TERRA NOVA 1.08 ‘Vs.’

Jim uncovers Terra Nova's first murder as Taylor finally reveals his secret.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Vs."

Writer: Jose Molina

Director: Bryan Spicer

Previously on "Terra Nova":

Desperate to get his girlfriend from 2149 sent to Terra Nova on the next pilgrimage, Josh Shannon (Landon Liboiron) made a deal with the Sixers and their leader, Mira (Christine Adams) to do a favor for them. And when Josh asked for proof that the Sixers could contact the future, Mira briefly put him in touch with his girlfriend. Using Josh's shady boss, Tom Boylan (Damien Garvey) as a go-between, Josh was ordered to steal medical supplies from his mother, Elisabeth Shannon (Shelley Conn). But when he learned that one of the patients at Terra Nova would die without the drug, Josh turned himself in to his father, Jim Shannon (Jason O'Mara).

Jim got the truth out of Josh and arrested Boylan. For months, Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang) has been convinced that the Sixers had a spy in Terra Nova. Now they may finally have the man they've been looking for…

Story:

Inside Terra Nova, a seemingly innocent firefly flies overhead as a new shipment of medical supplies is escorted to an outpost. The firefly makes its way through the jungle to Sixer territory, where it flies directly towards Mira and lands on her hand. Back in Terra Nova, Taylor steps up his interrogation of Boylan, who insists that he only traded with the Sixers and he never gave them inside information. At the Taylor household, young Zoe has been cast as Taylor himself in the Harvest Festival play about the history of Terra Nova. Josh takes his father aside and inquires about Boylan, whom he is concerned about.

When Jim looks in on Boylan's interrogation, he finds that Taylor has drugged him… but now Boylan can barely form sentences together. But once Taylor leaves the room, Boylan mistakes Jim for Taylor and he mentions something buried by Pilgrim's Tree that could destroy Taylor. After learning where the tree is, Jim begins digging until he discovers the body of a one armed man. Jim has his wife secretly examine the body and they learn that the man arrived between the second and third pilgrimages. Out in the jungle, the Sixers ambush the medical convoy with precision. The spy has struck again.

Realizing that Boylan couldn't have tipped Mira off, Taylor reluctantly lets him go. Later, Jim visits Boylan at his bar and says that he admitted to killing the body at the tree. Boylan angrily denies ever saying that before revealing that he helped bury the body with Taylor and he got the bar as his price for silence. Boylan also mentions that it happened five years ago on the last night anyone saw Taylor's son, Lucas. In the medlab, Malcolm finds Elizabeth working on the body and he alerts Taylor. Called on the carpet, Jim lies and says he got an anonymous tip about it. In turn, Taylor also lies and says that the body must be a Sixer.

On the stage, one of Taylor's soldiers swats a dragon fly and the onlookers discover a microchip attached to it. Malcolm figures out that the dragonfly was trained to seek out certain frequencies and this is how the information has been leaked to the Sixers. Malcolm also repairs the dragonfly's wing so they can follow it to the home of the Sixer spy. During the harvest festival play, Jim notices that General Philbrick (the man who was Taylor's superior) is missing his right arm just like the dead body. At the same time, Taylor and his men follow the dragonfly straight to Jim's house.

Taylor immediately has Jim arrested on treason charges. But in the interrogation, Taylor clearly doesn't believe that Jim is the spy and he offers to let him walk if he drops the murder investigation. Jim refuses, so Taylor comes clean. Taylor did murder Philbrick for the good of the colony, He explains that his son, Lucas was working for a faction in the future that wants to exploit Terra Nova's resources and send them back to the future. When Taylor destroyed his research, Lucas turned against him. The same people found a way to send Philbrick back to the past between pilgrimages.

When Philbrick tried to assume command of Terra Nova, Taylor refused to step down. Forced to defend himself, Taylor killed the General but he let Lucas live in exile. Taylor goes on to explain that the calculations written on the large rocks beyond Terra Nova were left as taunts from Lucas. Finally, Taylor adds that his own son is still trying to allow the forces of the future to exploit and ruin the new world of Terra Nova. And even Jim agrees that their best option is to fight back. Taylor releases Jim and in private, Taylor also reveals that he rigged Jim's power charger to attract the dragonfly.

During the climax of the celebration, Taylor gives a rousing speech to the residents of Terra Nova before fireworks go off. In the jungle, Lucas hears and sees the fireworks in the distance as he continues working against his father's goals.

Breakdown:

If there was ever going to be an episode of "Terra Nova" that I loved, I figured it would be the episode in which Jim investigates Taylor for murder. Too many shows on TV forget that conflict IS drama. But just when things started to get interesting and Taylor has Jim arrested on trumped up charges, the very next scene takes the wind out of the confrontation by letting Taylor lay a boatload of exposition on us.

That's actually fairly indicative of "Terra Nova" itself. It always pulls back just as it should be grabbing the audience by the throat. If Steven Spielberg was more heavily involved with this show, I'd call it his "Young Indiana Jones" moment. That's when you have a show with a fantastic premise that doesn't even come close to delivering on its potential. Or it's another word for an extremely boring TV series.

The only thing I really loved about this episode is that once Taylor explained why he killed Philbrick, Jim basically gave his tacit approval. Watching a good man make a moral compromise should be a compelling moment and it did work. But the reconciliation between Jim and Taylor came way too fast and easy. The entire conflict itself was a little forced. Even if Jim had stuck to his guns and arrested Taylor for murder,  who was he going to turn to? Taylor's men are loyal to him and Jim doesn't have a police force. Not to mention the fact that Taylor has no rivals for leadership inside of Terra Nova. There's nobody else who could take the job and convincingly lead the colony like he does. The entire affair was a fool's errand for Jim.

Regarding the origin of the Lucas and Taylor schism, I hope to hell that the actual reason is more complex than the way Taylor told it. Are we really to believe that Lucas hates his father because he trashed his lab? Holy shades of Superboy, Batman! That made about as much sense as Lex Luthor hating Clark Kent's famous alter ego because he blamed the boy of steel for ruining his experiment and causing his hair to fall out. Even in this show, the way Taylor told the story couldn't be true. Lucas was already working against his father prior to the lab trashing,

The Harvest Festival play was actually a clever way to get some exposition across about the early days of Terra Nova, but casting Zoe in the Commander Taylor role within the play was pushing believably. It just felt like a forced way to make sure that the Shannons were paying attention to the lead.

I don't know if "Terra Nova" is ever going to become the show that I thought it was going to be. The writers of this series seem perfectly satisfied with these very safe and tame stories that don't ultimately go anywhere. If all "Terra Nova" wants to be is a family drama, that's fine.

But at this rate, it will never be a huge hit or capture the hearts of sci-fi fans.

Crave Online Rating: 6 out of 10.