Last week, Terra Nova delivered an episode much better than what we have come to expect. Unfortunately, with this week's "Now You See Me" the show didn't even manage to get back to its usual self. Interestingly, in its failure, the episode definitely established that only Shelley Conn (who plays Elisabeth Shannon) can really carry an episode convincingly.
It is not as if the show-runners didn't try. It is simply unfortunate that they just happened to create a story that needed some qualities most of the cast lacks. Every single story in "Now You See Me" required the viewer to do more than just understand what was going on, each of them required us to empathize with its main protagonist(s) to really enjoy the experience, which is where acting skills come in.
Take Alana Mansour, who plays Zoe, the youngest Shannon. She has had occasional good scenes in previous episodes, but it has also become obvious that she isn't exactly a terrific young actress. In this episode, she wanted to keep — instead of returning to the wild — the baby ankylosaurus that hatched out of its egg a couple of episodes ago. Her attachment to the turtle-looking dinosaur was supposed to be at the heart of a storyline, but because she didn't make it easy for the viewer to empathize, the whole storyline didn't work that well. Her mother, who was peripheral to the plot, provided a much more interesting moment than the young Zoe.
Then there was what passed between Mira and Taylor. First, it is becoming annoying to see characters venture alone out of the gate (or away from the Sixers' base camp) as if Late Cretaceous was a national park with a welcoming wildlife, and then systematically find themselves in trouble with dinosaurs. The show should have the decency to show characters who take that reality into account when making decisions to go alone into the wild and stop being surprised when dinosaurs show up! Also, how are Taylor and Mira (with their limited scientific backgrounds) supposed to understand how far Lucas is in his work by taking a peek at his equations?
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, let's discuss what passed between the settlement's commander and the Sixers' leader. To put things in perspective, you should be aware of the fact that Mira tried to assassinate Cmdr. Taylor not too long ago. What we had here was nothing new in the grand scheme of cinematic fiction. It was the classic story where the perennial enemies are forced to team up and end-up bonding enough to understand each other's motivations and, although they are still on opposing sides, grow more respect for each other. Well, for that to work, the viewer has to be able to "feel" for both.
Here, Mira's excuses (because there is no other word for them) as to why she was doing whatever it is she was doing in Late Cretaceous didn't have the expected effect. Love is a powerful motive and always has been, so sacrificing a new world for the chance of a new beginning with her daughter could have worked, but it wasn't delivered in a way that would grab the audience. Also, it might be the lack of chemistry between the two or Mira's uneven character portrayal, but when Taylor mentioned it could have been different between them, I was in agony. The fight against the made-up dinosaurs rekindled my interest for a short while, but I should say that from Taylor leaving the settlement up to his return, there was really nothing interesting about this storyline.
Leaving Jim Shannon at the helm required some maneuvering, like getting rid of Lt. Washington and being forced to address the obvious elephant in the room: why would a civilian be left in charge? The story raised the question, but never gave an answer, because it had none that would be satisfactory. The storyline with Skye was the only one with some value, but it ony showed its potential after being as tiresome as the others.
Skye's mother is a welcome addition to the story and a powerful motivator for the young woman's actions, but the end does not always justify the means and even excellent ideas should not appear to be pulled out of a hat. Skye's attitude before we found out about her mother was altered on purpose to mislead the viewer, and that wasn't necessary. A good story thrives on conflicting values in its characters, so I hope they handle the subplot better, as there is some potential there. Having Skye and Elisabeth in the same storyline made things bearable, as these characters (especially Elisabeth) are the only ones in Terra Nova so far that can thrive even when the material leaves a lot to be desired.