Hey there Terra Nova fans!
This week’s episode of Terra Nova, titled “Bylaw,” provided an interesting look into some of the seedier elements of the show. It also put a new spin on the tried-and-true murder mystery plot line.
Before beginning my review, included below courtesy of FOX Broadcasting is the sneak peek of the upcoming “Nightfall” airing November 07, 2011 8 PM E/P.
“Bylaw” opened up with Foster (Sweeney Young), one of Commander Nathaniel Taylor’s (Stephen Lang) men, as he was pulling up to an isolated relay station. Foster was there to switch shifts with another soldier. The other soldier was done for the day and reported to his commanding officer that everything was fine, but that things seemed very “quiet.”
As Foster entered the outpost, he was immediately attacked and killed by a viscious looking dino. It was a tense, atmospheric scene that did a good job of letting the viewers know that not all was exactly right at this relay station. Looks could be deceiving and situations were not as they appeared in the least.
Then Terra Nova briefly caught up to Jim Shannon’s (Jason O’Mara) son, Josh Shannon (Landon Liboiron). Josh was minding his business until he was approached by Boylan (Damien Garvey). Josh had previously made an arrangement with Boylan to retrieve his girlfriend that was stranded in the year 2149. There was a complication with this plan and Josh would need to do something in order for it to happen. The episode then cut away to other events before Boylan had finished telling what that task would be for Josh. I definitely got the sense that whatever it was, it was not going to be pleasant for Josh.
The episode then moved on to the next day. Commander Taylor, Jim Shannon, and Dr. Malcolm Wallace (Rod Hallett) were being investigated about Foster’s death. Malcom believed that the death was pretty straight forward: just another case of careless human error that led to a deadly dinosaur attack.
However, when Jim investigated, he found that things were not completely as they seemed. Jim discovered that there were several deep claw-marks embedded in the walls inside the outpost. It seemed like the marks had been there for a while too. He did not say anything about it directly, but it was obvious that the gears were turning in Jim’s head at this point. Jim’s well-honed police instincts were telling him that something was most definitely up.
As the episode moved on, Jim followed his instincts that all was not as it appeared with this seemingly accidental death, and asked his wife, Dr. Elisabeth Shannon (Shelley Conn), to examine the dead soldier’s body, to see if anything strange came up. Eventually, Dr. Shannon found that the body was covered with the blood of a natural enemy of the dinosaur that killed the man.
With that information, Jim realized that the death wasn’t an accident at all: someone used that dino blood to lure the dinosaur to the relay station, knowing that when Foster got there, it would attack and kill him. Foster was murdered, and the dinosaur the killed him was the murder-weapon. While this discovery was quiet the revelation it provided just as many questions as it did answers: Who was ultimately responsible for Foster’s murder, and why did they want him dead in the first place?”
This scene was a great example of the fun detective work that we saw Jim do throughout the episode. It was interesting to see him using the skills he learned in the future as a cop, back in time at Terra Nova. The show has really been doing a great job at showing what kind of man Jim is, and this episode is no exception.
While the murder mystery plot is definitely nothing new to the realm of television (or fiction in general, for that matter) Terra Nova puts an interesting spin on it that you’re just not going to find on another show. The dino-as-murder-weapon plot is a great example of how the writers of this show are using its setting as a device to tell interesting stories, rather than just for the “OH HEY LOOK, A CGI DINOSAUR” effect.
In addition to the murder mystery plot, “Bylaw” also featured a less intense story line about a dinosaur egg that was found at the scene of Foster’s murder. We first saw the egg in the Dr. Shannon’s lab being gushed over by Malcolm, who seemed really impressed with the would-be-baby-dino. The egg was damaged, according to Malcolm, and thus never was able to hatch. As the episode moved on, we saw Mr. and Dr. Shannon’s daughter Zoe (Alana Mansour) getting attached to the would-be-baby, and begging their mother to make it hatch, despite the damages that prevented it from doing so. Dr. Shannon becomes dedicated to helping mend the injuries to the baby-dino inside the egg so that Zoe, who has been struggling with adjusting to life at Terra Nova, can find some happiness from seeing the egg hatch.
I feel like we have not gotten to know Dr. Shannon quiet as well as we have her husband so this plot-line was a nice way of providing some much-needed character development for her. And once again, it’s an example of Terra Nova putting a new spin on a familiar television trope by way of it’s unique setting. This plot-line also provided another opportunity to develop the budding love triangle between Jim, Dr. Shannon and Malcolm, as it was made clear through subtle dialogue from Malcolm that the Doctor is carrying a torch for Dr. Shannon.
After the introduction to the baby-dino in Dr. Shannon’s lab, “Bylaw” brought us back to the murder-mystery plot, as Jim told Taylor the details of Foster’s murder. After hearing Jim out, Taylor told him to find the truth behind who murdered Foster, but to do it quietly, so as not to cause a panic among the residents of Terra Nova.
With permission to investigate Foster’s death granted Jim, accompanied by Lt. Alicia Washington (Simone Kessell), head to a bar where Foster and his friends were known to hang out. At the bar, Jim and Lt. Washington question a few of Foster’s friends, who tell him that while the man had no enemies amongst the residents of Terra Nova he was seeing a mysterious woman whom none of them knew. The only way they knew of her at all, they said, was by a picture that Foster kept of her on his electronic dog tags.
