Hey there Terra Nova fans!
The huge reveal? We find out that Commander Taylor (Stephen Lang) may not be the time-traveling hero that he appears to be!
Before I get started with my review, however, below, courtesy of FOX Broadcasting is a preview of the next exciting new episode of Terra Nova airing on Monday November 28, 2011 for your enjoyment!
The episode started out with a nice birds-eye view of the prehistoric jungle that our main characters call home. We focused in on a giant bug tumbling through the air. We follow it for a while, until it eventually flies right into the Sixer’s neck of the woods. The bug finally comes to a rest on the hand of Mira (Christine Adams), the leader of the tribal separatists. At first it seemed like we were about to see a softer side of Mira, of her admiring the prehistoric insect. But then the scene took an interesting turn, as Mira looked right at the bug and said “What have you got for me today?”
This was a great scene because right off the bat it hooked me in, and kept me wondering. I wanted to find out what the heck was up with Mira talking to a bug – my first thought was that it was some sort of technology – maybe a advanced robotic spy cam? I wasn’t sure, but I knew that I was going to stick around to find out, which is exactly the feeling that an opening scene should accomplish.
After that “Versus” moved to Commander Taylor, whom was questioning Tom Boylan (Damien Garvey) about his involvement with the Sixers. The Commander was relentless in his questioning, and it didn’t take long for the bar-keep to admit that he had, in fact, been trading with the Sixers. Despite the fact that he claimed that his relationship with the group began and ended with trading, Taylor wasn’t buying it. He tried to get more out of Boylan, clearly believing that he was passing information to the Sixers behind his back.
Boylan insisted that he traded with them and nothing more, but Taylor still didn’t buy it. And that’s when we got a peek at Taylor’s darker side: he locked Boylan in the interrogation cell, and then turned on a ear-piercing siren that caused him a lot of pain. We’ve getting bits and pieces of this site of Taylor’s dark side all season. This scene, however, was the first time when we really saw just how far the Commander is willing to go to get what he wants. It was a chilling scene, to be sure, and it ended up speaking to one of the episodes central questions: is Commander Taylor the time-jumping savior that he’s made himself out to be?
As Commander Taylor was torturing information out of Boylan, Jim Shannon (Jason O’Mara) and his family were getting ready for the “Harvest Festival,” the Terra Nova Colony’s version of Thanksgiving. A big part of this festival is, apparently, a play that’s put on by the kids of the Terra Nova Colony each year that tells the story of Taylor’s arrival in the past. When we catch up with the Shannon family they are painting masks and getting Zoe Shannon (Alana Mansour), who is playing Taylor himself in the play, ready for her performance. I like this scene for two reasons. First of all, it’s always nice to see the Shannon family together and happy – they’ve gone through so much that it’s nice to see them relaxed and happy. Second of all, it really did well to highlight the “two Taylors” present in the show: One, the heroic explorer who bravely journeyed into the past to create a better life for the people of earth, and two, the hardened former soldier with unknown motives, and a well-hidden dark side.
This sort of”legend making” is something that’s gone on in the history books for about as long as history has been recorded, making this scene very relevant to actual American History. American children are raised to believe that explorers like Christopher Columbus were heroic explorers forging ahead to create a better life for their people.
The truth about Columbus, however, is that upon arriving on the North American Continent (which was a complete accident – he was looking for a speedy trade-route to India and ended up in America by way of chance and bad navigation) he enslaved the Natives that couldn’t fight back and sold them for profit, and had his men kill the ones who could have stood against him. And those are the ones that hadn’t already died of the germs that his crew carried with them from Spain. The reality of this man, who is celebrated in America as a heroic explorer, is completely different than the legendary version of him that’s instilled in the minds of American youth. This dynamic exists among many other aspects of history, and it was very interesting to see Terra Nova explore this aspect of “legend making” by way of Commander Taylor.
