Terra Nova on FOX

Terra Nova: Bylaw - Taylor and JimIt’s becoming clear to me that, despite the millions of dollars and years of development that went into ‘Terra Nova,’ nobody stopped to think about what to do with the show past the first episode. Since it began, we’ve had one silly stand-alone story after another. None of them have been coherent or had any bearing on the greater story arc established in the first episode. Mostly it seems like they’re still just trying to figure out what this show is actually about. We’re six episodes in now! You should have figured this out already! There’s not finding your feet, and then there’s flailing about like an idiot. This week we can add “murder mystery” to the list of tried-and-failed episode concepts. Well, let’s not waste any more time and get into this train wreck.

[Be warned, this recap contains spoilers and some pretty snarky opinions]

The episode opens with another random Terra Nova soldier out on patrol. At this point, any Terra Nova solider who isn’t a main character who leaves the confines of the colony should really just have a big sign tattooed on his head that says “DOOMED!” He is checking out a communication station when he opens the door and – big surprise – a dinosaur leaps out and eats him. Honestly, why do they even have these outposts? They always just seem to be overtaken by dinosaurs. It seems like a pretty straightforward case of dinosaur attack, but Jim has to put on his cop hat and start investigating the scene for something out of the ordinary.

What follows is the most amazing series of logic leaps I’ve ever seen. While Elizabeth is doing an autopsy on the body, she discovers blood from a different dinosaur in the wounds. It turns out this particular dino’s blood is the favorite food of the one who killed the soldier. Somehow, Jim deduces that this means it was…MURDER! It’s only after making that bold proclamation and getting nothing but appropriately confused stares that he lays out his line of thinking. Apparently, between this and a series of scratches on the inside of the station door, he concludes that somebody lured the dino into the station with its favorite choice of food and trapped it in there, waiting for this particular soldier to enter it and get eaten.

Terra Nova: Bylaw - Jim and WashingtonWhere do I even begin on how ridiculous a murder plot this is? Who in their right mind would go to the lengths to do the research on patrol shifts, lure one of the more dangerous dinosaurs in the area into a trap, and time it all so that this one particular guy will meet the business end of a dino’s mouth? I get that the culprit would probably want to kill somebody and make it look like an accident, but I can think of dozens of ways to do it that don’t require this kind of elaborate planning, risk and luck. Heck, you’re surrounded by a freaking PREHISTORIC FOREST! It would be incredibly easy to just get rid of a body so that nobody finds it. No body, no murder investigation. People are more likely to just assume that the guy had an unfortunate accident and leave it at that.

Even in the face of immense amounts of logic that shoot holes all through this theory, Taylor chooses to believe Jim and help him start Terra Nova’s first murder investigation. Taylor is visibly shaken by the fact that, even though they’ve lost plenty of people to disease, dinosaurs, the elements, and any number of other causes, nobody has ever been murdered here before! What? WHAT?! I don’t believe that for a second! Terra Nova has been up and running for several years with hundreds of people coming in, some of whom clearly have questionable personalities. You even had the Sixers who started their own damn rebellion! You can’t tell me that there hasn’t been one murder in all that time!

Okay, fine. Let’s get into this murder investigation. Assuming that somebody actually used a dinosaur as a murder weapon against this guy (his name is Foster), he must have had some pretty intense enemies. But – again, big surprise – when they talk to a couple of his friends, they reveal that he was a good person who everybody liked. But they do mention that he was seeing somebody, but they don’t know who. All they can say is that he hacked his computerized dog tag to put a couple pictures of her on it. Of course, the dog tag isn’t in Foster’s personal effects. It’s still sitting in the stomach of the dinosaur that did him in. Since it has a homing beacon on it, they’re able to track down the dino and get it out. While they’re hunting it, Jim tries to make sure that they won’t actually kill the dinosaur to get the tag.

I had to pause the episode to scream at my TV at this point. This dinosaur is a vicious killing machine that has already eaten one of their people, and they have to cut open its stomach to get his dog tag. And Jim is going to make a stink about not killing this thing?! What are your priorities here?! Just kill the dang thing!

Terra Nova: Bylaw - TaylorSo after they hunt it down, knock it out, cut open its stomach, remove the contents, stitch it back up, and release it back into the wild (imagine me just shaking my head in disbelief at this point), they finally get the image of the woman they’ve been looking for. Washington quickly identifies her as Rebecca Milner, a woman who works at the mess hall. Jim and Washington meet up with her and question her. She admits to knowing Foster, but doesn’t go any further than that. Suddenly, her husband comes in and confesses to the whole crime. He says that he knew that she was having an affair with Foster, and that he went through this elaborate scheme to get him out of the picture. This is officially the goofiest crime of passion ever. When pressed for the details of how he did it, his confession seems a bit sketchy. But Jim, for all his god-like cop abilities, seems to overlook this and brings it to Taylor.

