I'm really torn by last night's Terra Nova — unlike many of the show's other episodes, this was at least a mildly ambitious piece of storytelling. But the main storylines fell flat, not so much because of any flaws in the writing, but because they relied on us seeing Mira as a formidable adversary, or caring about Skye one way or the other. And sadly, the show hasn't earned either of those things, resulting in an episode that fell flat through no fault of its own.
I do like the moment above, though, where Mira finally puts Taylor in his place. Good for her.
Honestly, there's nothing terribly revolutionary about an episode where the show's villain — in this case Mira — captures one of the main good guys and takes him prisoner. And then eventually the tables are turned, and afterwards they decide to join forces to survive a deadly situation. This is a perfectly serviceable plot, and it does give us some great moments where Taylor and Mira bond and realize they could have been friends. As always, Stephen Lang is the most watchable part of Terra Nova.
The main problem is that Mira has never done anything at all to show us that she's actually a formidable enemy to Taylor — she's been a pussycat since day one, and so this episode lacks all impact. Giving her lines of dialogue like "The beast comes out to play" (when Taylor gets angry) doesn't help at all. And we've already had it established in previous episodes that 1) Mira is just doing this for her sick kid, so she's not really a true believer in her cause anyway, and 2) She's not really in charge, she's being bossed around by Taylor's psychotic son. In other words, she's just a hired gun — and a hired gun with the trigger removed, at that.
Even still, there are some nice moments here — notably the moment above, when Taylor condescends to Mira and she points out that she's survived outside the gates for something like 10 times as long as he ever did. And the bit where they bond over caring about their children more than anything else. And watching them team up to take on a pair of Slashers is pretty fun — their mutual respect and teamwork is nice to see, and Taylor really does seem to like Mira on some level, even as he warns he she's chosen the wrong side. If you showed this episode to someone who had never seen Terra Nova before, they might be mildly intrigued and curious to see Mira being an ultimate badass in some other episodes. And then you'd have to let them down gently.
The other main plot, about Skye, is somewhat less successful. She's been a bit of a cipher since the pilot, except for the one "pulling a parasite out of her friend who unrequitedly loves her" storyline. Now it turns out that Skye's mom is secretly still alive, and the Sixers are giving her medication — but only as long as Skye sneaks them intel on events inside Terra Nova. Skye almost gets caught, but since Jim Shannon doesn't bother to put a guard on his one vital piece of evidence — where was Jim a cop again? Keystone? — she gets away with it, for now.
Given that Skye is one of the most forgettable characters on a show full of forgettable characters, and her role as "the mole" is just being the pawn to a bunch of pawns, it's hard to care that much about any of this. What danger does Terra Nova face if they don't find the mole? That Taylor's son will find a way to reverse the portal? No, he's doing that already.
Meanwhile, Taylor leaves Jim Shannon in charge, and this turns Shannon into a complete dickwad. I'm not sure if it's just the way the character is written this time out, or the fact that Jason O'Mara is so good at playing Beta Male, but when you put him in charge, his goofy roughness just turns into total dickishness. He bullies Malcolm and torments Reynolds, and generally acts like that one boss you had when you were temping, the one that made you seriously consider whether you should just quit and live off ramen noodles instead.
Oh, and there are subplots — Reynolds wants to ask Jim Shannon if it's okay for him to marry Maddie years from now, and given that Maddie doesn't get one line of dialogue in the entire episode, this is kind of weird. Seriously. I don't think Maddie speaks once this entire hour. She stands in the background a few times. Oh, wait. She says "I have a math test first period," early in the episode. In any case, Jim Shannon takes this as his cue to be both overbearing and responsibility-avoiding.
And meanwhile, Zoe's cute dinosaur — the one we haven't seen for a few episodes — has grown up and it's time to let him go back to the wild. Cue Zoe lisping a lot and acting pouty, and at one point trying to hide Boxer under her jacket.
The third Shannon kid, Josh, is still being a Stepford Kid, and nobody's even mentioning that a bunch of people could soon die of a disease that they no longer have the drugs to treat, thanks to Josh. Actually, I'm glad that Josh is no longer being obnoxious, but this seems to have been replaced with outrageous amounts of blandness. It's probably for the best, though.
All in all, this was... an okay episode. If I cared more about Mira and Skye, or if I were rooting for those crazy kids Maddie and Reynolds to get together despite all of the obstacles in their path, then it might have seemed a lot better. The failure of this episode is mostly a symptom.