Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Terra Nova "Vs"

Non Spoiler Review:
Well, a rather interesting episode this week, which is certainly a change of pace for the usually tedious Terra Nova. Vs presents an infodump of secrets after a human skeleton is discovered that raises a bunch of questions about Taylor and the truth behind the early days of the colony. I'd like to say this was a riveting hour and that the characters actually rose to the occasion, but that's not the case. 

Plot, not character, continues to drive the show, and nothing spectacular happened with the good residents of Terra Nova themselves, aside from new light being shone on Taylor. In other news, Zoe gets the lead in the harvest play (yawns). But the play is a plot device itself. At least we got some answers, so I won't be outrageously critical. If this is a sign of things to come, there might still be hope for the series.

Spoilers Now!
Mira's secret spy is a dragonfly! Well, maybe not. That would just be C.R.A.Z.Y.! Boylen is being interrogated by Taylor but he's not giving up much information, so he's left to stew in prison. Meanwhile the Shannons are preparing for the harvest festival, which is kind of like Halloween, but also somehow celebrates Taylor's arrival in Terra Nova. Josh tries to convince his father that Boylen isn't all bad and now the bar is closed and no one's heard from him and no one has anywhere to drink. But Jim only cares about grounding him for nearly destroying all their hopes and dreams in the past.

Taylor brings Jim in to see Boylen, but when the commander is called away on an emergency at the power grid, a delirious Boylen tells Jim to look for the pilgrim tree where it's buried. Later, Malcolm does what he does best by revealing background information and tells him it's the tree Taylor lived in when he arrived. Jim pays the tree a visit and finds a one-armed skeleton buried there.

He brings it back to Elizabeth to analyze, who suggests it's been there 4-6 years, and may have been shot. He plans on keeping it from Taylor until she can learn more about who he was. He goes back to chat with Boylen, but they're interrupted by Taylor's return.

The other plot involves Zoe being cast as Taylor in the harvest play. While practicing, the kids are grossed out by the appearance of the dragonfly, but luckily it suffers a pride-obliterating swat out of the air by a soldier. That's when they find a microchip on it, and Malcolm determines that's how Mira is spying on Terra Nova. The chip is damaged, so there's no way of knowing what was on it. And the bug's wings are damaged so they can't send it back to follow it to it's source. Taylor rails against science yet again.

Reynolds is leading a convoy that's attacked by the Sixers (I somehow missed what this was for). He's allowed to return to tell Taylor in the next scene because the Sixers are very poor at taking hostages. The convoy was assembled after Boylen was arrested, so he couldn't have told Mira. Maddie's glad to have Reynolds back and safe, and plants a big kiss on him.

Liz has determined that the dead man came through the portal somehow between the second and third pilgrimages given his temporal signature can be used to date his time in the past. Boylen is released so he tells Jim all he did was help bury the body, but has no idea who it was—a few years back he was on patrol duty and saw a light in the jungle. When he checked it out he saw Taylor with the body. Back then he and Taylor were friends. Taylor needed his help to get rid of the body and talked about how it was Lucas' fault. It was Lucas who had brought the man from the future, and that was the last night Lucas was seen. Boylen strong-armed Taylor to give him his bar in return for keeping the secret.

Malcolm discovers Liz's work on the corpse and gets all pissy given he's the head of sciences, so Jim lies and says he got an anonymous note to check out the pilgrim's tree and he found the body. Taylor thinks it's a Sixer who had falsified their DNA records to come through time. Taylor subtly warns Liz that she should have advised him of this.

Malcolm figures out the dragonfly homes in on sonics so identifies the frequency the Sixers are using. They should still be broadcasting and he surgically repaired its wings, too. They release it at the festival and it flies straight to the Shannons.

Meanwhile, the boring play introduces the character of General Philbrook who sent Taylor on the mission to the past. He had one arm, like the skeleton. Considering this is the first time Jim (and us) have ever heard of him, Jim concludes that Philbrook came back in time to relieve Taylor of his command. That's when Taylor arrives to arrest him and declares he's the Sixer spy.

Taylor suggests he'll let Jim go if he drops his investigation, but Jim is too much of a knucklehead to do that. Taylor then admits if he hadn't killed Philbrook, he would have killed Taylor. The people who sent Philbrook were the same ones who sent the Sixers, because he was on to their plan—to mine Terra Nova for its resources. If Lucas has anything to say about it, the fracture will go both ways.

When Lucas came on the Second Pilgrimage, Taylor didn't know he was secretly on their side, working on calculations to make the portal work from the past to the future. When he found out, Taylor destroyed all his work and Lucas left the colony. Taylor followed him into the jungle where General Philbrook abruptly appeared to relieve him of his command. The general tried to shoot him when he refused to give it up, so Taylor had to kill him. Lucas pulled a gun on his father and Taylor disarmed him but refused to kill him. He left him in exile (his most favorite thing). But Lucas continued working on his calculations and left them on rocks for Taylor to find in order to taunt him. Taylor's kept everything to himself so the population won't know the lie Terra Nova is based on.

Jim vows to fight alongside him.

Later, everyone enjoys the harvest dance. Taylor had planted an emitter in Shannon's house to broadcast at the same frequency in order to draw the dragonfly. He won't tell Malcolm the reason why, though. Taylor then addresses the crowd with a whole bunch of hippie talk about the promise of Terra Nova, while Lucas watches the fireworks from the jungle.

The Verdict:
We learn the truth about Terra Nova—that it's basically a resource to be exploited by the evil-doers from the future. That's probably not the most exciting revelation I was hoping for, and it all felt rather mundane and unspectacular, given Lucas' weird inscriptions on the rocks and such (no lizard aliens, sadly). Oh well. It leaves the colony at the mercy of the next pilgrimage to come through—meaning pretty much anything could be waiting to enter that portal.

But is Taylor telling the truth? Jim's not the brightest bulb and appears to accept what he's saying without question, despite the fact Taylor framed him and threw him in the brig on a whim. He's also been witness to some of Taylor's other egregious behavior with dishing out punishment. So it wouldn't be surprising if Jim has put his faith in the wrong person. My only doubt about that theory is that Terra Nova has shown no indication that it's anywhere near that complex of a series, with no evidence of moral grey areas so far.

General Philbrook's "Oh, hey!" appearance as he casually steps through the time portal was a bit odd and funnier than they likely intended. He seemed to take it all in stride considering he stepped back 85 million years and was relying purely on Lucas' success to ensure he survived coming out the other end. It looked like he just walked in from next door. 

In many ways the show continues to remind me of BBC's Outcasts, which faced a very similar season ender (evil-doers wanting to exploit the colony arriving en masse with the power to take over). I hope Terra Nova isn't copying that show, because it was frankly much better.

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