One of the most fun things about spending time at a place like Comic-Con is the opportunity to watch new episodes of shows in giant rooms full of major fans. We were able to have that experience with Eureka, which was made even better with an episode that featured nerd-god Wil Wheaton and a special guest appearance by, you guessed it, Mr. Wheaton himself. Eureka was the first show I ever wrote about for the blog, and for me it will always represent summer television at its best, so it was really, really fun to watch with a lot of cheering people.
The episode that aired last week was a funny, well-made zombie episode, featuring the poor guinea pig employees of Global Dynamics as a horde of irrationally angry zombies bent on…well, it was never really made clear, but one assumes it was BRAINS. It was a classic Eureka form, introducing the zombie transformation as a Monster of the Week and once again trapping our heroes into a tiny room while they desperately try to find a cure before the zombies break in. Wheaton did a nice job as zombie patient zero, and there was a side plot line with Henry that seemed to be going nowhere but had a nice payoff at the end. Funny, Comic-Con appropriate, and a good time for all.
But the big story about Eureka this season is the new organizing gimmick, which was introduced in the season premiere and which has yet to be resolved. Rather than let its main characters continue to trundle along their merry destructive ways, Eureka reset the clock for this season by sending several of its main characters into the past – back to the 1940s for the founding of Eureka, to be precise – and then let them return to the present only to discover that everything has shifted slightly. Carter is sheriff, Jo is head of Global Dynamics security, Henry is married, and in the ultimate twist of unexpected strangeness, the accident-prone lab monkey Fargo is now head of GD. It’s a familiar plot device, probably best established by Back to the Future, and it’s a fun way to play with Eureka’s penchant for turning things on their heads.
Still, it would be well within Eureka’s typical format to resolve the Bizarro-Eureka plot line in relatively short order – one episode, or maybe two episodes would be the standard length of time that something this disruptive would be allowed to continue. And yet here we are, four episodes into the season, with still no resolution on how Carter, Allison, Henry, Jo and Fargo will return to their own timeline or whether time traveling 1940s noir scientist Dr. Grant will be sent back to his own decade.
It’s nice to see the show try something different with its long-arc plot line, particularly when this one demonstrates a willingness to fiddle with even the most well-received pieces of the show – Jo was about to get engaged to her boyfriend when she was sent back in time, and returns to discover that they barely even like each other in the new timeline. Allison’s son Kevin, whose autism combined with flashes of inexplicable genius have made him a long-term source of mystery on the show, has been transformed into a regular, Xbox playing, mildly obnoxious teenager. Of course, the alternate timeline problem also helps Eureka delay its own inevitable will-they-or-won’t-they scenario, as Carter and Allison finally kiss back in the 40s, but Carter returns to Eureka to find that he’s still together with his ex-girlfriend Tess.
I think the long-term alternate timeline is a strong device to keep Eureka on its toes, and am pleased that the show has chosen to use the conflict it creates rather than immediately dial everything back to the norm. My only concern is that I can’t find a way to finally resolve this whole mess without a very clichéd “they can go home now, but do they want to?” situation. Still, that’s a long way off, and for now I’m happy to watch everyone flounder around in bizarro world.