After the two-part premiere of Terra Nova introduced us to a dystopian future in 2149 and a pioneering past in 85 million B.C., the third installment introduced us to a Monster of the Week. While I’m sure plenty of intrigue about rebellious Sixers and hidden time-line-tweaking schemes are in store, “Instinct” was a fairly self-contained episode about a killer swarm of pterosaurs.
Familial plotlines continued to slowly develop, as Jim Shannon learns his wife Elisabeth was recruited to Terra Nova by an old flame, the head of the science team Malcolm Wallace, who’s unpleasantly surprised that Jim also made the journey back in time. Jim has also had trouble finding alone time to fully reunite with his wife—in addition to reigning terror down from the skies, this week’s villains have no respect for “business time” (which only seems fair since Terra Nova was built on their mating ground).
The older siblings are also getting closer with their love interests: Josh seems to be developing feelings for Skye, while feeling guilty about the girl he left behind in the future. Shannon’s crush makes sure he has guard duty at the Shannon household, but manages to somehow get knocked out by a creature the size of crow.
Thanks to future tech, Elisabeth and Malcolm are able to synthesize a Pied Piper’s worth of pheromones to lure the swarm to a new breeding area, ensuring that no more generic settlers get their faces eaten off.
Overall, the episode felt reminiscent of that other TV show mixing present, future and dino-ridden past, BBC’s Primeval, where a new species threatens the population each episode. Next week’s (spoiler alert) looks to be both viral and—here’s a prehistoric TV trope—amnesia-inducing. That is to say, Terra Nova is very much a conventional, network-ready sci-fi show, likely not to scare away it’s sizable audience, but unlikely to dominate the next Comic-Con. The strides forward here are visual (though the pterosaurs were less believable than last week’s big lizards) rather than character study or storytelling.
But after an equally slow start, that other Fox sci-fi experiment, Fringe has managed to intrigue. Given some time, Terra Nova may grow along with the younger audience it’s targeted. For now, I’ll just enjoy the Monster of the Week for what it is—a fun little trip back in time.