Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Terra Nova Recap: In Prehistoric Times, Nobody Has Heard of Spies

The young spy in the land of Terra Nova.

Hey, look who’s finally trying to become a captivating TV show! After weeks of revolving around self-contained, one-off plotlines, Terra Nova began its fifth hour with one of the series’ only intriguing elements, the Sixers — now with motorcycles! (But where did they get motorcycles? No one ever tells us, but keep in mind that these are intriguing people we’re dealing with here.) The disgruntled rebels once again try to storm the Terra Nova community and, once again, fail. So they retreat, but not without leaving behind a present: an undiscovered Fanning sister! Or, rather, Leah, a young, wild-haired Sixer jungle urchin whose parents died in Nü Texas back in the show’s future-present.

And so Leah becomes the episode’s central figure. Commander Taylor, the military genius who’s never heard the one about the Trojan Horse, decides to keep the orphan around in order to gain information about the Sixers. This means she'll need a home, and the Shannon clan — evidently Terra Nova’s only loving family — are predictably charged with taking her in for the time being, and possibly forever, but probably not forever because, really, this kid’s not Shannon clan material.

Though not for lack of trying: Maddy gives the Wildling a fashion makeover that involves too much primary color and too little shampoo, but Leah doesn’t take: “I don’t like yellow, it’s too itchy,” the ungrateful newcomer gripes to her host family.

While those domestic foibles are happening, Washington’s donning her finest H&M leather jacket as armor and leading a small unit into Sixer territory to find Mira, which they do. But because TV laws dictate that Mira can’t be captured until at least the first season’s penultimate episode, it’s instead Washington who gets kidnapped, becoming leverage for the Sixers to get Leah back. Fortunately for Mira, Taylor has an established history of negotiating with terrorists, so when the two parties meet they’re able to quickly come to an agreement: The Sixers give Washington back to Terra Nova, and the Sixers let Terra Nova keep Leah.

Wait, what! Somehow, this lopsided deal raises exactly zero red flags. To them, at least — we know that Henry Gales are really Ben Linuses. And lo: Shortly thereafter, Leah is found on the run, heading back to the Sixers camp to deliver a mysterious, unopenable box she stole from Mira’s former Terra Nova residence.

So how does everyone handle Leah’s betrayal? With exposition! This brings us to the episode's best groaners, which this week happen to be three consecutively delivered bits of dialogue:

Jim, to Taylor: "No doubt about it, Commander: Mira sent her to infiltrate Terra Nova. She's been lying to us the whole time. It was theater, more or less."
Taylor, to Jim: "Mira played me. She knew I'd let the kid in, knew I'd believe her story, knew I wouldn't send her away — especially if the Sixers made a show of trying to get her back.”
Washington, who is also in the room, to the AP English students of America: "She's the perfect spy — young enough to be sympathetic but old enough to be capable."

You’re welcome, Two and a Half Men fans who just tuned in! Jim, personally hurt by the the Machiavellian girl he welcomed into his home, sneaks out into the jungle to capture Mira and find out what’s up with this mysteriously unopenable box, thus directly disobeying Taylor’s command to not sneak out into the jungle to capture Mira and find out what’s up with this mysteriously unopenable box. (Those once-heavily guarded gates have become alarmingly easy to sneak in and out of lately! Somebody should look into that maybe!) After an uneventful brush with a dinosaur (thanks, Terra Nova, for managing to make dinosaurs boring), Jim discovers the hard way that this isn’t the season’s penultimate episode: by getting captured by Mira. But — but! — Mira turns out to be as forthcoming with Jim as we could hope for her to be. She confirms that Leah was only acting out of the interest of her brother, whom Mira had empty-threatened to hurt; she reveals that she and her Sixers were sent from the 22nd century by powerful people whom Taylor once pissed off; and she lobbies Jim to join Team Sixer, to “do what's right. Don't be on the wrong side of history. Do the right thing for your family."

Quite an appeal! Yet when Jim reasonably asks her to flesh out her points, she simply tells him/us, “You’ll see.” We won't tonight, of course. Jim is soon allowed to go home, where he decides not to tell the Commander the nature of his chat with Mira, and where he finds Maddy flirting with Diet Taylor Lautner, who had earlier mustered the courage to ask her out to the big dance/social/party that I just made up but will surely occur by season’s end. Jim and Elisabeth put a bow on the episode by finding a foster family for Leah and her newly released brother, both of whom will likely become playmates with Zoe in the near future, because Zoe really needs something to do.

And so ends what looks to be the best Terra Nova has to offer. The writers have advanced the show’s somewhat promising plot trajectory more in this episode than in the previous two combined — unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the dialogue. Or the characters (excluding Mira). Or the mysterious, unopenable box, which Malcolm stows away for a later date. But in that box Terra Nova may have found its Lost-ian hatch — and perhaps even its constant, too.

Photo: Brook Rushton/FOX