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Eureka: Once in a Lifetime

... in which a terrible accident leads to the creation of an alternate timeline.

This episode gripped me like no other episode this season. It wasn’t so much the action within the episode that I found absorbing; rather, it was the questions that started swirling in my mind about exactly when Henry jumped his consciousness back in time. Did it happen at the beginning of this episode? Did it happen several episodes ago? Did it happen after we last saw Kim? His actions, and the closing scene between Carter and Allison, completely called into question my perception of the events we’ve seen unfold over the course of the season, particularly the last several episodes. In fact, I was so intrigued and perplexed by these latest events that I immediately re-watched the entire season to try to understand how all the pieces fit.

Initially, I thought we’d seen Carter and Allison have that exact conversation about the coffee before, and, therefore, that these events must have taken place earlier in the season. But, it turned out the original conversation took place outdoors (at the beginning of ‘Right as Raynes’) and not at the sheriff’s office. In the finale, they must have been reprising the conversation as a playful flirtation, purposely recalling the earlier conversation.

But I still had all these swirling theories about whether the timing of Henry’s efforts explained why we haven’t seen Kim since ‘Before I Forget’ or perhaps why he suddenly decided to leave Eureka after 'Purple Haze.' Ultimately, I decided to go with the Occam’s Razor explanation: Kim finally decided to accept Stark’s offer and came back to town shortly after ‘H.O.U.S.E. Rules,’ at which point, Henry decided to stay. Future Henry jumped back to October 3, 2006, the morning of the accident (just like Alterna Carter), and tried to save Kim. I’ve got some paradox issues with the whole thing --- if Henry failed and didn’t create the alternate timeline, then where did Alterna Carter come from? how was he able to stop Henry? and why does he still remember his alterna-life? --- but this seems the simplest explanation.

Logistical issues aside (and I’ve got a lot more of those --- see below), ‘Once in a Lifetime’ was a pretty emotionally engaging hour. The answer to the “who’s body is it?” mystery was fairly obvious (as was the reveal that Henry knew the whole time), but the character dynamics still made this trip to the alternate future more than worth it. Grown-up, responsible Zoe was a pleasant change, and Taggart seems to have been very good for Jo. It was lovely to see her so happy and relaxed. Henry and Kim’s chemistry was as strong as ever, and thus his agony over losing her again was palpable. And while I remain firmly Team Stark, Allison and Carter do make an adorable couple. I was absolutely torn up by their pain at having to set the timeline right, and their parting was incredibly poignant. (It wasn’t enough to just have them be a couple, they had to also be expecting a child to really ramp up the angst. Ack!)

Allison: “Aren’t you even a little afraid to lose me? To lose us?”
Carter: “Listen to me. There’s no time, no space, no way that we don’t end up together. You just have to have a little faith.”

Sob. I’m not prepared to switch to Team Carter yet, but if the story ultimately goes that direction, I can certainly live with it.

Other Thoughts

So, let me see if I understand this: at this point in the Eurekaverse, the flow of time is supposed to be a straight, fixed line. The many-worlds interpretation of reality doesn’t seem to apply, meaning that the mere creation of an alternate timeline constitutes a paradox. At some point, parallel timelines will either equalize and converge into one reality, or the alternate reality (and possibly the original?) will be destroyed. (This view of time travel is raising all kinds of red flags for me in regards to Season 4. As is the idea that time travel is only possible by transferring one’s consciousness from one temporal plane to another. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

So why did it take four years for the alternate timeline to start falling apart? Was it the arrival of Kim’s body? Was her body blown into the alternate flow of time by the trans-dimensional radiation from the Artifact? I don’t understand how Henry was able to change history if there was still a body to travel through time. If he went back in time and stopped her from being burned to a crisp, then where did the body in the alternate timeline even come from? Did it just bleed through into the parallel timeline as the two realities struggled for dominance? If that’s the case, then --- again --- why did it take four years for this to start happening? Time travel theory headache!

How ironic is it that after all his bitching and moaning about scientific advances being perverted by Global Dynamics, Henry decided to risk destroying the universe to serve his very personal agenda? So much for making the world a better place!

S.A.R.A.H.’s voice in the alternate future was Kim’s voice, not Fargo’s.

Carter: “I’m happy with my reality. I’m just not ready for it to change.”

Carter: “Yeah, well your house won’t spiral into a depression if you move out.”

Kim’s Artifact-scorched body was pretty horrific, especially with the smoke coming out of the mouth and nose. Like some kind of hell demon. Shudder.

Carter: “What’s the matter, Jo? Scared of a little trans-dimensional radiation?”
Jo: “Yeah.”

In the alternate timeline, Beverly doesn’t work for the Consortium anymore, and it doesn’t seem to be much of a secret that she ever did. She did, however, use a mind-wiping device to get information from Fargo. (Why would she do that if she’s not with the Consortium?) Given that she also had the device in the “prime” timeline, I’m wondering if this is what she was working on with Jason Anderson.

I was amused by Walter’s plight in the alternate future. That guy deserves to lose everything and be the only 40-year-old teenager in town. I wonder if that’s happening to him in the prime timeline.

Stark: “So let me get this straight: I got fired for cutting corners on the Artifact, but Henry gets to play with the space-time continuum?”

We learned what the Artifact is: the last remnant of whatever universe existed before our own. It is trans-dimensional and exists outside of the space-time continuum --- a piece of technology vastly superior to our own, but billions of years old. No wonder Nathan said back in ‘Alienated’ that it already has changed everything.

Beverly’s glowy head contact is back. I’m wondering if the contact is some future version of Henry, trying to ensure that he has what he needs somewhere down the line to make another attempt to change things. The call was apparently coming from a Global Dynamics phone, and the background reminded me of Stark’s office. But why would Stark do this? Something to do with Allison and his belief that everyone deserves a second a chance? If it is someone we know, Henry seems more likely to me.

More kooky time travel theories: I’m wondering if the Henry we saw in ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘H.O.U.S.E. Rules’ was taken over by a another future version of Henry. One who had decided it would be best for all concerned if he just left town before Kim returns. He doesn’t like what he’s become, and thinks that leaving will break the cycle. His goodbye speech said something about it having been a difficult decision and quite a journey. And he certainly seemed quite intrigued by S.A.R.A.H.’s projections that his departure or interpersonal conflict between him and Carter would lead to disaster. Hmmm ...

Carter: “I think this is definitely becoming our thing.”
Allison: “We don’t have a thing.” [She walks out.]
Carter (smiles knowingly): “We might.”

Final Analysis: An intriguing and emotional finale that raises all sorts of questions. Despite a growing time travel headache, I’m looking forward to diving into the second season.

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

3 comments:

  1. Terrific review, Jess. This is a complicated episode with so much going on that I was confused, too. But it was really lovely and tremendously moving. It pretty much sealed the deal for me with Eureka; I knew at the end that I was into this series.

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  2. Terrific review, Jess. You managed to capture all the questions I was asking at the end. Especially around the idea that Carter and Henry are the only two who remember what happened.

    I did watch this episode again and was startled at how "obvious" Henry's discomfort was when I knew what was coming.

    As a member of Team Carter, I loved seeing Allison and Jack together, although I knew it wouldn't last. And, I agree about Jo and Taggart. They work.

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  3. Without giving anything away, this has to be one of the best episodes in the series. I like the 2010 Eureka presented here more than the eventual 2010 "prime" timeline. As for Henry jumping back, it happens sometime after he becomes the head of Global Dynamics, and I got the impression that it was a couple of years after the artifact incident.

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