Eureka: O Little Town

... in which the great scientific minds of Eureka take on the “magical” Christmas season.

What a thoroughly delightful Christmas episode! Clever, hysterical, and sappy, it hit all the right holiday notes, including a closing music montage set to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,’ my favorite secular holiday tune (although I prefer a more melancholy version). I laughed, I cried, I grinned from ear to ear. Despite some fairly predictable plotting --- Who didn’t see the “Carter learns that being with his friends in Eureka is being home for the holidays” moral coming from a mile away? And Noah Drummer was so obviously Santa! --- the overall Eureka-ness of everything happening was so spot on that I felt deliriously giddy just to be spending time in this crazy town again. Tactical assault sleigh, and all.

The writers really did a wonderful job making staples of the holiday season work for their standard disaster-of-the-week plot. Of course some Global Dynamics researcher would be pioneering efforts to explain Santa’s supposed abilities with physics and technology, creating super sleds, holographic reindeer, and gift shrinking machines. (I wonder if some of the “Santology” came from Gregory Mone’s book The Truth About Santa: Wormholes, Robots and What Really Happens on Christmas Eve.) And, of course, a piece of this tech would malfunction on the day of the GD Christmas party, causing all kinds of havoc. But Vincent causing the disaster by accidentally breaching the containment field on the shrinking machine when using it on “unusually dense material” in his attempt to reverse the fortunes of the oft-maligned fruitcake? Pure genius. That’s right. “The fruity nutty goodness that is fruitcake” was to blame for their impending Christmas doom. Tee hee! Plus, I loved how the title referenced both the whole shrinking town disaster and ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.’ (Did they come up with the concept or the title first? It couldn’t have been more perfect.)

I also liked that, even though the town is chock full of rational, scientific types, we got to explore the more emotional and magical elements of the season. “Shouldn’t always be about science. Some things are better left … unexplained.” We got Carter struggling with being separated from family during the holidays, Allison trying to recapture of the magic and wonder of the season from a child’s perspective, and Jo straddling the line between, all while pretending to be the Grinch. And, of course, we had the mysterious, all-knowing stranger who may or may not be Santa Claus.

I was fairly moved by Jo’s revelation that she was playing Secret Santa because she hadn’t seen her brothers in years due to their military service, and she was trying to recapture that feeling she had as a kid watching their reactions when she’d given them the perfect gifts. However, it was Allison’s desire to give her children the magic that she missed out on as a kid that really struck a chord with me. I’ve always struggled with the whole “Santa Lie” for my own kids. I still vividly remember when I discovered that Santa was really Mom and Dad and how crushing it was. Christmas was never same, because the magic was gone, and I didn’t want my kids to experience that same disappointment or to question our honesty. But I grudgingly go along with my husband’s desire to perpetuate the myth, and while listening to Allison and Carter, it suddenly gelled for me why we should. It’s about fostering and preserving that sense of magic and wonder while they are still innocent enough to enjoy it. And it’s about recapturing that little bit of magic through their eyes. “I just think we could all use a little more magic in our lives, you know?” I still feel guilty knowing they’ll one day experience the disillusionment, but maybe it’s a little like the old “better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” adage. At least they’ll also be able to remember delighting in the wonder of the season, and hopefully they’ll get to share it with their own kids one day.

That’s kind of what these sappy holiday episodes are about, yes? Delighting in the magic and spirit of the season? Trying to reconnect with that lost innocence?

Other Thoughts

I didn’t really care for the framing device with Carter telling the story to the kids stuck in town for the holidays. I kind of liked that it lets you believe what you want to believe about his tale and Noah Drummer being Santa, but it largely felt unnecessary. The kids weren’t particularly endearing or well-acted, and the heavy-handed reinforcement of the already obvious theme was rather groan-inducing.

I’m puzzled about where this episode fits into the show’s continuity. Obviously, it takes place within Season 4’s altered reality, but does it occur after ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ or sometime before that? Dr. Grant didn’t appear to be hanging about as part of the family, but Allison and Carter weren’t acting like a couple. They weren’t affectionate enough with each other. Zoe and Zane didn’t appear to be an item either. And where was Henry’s wife, Grace? Surely, she would be by his side around the holidays. Plus, she’s a GD employee. Why wasn’t she at the Christmas party? Ultimately, this was a fairly stand-alone episode, so it doesn’t really matter. It was just something I kept thinking about while watching.

Jo must be well compensated as GD Head of Security, in order to afford all those unique and rare Secret Santa gifts.

Carter: “Is that meatloaf?”
Vincent: “It’s fruitcake!”
Carter: “Oh. Um, yeah. I’m still digesting a piece from last year.”

I loved Carter’s reaction to his first bite of fruitcake. I couldn’t figure out if it was really delicious or if Vincent had done something to it to make it extremely sensual.

Fargo: “It’s the party. The time our GD family comes together in the spirit of giving.”
Jo: “It’s the time all you geeks fly your freak flag every year.”
Fargo: “No, that’s Comic Con.”

Carter: “Taggart. Santa.”
Jo: “You just wrecked Christmas with two words.”

Taggart amused me. I know he’s a returning character from earlier seasons, but since I started watching with Season 4 I had never met him before. Matt Frewer’s crazy exaggerated Australian accent made me smile.

Chris Parnell was well cast as Noah Drummer, condensed matter physicist, a.k.a. “Santa.” He definitely had the right look for a supposed GD employee, but was also very relaxed, friendly, caring, and insightful. He managed to project that all-knowing twinkle, but in a kindly grandfather way, not a condescending one.

Taggart: “My device can’t be responsible.”
Carter: “Are you kidding me?! Look where you live! The device is always responsible!”

Where did the big objects clinging to buildings and chasing Carter come from? I thought nothing could get in or out of the EM shield, and everything inside the EM shield was shrinking (except for the crystal).

Carter and Taggart in the sled was giddy, gleeful goodness! Carter’s terrified screaming made me hoot with laughter!

Zoe: “You know, we could probably make it home. If you still wanna go.”
Carter: “We are home.”
The most predictable response ever, but it still made me smile and well up a bit. (In my defense, I was already emotional from the Allison/Carter and Jo/Zoe scenes.)

During the closing music montage, I really loved the shot of Jo smiling as she watched Fargo, Zane, and Vincent comparing their Secret Santa gifts, just like she no doubt watched her brothers. It captured the spirit and underlying sadness of the original song well.

Final Analysis: A delightful holiday outing that perfectly combined the spirit of the season with the wonder that is Eureka.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

2 comments:

michem said...

Jess,
Thank you for writing a Eureka review. I just recently stumbled upon this series, and I absolutely love it :) It has so many good things that I love about sci fy, crazy scientist, weird inventions with unforeseen dangers, inventive story lines. I actually think it has some of the most creative story lines in the sci fy genre currently on tv right now … It is not a show for those that look for a little scary in their sci fy (like Aliens), it is all fun loving sci fy, but I just like science fiction that surprises me a little, and this show does. I hope you consider doing more reviews ….

Jess Lynde said...

Hi Michem! Thanks for the feedback. I am considering doing weekly reviews for Eureka when it comes back. Whenever that is. I know they've got about 10 episodes left in Season 4, but have no idea when they are planning to air them. If I don't have any major schedule conflicts, I'd like to start giving this show weekly attention. I've really been enjoying it, too. It even made my list of 2010 favorites!

If I do take it on, I don't know that I'll get around to doing reviews for Seasons 1 to 3 (which I haven't even watched yet). However, I would likely go back and do full episode reviews for the first half of Season 4. Episodes 1-9 only have an overview piece right now.