In the middle of this nice Shannon-family-moment, Josh Shannon (Landon Liboriron) pulled his father away from the rest of the family to ask him something in private. He asked Jim about Boylan, wanting him to check up on the man. Jim responded by saying that he would see what he could do. Josh was the one who sold Boylan out to his father and Commander Taylor last episode, and while it was the right thing to do, Josh clearly feels guilty about it. This was a nice character moment for Josh. He’s right on the precipice of becoming an adult, and the decisions he’s been making have been doing a good job of highlighting that. On the one hand, he has the immature sense of wanting some sort of piece of his old life back.
However horrible it may be in the past, it is a place he fit into. Wanting his girlfriend transported to the future seems, to me at least, to be his way of trying to get a piece of that in a new, scary environment in which he hasn’t yet found his place. On the other side of that, however, his is more grown-up sense of wanting to do the right thing. Dealing with the Sixers and stealing from his mother are wrong and he knew it. The fact that he admitted his actions to his parents, rather than allowing someone else to take the blame for him shows the mark of true maturity. Josh has been one of those characters that hadn’t felt quite “real” to me for the first few episodes, so it was great to see him coming into his own.
Following through on his word to Josh, Jim went to visit Boylan in the interrogation cell to see how he was doing. Upon arriving he meets up with Commander Taylor, who is still there overseeing the barkeep’s questioning. Jim kept his cool when he sees Boylan, but I could see a measure of shock underneath the cold exterior. Boylan was only semi-conscious, and it was clear that Taylor had been torturing him for some time, hoping to get more information.
Attempting to sound nonchalant, Jim points out to Taylor that Tom Boylan did, afterall, “shoot a Sixer and save [his] life.” This, Jim points out, makes it seem unlikely that Boylan is a spy for the Sixers. Taylor didn’t seem convinced however, and was visibly indifferent to how awful Tom Boylan looked. He left Jim alone in the cell with Tom without so much as a concerned glance back at the barkeep. Again, this was a glimpse at Taylors dark side that really made me wonder what this man was truly capable of.
The scene ended with something that made this question even more relevant: a strung-out, torture-exhausted Boylan briefly regained lucidity and started mumbling furiously about a secret item buried at what he calls “Pilgrim’s Tree.” Whatever this object is, Tom claims that it would destroy Commander Taylor’s reputation. Those words definitely seemed to rile up those “cop-gut-instincts” of Jim’s that got him in Taylor’s good graces in the first place.
Following up on his instincts, Jim went to see Dr. Malcolm Wallace (Rod Hallett) and asked about the “Pilgrim’s Tree” that Boylan had spoken of. The doctor tells Jim that the term refers to the tree that Commander Taylor came to live in when he first traveled back to the past for exploration purposes. The tree became known as the “Pilgrim’s Tree,” named after Taylor, the very first “Pilgrim” of Terra Nova. Dr. Wallace gave Jim the specific location of the tree that Taylor once called home.
Jim goes to the tree alone, following the path that was being blazed by his deeply-engrained instincts. Once he arrived he started digging, trying to find the mysterious buried item that Boylan claimed would destroy Taylor’s reputation. After digging for a while, Jim found something buried there he wasn’t expecting: a human skeleton. Sitting on the edge of my seat, Boylan’s words to Jim replaying through my mind, the word “murder” sliced into my thoughts sharply. Just how dark does Taylors “dark side” get?
Jim took the skeleton to his wife, Dr. Elisabeth Shannon (Shelley Conn). After testing it thoroughly, she was able to find that it was the skeleton of a middle aged male. The rate of decomposition and the condition of the bones told her that this man died between four and six years ago. And, oddly, the man was missing his right arm. “Murder” was still echoing through my head loudly at this point. Jim came to the same conclusion that I was coming to myself: that “Taylor would do anything if he thought it was in the best interests of the Colony.”
At this point, “Versus” quickly moved to Mark Reynolds (Dean Geyer), one of Taylors soldiers who was out in the jungle on patrol as a part of a loarge convoy. All seems to be going according to plan at first, but out of nowhere Reynolds is ambushed by the Sixers. Reynolds is a capable solider, but he’s outnumbered by the separatists, and is unable to prevent them from stealing all of the supplies that he had with him.
