"The Runaway" had very good moments and tried as much as it could to capitalize on some of the elements that have contributed to Terra Nova's success so far, but it was also undoubtedly the weakest episode of the series to date.
One could say Terra Nova is Falling Skies done better. Not that aliens are comparable to dinosaurs or other prehistoric species, but the Fox series has been much more successful than its TNT brethren at reaching a fundamental goal they both share: being first and foremost the story of a family in a somewhat chaotic and arguably futuristic setting. Never mind that in Terra Nova, the future is actually moved 85 million years back in time. Chief among the reasons for that success is the cast. The family in Terra Nova is much more believable and the supporting cast is in some cases even better. In this episode, the interactions between the Shannons and the runaway Leah Marcos (played by Morgana Davies), were the best part of the hour.
With her strikingly down-to-earth attitude for a kid and her markedly unruly behavior, Leah Marcos attracted most of the attention from the very beginning. She provided a lot of the humor, particularly in the scenes with Lt. Washington and Dr. Shannon (Elisabeth: "You know where you are?" Leah: "Under a table"). Her staying over at the Shannons' — made very easy because of her age — allowed the show to put them at the center of a story that could have sidestepped the family if the character was much older. It also made Leah's point of view (in the story involving Mira's ploy) more touching, not because she had to trick "the bad man" Taylor, but because she had to deceive her new friends to save her own brother. A brother played by an child actor much less impressive than Davies, by the way.
The main storyline about Sixers planting Leah in Terra Nova to retrieve Mira's "box" worked when followed from the young girl's point of view, but it proved to be a failure otherwise. Where to start? The western-like face-off between Taylor and Mira was ridiculous in its conception as well as in its execution, but of course it paled in comparison with Shannon running off alone to the rescue of Leah's brother Sam. I have never been a fan of Shannon's involvement in so many things since he got to Terra Nova, but here the writers really went beyond everything they had done before. Besides the fact that his emotional reaction to the little boy's fate was blown out of proportion by his actions, there is the simple fact that setting out alone against an army of Sixers — not to mention a slew of dinosaurs and flying reptiles — is not only irresponsible for a man with a family, but also frankly stupid.
I understand the chosen-ones factor at play here, with the show repeatedly painting Jim and his family as the heroes who save the day, but he had no way of knowing the Sixers' agenda was restricted to killing Taylor (if that is even the whole story) before actually speaking to Mira. Considering what he has been privy to since his arrival, it didn't make any sense for him to go on a one-man rescue mission, even if Leah thanking him later with a hug was arguably the sweetest thing. They could have found another way to put him in Mira's presence, as that was obviously a big part of the end goal. Finally, about the Sixers' mission, Mira should either spell it out, or stop talking about what's "really" behind Terra Nova, it's becoming annoying.
Despite all that, it would be unfair to say that everything was bad. Besides Leah who was a treat to watch, Lt. Washington's fight sequence, for example, was well done right down to Mira's funny intervention. It is often difficult to believe that a 100-pound woman can beat up a well-built man, let alone several men one after the other, but here Wash and the show pulled it off. Maddy's soldier is still annoying, but her stint at the infirmary was interesting not only because it showed a bit more of her, but also because it was a good representation of how the romanticized view we have of our parents' (or role models') jobs doesn't necessarily mean they are made for us.
"The Runaway" should be quickly forgotten and let's hope the writers move forward with the Sixers' agenda and shed more light on their friends back in 2149...