TERRA NOVA: Murder Most(ly) Foul

banner_recapTERRA NOVA
Season 1, episode 5: “Bylaw” Recap

Watch out for those SPOILERS!

Some people got to hand out candy to little ghoulies and ghosties on Halloween night, but my job was to watch and recap Episode 5 of TERRA NOVA. Which was the more exciting endeavor, you ask? Sigh. Personally, I think I should’ve stuck with the Kit Kats.

A Terra Novan vehicle is seen driving through the prehistoric jungle at night, and pulling up outside Communications Relay Station 19A. Foster, the driver (and the obvious Red Shirt for this episode), punches in a security code and enters the station to perform some repairs. He calls out, but receives no answer. A dinosaur then attacks! (Dino-snacking within the first minute – hooray!) Foster gets dragged off by the head and, if we are to judge by the jiggling of his legs, eaten.

Taylor leads a funeral procession through Terra Nova. ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. (Brook Rushton/FOX)

The next day, Commander Taylor, Jim, and scientist Malcolm are on the scene arguing about what they think happened. Malcolm posits that Foster must have left the station’s door open behind him and that Nicoraptor dinosaurs, which he describes as “basically, 2-legged sharks”, were hunting an Ankylosaurus nest in the area and ate the tasty Foster instead. Jim find a great amount of scratches on the walls inside the station, and ponders this. (I just wish they weren’t so heavy-handed with these “clues”.)

Dad and Little Zoe arrive at the infirmary where Liz  & Malcolm are examining an Anky egg that Malcolm brought back from the scene of the soldier’s death. Liz announces that she has found two types of blood on the body, one being Galesaur (good thing Malcolm is on hand to tell the viewing audience that this reptile is a “Prehistoric Turkey” as well as the Nicoraptors’ favorite meal), but Jim thinks the Galesaur was used as bait to lure the Nico into the shed. He thinks the scratches inside the station prove that the dino was trapped inside to lay in wait because someone wanted to murder Foster.

Jim and Washington investigate the colony’s first murder. ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. (Brook Rushton/FOX)

Taylor sends Jim and Wash out to grill Foster’s soldier buddies for some leads. Of course, all of the soldiers are at Black Market Guy Boylan’s bar (presumably none of these fellows have any outside hobbies besides drinking and gambling) and ask the usual questions: did Foster have enemies, who was he dating, etc. Foster’s buds all deny that he had enemies, but say they knew he was seeing a woman, but no one knows who she is. They explain that Foster’s techie military tags, which contain his identification, medical information and a locator, also had a photo of the woman he was dating embedded.

However Foster’s personal effects brought back from the site do not include his ID tags, because the Nico ate it when it munched on Foster! Yum! A Nico hunt ensues, with Taylor, Jim and Wash tracking the dino by the locator in the tag it had ingested. Once they take down the correct dino, Wash, who is a combat medic, slices it open to retrieve the tag. She recognizes the woman in the tag’s photo as someone named Rebecca, who works as support staff in the TN Mess Hall.

They confront Rebecca and learn that, although she’d married someone who’d won the Terra Nova Emigration Lottery and received a free pass back to the past with him, she’d also been dallying with Foster since her arrival. Her husband bounces onto the scene and says he knew all about the affair, and says he is the one who murdered Foster.

Taylor watches this interview onscreen and pulls a thoughtful face. They’ve never had a murder before in TN, and he knows that as the officer in charge he must pass judgment. Banishment is the penalty for murder, and he has to decide if he is going to apply it in this case, because banishment into a jungle full of dinosaurs means almost certain death.

Malcolm examines the Ankylosaurus egg. ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. (Brook Rushton/FOX)

The Anky egg back in the lab turns out to still be viable and alive, but with congential problems, so Liz and Malcolm discuss dino surgery options. Liz is determined to save the baby dino for little Zoe’s sake.