We were then taken back the interrogation room, where Jim was attempting to get more information out of Boylan regarding the Pilgrim’s Tree. Before Boylan is able to say anything useful, however, Taylor re-entered the cell. Jim kept his composure, saying that he was just trying to get some more information out of Boylan by way of the “good cop, bad cop angle.” Taylor asked if that angle had been working, and when Jim said that it had not, Taylor smiled slyly and said, “Well then, I guess it’s time for the bad cop to take a turn.” Again, it was a brief glimpse into Taylor’s dark side.
“Versus” makes another quick cut, this time to Maddy Shannon (Naomi Scott), who was busy at work on the play portraying Taylor’s arrival. It is then that we see the same giant bug that we saw early on in the episode, as a nearby soldier swatted the insect out of the air with the butt of his weapon. Maddy takes a look at it, and immediately sees that attached to it is a small microchip of some sort.
This confirmed what I was thinking at the beginning of the episode, that it was some sort of spy camera being used by the Sixers. The spy-bug was brought back to Malcolm, who in turn brought it to Commander Taylor. He told the Commander that the bug was being used by the Sixer’s spy, and that somehow they figured out how to lure the chip-implnated bug back and forth from Terra Nova, to the Sixer’s camp.
Right as Malcolm was explaining the spy-bug to Taylor, Lt. Alicia Washington (Simone Kessell) interrupted the two in order to deliver important news to Taylor: The convoy being led by Mark Reynolds was attacked by Sixers, and all of the supplies they had with them were stolen. The convoy was a secret, she said, and the only way the Sixers could have known about it was through their spy in Terra Nova.
The only problem: she put the convoy together AFTER Tom Boylan was arrested, therefore making it impossible for him to have passed the information along to the Sixers. Taylor was annoyed with the news, however he relented, and admitted that this information meant that Boylan wasn’t the spy after all. Reluctantly, the Commander instructed Washington to allow Tom Boylan to go free.
The episode story arc then moved back to Dr. Shannon in her lab. After more investigating, she found out that the body that the skeleton belonged to did not come to the colony on an official pilgrimage, but rather between the second and third pilgrimages back in time. Not sure what to make of this revelation, Jim went to visit the newly freed Tom Boylan to get more information. Boylan insisted to Jim that while he had no idea who the man was, or how he died.
He did, however, help Taylor bury the body. The Commander blamed his son Lucas for the man’s death, Tom told Jim, and that the day he helped Taylor bury the body was the last time anyone ever saw the Commander’s son. As Tom Boylan finished telling Jim the chilling story of the night he helped Terra Nova’s fearless leader bury a dead body, Malcolm arrived back in the lab, which he shared with Elisabeth. Seeing the skull upset Malcolm who made it clear to Dr. Shannon that he “doesn’t like secrets in [his] lab.”
Not comfortable with keeping that secret from Taylor, he immediately went to get the Commander to inform him of the skeleton’s presence in the lab. When Taylor arrived, Jim hid the truth about circumstances that led him to the body, saying that he was made aware of it’s location via an anonymous note left for him. Taylor then tells a lie of his own, pretending to know nothing of the body and casually dismissing it as the body of the Sixer. Jim, who knows for a fact that Taylor buried the body, begins to realize that it may have been Taylor himself who killed the man – whoever he was.
As the episode moved forward, Malcolm continued to experiment on the chip-implanted spy bug. He discovered that it was being called back and forth to the Sixer camp by use of a special sonic signal. Malcolm repaired the bug’s wing and then suggested to Taylor that they release the bug, then follow it to the source of the signal. Taylor agrees, and during the children’s play depicting his arrival, Malcolm releases the bug and follows it with a small camera.
As the bug was being released, The Jim and Elisabeth were watching Zoe in the play, seeming proud of her starring role as Commander Taylor. As they watched Zoe however, they noticed that another child wasp laying the role of the general that sent Taylor on his mission to the past in the first place. A middle-aged general, whose right arm was missing.
At this point, Jim’s gut instincts kick in once again, realizing that the one armed body, and the general from the play, are one and the same. The general, Jim theorizes, must have come back in-between pilgrimages, perhaps to relieve Taylor of his duty, and ended up dead because Taylor did not want to give up his power.