This is where things go from bad to worse. Taylor begins talking about his strictly enforced “code of honor,” and how infidelity is not tolerated. On top of that, the laws that he has regarding murder require that the convicted killer be banished from Terra Nova. Of course, this is a frontier town, and Taylor’s word is law. So there is no trial. There is simply a pronouncement of sentence. Jim and Elizabeth get into a fight over the system of justice in Terra Nova. He sees it as efficient, and she sees it as barbaric. Of course, this efficiency is banishing a man based on sketchy evidence to a ridiculous crime and a confession that is questionable at best. But Taylor has made up his mind, and an example must be made. So, good luck, Milner!

It’s only after Jim and Elizabeth get into it that she suggests the mere possibility that Milner gave a false confession. What kind of cop are you, Jim?! You take a confession that sounded entirely made up at face value until your wife points out that he might have lied?! But once the idea has entered his head, Jim firmly believes that Milner was lying. Of course, at this point, Milner has already been banished, and Taylor gave a very dramatic and almost fascistic speech to go with it. So, hearing that he might have made a mistake, is something that he doesn’t want to hear. Jim goes to find Milner, and Milner finally tells him that he falsely confessed because he assumed that his wife was the one who killed Foster, and he was covering for her. But when they go back to Rebecca, she says that she didn’t kill Foster either. So we’re back to square one over halfway through the episode. Cue me pausing the TV to scream at it yet again.

Terra Nova: Bylaw - Zoe and ElizabethThe investigation is reopened secretly to save Taylor’s reputation, and they finally learn that Foster had some gambling problems, and was more interested in playing card games a Boylan’s bar. They find that somebody in the games owed Foster more than he could pay. So, to get a confession out of the guy, Jim and Taylor set up another elaborate scheme to make it look like Boylan killed Foster by arresting him and flushing out the real killer. Why go through all this trouble if you already know who the killer is? Sure, you just have financial records that point to the guy, but that’s way more solid evidence than what you had before when you banished Milner! I’m convinced that Jim may be the worst cop ever.

So, they get the guy outside the gates, catch him trying to hide some false evidence they planted, get the confession, and Taylor banishes him. This time he does it without any grand speech or crowd of disapproving onlookers. He just takes his gun and leaves him. Two banishments in as many days! It never rains, but it pours, I guess. What a horrible murder investigation. It was a stupid idea with unimpressive motives surrounding characters we’ve never seen before and will probably never see again. Thanks for wasting an entire episode on this nonsense!

And I haven’t even gotten to the two subplots yet. They’re just as stupid, but take up a lot less time.

The first subplot deals with Josh. Still fiercely hanging onto his undisputed title of King Of Poor Decision-Making, he is told by Boylan that there is a complication with getting his girlfriend, Kara, back from 2149, and that he needs to do something a bit dangerous. What is it, you ask? Oh, nothing too big, just meet up with Mira in the woods! Where are the alarm klaxons? Where is the robot screaming “Danger, Will Robinson!”? Where is Admiral Ackbar to let us know this is a trap?! Nope, Josh agrees to meet with Mira. He tells this to Skye, who does her best to talk him out of it. Josh retorts with…actually, he comes back with a pretty solid and legit reason for wanting to bring Kara to Terra Nova. 2149 is a dying world, and he has already lost three friends to suicide from a lack of hope, and he wants to spare Kara that fate. Okay, that one actually makes some sense. That doesn’t turn this show around for me, though. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

So Josh goes out to meet Mira, but Skye insists on joining him. Her only function in this show seems to be half-heartedly trying to talk Josh out of doing stupid things, and then tagging along to make sure he doesn’t die when he does them anyway. The conversation consists simply of Mira doing her best Don Corleone, and telling Josh that she’ll get Kara for him, but in exchange she’ll ask him for a favor at some point, and he’ll have to do it without question. For some reason that I still can’t fathom, Josh is considered a big chip in the game because his father is Jim Sheridan, the most incompetent cop in all of Terra Nova. And what is the deal with Mira anyway? She clearly knows every dark secret about Terra Nova, but is refusing to say what it is, even though it seems like just saying it might actually be to her advantage. What is she hoping to accomplish by being so mysterious?

Terra Nova: Bylaw - Sheridans and the eggThe last subplot is the one that turned my feelings about this show from passing dislike to outright hatred. When they were originally pulling Foster’s body out of the station, Malcolm found a nest with one egg intact. He brings the egg back to Terra Nova, and Zoe becomes mesmerized by it. There is still an unborn baby in the egg, but part of it is fused together, which means that it will not live long after it’s born. Zoe insists that something be done, so Elizabeth attempts some very intricate surgery in the egg to stabilize the baby. Eventually it is born just fine, and Zoe utters the four most hated words you can imagine: “Can we keep it?”

That’s right, folks. The Sheridans are about to have a PET DINOSAUR! Kill me now! According to IMDB, there are only three episodes left in this season. To me, that’s three hours of me pounding my head against a wall. I have no faith that this show can turn itself around, and it just needs to fade out and disappear.

If you missed last week’s episode you can read our “Terra Nova: The Runaway’ recap to catch up.