A Casual TV Fan's Guide
Eureka: Season One, part two
Rated: N/A :: Air dates: 2006
By Dan Toland
26 June 2008 — I was recently having dinner with a friend and his wife, and the topic of conversation turned to this very website. I was asked what I was working on, and after rattling a couple of things off, I said, "Oh, and I'm doing a column on Eureka."
"Um... Eureka." Blank stares. "Eureka. The show."
"Oh, right, right. Is it any good?"
"Well, I haven't finished it yet, but —"
"No, is the show any good?"
"Oh. Yeah. Of course it is. You've seen it, right?"
"I've never seen it."
"Dude, it's on Sci Fi."
Sometimes it honestly doesn't occur to me that there are people out there who haven't seen this show. If you haven't, then you need to fix that. Preferably today.
And yes, saying that this is the best show on Sci Fi (yes, I'm including BSG in that) is like saying that Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol was the very best of the Police Academy series. I know. But it is.
We continue our interrupted look at disc two with...
Writers: Dan E. Fesman and Harry Victor
The Plot:: In a stunning display of being asleep at the wheel, Stark gives Fargo an office that happens to contain a Cold War-era weapons system capable of starting World War III. Will Fargo be able to resist playing with it? (Hint: No.)
Good Stuff: Antony Holland, as Dr. Irvin Thatcher, the original brain behind Fargo's new toy, is easily the most adorable old man I've ever seen.
The shot of Dr. Thatcher and his team of Flying Octogenarian Commandos rolling in to fix the problem — all scowling and in slow motion — is hilarious. I don't know exactly why it makes me laugh, but it does.
Not So Good Stuff: Maybe I can kinda buy the idea that Eureka's so sophisticated and brilliant, but there are some awfully modern-looking circuit boards and microchips inside that 1950s piece of machinery.
Rebellious Zoe is a colossal pain in the ass. Luckily, they eventually downplay this. Unfortunately, that won't save her subplot this week.
Overall: This is a decent one. It moves a little more slowly than we're used to by this point, but it gets where it needs to go, and the central concept is fascinating It also has several mini-concepts branching off of it to keep things interesting: 7.5 out of 10.
Writers: Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia
The Plot:: The angels are coming for you. But listen: your life could depend on this. Don't blink. Don't even blink! Blink and you're... oh, sorry. Different "Blink." Rather, a murder investigation is underway when someone runs into a car — at 588 miles per hour.
Good Stuff: Stark is hilariously dismissive of Carter's desire to start a baseball league in Eureka. (I love Stark.)
Also, Ferguson is always awesome, but he's putting on an awesomeness clinic in this one. It's partly the writing and partly the actor, and this is one of Carter's better episodes.
On top of which, this is the most actual police work we've seen Carter do. He solves problems and helps people and whatnot all the time, but here he's actually investigating and interrogating and generally getting a chance to do something unusual. He's really in his element just this once, and they should do much more of this.
Not So Good Stuff: The "body" is clearly made of foam rubber. It's real bad.
This is actually a fairly special episode, as Zoe meets a guy with the dumbest haircut in the history of Western civilization. It's like a pompadour, only a story high. Elvis didn't look this goofy. Hell, Beakman didn't look this goofy. Someday your grandchildren will ask you where you were when you saw Brick McKickass and his Bulletproof Hairdo, and you'll be able to tell them.
The secret project of the week looks like a gigantic ladies' personal massager. With bumps, for her pleasure.
Random Observations: This was clearly meant to be much earlier in the season, as Henry introduces Carter during the town meeting. (This also means that Allison is still a little stiff and awkward.)
Overall: Best standalone episode of the season. Hands down, this is a 9.5 out of 10.
Right as Raynes
Writer: Johanna Stokes
The Plot:: A town-wide computer glitch seems to be originating from a programmer who's come back to town after having left under mysterious circumstances.
Good Stuff: The scene with the electric fence is fantastic. It's funny and it's a great Carter / Allison moment. (Their chemistry is coming along very nicely.)
