Contributor: Gregg Wright
This episode feels a bit more scatter-shot and unfocused than usual, but the sum of its parts still made for a very enjoyable episode. With the prominence of the crew selection story and the character flashbacks, it was hard to tell which was the A plot and which was the B plot. Thankfully, there was a lot of brilliant comedy that left me grinning like an idiot much of the time. It just goes to show how a wonderful cast of characters and clever writing can, to a certain extent, make up for unconventional plotting.
Jo and Zane’s flashbacks were interesting enough, but Fargo’s was easily the best. Let me just say that Aaron Douglas (instantly recognizable as Galen Tyrol to “Battlestar Galactica” fans) was absolutely perfect in the role of the super-charismatic Galaxy Camp (knockoff Space Camp) director. I really enjoyed that character. And I liked the scene where he acknowledges that Fargo has more potential than anybody else there, and then reveals that he works at JPL. Also worth mentioning is the rather unexpected reveal that Parrish was the leader of the Awesome Possums. It seems a tad contrived that Parrish has apparently been some sort of nemesis of Fargo’s all this time, but I like the idea of it enough that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief.
One interesting surprise was the return of Wallace Shawn as the relationship auditor, Warren Hughes. I’m glad to see that his interference in Jack and Allison’s relationship in the previous episode was just a set-up for this story. I didn’t want that conflict to go on very long, and I wanted Shawn’s role on the show to end on a better note than it appeared. Shawn is hysterically well-utilized here, much more so than in the previous episode. I especially loved his grief over Allison’s “death”. I kept saying to myself after last episode that if Hughes actually knew Jack and Allison as well as we do, then he’d know how great they are together. And that’s exactly what happened here (though Hughes isn’t consciously aware of this).
It did seem pretty obvious early on that the episodic plot would have something to do with the bio-cortex readers, and that it would have something to do with Warren Hughes, after his little electric shock. But I couldn’t quite put it together until the episode spelled it all out for me (which, again, speaks to how poor my memory of past episodes is, given that the details of Jack’s past adventures formed the basis for all the clues). I could have used a bit more of an explanation for exactly how the electric shock infused Hughes with Jack’s memories from the reader, but the results were entertaining enough to render this a minor complaint. (And another, potentially minor complaint: where was Deputy Andy? I hope he returns soon.)
But Hughes isn’t the only source of humor. I generally find Jack to be the funniest and most relatable character, but here and there he gets a really stand-out episode for him to exercise his comedic chops, and this is one of them (last one was “Up in the Air”). Obviously, the humor of the show is going to be a pretty subjective experience. But Jack Carter in particular seems to resonate most heavily with my sense of humor. Watching scenes like the chemical decontamination scene and Jack’s consolation of a grieving Hughes (as Henry tries to stifle his amusement) gives one the sense that working on the “Eureka” set is a hell of a lot of fun. For all the actors, it seems like it’s an environment that encourages them to be goofy in the best possible way.
We’ve already gotten a glimpse of the Astraeus herself at least once or twice, but I appreciated that we got a much better look at her (and this time we get to see the force field and sub-light engines activated). It’s too bad we haven’t seen the interior yet, but I could understand if they wanted to save that reveal for the actual day of the launch. I’m still missing Fargo’s Astraeus Mission Updates. They were amusing, and I liked the countdown clock. The updates gave a real sense of progress toward the eventual launch date.
Perhaps the most important part of the plot was the final selection of the Astraeus crew. Fargo and Holly are in. Zane is in, and Jo would have been in, if not for her last-minute realization that this was just a challenge for her, and wasn’t a personal dream for her like it is for everyone else. I think this ties in well with both the flashback and Jo’s characterization over the course of the show. I’m actually slightly disappointed that Parrish wasn’t selected, but it’s not at all difficult to believe that his attitude served as his downfall in the final interview process. As for Grace, I think we’re intended to assume that she made it.
This half-season of “Eureka” seems to be the most focused of any so far; perhaps even a bit more so than the first half of season 4, which may very well have been the most arc-oriented segment of the show up to that point. Though, it bears mentioning that my memory of previous seasons seems to grow fuzzier all the time. Regardless, having the build-up to the Astraeus mission serving as a continual backdrop to the episodic stories has worked exceptionally well for the show, especially since most of the threats-of-the-week are related in some way to the Astraeus mission preparations.