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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

a few thoughts on the new season of ‘Eureka’

Damn you, Eureka.

I had been enjoying Syfy’s Eureka since its beginning a few years ago. It has been perfect Friday-night TV: smart but not overly demanding, the kind of show that didn’t insult my intelligence but allowed me to relax with it. Nice, likeable characters (for the most part, aside from one or two putative “villains”); nice stories with fun, nerdy plots. And the idea of the town of Eureka itself had to have been carefully tailored by the writers to appeal to true, deep-down geeks. It always made me think of that Twilight Zone episode, “The Eye of the Beholder,” with the Pretty Lady whom society thinks is ugly, and then the Handsome Man comes to take her away to a place where she’ll fit in and not be a freak, a town full of ridiculously attractive people such as themselves whom their culture, because of its warped perspective, couldn’t see the value of. That was the town of Eureka: a safe haven for geeks, where everyone was smart and cool and thought science was actually fun.

The key element that made Eureka so soothing was that there wasn’t much about it that I needed to keep track of from week to week — it was a sort of a refreshing change from every other TV series of late worth watching, which are all more like Russian novels than episodic TV series. Not that I’m complaining about that. I like that kind of complexity. But sometimes it’s exhausting.
And then Syfy had to ruin it by going and turning the show into something that has me absolutely riveted. And has me thinking. And has me speculating.

Damn you, Syfy.

I’m loving it, of course.

See, Gaius Baltar and his timey-whimey machine have transported Jack, Jo, Fargo, Allison, and Henry from 1940s Eureka back to 2010… but into an alternate timeline where things are a little different. (Oh, right: In the first episode of this season, Jack, Jo, Fargo, Allison, and Henry time-traveled back to 1947 Eureka.) And Gaius Baltar– okay, not Gaius Baltar, but James Callis as Dr. Trevor Grant, an associate of Albert Einstein’s, came along with them. Which is bad and a bit like crossing the streams, or something. The spacetime continuum may be in danger, which can ruin your whole day.

I’m not gonna explain who the characters are. Either you already know, and understand why Eureka has gone from “must watch” to “must watch and talk about” or you don’t, in which case, move along, there’s nothing for you here.

So, now, Allison’s son isn’t autistic, Fargo is the head of Global Dynamics, and a few other timey-whimey switcheroos have happened, with only a few people aware of it. Is Eureka gonna be like Primeval, where the universe flipped at the end of one season and stayed flipped, the alternate timeline remaining the dominant one, with only a few characters aware that anything had changed? Because that would be cool. Or will it be like Doctor Who, and a reset button will set the universe aright by season’s end? Because that could be cool, too. (I refuse to believe that the writers have not been influenced, at least a little, by those two shows.) Or will Eureka find some new path to explore? Because that would be coolest of all.

And I wanna know more about Trevor Grant. What does he think about 2010? What does he think about the Internet and global warming and, you know, everything that has changed so dramatically in the years he skipped over? He must be lonely no matter how cool living in the future is to him: Will he end up being a serious rival to Jack for Allison’s affections? Also, how is it possible that Callis is so much hotter as Grant than he was as Baltar? Is it just that Grant is not a psychopath?

Such questions! Eureka never made me wonder about it like this.

And then, last night, Wil Wheaton made an appearance:

Geek heaven.

I can’t the remember the last time a show I was enjoying well enough suddenly took this kind of leap in quality and energy and splendidness. I wouldn’t have said Eureka needed to be revitalized… and maybe that’s the best point at which a show should be revitalized: when it’s already so good and so much fun that it never occurs to you that it could be better.

And then it gets better.

How did they do that? I’m in awe.

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