Thanks to the missus and I burning pretty quickly through How I Met Your Mother reruns and the seeming schedule change of SNL reruns on VH1 we found ourselves looking for something new to watch. As we tend to do in situations such as this, we went through shows available on Netflix Instant and decided to give Syfy’s Eureka a shot. That was about a month ago and since then we’ve gone through three seasons of episodes and really enjoyed the show.
If you’re unfamiliar with the premise a US Marshall named Jack Carter winds up becoming the sheriff of a small town in the northwest called Eureka that is actually the home of lots and lots of scientific geniuses who work for a big scientific research company called Global Dynamic. Carter has a daughter named Zoe and lives in an automated house called SARAH. The premise of the show is kind of a mix of monster of the week sci-fi (like Buffy or X-Files) and a procedural cop show a la CSI, but with a lightness to the proceedings that those other shows usually don’t have. Essentially, each episode finds something going wrong with an experiment and Carter, his deputy Jo Lupo and any number of other assorted cast members trying to figure out what happened. While Carter isn’t the scientific genius the other denizens of Eureka are, he does have a keen mind that he uses to solve the crimes.
A town filled with geniuses might sound like it would get pretty annoying pretty quickly, but luckily a good deal of them are pretty down to earth, especially Henry Deacon a scientist who starts the series off working in a garage and winds up having a pretty important position down the line. There’s also Dr. Allison Blake who works for the Department of Defense as the go between between Global Dynamic and the DOD. There’s a “will they, won’t they?” vibe between her and Carter that is a lot more complex and interesting than what that kind of element on a sitcom might be. A big reason for that comes thanks to Dr. Nathan Stark who begins the series as the head of GD (well, after the pilot) and also Allison’s ex husband. There’s a great dynamic between he and Carter, there’s a lot of back and forth insults between the two characters, but, even though it doesn’t get said, you can tell they actually respect one another. I’m trying to think of a relationship from comics that it’s similar to, but I really can’t. It’s kind of like if Tony Stark and Superman were in the same universe, I guess. Stark might look down on Supes for not being as smart as him and Supes might not see what the big deal with Stark is.
Even with the crime-of-the-week episodic nature of the series, the creators still maintain larger arcs that go through entire seasons. One of the earliest mysteries revolved around a division of GD called Section 5 that was somehow connected to Allison’s son Kevin. There’s even an entire alternate reality that Carter lives where he marries Allison and lead a whole life together only to realize it’s not the correct reality. He has to get back to the regular version of reality and put a stop to it by jumping into his past consciousness and stopping the culprit which results in him actually remembering everything from that reality. I liked how they handled this aspect of the story by not being afraid to reference it later, but figuring out a way to keep it from being the focal point for the remainder of the series.
The series really lives or dies based on the performances thanks to the sometimes complicated plots which seem to all be based on real science though taken about 50 steps ahead of what’s currently possible, it seems. Colin Ferguson as Sheriff Carter does an awesome job of carrying that load. He’s no genius himself, but he’s not such a dumbass that you want to slap him. He really is a regular guy who happens to be really damn good at solving crimes. He pulls off the cunning law enforcer really well and yet keeps everything grounded to offer non scientific geniuses like myself someone to related to.
My one real complaint about the series is how some characters go from being a relatively big part of the show to not being mentioned ever again. The first person I noticed this with was Taggart, an Australian character who we saw help Carter out on plenty of adventures. Now, mind you, some of the ancillary characters aren’t in every episode, but do appear occasionally. I’d say that, after a while, Taggart turned into a pretty prominent member of the (for lack of a better term) Scooby Gang. And then, all of a sudden, he was just gone with no explanation. We would found out in the second to last episode of Season 3.5 that he was off exploring something or other, but before that we got nothing. It was almost like he never existed. Speaking of being completely forgotten, that reminds me of Carter’s former flame Callie who ran the Eureka dry cleaners. They seemed to be really hitting off at the end of season two, but then once three hit, she was completely out of the picture and never mentioned again.
Aside from a few minor flaws though, I think Eureka’s a solid show that offers a lot of fun. I’ve read that the fourth season started airing this summer, had a Christmas episode recently and will kick back off later next year, so maybe we can get all the way caught up by then. As I’ve never really been a sci-fi TV fan (I only even watched X-Files sporadically) the only other show I have to compare this one to is its Syfy sister Warehouse 13. Both have lots of fun to them, but there’s just something about Carter that makes me like him more. Maybe it’s that he looks kind of like Indiana Jones…