It's Murder By Dino as prehistoric police attempt to solve Terra Nova's first homicide. Was it the Stegosaurus in the library with the candlestick?

By James Hibberd
Updated November 01, 2011 at 02:55 AM EDT
Fox

Terra Nova

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On tonight’s CSI: Cretaceous Scene Investigation, prehistoric police investigate their toughest murder case yet when a Terra Nova solider is brutally killed. Was it the jealous Stegosaurus? The greedy Triceratops? The temperamental T-Rex? Keep in mind that the killer is never the first two dinosaurs you suspect!

We open above the jungle canopy as a Terra Nova solider named Foster arrives at a communications relay station while some evil sounding cicadas chirp nearby. He’s wondering if that darn communications guy is drunk again, opens the door and —

Ahhh! Were you startled at the dino jumping at his face? I had just finishing Paranormal Activity 3, so perhaps I was a bit on edge, but that shock worked for me.

Later: Jim, Malcolm and Taylor are on the scene and we’re told this is the work of a Nykoraptor. We met one of these dinos a couple weeks ago when Jim got strung up and had a Nyko nipping at his head. Described as a “two-legged shark,” this is the Terra Nova take on a Velociraptor — fast, mean and nasty. The men are confused because there’s a nest nearby with yummy eggs that are the Nyko’s usual favorite snack, so why did he attack the soldier? “You got an endless supply of chicken doesn’t mean you’re gonna turn your nose up at a bloody rare steak,” Malcolm suggests.

Terra Nova Med Lab: The dead soldier Foster is getting a virtual autopsy, while Malcolm examines a large green egg. We’re told the egg is from an Ankylosaurus. Malcolm wants to use the egg for research, but he really should should be thinking of how to whip up a Hollandaise sauce with local ingredients from the farmer’s market for a huge dino egg benedict.

Meanwhile Zoe wanders in and complains about an ear ache. Somebody takes her aside and explains that this week’s episode isn’t about her and she needs to leave the adults alone so they can tell a grown-up story.

The autopsy finds two types of dino blood at the crime scene — the other kind was bait used to lure the Nyko into the shed. But that means … yes, murder by dino! Somebody actually used a dinosaur as a murder weapon. “We’ve lost our share of folks, but never like this,” says a troubled Taylor.

Bar: Jim interviews some soldiers and we learn that Foster was dating somebody … but who? The soldiers apparently hack their electronic dog tags, which are supposed to only store medical info, but the troops add photos of their significant others and stuff on them (it’s a nice bit of believable detail, and I wondered if when the portal to the future opens every six months, can they download music and email onto the tags too?).

Since the victim’s tag wasn’t recovered, that must mean the attacking Nyko ate it. So it’s time for…

NEXT: Dino safari! Laser gun? Marital spat!

Dino safari!

Yeah buddy. After weeks of petting dinos, feeding dinos and running from dinos, we’re finally out to get one of the damn things. Maybe even … kill it? Jim and Taylor take to the savannah and run down that murderous Nyko in their door-less Jeep rover. It’s a fun sequence.

“We’re not killing this thing are we?” Jim asks worriedly.

Quiet, you.

They chase the Nyko, who sprints straight up a tree. Taylor takes a shot with a —

Hey, was that a laser gun? Looked like it. Not some wussy break-up-the-hippy-protest sonic weapon like usual, but a green laser blast. Have we seen that before? Now just throw in some Storm Troopers, Wookies and name this planet Kashyyyk and we’ve got ourselves a show. (But no cute subplots about Zoe and the Ewoks, OK?).

The team gets Foster’s dog tag and other goodies from the stomach of the dino that’s been described as a land shark (is this scene a Jaws homage?). We’re reassured the Nyko won’t die since Alicia is a fine combat medic and can stitch up the Nyko. Drat.

Terra Nova: Jim interviews Rebecca, a member of “staff support” having an affair with Foster. With her dark eye shadow and denim skirt, we immediately peg her for a floozy. We learn she wedded this lame older guy Howard who won the lottery go to Terra Nova, then “traded up” to a young solider once she arrived. Then Howard suddenly confesses — he killed the solider out of jealousy.

“Maybe you have had love in your lives, I haven’t,” says the homely Howard. “All of a sudden there was a flood of it.” Apparently 2149 isn’t so different than 2011: If you win the Lotto, you’re gonna get hotties throwing themselves at you.

But hold on, this is all wrong. We’re only halfway through the episode, this isn’t how the TV crime procedural is supposed to go. We’re supposed to get the confession in the last five minutes. You know, in the tiny interview room where the brilliant murderer spills his guts to a cop he just met rather than asking for a lawyer.

