Yesterday's Eureka loaded up on guest stars, adding Wil Wheaton and Stan Lee alongside Felicia Day's socially awkward physicist. But there's no time to bask in all the guests, as some psychic contact lenses have predicted the town's imminent annihilation.
"Glimpse" is my favorite episode of the still young season 4.5 - it had a great central threat, it did some nice, light work on the various relationships, it had some good jokes, and it gave plenty to do for the two main guest stars. As we learned last week, Eureka has begun the Astreus project, which will use the newly invented faster-than-light drive, and now Fargo and Dr. Holly Marten have to being whittling down the hundreds of applicants to find the twenty astronauts who will make the journey. In a desperate attempt to woo Holly, Fargo suddenly starts acting ruthlessly assertive, for reasons that...well, we'll get to that.
Meanwhile, as part of the new enhanced security measures for the Astreus project, Jo and Carter are fitted with PALS, contact lenses created by Zane that can predict threats before they happen. Despite Carter's expected misgivings, the PALS prove shockingly accurate, which is very bad news when it predicts the complete destruction of the town in just two hours. Worse, the PALS have crashed the system, leaving our heroes with precious little time and precious little information to save the day.
One thing I particularly about liked this week's episode was the particular threat to the town's ongoing existence. On some level, it's always going to be a bit contrived and hard to believe that Eureka has yet again brought itself to the brink of total disaster, and this is one of the things that can hurt it a bit when you look it as an overall story. Indeed, Warehouse 13 actually gently mocked this very issue in its own most recent episode. So I found tonight's threat, in which it turns out that the PALS system is predicting its own imminent demise, hugely satisfying. After all, even by Eureka standards, this was a huge cataclysm, one that was going to destroy the entire town. What's more, the other inventions of the week, like Dr. Parrish's cooling gel and Henry's virtual reality, were smartly integrated into the overall plot. It's tricky, but I think this is how you handle the show's potentially repetitive procedural elements with a bit of added panache.
The thing is, it would have been massively coincidental for such a threat to be imminent within hours of PALS going online - honestly, I thought it was even a shade too contrived that the plasma canister was out in the open on the one day Jo would be able to see its disaster coming, but that's probably nitpicking - and it even afforded the episode a little subtle dramatic heft about the perils of predicting the future. (I was actually reminded of the classic Isaac Asimov short story "All The Troubles of the World", in which a computer charged with predicting the future sets a complex chain of events in motion to ensure its own destruction...but then, I'm always reminded of Isaac Asimov.)
Or maybe the real lesson is that Fargo can't be trusted with anything, whether it's precognitive contact lenses or romancing Felicia Day. In a weird attempt to win Doctor Marten's heart, Fargo steals a pair of the contacts and uses them to dispense with various candidates for the Astreus mission, including Wil Wheaton's gleeful asshole Dr. Parrish and Stan Lee's Dr. Lee, an expert on gamma radiation who you wouldn't care for very much if he should become irate. Something like that, the precise wording isn't important.
Dr. Marten, as it turns out, takes her job very seriously, and she castigates Fargo for making a mockery of the interview process. And then, just as he's redeemed himself from being cool under fire during Eureka's latest crisis, he completely ruins it by telling her that the PALS predicted they would kiss - which is something they couldn't do, and Holly understandably excuses herself from this thick slice of awkward. Fargo then mutters to himself, "Douglas Fargo...too dangerous to love", which walks a weird but very cool line between being awesome, funny, and heartbreaking all at the same time. It's a great moment from Neil Grayston - it's hard to imagine season one Fargo ever having a moment remotely like this - but then, pretty much all the actors acquit themselves very, very well in this episode.
I'll admit one of my concerns from last week's episode was that Holly Marten didn't quite work as a character, and this episode did a lot to allay my fears. We're quickly starting to understand the issues underlying Holly's quirkiness - Felicia Day's delivery of "I do not...do not care for crowds" conveyed a lot about who Holly is - and the episode navigated a tricky path in making Holly both charming and socially dysfunctional.
But really, this episode was almost completely stolen by Wil Wheaton, making his return as Dr. Parrish. One of the best ways to shake up a show like Eureka is to bring in a character whose energy completely contrasts with that of the cast. In previous cycles, that's generally meant bringing in someone mysterious and possibly sinister - James Callis last year, Eva Thorne before that - but Dr. Parrish is something else entirely: he's just a massive asshole. Wheaton is pretty damn brilliant in the role, giving no quarter to Fargo or Carter in his interactions with them while also revealing just why he's so thoroughly antisocial. His brief flirting with Holly was also great, being charming in the way that only a dude who is a total dick can be, and bodes very well for the mooted love triangle between Fargo, Holly, and Parrish.
Actually, all the relationships were handled nicely in this episode. The continued low-key romance between Carter and Allison is really well-handled. It seems there's a temptation on a lot of shows to turn long-established adult characters into a couple of stupid lovesick teenagers the second they jump in the sack together, and Eureka deserves a ton of credit for sidestepping this.
They discuss the possibility of Allison going to Titan without angst or manufactured conflict, instead working through their feelings in a mature way and then making adult decisions. I'll admit that may not sound like the most scintillating thing in the world, but the writing and chemistry between Colin Ferguson and Salli Richardson-Whitfield counts for a lot, and besides - I'll take that a thousand times over some stupid high school bullshit, even if the latter is theoretically more "dramatic."
There's also Jo and Zane, which I've been kind of avoiding talking about, perhaps in part because Jo herself is so determined to not talk about it. I'm not totally sure where the show is going with this one - as Carter reminded us (much to my surprise), Zane is still sort of involved with Zoe, which technically makes Jo the third wheel in all this. But again, it's all handled in a way that makes me feel the show is confident in who its characters are, and the episode even pulls off the rare trick of having them discuss their relationship in the face of imminent disaster without this seemingly totally stupid.
Well-played, Eureka. Well-played indeed.