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Eureka: Pilot

... in which U.S. Marshal Jack Carter finds himself stranded in a strange little town harboring a very big secret.

As a Eureka fan who started with season four, I was a bit taken aback by the tone of the series pilot. The show I fell in love with took its characters and their emotional stakes seriously, but it had a very fun and lighthearted quality. More often than not, I spent the bulk of the hour grinning from ear to ear, and I usually left an episode feeling happy (sometimes strangely giddy). The Eureka of the pilot, however, often had an eerie X-Files undertone and it left me feeling me very unsettled. (Nothing like having the trusted community therapist casually commit cold-blooded murder to leave the audience feeling good, eh?) It certainly had its share of humor (Jack is pretty darn funny), but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something dark and very disturbing lay at the heart of this “happy little ‘burgh.” Is this really the same series I put on my “Favorites of 2010” list?

Aside from the tonal discontinuity, I thought this was a reasonably good pilot. We learned a lot about the titular town (a haven established during World War II for great thinkers doing cutting edge research) and our protagonist, Jack Carter. We met a lot of intriguing and likeable characters, including Allison, Henry, and Jo. We saw some seriously weird science, and got a very good introduction to the basic episode structure going forward. (In a nutshell: strange thing happens; sheriff works with mad scientists and Department of Defense liaison to determine which science project has gone awry; sheriff surprises condescending scientists with keen observation, quick thinking, and bravery; sheriff finds way to save the day.) We also got some disturbing hints about the ongoing series mythology, which seems to involve nefarious parties attempting to use the work being done at Global Dynamics to mess with the laws of physics and the flow of time. I’m certainly intrigued. Unsettled, but intrigued.

Other Thoughts

Since I already knew Zoe was Carter’s daughter, I was a bit irritated by how long they dragged out the notion that she was an escaped felon he was returning to custody.

I enjoyed meeting the pre-sheriff Carter and learning a bit more about his past. Unsurprisingly, he seemed to be very competent and dedicated to the job. He handled himself very well finding the missing little boy. He’s definitely a lot smarter than all the uppity science types assume.

Salli Richardson-Whitfield is a stunningly beautiful woman.

Was Jo looking at personals in Modern Mercenary? (Hilarious title.) What’s with her obsession with finding someone to date? Can’t she just be a happy, well-adjusted, badass chick? Is it supposed to be an amusing quirk to balance her tough girl image?

The toasty dog in the tree was incredibly gross and seriously disturbing. As was the partially cooked cow.

Carter: “Where are you taking me? Area 51?”
Allison: “Please. They wish they had our security.”

We met Warren King, a Nobel laureate and noted astrophysicist who’s trying to pinpoint the origin of the universe. He and Allison seem to have a personal relationship. Is this guy a proto-version of Nathan Stark? Did Greg German do the pilot and then become unavailable for the full series? If so, yea! No offense to Mr. German, but Stark is a much more compelling character.

Carter almost responding to Beverly’s advances bothered me. She seems like an insightful therapist, but she’s creepy and a murderer.

I find it a little hard to believe Carter would have remembered that Kevin was doing that exact equation sequence.

I was kind of surprised Warren wasn’t the Big Bad. He seemed so weaselly, I wasn’t expecting him to actually be helpful.

Who is the “us” that Beverly is working with? Why do they need access to Section 5, and why were they trying to build a tachyon particle accelerator to mess with time?

They never closed the loop on Carter and Zoe passing themselves in the car. Presumably it occurred as they were on their way out of town, but they left during the day, and we never saw the shot from their future perspective. It ended up feeling like a hanging thread.

I liked the reveal that Sheriff Cobb was Army Intelligence. It certainly explains why an Army Special Forces soldier would be working as his deputy. Is Jo still considered active military? For that matter, now that he’s sheriff, is Carter still considered part of the Marshal Service?

Final Analysis: A decent pilot, but this dark tone is going to take some getting used to.

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

10 comments:

  1. I am so pleased that you're taking on Eureka, Jess. I saw the pilot when it originally aired, and my snap judgment was forced quirkiness, faux sci-fi, and the only character I really like is Henry. I never gave the show a shot. I recently tried it again and I was completely wrong about all three of my initial impressions. I'm now at the beginning of season two and completely into the show now.

    So woo-hoo! And a terrific review to start us off, Jess.

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  2. Woohoo!!! Another of my favourite shows is starting to get reviewed on this site. AWESOME. Freaking LOVE Eureka. And, Billie... I'd love to review either Big Bang Theory or Community for your site, if you want. Let me know, either way, at gregzilla@live.ca

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  3. Thanks for starting to review this show. It's been under the radar for far too long. SL

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  4. Thanks, guys! It's wonderful to see some excitement for the show. I wasn't planning to do retro reviews for the earlier seasons, but once I started watching, I couldn't resist.

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  5. Yay for another show i'm watching getting the review treatment.

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  6. I also just watching Eureka with Season 4...and Love it. Glad to see it on here, Jess! I'll have to go back and start watching from Season 1 with you.

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  7. So glad to see this show getting reviewed, it's been one of my favorites since it first started. You're right about the tone of the early episodes. There was still plenty of humor, but the overarching plots felt a bit darker. Starting with Season 3 is where it seemed to get sillier. :)

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  8. Jess, so glad you are doing this show!! Yeah! :) I forgot that the first season was a bit darker, but you are right, they were ... I think Jack really brings the bright spot to the town, and I like a series that is willing to change its tone a bit and move in a direction, and I think this one has :) Don't worry, I still think season one was pretty darn good :)

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  9. This is one of those shows that people are surprised I've never seen. "You like sci-fi and quirky characters? You must watch Eureka. " So, I gave the pilot a chance.

    I liked it. I did not know that Zoe was Jack's daughter and I thought the reveal was very well done. It made me smile.

    The other characters are fun. Henry is great, although it is a bit odd to see Papa Pope as a nice guy...

    :-)

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  10. I hope you enjoy the series going forward, Chris! It's got its ups and downs --- some incredibly frustrating downs --- but on the whole, it is a fun, endearing series.

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