This is really the first episode since the pilot that Debrah Farentino (Earth 2... the other one) has really had anything to do. It's too bad, because used correctly she should have been the most interesting character on the show. She's a therapist, an innkeeper, a spy, a good guy, a bad guy and she's the town bike.
If you're not moved by the ending of this episode, you are made of stone.
Not So Good Stuff: Zoe dyes her hair; it looks like a Halloween fright wig. I mean, it's obviously a wig, and a very cheap one at that.
Random Observations: Last episode, the town was getting its very first traffic signal. This week, the town's main traffic signal is fried, and it's fouling things up so badly Carter has to direct traffic, which, apparently, he never had to do before the light was put it. Continuity, people.
Overall: A very strong episode that flies by. It's not as frenetic as a lot of episodes — this is purely a character piece — but it's a nice change of pace: 8.5 out of 10.
Okay, now we're finished with the second disc. And again, these are five decent episodes well worth your time; the weakest one, "Alienated," is still a solid 6.5.
Story: Karl Schaefer and Martin Weiss
Writers: Martin Weiss and Johanna Stokes
The Plot:: Nanomites be crazy!
Good Stuff: Sometimes Carter really hates his job. In this episode, Carter really hates his job.
There are moments when Carter takes control of a situation automatically, without thinking, that remind the audience wordlessly that while here he's a small-town sheriff, he's actually a US Marshall. Goddamn, Ferguson is good at this.
Carter: You dream about world domination?
Stark: Not... all the time.
Not So Good Stuff: Fargo sets Stark up with a device that will allow him to access his computer mentally without using a keyboard or mouse. In fact, things will start appearing on the screen before he even realizes he wants them. I can't help but think this is a spectacularly bad idea. If your computer is pulling stuff up every time it briefly crosses your mind, can you even make it through a meeting? "Well, gentlemen, I'd like to show you the third-quarter projections. Please excuse the German dungeon porn. As you can see, we're on pace to make all our quarterly targets and should be well into the black by the end of the fiscal year."
The central conceit of the episode doesn't actually make much sense if you really stop to think about it. In fact, the entire episode feels like a setup to get to the final scene.
Where the hell is Henry while all this is happening?
Random Observations: I can't help but think that Matt Frewer's Australian accent is less than totally accurate. Not being Australian myself, I might be wrong. But I don't think I am.
Overall: It's frustrating, because any real description of the episode is inherently a spoiler. This is an episode that starts slowly and takes a long time to really build up, but the final 20 minutes are pretty good: 7.5 out of 10.
Story: Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia
Writer: Johanna Stokes
The Plot:: The entire town goes to sleep one night, and wakes up assholes.
Good Stuff: This is the latest in a long line of "everybody sure is acting strange" stories that's been a staple of sci-fi for as long as there's been sci-fi. That said, it's done really well. For whatever reason, any restraint or inhibition that keeps people in check and able to interact with everybody else is gone. Henry is finally allowed to vent the frustration that comes with having to explain everything to Carter all the time. Stark gets to go full steam ahead with doing whatever he wants without any planning or subtlety at all. But the best, the absolute best thing about the episode, is Erica Cerra's performance as Jo. The hyper-controlled, militaristic deputy becomes positively childlike and enthusiastic about everything. It's hilarious. And Beverly? Hoo, boy.
Not So Good Stuff: It's still, alas, the latest in a long line of "everybody sure is acting strange" stories.
I didn't realize it until I sat and watched these episodes in one big chunk, but the Artifact hasn't been given anywhere near the amount of buildup to merit the sense of wonder they're trying to instill in us.
Random Observations: In another example of the episodes airing out of order, we're reminded that Stark and Alison are separated. However, they signed the divorce papers in the last episode.
Overall: A fast-moving episode that squeezes a lot into its 45 minutes, but still manages to go on for at least five minutes after it ends. It's a huge amount of fun, though: 8 out of 10.