When Jim and Lt. Washington go back to Dr. Shannon’s lab to retrieve Foster’s tags, they discover that they are missing from his personal effects. They use the tag’s locator chip and discovered that it was in the belly of the dino that killed Foster, that must have eaten the tag while making a meal out of the soldier. Jim, Washington, and Taylor tracked down the dino and then subdued it to retrieve the tag out of its stomach. Washington immediately recognized the woman on Foster’s tag as Rebecca Milner (Alice Parkinson), a mess-hall worker.
Jim and Washington went visit Rebecca at her house, where they questioned her about Foster. She claimed that foster was only a friend and nothing more. But then her husband (Steve Rodgers) walked in and confessed that not only did he know of his wife’s affair with Foster, but that he was the one who killed him when he found out.
When Jim and Washington took Mr. Milner back to headquarters to question him about the death his story seemed to line up correctly. Taylor decides to follow the Terra Nova bylaw regarding murder: that Mr. Milner be banished from the settlement, and forced to fend for himself in the dangerous Jungle.
We were then returned to Josh, where he was taking with his friend Skye (Allison Miller). He revealed to her that the favor he needed to carry out in order to get his girlfriend to the settlement was to go beyond Terra Nova’s walls, and meet up with the leader of ‘The Sixers’, a dangerous rogue settlement, Mira (Christine Adams). Skye tries to convince Josh not to follow through, but when she realized that there was no talking him out of it, she insisted that she accompany him there.
At this point in “Bylaw” there was a rather dramatic public sentencing of Mr. Milner, during which Taylor banished him from the settlement. He gave a long, moving speech about why crimes such as murder have no place in Terra Nova. Milner accepted his fate, seemingly resigning himself to living out in the jungle, alone, for the rest of his life. It was a dramatic scene. But for Jim Shannon, something just didn’t seem right.
This part of “Bylaw” did a great job of showing Commander Taylor’s struggle with the descion to “stick to the letter of the law,” and banish Howard Milner from the settlement, rather than just throwing him in the community prison. It was clear that Taylor was feeling the weight of being the one in charge of restarting human civilization, and as he gave his speech to Mr. Milner about why he was banishing him, you could see that it wasn’t something he was doing lightly. It was a great scene for Stephen Lang, who is doing an amazing job playing Commander Taylor.
After approaching Milner in the woods, he eventually got Milner to confess that he lied about comitting the crime in order to protect Rebecca because he thought that she killed him because he broke off their relationship. With this new information, Jim brought Howard Milner back to his wife, and got learned that Foster dumped her because he preferred to spend his time, and money, on his gambling habit.
After learning that Foster gambled at Boylan’s bar, they took the bar owner in and questioned him about Foster. However after leaving Boylan to locate his financial records to learn more about why he may have wanted the soldier dead, the sketchy drink-slinger escaped. Taylor and Jim go off in the woods to locate Boylan, and bring a young soldier named Curran, one of Foster’s best friends, along with them.
At first it appears as if Boylan is gone for good, and that he has given the men the slip, but then a rather large plot twist was revealed: The barkeeps arrest was staged and was all a part of the plan to apprehend Curran. Through their confrontation with the young soldier, we learn that Taylor and Jim looked through Curran’s financial records and saw that he owed a large sum of money to Foster. When he’s asked point-blank if he killed his friend and colleague to get out of payment, he initially denied committing the crime. After some prodding, however, he confesses. Taylor beats the tar out of Curran, then exiles him to the woods, barring him from ever returning to the settlement.
After resolving the murder-mystery plot line “Bylaw” returned to Josh Shannon, who we caught up with right as he had ventured out into the woods with Skye to meet with Mira. Upon their meeting, Mira made clear to Josh that in order to get his girlfriend to Terra Nova, the year 2149 would have to be contacted in order to arrange for her to be sent.
Because Mira is the only one able to communicate with the future, she is the only one capable of making that arrangement, and tells Josh that she’ll only cooperate on one condition: that in the future, when Mira calls upon Josh for a specific favor, he should comply without question or hesitation. Josh agreed, but it was clear that he wasn’t completely aware of what he had just gotten himself into. It was a small scene, but I could tell that whatever this favor ends up being, it will have a great impact on all of the show’s characters.
The episode ended on a heartfelt note as Jim, Elisabeth and Zoe watched the dinosaur egg hatch. Slowly but surely the baby-dino managed to force it’s way out of the egg, revealing itself to be a slimy, yet oddly adorable, creature. Upon seeing the turkey-like dino, Zoe begged her parents to let her keep it as a pet, and despite Jim’s initial hesitation he relents, saying that she can keep the creature, “At least for a little while.”
“Bylaw” was a great episode of Terra Nova that did an excellent job of demonstrating the show’s ability to take familiar TV concepts and turn them on their head. While murder mysteries tend to be a dime a dozen amongst pretty much any drama on the air right now, you will definitely not find one as unique as what “Bylaw” presented to us viewers.
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