No trial is held because Milner the husband confessed, and Jim and Liz argue about this “frontier justice” system and their differing views about it. She believes that Milner falsely confessed to save his wife (duh).

Taylor voices some archaic (and I think, sexist) views on extra-marital affairs within the community. After Foster’s funeral, Taylor pronounces the expected sentence: banishment Outside the Gate (OTG), saying, “Terra Nova cannot survive unless we hold ourselves to standards higher than the past.” Milner is sent OTG with a gun and some ammo, and the gates clink down behind him. Liz cries on Jim’s shoulder.

In the meantime, Black Market Guy (TN bar owner Boylan) visits his employee Josh and explains that he wants the boy to meet OTG with Sixer leader Mira who can help him contact his girlfriend Kara back in 2149. Skye insists upon accompanying Josh to the meeting.

Jim helps a Terra Nova citizen accused of murder. ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. (Brook Rushton/FOX)

But of course, our rogue cop Jim, who seems to have broken the law in every single episode thus far, tracks down Milner OTG and confronts him with his own thoughts, that the wife Rebecca killed Foster and that Milner simply took the rap for her. Milner then recants his confession, and some thought is finally given to the fact that Foster spent half his time drinking and gambling in Boylan’s bar and may have made an enemy there after all.

Taylor gives Jim yet another rap on the wrist instead of a court martial for disobeying direct orders and the law and bringing Milner back ITG, and they decide to keep Milner under wraps while letting Jim investigate further.

An examination of Foster’s finances (none of these cops thought of doing that earlier?) reveals that someone owed Foster a lot of money. Security makes a big show of arresting Boylan for running illegal gambling in his bar. There is a very obvious three-shot focusing in on Foster’s pals exchanging looks in the background (…like we can’t guess what this means. And there is an interesting casting choice here, as the only guy in the whole settlement with an Australian accent is made the supposed criminal element. Don’t they film this in Queensland? Is this supposed to be an inside joke or something?)

Foster’s soldier pals search the bar for his gambling ledger with the proof of Boylan’s guilt, but report that it cannot be found. Boylan then makes a dash for it OTG and Taylor sends Jim with Foster’s pal out to get him.

But, no surprise here, Boylan’s arrest has been staged by Taylor and Jim to trick Foster’s pal into confessing. He was the one who had actually committed the murder. When the stolen ledger is indeed discovered on the soldier’s person, he pulls a gun on them, but Taylor, using some more of that frontier justice, beats the cr@p out of him and sends him off OTG, and with no gun. Taylor says that he survived out there on his own, so the soldier can too if he’s lucky (But wouldn’t the soldier just hook up with the Sixers group and become part of the rebel element?? Did Taylor really think this banishment thing through? This decision is going to come back to haunt him, for sure.)

Boylan sends Josh and Skye OTG in the middle of the night to meet with Sixer leader Mira, who tells them that she can contact 2149, but will want something in return from Josh someday, something that he must agree to do without hesitation, no matter what. He reluctantly agrees to her terms. (What an idiot this kid looks.)

The innocent Milner and Rebecca are reunited. Oh, and baby Anky egg hatches after Liz performs successful surgery. A nursery hatching scene straight out of JURASSIC PARK ensues and Zoe asks, “Can we keep him?” (groan)

My take? The three diverse storylines in this episode were not interwoven so much as just edited together like a chopped salad, which I found somewhat disconcerting. The CGI dino chase scene looked as if the VFX were rushed through production and not quite finished, I am still hoping that the FX will get better with time. And the baby Anky egg hatching was far too obviously a puppet. A bad animatronic puppet.

These storylines and the creaky moralizing of the characters make this show look more and more like an episode of “Gunsmoke” + Dinos. If you and your kids love TERRA NOVA, great! In principle, I’m all for shows that parents can watch with the little ones, but personally this show is not my idea of entertainment for grown ups. And seriously, any adults sans kiddies will not continue watching TN if the obvious plot holes don’t get patched and the stories get no better.

[Official Show Site on FOX]

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