Friday, August 13, 2010

Eureka - "The Story of O2"

Kevin (Trevor Jackson), Allison (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), and Dr. Grant (James Callis) take shelter... from SCIENCE!
Photo Credit: Syfy
Review by Matthew Rasnake

Season 4 - Episode 4
"The Story of O2"

I suppose I would consider this a character-heavy episode, with the catastrophe-of-the-week taking a smaller role. From my earlier reviews, one would be forgiven to think that what follows here would be an excited and glowing review. For some reason, however, this episode has left me a bit flat. Perhaps that has contributed to me being unable to give writing this review more of a priority... I love my Eureka, and while nothing is ever perfect, it’s hard to admit when that bowl of vanilla bean ice cream you’ve been craving is disappointingly freezer burned.

That being said, this isn’t a bad episode—there are certainly plenty of great moments.

Perhaps some of this episode's issues derive from the two separated plot-lines, with Sheriff Carter going to visit Zoe at Harvard, while the main plot remains in Eureka. As far as I can recall, this is the first time we’ve had such a complete division between major and minor plots on this show.

The Jack & Zoe storyline provides us with some nice father/daughter moments, and pointed explorations on both sides of that equation—the daughter spreading her wings, and her resistance to parental meddling; and the father’s concern for his daughter’s moral compass in an unsupervised world, combined with his own fear of loss and separation from her. Both actors play these roles very well, as we've come to expect, and we feel for the characters. Unfortunately, though, this plotline as a whole isn’t terribly interesting or engaging.

Back in Eureka, we get treated to another of the town's many community events—a “home-built” rocket race around the moon and back. Of course, the race is merely a vehicle for the catastrophe, which, as usual, is the direct result of someone’s selfishness, incompetence, or greed. The perpetrator's identity is meant to be something of a shock, so I’ll try not to spoil it here. Suffice it to say, someone has misused a bit of technology, putting Eureka, once again, on the path to destruction.

There are a few good points to this episode, including Fargo's continuing growth into his role as the head of GD—he seems more confident and in charge with each new story. I enjoy his geeky glee in counting down to the rocket launch, and his conviction in standing by Lupo when she’s trying to keep Zane out of prison.

Despite earlier expressions of disinterest in the Jo/Zane relationship, their interactions in this episode are more fun and interesting than some of the other stuff going on. Perhaps we’ll get to see (this) Zane have more of an arc than the character enjoyed in the previous timeline, and maybe I’ll actually grow to like him a bit more. Time will tell.

After his near destruction a couple of episodes ago, a “re-skinned” Deputy Andy returns in this episode. I have to say, however, that I much preferred the “old” Deputy Andy. This new guy is alright, but the subtler performance of the previous Andy was more enjoyable for me.

We don’t get much Henry, which is always a shame. But while Dr. Grant doesn’t get a huge part, he does get a fairly meaty one—he gets to show off his intellect, and break some bad news to Allison, providing a nice, touching moment. Allison herself doesn’t seem to have many scenes, but those she has are not wasted. She gets to explore her relationship with her son—who in this timeline is not autistic—while struggling to balance her ability to let him explore, make mistakes, and grow; with her need to nurture and protect him.

In fact, the two storylines are very closely aligned, conceptually, if not directly. Both Jack and Allison must face the reality of raising an independent, self-sufficient child. Sure, it’s in the context of an alternate timeline where many things they’re familiar with have been radically or subtly changed, but the writers have nevertheless put this conceit to good use.

So, as I said, this wasn’t a bad episode, but it’s not my favorite of this season. The character moments, while good, and necessary for developing a cohesive world, in this case were perhaps not enough to carry the episode. I’m sure these themes will continue to reverberate as the season progresses, so I would have preferred a more visceral and engaging story. Then again, perhaps this episode was intended to lighten things up after the previous week’s stress filled “Rage”-a-thon.


  1. Well put. I felt the same way about this one. Not the most satisfying, but the story of dad and daughter was sweet for me. Soon, you'll be able to relate even more, won't you?

    Colin Ferguson directed this episode, and that type of arrangement often plays into "separated storylines" in these kinds of shows. He's able to focus primarily on PERFORMANCE in one pretty much whole production -- the Zoe sequences. Then, able to focus on DIRECTING the other production. Almost a first and 2nd unit sort of thing. You'll often notice less screen time in episodes where actors are directing themselves, and that's what we have here. Colin in far less scenes.

    Anyway, Matthew, I enjoyed the review. Keep it up!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Scott! I hadn't even realized that Colin directed the episode, but that's a very good point. I hardly ever pay attention to the opening credits, so I rarely ever consider much beyond what's right there in my face-- the acting, the cinematography, and the story. Probably wouldn't hurt to take a broader perspective from time to time...

    And I don't think the episode's problems were necessarily directorial... The story itself was lacking, perhaps owing to the ethereal, disconnected nature of the main plot, and the mundanity of the b-plot.

    In any event, the next episode is better, and I just finished watching last night's, which was better still, and back to par for the show.

  3. Indeed. I was not "blaming" the direction for the sub-par episode. It just was what it was.

    But yeah, paying attention to the writer and director of an episode can lead to some insights.

    Should I be worried about my Roomba vac? You know... with all the AI wonkiness going on? lol Later!

  4. I wouldn't worry too much, unless it starts following you around the house.