Judge Jim Thomas frequently shouts "Eureka!" when he finds his car keys. That's what happens when there's a 2-year-old in the house.
Our reviews of Eureka: Season 1 (published August 22nd, 2007), Eureka: Season 3.5 (published June 29th, 2010), Eureka: Season 4.0 (published July 5th, 2011), Eureka: Season 4.5 (published April 16th, 2012), and Eureka: Season 5 (published July 17th, 2012) are also available.
Same Town. Bigger Secrets.
The first season of the SciFi Channel's Eureka was a critical and ratings success. For their sophomore season, the writers wanted to start expanding their horizons, allowing the characters to grow and developing a more serialized structure for the series. The result is something of a mixed bag; while the characters certainly head in different directions, there's still the sense that the show doesn't quite know what it wants to be when it grows up.
Universal brings Eureka: Season 2 to DVD, just in time for the Season Three premiere on July 29 (by the way, to help amortize the extra costs for the rushed production start following the writers' strike, this season will be 21 episodes).
Facts of the Case
Eureka, a small little town nestled in the wilds of Oregon, is home to the researchers of Global Dynamics, a top-secret research facility. Here the government has secretly assembled the smartest people in the nation—too smart for their own good (or anyone else's, for that matter), as their genius has a distressing tendency to outpace common sense. Sheriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson, The Opposite of Sex) continues in his attempts to rein in the chaos. While Carter's slightly above-average IQ makes him almost literally a halfwit in comparison to the rest of the town, his lawman's intuition frequently leads him to connections no one else can see.
Unfortunately for Carter, his wits—such as they are—tend to abandon him when dealing with his teenage daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson) or the lovely head of Global Dynamics, Allison Blake (Salli Richardson, I Am Legend). Carter's nemesis, with regard to Allison, at least, is Nathan Stark (Ed Quinn, Hooked), ex-head of Global Dynamics and ex-husband of Allison, who is trying to get the ex- removed from that last title. Carter's best friend is former space shuttle engineer turned mechanic/handyman/town coroner/particle physicist Henry Deacon (Joe Morton, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), who spends this season surreptitiously investigating the death of his love Kim, who died in a mysterious accident at the end of Season One.
Eureka: Season 2 provides all thirteen episodes on three discs:
• "Phoenix Rising"—Following the restoration of the timeline, Carter and Henry must adjust; meanwhile, Allison gets Nathan's job, and citizens of Eureka start to spontaneously combust.
• "Try, Try Again"—As the Global Dynamics computers reboot on the occasion of Allison's assuming command, the disappearance of a Category Red device leads to an unlikely alliance between Carter and Stark.
• "Unpredictable"—An isolated deep-freeze sets off a chain of freak climate changes that soon escalate into a planetary threat. But a potentially bigger problem emerges when Carter's ex-wife arrives for Zoe's surprise sixteenth birthday party—and to take Zoe back to L.A.
• "Games People Play"—Carter is distressed to discover that the inhabitants of Eureka are disappearing one by one. (The ep is more than a little similar to ST:TNG's "Remember Me," in which the same thing happened to Beverly Crusher. This time, though, it's not Wesley's fault.)
• "Duck, Duck Goose"—Space junk masses over Eureka, forming a giant debris cloud that threatens the town. Meanwhile, Zoe struggles with the most cutthroat competition to be had in Eureka—the high school science fair.
• "Noche de Suenos"—An epidemic of shared dreaming in Eureka seems amusing if somewhat embarrassing, until it's discovered that the cause will ultimately prove lethal.
• "Family Reunion"—Fargo's grandfather is revived from cryogenic suspension in an unmarked sleeper pod at Global Dynamics. Once awake, he accuses his old rival of locking him in the pod, and stealing his life's work.
• "E=MC…?"—As an experiment to recreate the Big Bang goes terribly awry, turning the town's geniuses into morons. The fate of Eureka rests in the hands of Carter and an antisocial young ubergenius.
