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Eureka: The Story of O2

...in which the town celebrates “Space Week” with a rocket race around the moon, and Jo investigates the cause of Zane’s “sky cruiser” crash. Meanwhile, Carter visits Zoe at Harvard.

Four episodes in and still going strong! After pushing through the uneven back half of Season 3, it has been such a pleasure to revisit Season 4. All four episodes thus far have been fun, amusing, poignant, and, best of all, firmly rooted in character. I’m really impressed with how well the creative team has been balancing the disaster-of-the-week structure with the overarching exploration of the altered reality’s impact. Often in semi-serialized shows, the arc elements get attention at the beginning and end of an episode, while the middle focuses on the adventure/disaster/monster/client-of-the-week. But thus far in Season 4, the writers have allowed the psychological effects of the timeline changes to infuse nearly every scene and motivate our characters in believable and interesting ways. This week, all three of the main subplots --- Jo’s attempt to protect Zane, Carter’s surprise visit to Zoe, and Allison secretly enhancing her son’s rocket --- stemmed directly from the longing and insecurities created by the altered reality.

Jo desperately wants to believe that this “snarky jerk” version of Zane could still be the man she loves, so, of course, she can’t just let General Mansfield send him back to prison. “I knew a part of him that was good and honest. I have to believe that it’s still there.” She needs to latch on to any shred of evidence or the slimmest possibility of hope when investigating his crash. And she needs to take the chance that the good guy within will bubble to the surface when she gives him the chance to escape. “You don’t have to be that guy.” I was incredibly bummed when he told her she was wasting her time trying to help him and seemingly took the chance to skip town, but that just made the relief so much sweeter when it turned out he stayed to clear his name after all. Sweetest of all was Jo’s karmic reward for having a little faith in him: “Anyway, thanks, Jo Jo.” I know that she subsequently lost her house in the rocket crash, and that “everything pretty much sucks,” but at least she still has Carter and her friends. And she still has a glimmer of hope that the Zane she loves exists and could maybe love her again.

While Jo longs to recapture some of the happiness she’s lost, Carter and Allison live in fear of losing their connection with their children, which sometimes causes them to act rashly and interfere in their kids’ lives. Carter was the lesser offender this week, showing up at Zoe’s dorm room unannounced because he believed she’d reveal her true colors if caught off guard. He messed up her plans and unintentionally wreaked some Eureka-style havoc with his care package --- “And now I’m stuck in a bathroom, when I should be out with my friends!” --- but, overall, Carter’s “interference” in her life was pretty minor and very understandable. Carter worked hard to build a strong relationship with his Zoe, so of course he would need to see for himself that this reality’s Zoe, and his bond with her, weren’t substantially different. Fortunately, to his and our immense relief, he discovers that, while Zoe has grown into a confident and independent young woman, she’s still fundamentally his Zoe and their relationship remains strong and loving.

Meanwhile, back in Eureka, Allison went a little off the deep end trying to foster a positive atmosphere for mother-son bonding. In a rather eyebrow-raising move, she decided to steal, cheat, and lie to ensure Kevin’s victory in the rocket race. Because, apparently, “the agony of defeat” would have been too much for her son, somehow derailing their fledgling parent-child relationship. OK, then. I can’t quite decide if this is a believable turn for Allison, or another case of gross mischaracterization. I know that she would defy protocol to protect Kevin from danger, and she certainly would have destroyed the bridge device to prevent the restoration of the old timeline. She’s also suddenly been “presented with a completely different child” and has no experience parenting a normal teenager. But would the Allison we know really stoop to theft and cheating to maintain happy relations with her son? It seems completely irrational.

Then again, humans aren’t always rational creatures. Even the most logical person can occasionally succumb to fear, lust, envy, and a host of other powerful emotions. I’ve pondered the issue quite a bit in working on this review, and the thing I keep coming back to is the depth of Allison’s desire to have a connection with her son. She’s dreamed of being able to connect with Kevin for the last 13 years, and this opportunity that’s been suddenly dropped into her lap is better than she ever dared hope. In that context, I can absolutely believe she would go to extremes if she thought their new-found bond was threatened. No matter how irrational her fears might seem from the outside. And it isn’t like the show doesn’t acknowledge how crazy her actions are. Jo, Zane, and Grant are all completely bewildered as to why she’d do such a thing, and after Kevin and Larry completely call her out on it, she admits to Grant that she lost her head a bit. “What were you thinking?” “I wasn’t.” In the end, I feel like this was an irrational but believable move for Allison, and she learned a valuable lesson about who her son is and what it is really going to take to build a strong relationship with him: not clear skies and smooth sailing, just trust.

