Someone yelled "Eureka!" at Judge Jim Thomas...or was that "You Reek"?
Our reviews of Eureka: Season 1 (published August 22nd, 2007), Eureka: Season 2 (published July 15th, 2008), 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.
Just another day in…
U.S. Marshall Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson, The Opposite of Sex) serves as sheriff of Eureka, a town whose genius inhabitants work at Global Dynamics, a (supposedly) secret government research facility. Most of Carter's time is spent attempting to rein in the chaos unleashed by cutting edge science; what little remains is spent raising his daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson, Hank). Whether it's a rapidly escalating bowling rivalry, a DNA hijacker, or, worst of all, the prospect of Zoe leaving for college, Carter muddles through in his own inimitable manner. While Eureka: Season 3.5 is weaker than previous seasons, the evidence will show that the producers were doing their best with a bad hand.
Facts of the Case
The first half of Eureka's third season saw some major changes. Nathan Stark and Alison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield, I Am Legend) reconciled, much to Jack Carter's consternation, and then Stark sacrificed himself to save the world, never knowing that Alison was pregnant with his daughter. That combination pretty much slammed the brakes on the Alison-Carter relationship for the foreseeable future. After a couple of rocky episodes while the writers tried to find the show a new equilibrium, things settled down with a strong story arc featuring Frances Fisher as Eva Thorn, a mysterious businesswomen sent to get Global Dynamics into a more profitable enterprise. The midseason finale finished of the arc nicely, and gave us a strong cliffhanger as Sherriff Carter gets fired for helping Thorn escape. That's where matters stand at the beginning of Eureka: Season 3.5
The set includes ten episodes on two discs:
"Welcome Back Carter": Following Carter's dismissal, Fargo and General Mansfield decide to field-test a new robotic sheriff named Andy (Ty Olsson, Battlestar Galactica). At the end of the episode, an alien object is detected heading straight for the town.
"Your Face or Mine?": While Carter is isolated in a D.O.D. re-certification test, Deputy Lupo (Erica Cerra, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) gets to be Acting Sheriff. But she is not acting at all like herself…someone is slowly stealing her identity. Directed by series star Colin Ferguson.
"Insane in the P-Brane": A scientist at GD seems to have gone mad as he tries to contact the spirit world, but when things start to fly, it's not a joke anymore. Carter believes it has something to do with the re-opening of Section 5 and its new director, Tess Fontana (Jaime Ray Newman, Eastwick). Carter and Tess become trapped in the fifth dimension while investigating these strange phenomena.
"It's Not Easy Being Green": Tempers and tensions run high as Eureka hosts rival Area 51 in a bowling tournament. When a series of escalating pranks turns deadly, Carter finds himself chasing down a Blob-like creature that feeds on radiation.
"If You Build It…": Fargo abandons his car, Tabitha, who promptly kidnaps him and Larry (the new owner) to teach them a lesson. To make matters worse, an alien ship is approaching, and Fargo has important information regarding the ship to give to Alison.
"Ship Happens": Henry's twenty-year-old ship project returns with more on board than it left with, and Carter thinks it may be linked to the town's deadly electrical anomalies.
"Shower the People": Jack investigates the deaths of scientists who drowned in dry surroundings. Meanwhile, Alison's baby shower goes green.
"You Don't Know Jack": A project to collect memories for a time capsule goes awry, leaving the townspeople with amnesia and Jack and Alison trapped inside during a sonic cleaning at Global Dynamics.
"Have an Ice Day": Tess hopes her first day in charge of Global will be uneventful, pretty much guaranteeing an outbreak of chaos; the arrival of an Arctic ice core brings a new Ice Age to Eureka. Directed by series star Joe Morton.
"What Goes Around Comes Around": Zoe prepares to leave for college; Tess receives a job offer in Australia; a magnetic disturbance hovers above Eureka.
From day one, Eureka has been performing a high-wire act, balancing imminent catastrophe and heartfelt drama alongside slapstick antics and nerd jokes. In previous seasons, and even in the first half of Season Three, the various story arcs helped keep the show grounded, whether it was the shadow organization seeking to unlock the mysteries of the Artifact, or just Eva Thorn and her quest to make sure that some mysteries stay buried forever. The arc for Season 3.5, though, falls flat on several levels. To begin with, there's little in the way of dramatic build up: we learn that an alien ship is approaching, and for several episodes we're reminded that an alien ship is approaching, but that's about it. The arrival of said ship brings a surprise, but the potential drama—which was considerable—is barely realized. The standalone plots are also a little weak, with a rehash of The Blob, as well as an episode cribbed from Star Trek: TOS.
When Jamie Ray Newman signed on, the writers didn't intend for her to be a love interest for Carter; Tess was intended to be a more antagonistic character. However, Richardson's unexpected pregnancy forced the writers to go in a different direction. The pairing doesn't quite work, though; Colin Ferguson and Newman don't enjoy the same easy chemistry that Ferguson and Richardson share.
Richardson's pregnancy also derailed the plans for the long-term arc that was to have concluded the season. Creator/Exec Producer Jaime Paglia discusses the original plans in one of the commentary tracks, and there is no question it was much stronger concept than what finally made it to the screen.
Re-watching the set, I couldn't help but notice that the overall tone of the series has become a tad sillier than in previous seasons. Usually, the longer story arcs imbue the darker narrative tones, but the retooled arc of the alien spaceship never quite created that sense of a gathering storm. In addition, several episodes end with too-tidy resolutions; in multiple episodes, a character does something that in previous seasons would have resulted in immediate dismissal, not to mention arrest. In all cases, the crimes are just whisked away. I realize this is a lighthearted show, but there have to some limits.
Video and audio remain solid, but not spectacular. There's a nice selection of extras, including some commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and a featurette on the show's special effects that is pretty engaging. The commentary track for "Ship Happens," with Jaime Bergman and star Colin Ferguson, is particularly fun.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The writing has dropped a notch or two, but the acting remains solid. The two standouts are Ferguson and Joe Morton. Morton in particular does some stellar work late in the season.
Eureka: Season 3.5 has some serious problems, but the court is inclined to be lenient with the defendant, given the problematic nature of the production. We might suggest a return to Carter's crime-fighting roots; a more controlled, procedural approach might be a nice change of pace.
Not guilty. Kind of.
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