Yesterday, Eureka brought its five-season journey to a close. The finale gave us callbacks and cameos galore, happy endings for all the townspeople, and one last chance for Sheriff Carter to be the big dumb hero. Basically, it was perfect.
Spoilers ahead, assuming that still matters...
Give the Eureka creative team plenty of credit for "Just Another Day" being even a tenth as good as it is. The writers were only given a few days to pull the episode together once the cancellation notice came in, and the cast and crew was reassembled months after the rest of season five finished filming to bring things to a close. Considering how many shows have had all the time in the world to plan out their big finale and still failed horribly - I've got a few examples in mind, but let's focus on the positive here - it's remarkable that "Just Another Day" is more or less a complete success. And it even gets in some rather brutal jabs at Syfy for its decision to give the show six extra weeks to wrap things up and then to change its mind, which ranks a solid 8 out of 10 on the patented Futurama scale of meta-textual bitterness.
Part of the episode's success is because it's concerned with characters and emotion, not the resolution of any big overarching plot. Co-creator Jaime Paglia advised rewatching four episodes in preparation for the finale: the pilot, the first season finale "Once in a Lifetime", the second season episode "Maneater", and the fourth season premiere "Founder's Day." I'd second that recommendation (although "Maneater" seems a bit more tangential than the other three), but I should say this isn't really about building some complex five-episode arc after the fact. You see, those episodes prominently feature the timeline shift, the Artifact, and Henry's creation of a time paradox to save his first love Kim. Going in, I thought all that might be setup for some pretty massive revelations or a big twisty finale, but the connections were more subtle than that, with repeated lines and thematic links bridging the show with its past. Well, that a whole bunch of cameos.
Let's run through the plot of "Just Another Day", even if it's mostly just an excuse for all the farewell festivities. The Department of Defense has decided to shut down Eureka after last week's bioclone fiasco, and trucks are busy shipping out all the town's most impressive equipment to parts unknown. One of the first things removed is a stabilizer - the kind of stabilizer that stops wormholes from forming all over town, and you can bet that the town will once again be destroyed if Carter doesn't do something unreasonably heroic. Meanwhile, Fargo makes a last-ditch effort to save Eureka, Henry seeks out Beverly Barlowe to rescue Grace from the espionage charges, Holly tries to regain her memories, and Jo and Zane figure out just what the hell their future is.
The episode crams in as many guest appearances by old favorites as it possibly can. Most don't really get that much to do, admittedly - as Taggart, Matt Frewer almost literally runs through one scene and out again, but it's good to see the kooky old dogcatcher...sorry, sorry, biological containment specialist. This, of course, is a callback to their first ever exchange back in the pilot, much as Jack's use of "carefulest" and Allison's kiss for luck before the big wormhole plunge recall "Once in a Lifetime" and "Founder's Day."
Jordan Hinson gets one last appearance in as Zoe, and it feels a little weird to pair her off with Fargo for most of the episode, as I don't really remember them having much of a relationship before this - though judging by some of the looks Zoe seems to be giving Fargo, that might have been about to change, at least if Holly hadn't shown up. Of course, her reactions are probably just another indication of how shockingly far Fargo has come in his five seasons, and Zoe is quite legitimately impressed that there's nothing (well, almost nothing) ridiculous about his last stand. Maybe parts of this are a bit silly or even a bit perfunctory, but the whole thing works just great because very little of this is meant to be high drama. This is a valedictory address and a farewell party, and you want to bring back as many old friends as possible for the big goodbye.
The most interesting (well, second most interesting, but I'll get to that) return is by Debrah Farentino as Beverly Barlowe. If there's one area where "Just Another Day" could have used a little more time, it's in her and Henry's subplot, in which he invokes her own stated devotion to the greater good to convince her to save Grace. Farentino and Joe Morton absolutely nail the scene, and they manage to convey their complicated, convoluted shared history in just a few short lines here and there, but still - as a combination confrontation and detente, I would have liked to see them get a bit more time to really hash things out. I also wonder whether it was quite the right note for Beverly to just leave an anonymous tip about Senator Wen. While that's probably more in line with the character, I think it might have been a more meaningful redemptive moment for Beverly if she had actually turned herself in and finally lived up to the consequences of her actions, proving she was in her own way one of the good guys once and for all.
And then there's James Callis, who returns as Dr. Trevor Grant - now known as Dr. Trent Rockwell, although that pseudonym still isn't half as ridiculous as his hair or his accent, which has somehow managed to become even more ludicrous since we last saw him. His decision to buy the town probably flirts with being a deus ex machina resolution, but honestly, who cares? Although Callis is obviously here as his Eureka character, there's something weirdly appropriate about Gaius frakking Baltar showing up to help close the show out, as Eureka and Battlestar Galactica represent the two great legacies of the old Sci Fi Channel. Plus, Colin Ferguson's delivery of "I'd be honored" when Carter momentarily thinks Dr. Grant is going to make him the new head of Global Dynamics is the episode's - hell, maybe the season's - funniest moment.
After putting our heroes through so much misery and heartbreak in season five, "Just Another Day" wisely decides to let them off the hook and give them their happy endings. Of these, the only slightly inelegant one is Holly remembering Fargo, if only because that's the sort of thing that probably could have used more than one wrap-up episode to really do properly. Felicia Day makes this work much better than it probably really should, and she actually manages to sell the episode's most shamelessly corny lines, such as when she realizes that Sheriff Carter is the "strong force that holds everything together." If you're going to just go ahead and state the show's underlying premise, the final ten minutes of the last ever episode is probably the time to do it.
Jo and Zane finally make peace with themselves and with each other, but of course they have to have one last big pointless fight, because that's just who these people are. The show finally gets right back to where it was just before the timeline jump, albeit with the places swapped. The fact that it's Jo who gets down on one knee and proposes is just perfect for both these characters, and it helps justify the creative team's decision to take a mulligan on Zane's character arc. The payoff for the last two seasons of their rebuilt relationship feels far more satisfactory than it ever was the first time around.
That just leaves Allison and Carter. Jack's journey through the wormhole is a nice excuse to show a quick clip reel, which serves as probably the easiest way to give Nathan Stark a tiny little role in the finale. It also shows a giant shot of Stan Lee, which I find especially hilarious for anyone who doesn't remember his cameo back in season 4.5 and just thought the show randomly threw in a shot of Stan Lee for no particular reason. And yes, the clip reel shows things like the aborted timeline in "Once in a Lifetime" and the supposedly non-canonical animated Christmas special that Jack probably shouldn't remember, but again - let's just leave logic out of this, just this once. Of course, it seems Jack hasn't totally forgotten his never-was life, as we see with his quick sense of déjà vu when he learns Allison is pregnant. At the outset of the season, I figured their wedding would be the capstone of the series, but this is infinitely more appropriate.
Speaking of perfect ways for the show to go out - what show other than Eureka would throw into its big wrap-up montage a shot of an ecstatic robot about to have sex with a house? No other show, that's what, and that's all the reason I need to miss Eureka. And even that pales to the last scene, in which - as many, many of you predicted - we loop back to the pilot and see Marshal Jack Carter and teen delinquent Zoe riding into Eureka for the very first time. The moment doesn't perfectly match what we saw back in 2006, and no attempt is even made at an explanation, but it's too perfect a moment not to do. After all, that mystery will wait for tomorrow. And really, it's just nice to leave these characters knowing they have many tomorrows to look forward to, even if we don't get to see them. There are far worse things than for a TV show to go out on a high note.