Other Thoughts

We got a small update on Henry’s evolving situation with Grace. Right now, he’s doing all he can to avoid potentially sticky romantic situations.

It was nice to see Pillar again. Are we supposed to think she’s still in high school? Given the year gap after the end of Season 3, that doesn’t make much sense.

This episode was directed by Colin Ferguson.

It felt like they were reaching a bit to include James Callis this week. I like his dynamic with Allison, but it seemed strange that he was suddenly everywhere Allison and Kevin were. I guess it makes sense that he’d have interest in the rocket race given his new role as GD’s science historian and his fascination with his brand new world, but his interaction and enthusiasm with General Mansfield felt completely out of place.

Jaime Kennedy was fun as a laid back and quirky scientist type --- “Word up!” --- but I enjoyed Wil Wheaton’s put-upon jerk a bit more. Dr. Ramsey’s terra-forming atmosphere processing (TAP) fluid was a pretty cool idea though.

I really loved Fargo and Larry running the launch at mission control. The slow reveal that they were sitting right next to each other was very funny. I also enjoyed Vincent mc-ing the race and running the wagering. It’s always fun to see Vincent get into things!

General Mansfield is a real dick in this reality. In the past, Mansfield has always seemed well-meaning, even while taking a hard line stance on things (except for that time he fired Carter). Here, he just seems like a menacing and controlling ass. I was glad to see Fargo stand up to the general on multiple occasions this week.

Deputy Andy is back! And with a new face! I really enjoy Kavan Smith in this role. He’s definitely a lot more chipper and robotic than Ty Olsson’s Andy, who always had a very natural positivity. Kavan’s Andy is far less “lifelike” than Ty’s, but I’m willing to accept that the reprogramming he just went through maybe altered his demeanor a bit. In any event, having enjoyed Kavan as Major Lorne on Stargate: Atlantis, I get a huge kick out of his entirely different persona here. I’ll miss Ty’s Andy, but this change works for me.

Jordan Hinson definitely looks a lot more grown up. I don’t really like the new hair, but it does make her seem more like a young adult.

We learned that Lucas is swamped at MIT and apparently too busy for Zoe. Sounds like an impending breakup to me.

Allison: “Honey, I just didn’t want you to be disappointed.”
Kevin: “I’d rather lose the race than win it like this! And you should know that about me.”

Larry: “Don’t scold me, Dr. Blake! You didn’t catch me putting TAP fluid in my son’s rocket fuel.”

Kevin: “Mom, you have to trust me, okay? And if we all burst into flames, you can ground me later.”

Final Analysis: And we’re 4-for-4 on the season. Fun premise, interesting disaster, and lots of good character exploration. Woo hoo!

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

5 comments:

  1. I suppose I'm...willing...to accept Allison's inability to adjust so quickly to this new normal teenager (a couple of weeks into the change after thirteen years of 'heartache'). It still feels like a reach. I, too, noticed Grant was practically glued to Allison and Kevin in this episode, even more so if you consider a number of the deleted scenes on 4.0's DVDs, I just wish there had been some reference by Allison to Grant's willingness to leave Carter in 1947. While it provided an opportunity for her and Carter, I don't think the Allison who loves Carter would really be so forgiving. All in all, I enjoyed this less than the first three of the season.

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  2. Anon, I just knew you would find it a reach to accept Allison's behavior as in character. I was actually expecting some hefty disagreement and more frustration with what the writers were doing to her. :)

    Thanks, as always, for weighing in. I love hearing differing takes on an episode! I hadn't considered the idea that it is odd Allison's been so forgiving with Grant given what he did to Carter. You're right, though.

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  3. Another great review of a great show.

    Although I was annoyed about the alternate future timeline (now accepted), the 4th season is indeed very strong. I can safely say it's Eureka's best season.

    Let's enjoy it, next year being the last one...

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  4. Re: My previous post. . .I don't think Allison would have ever considered doing what she did here to 'help' an autistic Kevin actually, I just buy that so much of her life has become so unsettled that controlling the outcome of this one event might. . .yeah. . .I'm still not buying it.

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  5. Allison's cheating was simply out of character. Did not work. Sometimes the least likely suspect should stay that way.

    On the other hand, I loved the invisible, angry cat. It's a great way to get around the difficulty of making an animal perform - make it invisible - and I loved the bit of CG where you could almost see it. And the poor kitty had to have water poured on it for the end of shower scene.

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