It seems Terra Nova isn’t really all that interested in telling a crime story. This episode is interested in exploring the question: If you had a chance to remake society in your own image, what would you do with somebody who committed murder? And that’s actually much more interesting and I’m glad the show went this route.

NEXT: A strange thing you probably haven’t noticed…

Taylor’s hut: Now Taylor is agonizing over a tough decision. Also, he looks like he just got done working out at the gym. He always does. It’s as if there’s a bench press in the corner of Taylor’s hut that we’re not seeing, and at the start of every scene he re-racks the weight and walks into the frame.

Shannon hut: There’s trouble in prehistoric paradise as Jim and Elizabeth debate what should be done with Howard. Elizabeth suggests that its more merciful to keep somebody locked up in prison than to banish them outside the city gates. “I was just in prison — ‘mercy’ is not the first word that comes to mind,” snaps Jim. “I got a confession, you’re acting like I beat it out of the guy.” Is it wrong that I like Jason O’Mara’s character the best when he’s not in a foul mood?

Gates: The whole Terra Nova community has shown up to see Taylor’s verdict carried out: It’s banishment! Howard, with his watery blue eyes, accepts his punishment. Jim who, as it so happens, has blue eyes too, looks troubled.

“You have a fighting chance out there, which is more than you gave him,” declares Taylor who …

OK, this is a little weird. How many male characters have blue eyes on this show? Have you noticed this?

Howard is given a backpack full of trail mix and a mean-looking assault weapon and told to take a hike. This seems like a bad idea: Does it make the Terra Nova community sleep better at night knowing there’s a desperate, starving murderer with an assault rifle hanging around outside their gates? Plus, can’t Howard just run off and join the Sixers? Those outsiders seem to spend more time hanging around outside Terra Nova than they do back at their own camp.

But Jim now thinks Howard might have falsely confessed. Taylor, naturally, is a tad annoyed by this — dude, I just made one of my big speeches! But Taylor gives him permission to hunt around.

Bar: We find Josh at his new cool job. He apparently works at a Rainforest Cafe. Jim is bothered to find Josh here and we are bothered that Jim is the sheriff of this isolated campground and doesn’t know his son’s been working at a bar. See this is why 2149 banned having more than two kids, once you have a third like hypochondriac Zoe it’s easy to lose track of the others. “Either I’m supposed to be an adult here or I’m not,” Josh sulks. “You better get your story straight.”

Also: Josh has blue eyes. So does the bartender. And it looks like Maddy’s solider crush Mark Reynolds does too (his are tougher to tell). Who cast this show, Nietzsche?

FINALLY: Are you down with OTG? Terra Nova producers speak out

Terra Nova: Jim and Taylor stage an elaborate deception to flush out Foster’s real killer. They get him out in the middle of nowhere and he reveals himself — it’s one of Foster’s soldier pals; he owed him money. Congrats guys, Patrick Jane couldn’t have done it better. Taylor gets to put his gym workouts to use and kicks the crap out of the killer. This is very satisfying to watch. Jim and Taylor tell the killer to “start walking” — no gun and trail mix this time.

Taylor comments that the jungle can be survived, but if you look really closely you can tell this line was added after shooting this scene since the camera cuts away from Taylor and you only hear it in voiceover — it takes a little of the murderous edge off.

“Whatever happens, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” Taylor then says on camera.

OTG: That’s “Outside the Gates” to you. Josh is forced to meet with Mira in order to start paying the bartender to smuggle his 2149 girlfriend to Terra Nova. “Someday I’m going to ask you to do something for me,” Mira says and … that’s it. This sounds a lot like the deal he’s already made only made a second time, but all right. Now Josh is really on the hook.

Med lab: Malcolm and Elizabeth help the dino hatch as the Shannon family gathers around. A tiny dino pecks its way out. The family is enchanted. And they’re gonna keep it — no stone-age family is complete without a pet dinosaur. And guess what color Malcolm’s eyes are. This is a little weird, right?

So what do you think? Was justice served by the Blue-Eyed Man Group? What should the Shannons name their new dino pet? What do you think Mira wants from Josh? Do you think kids would have been upset at seeing on-screen dino death if the Nyko had perished? Terra Nova‘s storytelling seems stronger and more confident each week.

Be sure to check out EW’s interview with the executive producers of Terra Nova answering your burning questions (Will a dino die? Are all the main characters going to survive the finale? How does Terra Nova communicate with the future?) and teasing what’s to come in the second half of the season.

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