• "Sight Unseen"—An abandoned research project on invisibility returns to haunt Eureka, leading to Carter's disappearance, and the possibility that he might never reappear.
• "God Is in the Details"—Sudden muteness, human bioluminescence, and faucets running blood cause many of Eureka's citizens to believe that they are the victims of a biblical plague. Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG-1) guest stars.
• "Maneater"—Carter becomes absolutely irresistible to every woman in Eureka. But if he doesn't get his mojo under control, they might just eat him alive. Lexa Doig (Andromeda) guest stars.
• "All That Glitters…"—Beverly Barlowe (Debrah Farentino, Malice) returns to town as a parasitic bacterium threatens Eureka, turning everything to gold and then into rust—people included. Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1) guest stars.
• "A Night at Global Dynamics"—Stark and Carter must put aside their rivalry to stop a deadly bacteria from destroying the town and killing Allison's son. But can Carter ignore Stark's crimes as well?
They are trying, I'll give them that. This season, there is a concerted effort to make the show a little darker, and to give the exceptionally talented cast more chances to shine. There are a lot of other smaller moments that allow many of the characters to expand beyond their somewhat stock origins. There's even a few new recurring characters, including a potential love interest for Carter—local laundress Callie (Sonja Bennett, 2005's The Fog). The new characters provide for a lot of peripheral action surrounding the main plots, lending an aura of surreal verisimilitude to the proceedings—a real sense of community. Then there are the two plot threads of the season—Henry's search for the truth regarding Kim's death and Henry's link with the artifact. Joe Morton totally sold his character's grief in the Season One finale, and we see it again in the Season 2 opener. He's a man possessed; he knows something's fishy about the fatal accident, but he doesn't tip his hand to anyone. The writers do a pretty good job weaving the plot threads concerning the link between the artifact and Allison's autistic son Kevin, though things get a little rushed at the end of the season, as alliances arise in the oddest of places more because the plot demands it than due to the needs of the characters.
The extras are plentiful, but not all that substantive. The commentaries are hit or miss; the one for "God is in the Details," with Executive Producer Jaime Paglia and writer Eric Wallace is interesting, as it covers not only aspects of the episode, but also touches on various elements in play throughout the entire season. There's a good bit of information between the SciFi Webcasts and the Season 2 overview, "Happening About Town," but also a good bit of overlap. The gag reel is pretty much a waste—they try to use editing to make the outtakes funnier than they really are. They do something very thoughtful with the menus. Instead of piling all the extras under a "Special Features" menu, the extras for a given episode—deleted scenes, commentaries, etc.—are listed below each episode title. When you do get to the "Special Features" menu, it's greatly reduced and thus easier to navigate. I do wish that the overall menu were larger, though; the text is just too frakking small.
Video and audio are solid; though the show could do more with the audio mix—given the technology in the town, one would expect a lot more in the way of ambient sound, particularly within Global Dynamics itself.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
In his review of Season One, Judge Asperschlager noted that the series suffers from "a tonal conflict between the serious and the goofy." While the tonal problems have improved somewhat, there's still work to be done. While plot elements carry over from one episode to the next, emotional elements don't fare as well. In "Noche de Suenos," Allison withholds critical information from Carter, information about the shared dreaming that threatened the life of forty-nine people, including Carter and Jo. The next episode begins with a reference to Carter still being mad at Allison, but the issue is never raised again. What Allison did should have punched every single button Carter has, but there's just no longterm fallout, giving one the sense that everyone but Carter is changing over the course of the season.
Eureka is a fun show to watch. Likable characters, gorgeous scenery, quirky humor, engaging storylines—all the pieces are there. Still, the plot and character progression over the course of the season just seems tentative, particularly with regard to Carter. What the show needs more than anything else is to better control the goofy/serious continuum while injecting just a little more emotion into the mix. If the SciFi Channel can pull that off, then there will be a lot more people shouting "Eureka!"
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Scales of Justice
• "Happenings Around Town"--The Second Season
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