was what happened (or rather, didn’t happen) with the cold virus. When Elisabeth realized that his cold was what kept him immune to the pathogen, he kissed her to give her his (or Zoe’s) cold. What is interesting here is that the common cold virus doesn’t work its magic in a few seconds, but requires several hours to make us sick. The show avoided that by fast-forwarding to the next day, leaving to our imagination what took place in the outpost. To me, that is brilliant and considerate for the viewers.
With Skye and Josh, the episode did a decent job initially, but then things got significantly better with the kiss. Not only was there good chemistry in a moment that was the natural conclusion to everything that happened before, but immediately after the kiss we were thrown into the stuff of Greek tragedies, and I mean that in a good way. If you are anything like me, pretty actors and actresses have to make an extra effort to win you over. I plead guilty, but to my defense, Hollywood hasn’t been helpful over the years with its casting habits. Here, Allison Miller’s Skye was very believable in the way she cruised pass jealousy and disappointment to try and help Josh get his 22nd century girlfriend Kara to Terra Nova. This is another example of the show avoiding the usual pitfalls and dealing with issues of the heart in a refreshing and smart way. Now, the viewers have no other choice but wish for Kara to come to Terra Nova and show them how she is nothing compared to the character they already know and like (Skye).
The story between the bright teenage girl and the conservative soldier wasn’t as engrossing as the other two, even if it boasts some similarities with the first one. Maddy and Reynolds are the awkward couple. Understanding that, the writers tried as much as possible to develop the relationship through other characters discussing it, which we are thankful for.
Making up fictitious dinosaurs, like the nickel-craving ovosaurs, is not necessary and I hope is not he beginning of a trend. We don’t have to see new prehistoric animals every other episode. Also on the chapter of things that didn’t shine, Cmdr. Taylor sneaking into the settlement so easily was, well, too easy. However, his personal story was touching and his conversation at the clinic with Lt. Washington (whom I hope the show will not kill soon) was to the point and probably the funniest dialogue of the hour.
Although the relationship between Maddy and her soldier was not a personal favorite, it underscored better than the others the most striking similarity between all three relationships developed during the episode, a characteristic that is the stuff of great love stories: their ability to beat the often formidable odds stacked against them.