Musing Review: Terra Nova – Vs. (S1, Ep8)

Vs. was a very Taylor centric episode and quite a good one if I do say so myself.  The Terra Nova team did a great job of furthering a lot of the Sixer storyline and we followed a lot of the threads we’ve been seeing over the last few episodes.  I think they’ve hit their stride when it comes to writing / storyline and the characters are developed enough I feel we’re starting to know them.  Again I’m impressed with the visuals and this may be one of the most aesthetically rich shows on TV right now.

This episode was the closest thing we’d ever get to a Thanksgiving themed episode set in the world of Terra Nova.  Everything happened on the backdrop of the annual Harvest Festival which commemorates the day that Taylor came through the portal to start the colony. Each story is basically Taylor Vs. someone/something.  It’s Taylor Vs. Boylan, Taylor Vs. Jim, Taylor Vs. the Spy, Taylor Vs. the future.  This rest of the review is spoiler-rific so the rest will be after the jump.

We get a revelation right up front.  A stunning visual of a pre-historic dragonfly flying around the colony has us following it back to the Sixer camp where it lands on Mira’s arm and she asks “What do you have for me now?”  Looks like the dragonfly is how the Sixers are communicating with the spy.

Back in Terra Nova we pick up right where we left off the prior episode with Boylan now in custody for helping the Sixers.  Taylor is doing some borderline harsh interrogation.  At one point Taylor drugs Boylan when Jim is there (checking out the situation on behalf of a worried Josh) and Jim thinks Taylor has gone a little bit too far.  Jim decides to try and talk to Boylan himself when a drugged Boylan speaks about what’s buried under the Pilgrim Tree. Now that piques Jim’s interest.  He finds out that the Pilgrim Tree is where Taylor slept and survived when he first came through the portal.  Jim goes digging around (literally) and finds a dead body.  I guess the murder a couple episodes was not really the first one in the past.  He keeps this one close but brings in Elisabeth to help him identify the body. Jim knows Taylor had something to do with this but doesn’t quite know why yet.

Meanwhile the kids are practicing for the Harvest Day play, where Zoe is playing the lead (Commander Taylor) and Maddy is the director / narrator.  The same dragonfly we saw in the opening scene is back and a scared soldier hits it with his gun.  When Maddy inspects the fallen dragonfly they find it has a microchip on it.  Now the Terra Novans know how the Sixers are communicating with the spy.  Malcolm calls it the cretaceous equivalent of a carrier pidgeon.

Turns out Boylan isn’t the spy because a convoy was ambushed by the Sixers.  This convoy was planned by Lt. Washington after Boylan was in custody.  How could he have done it?  Taylor begrudgingly agrees to let Boylan go.  Jim follows Boylan back to the bar and confronts him about finding the body.  We learn quite a bit of backstory on how Boylan and Taylor used to be mates and that Boylan actually helped Taylor bury that body.  We learned pieces of the aftermath of the murder but not what happened.  Jim is more suspicious.

Malcolm finds out Elisabeth is holding the skeleton without informing anyone so Malcolm runs to Taylor.  Jim lies and says that he had an anonymous note pointing the the body.  There is a very tense scene where Jim and Elisabeth are trying to hide their knowledge from Taylor.  Taylor is too smart for that and you can just tell he knows that Jim is on to his secret.

Malcolm was able to figure out how the dragonfly worked as a “carrier pigeon”, a sonic signature (thanks, science), and figured out a way to use it root out the spy.  He also happened to be a great insect surgeon and repaired the wings of the dragonfly.  Now Taylor is excited and decides to use the harvest festival play as the time to root out the spy.  When they release the dragonfly (with a locator chip on it) it flies to the Shannon’s house. Oh no!

While at the play an introductory scene makes a light bulb go off in Jim and Elisabeth’s head and they finally figure out the identity of the dead body.  It was Taylor’s commanding officer, General Philbrick.  Now why would Taylor kill his CO?  Jim doesn’t have time to find out because he is arrested for being the spy. Now he’s the one interrogated.  When Taylor comes in to speak to him something is a bit off.  Jim professes his innocence when Taylor offers him a quid pro quo deal.  If Jim drops his investigation of the body then Taylor will let him go and call it a mistake.  Jim says no (good strength of character) and we almost get to see it end on that note when Jim finally tells Taylor he knows he murdered General Philbrick.  Enter some answers … finally.

Taylor goes on to explain a lot.  He explains how yes, he did murder General Philbrick and he did it for the good of the colony.  The same people who sent Philbrick are the same ones who sent the Sixers.  There are people in 2149 who are not interested in the selfless second chance for humanity that is the Terra Nova dream, but they’re looking to plunder Terra Nova for its resources to use in the future.  But the portal only goes one way right?  Well that’s why Taylor’s son Lucas, the genius, was sent back on the second pilgrimage.  Lucas was already playing for the other team and was working to make the portal go both ways.  When Taylor found that out what what Lucas was doing and that it was detrimental to the dream of Terra Nova he destroyed his work.  Lucas ran off for days and when Taylor found him that was the night of the murder.  General Philbrick was sent by the powerful people in 2149 to relieve Taylor of command and when he refused Taylor killed his mentor in self defense and banished his son.

Taylor, although they might portray him otherwise, really is a selfless person and truly believes in the dream of a second chance for humanity.  He’s not going to stand idly by and let a small group of powerful people plunder and pillage the Earth of the past like they did the Earth of the future.  Now isn’t that some social commentary.  He’s going to fight to make sure they don’t do to Terra Nova what they did to the Earth they left behind.  Jim enlists himself in the good fight.  The episode wraps up by ending on a fun note of celebration now that all the tension between Jim and Taylor has been resolved.

We learned so much in this episode about backstory and character.  I’m glad the tension between Jim and Taylor is gone too.  There’s still a spy on the loose but I’m confident we’ll find out who that is before the season is out.  Here are a couple of other things I liked this episode.  They were able to further the budding love of Maddy /Reynolds. The kids were really cute performing the play.  I like it how Jim is confiding in Elisabeth and not keeping things close.  This really differentiates his character from Taylor’s.  Finally, Taylor’s ending speech was a great one with endearing moments that really made us feel for the hope of humanity.

Great episode.  Watch Terra Nova Mondays on Fox.  Catch up on or Hulu.