Writers: Harry Victor
The Plot:: Everyone, still stinging from the aftermath of "Purple Haze," is trapped within SARAH, whose alternate personality, BRAD, is slowly killing them. (Again, it's better than it sounds.)
Good Stuff: This is the only episode in the entire season that puts the characters in any real, relatable danger. I don't know what facing someone moving at supersonic speed is like, but I can imagine suffocating.
Erica Serra and Matt Frewer are brought together here, and they make a very fun team. They have good chemistry, and it gives Cerra an opportunity to do more than be the chick who likes guns.
Carter is playing hooky from work, eating that well-known breakfast of champions, Cocoa Yums with beer poured in it.
Not So Good Stuff: Okay... if you build a smart house with a homicidal personality, why do you just put another personality on top of it? Why do you not just remove the personality that wants to kill everything? Damn you, Fargo!
The very premise of the episode — SARAH brings everyone together because town disharmony could lead to global disaster — is very hard to swallow. It's just the excuse they needed to put everyone in a room, and I can get around that, but they still could have taken a little more time coming up with something a bit more plausible.
A prop is reused from an earlier episode as a turret gun. Normally I don't notice that kind of thing, but since it's the giant bumpy dildo-gun from "Blink," it's hard to miss.
Random Observations: Carter is reading, among a large pile of many other comics, BOOM! Studios' X Isle, written by showrunner Andrew Cosby. (Carter and I have remarkably similar sick days.) He also has a typical fanboy reaction when Stark rips one in half: "No! Not the Jeremiah Harm!"
Carter has pizza delivered from a company called Pizza Π. For some reason, this tickles the hell out of me.
Overall: A very good character-driven episode that manages somehow to overcome its cosmically goofy framing device: 8.5 out of 10.
Once in a Lifetime
Story: Andrew Cosby, Jaime Paglia and Johanna Stokes
Writers: Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia
The Plot:: Four years after Stark played with the Artifact one too many times, life in Eureka is exactly the way everyone wanted it to be. And Carter knows it's not right.
Good Stuff: Buckle up. There's a lot.
We're in the future, yet at no point does the episode beat us over the head with it. It's little things; SARAH's voice now sounds like a woman, and not a female impersonator. Kevin never says, "Well, I used to be autistic and completely shut off from society, but thanks to this small implant on the side of my head, I can converse and relate to the world around me in a more normal fashion." Instead, Kevin just interacts with people, and the show trusts that we'll make the connection after seeing the blinking node on his temple.
There's a really cool, totally unacknowledged special effect during an auto accident.
Tamlyn Tomita is back as Kim Anderson, married to Henry in this future. She's wonderful, and has good chemistry with Neil Grayston as well.
What do we need to do to make sure Joe Morton is on every episode of every TV show everywhere? Can we get on that? Please?
Not So Good Stuff: The only way this episode has maximum impact is if you've watched the rest of the season. It's really the only episode that doesn't stand alone.
Not for this episode, but really for the next season: they finally explain what the hell the Artifact is. (In about three minutes.) The mystery begins anew the following year. Huh?
Random Observations: Nathan Stark's company is called Stark Industries, which was, of course, the name of Tony "Iron Man" Stark's company before Obadiah Stane's takeover. Andrew Cosby knows his comics; this isn't an accident.
Overall: It's a real testament to the show that we're only 13 episodes in, and the prospect of losing everyone's "happily ever after" is so powerful. It loses impact if you've missed certain episodes, but nevertheless a very strong, emotional finish to a great first season. If you've watched the whole year, this is a 10 out of 10. If you haven't, it's still a solid 9.
Disc three is a very good disc, and although "Primal" starts slowly, once it gets going, the disc is just fantastic 'til the end of the last episode.
Again, though, if for no other reason than it has the most episodes, I have to throw my Netflix recommendation behind disc two. It's actually a tough call; for the first time since I started doing this, there are honestly no bad episodes. This is definitely a series to keep an eye out for when it returns for its third season on 29 July. I've already got my DVR ready.