This post contains spoilers about Monday’s episode.
Creatively speaking, the future was now for “Terra Nova.” And while there were some things to like in the two-hour finale, the Fox series remains a disappointment from the promise harbored by its pilot.
Frankly, the trouble started before the premiere, when Fox chose to dumb down and simplify the initial one-hour prototype screened to get the press excited in expanding it into a two-hour premiere. Other than Jason O’Mara, who made a fine lead, the central family never really clicked — and proved too sweet and vanilla, with goofy kid problems, to ever really be particularly interesting.
That left the larger mythology, which in the latest episode boiled down to nefarious business interests from 2149 (think Halliburton) sending troops back to take over the mineral-rich past and strip-mine it in order to profit in the future. Frankly, that whole set-up — along with the father-son face-off involving Stephen Lang’s character — is getting a little tired, isn’t it?
Then again, the producers had to come up with a way to juice the action quotient, since the promise of marauding dinosaurs never really materialized. So much for the notion of “Jurassic Park” on a TV budget. “Terra Nova” was often visually impressive, but the dinos were so scarce as to be nearly extinct, for all practical purposes.
Of course, this is hardly the first time producers have front-loaded a pilot, only to not deliver fully on it in series form. But the clout of those producers — including Steven Spielberg and Peter Chernin — makes the show’s future an interesting choice for Fox. (Update: Based on the preliminary ratings, Fox’s decision doesn’t appear any easier, unless all its midseason dramas tank.)
Perhaps the network’s midseason contenders will help make that decision clear for them, one way or another. But “Terra Nova” had a golden opportunity to make a claim for another run.
The bottom line is if “Terra Nova” goes the way of the dinosaurs, it won’t be a huge loss.