When the Shannons return home from the play, they find Commander Taylor waiting there, with soldiers in tow ready to arrest Jim. According to Taylor, the spy-bug flew directly to the Shannon home. By the Commander’s logic, this fact meant that Jim Shannon himself was the spy for the Sixers. Taylor made this clear to Jim, and the had his mean arrest him and drag him away from his home.
The soldiers brought Jim to the same interrogation cell where Boylan was being held and tortured. Once Jim was secured and alone, Taylor entered to talk to him, and made it clear that he never believed that Jim was actually a traitor. He told Jim that he used the bug to frame him, so he could bring him to the interrogation cell and ask him to drop the investigation into the general’s murder, implying that Jim would be locked away forever if he refused. Jim stood his ground and refused anyway, saying that he would reveal the truth behind Taylor’s crime, and demanded to know why the Commander killed the general in the first place.
In a surprising move, Taylor admitted to Jim that yes, he did indeed murder the General. The General, Taylor explained, was sent to the past by the same shadowy group of people that sent the Sixers back into the past. Their purpose, said Taylor, was to expand the abilities of the time portal, so that it could go both ways, so that resources could be moved to and from the past without limit.
Taylor was furious as he explained that this group had no interest in giving humanity a new beginning, but rather wanted to industrialize the colony, ruining it for their own personal gain just as they had done with Earth. At this point, the episode went into a flashback, as Taylor explained that his son, Lucas, was on the same side as the General. According to Taylor, Lucas was the scientist in charge of rebuilding the time portal so that it went both ways. When Taylor realized this, he destroyed his sons work. Upset, Lucas went left the Colony. Days later, Taylor found his son in the Jungle. Before Taylor could get a word out of Lucas as to what he was doing there, the General appeared right beside them, having stepped through the time fracture and into the Past.
The General stated that he was there to take over Terra Nova, and that there were other plans for the Colony that he didn’t fit into. The General then attempted to kill Taylor. Taylor defended himself, and killed the general before he himself was killed. Ultimately could not bring himself to kill his son, who watched the entire incident unfold. Instead, he disowned Lucas, calling him a traitor, and telling him to leave the Colony and never return. Taylor hadn’t seen his son since that day, the only trace of him being the calculations left on the rocks by the waterfall, meant as a message to the Commander, saying that the portal would be rebuilt, regardless of his interference.
Seeing that Jim is no longer a threat, Taylor releases him, and explains to him that he wants nothing more than to defend the Colony from the shadowy group controlling the Sixers. The Commander goes on to say that he would do anything in the name of protecting the Colony. He looked Jim straight in the eye, then, asking him if he was willing to do what was necessary, and fight to protect Terra Nova. Seeing that Taylor’s intentions were noble, Jim agrees, stating his willingness to fight alongside Taylor to keep the colony safe. We then returned to the Harvest Festival, where Taylor admitted to Jim that he planted a sonic signal within his gun to cause the bug to fly toward his home, thus framing him as the spy.
Completely sure that Jim Shannon was now on his side, Commander Taylor took the stage where the play had just come to an end. He gave another of his rousing speeches to the crowd, telling him that he considered all of them to be family, all “in this together.” The crowd cheered Taylor, clearly believing him to be the heroic leader that he’s made himself out to be.
The final scene took place deep in the Jungle. We observe that Lucas is sitting alone watching the display of fireworks. Clearly, Lucas believes himself to be in the right, and his father as a misguided power-mad tyrant, rather than the heroic explorer that history was making him out to be. The question, of course, is which of the two Taylors is real: The power-hungry tyrant, or the heroic leader out to protect his people?
It is an interesting question, and I am honestly not sure which side I fall on.
Overall this was the strongest episode of Terra Nova thus far in the opinion of this reviewer. It did an excellent job of exploring Commander Taylor’s true nature, and revealing the actual purpose of the Sixers. It also was an interesting nod to the notion of “legend making” throughout history.
The lesson here is that the heroes we grow up learning about are often not as heroic as their myths make them out to be. Is this the case with Commander Taylor, can we say such as well? For now, it seems too early to say, however I am definitely going to stick around to figure out the answer and hope that you do too so that Terra Nova gets renewed for a second season by FOX Broadcasting!
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