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Jim Shannon took center stage in “Bylaw,” and this not necessarily because he had more screen time than the other members of the Shannon family, which he did, but because the main story was an investigation following every single rule in the book of police procedurals. A choice that, understandably, exposed the episode to some of the weaknesses of the genre.
Motive is rarely an issue in police procedurals as it would seem we are capable to resort to murder for virtually any reason, but the way the killing is carried out very often deserves some attention. At some point in the story, Jim Shannon says, “Between the wildlife and the Sixers, there are a lot of ways to die in this jungle,” and he is of course right. The settlement is surrounded by a nature teeming with dinosaurs, flying reptiles and even plants that are a danger to human life, not to mention the infamous Sixers. If the sight of Foster, the murder victim, going alone to the communication relay station was already a bit of a surprise, the way his murder was set up was even more so. The killer used a nicoraptor as the murder weapon, trapping it in the relay station, which is extremely dangerous to do alone as one would be exposed to the raptor and potentially to several other dinosaurs (raptors or not) drawn to the same bait.
That said, it was amusing to see Jim Shannon’s cop instincts kick in right away after he saw the scene of the first murder of the settlement. Just as it was amusing to see how the story, in the great tradition of TV police procedurals where the initial lead must be wrong or at least appear that way, first led us to the jealous husband Milner, then used Elizabeth Shannon to force Jim to reevaluate his conclusions and eventually face the wrath of the “police chief” Cmdt. Taylor. The relationship between Milner and his wife was painful to watch, mainly because one couldn’t avoid thinking he loved her more than she deserved. In spite of all that, Foster’s burial ceremony was very appropriate with the orchestral music and a fitting solemnity.
Elisabeth’s point about “barbaric decisions” when discussing the sentence made even more obvious something the show has been displaying blatantly from the beginning: the fact that the settlement is a military run operation with a lot of power in the hands of one man, which is a bit odd for humanity’s second chance…
Something else that has been noticeable since the very beginning and that was very visible in this episode is the technology. The autopsy conducted by Elisabeth, the military tags and the laser surgery on the ankylosaurus’s egg were all nicely built into the story. And about dinosaurs, a quick Google search revealed that we had another fictional dinosaur in the nicoraptor. I should say I am definitely not comfortable with this trend. The Late Cretaceous was filled with enough threatening dinosaurs to exclude the need of making some up.
Then there was Josh and the Boylan/Mira storyline. After Jim’s initial mistake, the writers decided to toy with us with the raid in the bar. Boylan’s arrest would have possibly thwarted whatever it is that Mira and himself are up to, but that of course would have been bad for the story, so it had to be a fake arrest. Josh seems to be acting up whenever the story requires him to, so his behavior with his father was suddenly teenager-wanting-some-attention all over again. However hard 2149 is, and whatever passed between Josh and Kira, it is baffling to see the young man make such a binding promise to Mira in an environment where he very well knows she is the enemy. With all that unfolding, it was difficult to look at Skye by his side and not think he doesn’t deserve her unconditional and unwavering support.
Ever since the pilot episode, Terra Nova‘s humor has been provided by Jim, Lt. Washington and to a lesser degree Cmdt. Taylor, and it is one of the things the show has always done right. Here again, with her straightforward replies, the no-nonsense Wash was funny without even trying to, just like Jim was when he mentioned “Malcomus.” Despite the humor, the raptor chase, the fight with Curran and his subsequent banishment at the end, the episode — with its distinctive filler elements — was never quite as gripping as others before it.