Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Eureka - "A New World"

Review by Matthew Rasnake

Season 4 - Episode 2
"A New World"

Ok, seriously guys, I love this show. The cast is great, the writing is pitch-perfect, the setting is interesting, and the episode plots are imaginative while sticking to an established structure or formula. If you haven’t been watching, season 4 is a great place to jump in. The main characters are well established, they have back story, they have depth, and the writers and actors are already comfortable with them.

And this episode in particular is a great starting point. Sure, the season four premiere was a fun little episode for us regulars, and a nice turning point both figuratively and literally between past and future Eureka, but this second episode of the season almost feels like we, or the characters rather, are just starting out on a new adventure.

Our heroes are just as clueless as we are about what changes the season four premiere might bring, which allows them to hold our hands as we get the complete grand re-introduction to the world.

Firstly, and most noticeably, Tess is in town, and, as Jack points out, she’s spent the last year with Jack thinking their relationship was great, while Jack watched it fall apart. There are some interesting moments where Jack struggles to cope with the suddenly re-established and apparently healthy relationship, and how to talk to Allison about it. It seems that for Jack and Allison, at least the next several episodes will again be awkward.

As we saw at the end of last episode, Allison's son Kevin is no longer Autistic... and we get to feel her joy at this discovery, and at her ability to finally really get to know her son. A little fun will likely be had with Allison learning that perhaps having a normal teenage boy in the house isn’t the rosy picture she might have imagined--Kevin is normal, which means he’s more interested in hanging out with his friends than with his wacky, uncool mom. We also, once again, get to see Allison struggle between doing what she wants, and doing what is right, and these kinds of things are what deepen characters and make them interesting. Allison doesn’t want Kevin to fall back behind the shadowed curtain of Autism, which might happen if they repair the timeline, but she has to admit that if the timeline isn’t repaired, there might be more dire and wide-spread consequences.

Fargo seems to have won the altered-timeline lottery, except that in this timeline he is kind of like the “Mirror, Mirror” Kirk--a tyrannical leader--while original-timeline Fargo is brilliant but bumbling. It will be interesting to see how long he can maintain his new position at GD, before either major calamity strikes because of him, or he is usurped by someone with more gall.

Henry's life is the least changed--he’s still the town mechanic, and still the mayor, but apparently he is now also married to someone who he feels he’s only just met. I have a weird feeling about this newcomer (his wife), though, and part of me suspects she may have something to do with the events of the previous episode.

For the most part, the changes affecting the main characters fall on the positive side, but for Jo Lupo, it’s a bit different. Her alternate-timeline boyfriend and almost fiancĂ© Zane has never, in this timeline, overcome his mischievous, meddling, pranksterish nature. He’s certainly not the Zane she knew, but thankfully, in this episode she doesn’t waste a ton of time wallowing. (Some, but not too much.) Also thankfully, we don’t have to see much of Zane, which frankly is fine by me--he’s an alright character, but I never cared much for him anyway.

Jo’s other shocking blow is, at least initially, job related. Some people have their personal identities tied up in their profession, and Jo is very much one of those people. Jo has a major letdown early on, but is ultimately very pleased with her role in the new timeline. There’s a great beat between her and Jack when she explains her new job to him.

Just as a side note, these quick little character moments are what really makes this show what it is. There’s story development, setting, and fantastical plots, but it’s the small, human moments that really sell the abilities of these actors (especially Colin Ferguson) and writers.

James Callis puts in another wonderful performance as Dr. Grant, the man from the past. There’s poignancy to his delivery that really sells the character as intensely engaged in learning about his new place in time, while also wistfully considering his lostness in it, and his desire to once again make his mark.

The highlight of this episode, however, is Deputy Andy. We met Andy last season, when he temporarily replaced Carter as Sheriff, and he's a fun character wonderfully portrayed by Ty Olsson. There’s a scene between Andy and Dr. Grant, where the doctor, in jail, learns of Andy’s “android” nature. In it, you can feel Grant’s intense scientific curiosity and wonderment at finally getting a glimpse of what he dreamed the future would hold, and Andy's momentary trepidation at being subjected to such scrutiny. I kept waiting for Callis, as Grant, to slip in an off-handed tongue-in-cheek reference to ‘Battlestar Galactica’s’ Cylons, but alas, if there was such a reference I didn’t catch it.

Sheriff... that is, Deputy Andy’s re-introduction should be a fun addition, and Dr. Grant is already showing promise as the character walking that fine line between hero and schemer. I predict we’ll see him installed as head of GD before the season’s out, assuming they can satisfactorily explain his presence in 2010.

This episode closes with a fantastic scene where our band of displaced time-travelers meets up to discuss their situation. This whole scene is well written, and so well played that it nearly gave me goose-bumps. There’s a finality to it, but if it and the rest of the episode are any indication, I like where this alternate timeline thing is headed (for now, at least). Their shared secret binds them even closer together, which will be an interesting dynamic to see explored as the new timeline continues.

I am struck by the parallels between this situation and the 1st season finale where a future timeline created by Henry’s meddling in the past was unraveling and threatening to destroy everything. Will the ripples caused by the change continue to manifest? Will this timeline begin to unravel or destabilize? Will they continue to search for a way to set things "right?" The only thing I'm reasonably sure of is that this time a short-term memory wiper isn’t going to make everyone forget the original timeline, even if they wanted it to.

This episode epitomizes what I love about ‘Eureka’, it’s such a perfect little package from the lighting on up to the nuanced performances, that I simply can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t love this show. It's also a great jumping on point, as I mentioned, so if you haven’t been watching Eureka up ‘til now... start with this episode.

I mean it, go fire up your DVR right now. We’ll be here when you get back.

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