From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Eureka, Recapped

With the second half of the third season of Eureka starting up again on July 10, it’s a good time to refresh our collective memories and try to remember just what has happened on the show. After all, the hiatus has been long and has felt longer.

First, the non-spoiler premise of the show.

Jack Carter is a U.S. Marshal transporting his teenage daughter back her mother in Los Angeles. After…..Cater finds himself in Eureka, a town almost entirely populated by scientists of extraordinary brilliance. Eureka is a private, secret town working for the United States government and military and when the previous Sheriff is injured by an experiment gone awry (a frequent occurence), Carter is appointed Sheriff and rather than returning to her mother, Zoe lives with her father in Eureka. The three seasons follow Jack as he adjusts to this most peculiar town and solves a variety of problems and crimes generally related to the top secret experiments of Eureka.

This is where the non-spoilery bits end. If you haven’t seen the show, please go rush out, watch all the DVDs in one epic marathon sitting, and then enjoy the new season. If you have seen the show and just need a little refresher as to the major events were and where Eureka left off with your favorite characters, here you go.

So. Introduction. Season One. We meet Carter, Zoe, and a general introduction to the scientific town of Eureka chock full of quirky geniuses. For the most part we get a bunch of one-off episodes rather than a full season arc. This first season has twelve episodes. We get the initial conflicts set up and hints of something deeper and sinister going on regarding the town shrink (this will play out more fully in the second season). The almost-relationship between Carter and Allison Blake is introduced, the tease of a never-quite-requited romance. Likewise there is the antagonism between Carter and Nathan Stark, the Director of Global Dynamics, the scientific research and development company which works for the US Government and for whom pretty much everyone in Eureka works. The antagonism is a semi-friendly one, in the sense that both Carter and Stark both end up respecting each other professionally, but don’t much like each other personally. Not to mention the fact that both Carter and Stark are romantically interested in Allison, and Stark was once married to Allison. This may read as soap-opera-ish, but it does not play as such.

More importantly than anything else this season, in terms of plot, there is a mysterious artifact introduced which is simply described as “The Artifact”. It has strange powers that folks at GD do not fully understand and it is studied in the deepest top secret level of GD.

The season ends with the heartbreaking (for me) episode “Once in a Lifetime”, which features an investigation into the Artifact. This leads to a series of events where Henry Deacon’s rekindled love and scientist is killed – to prevent this Deacon manages to change time and save her, but this leads to an alternate future where Carter and Allison end up together – except time begins to unravel and Carter must find a way to stop Henry from saving Kim’s life and thus saving time itself. At the end of the season all is well, except Carter knows what future he just gave up and Henry knows that Carter had to let Kim die. All is well, except that it isn’t.

The 13 episodes of season two pick up with Henry’s grief and his wiping of Carter’s memory for “protection”. The only problem is that Henry doesn’t wipe his own memory of that false future himself as promised. Season two begins to set up Henry as a villain of sorts. A major storyline this season is Stark’s investigation of The Artifact in regards to Allison’s autistic son Kevin. Bad things happen as a result (though always solved with humor and pluck). Also, Allison is promoted to Stark’s former position as Director of Global Dynamics.

The sweet moment of the season, one that is quite touching, is between Carter and Zoe. During all sorts of science fair mishaps (just imagine genius high school students and a competitive science fair), Zoe’s IQ was tested. Carter expects his daughter is comparatively average, just like him, and tries to console her, but really, she’s genius level herself and hides that fact from her father so as not to hurt him. It is such a great sequence at the end of “Duck Duck Goose”.

Back to the drama and story arc. Kevin becomes intrinsically linked with The Artifact and is only barely saved at the end – which marks the end of Kevin’s brief moments of normalcy and pushes him back to the previous autistic Kevin Allison had raised. Henry’s actions are progressively more erratic, but rather than go fully bad-guy, Henry helps save Kevin and in turn allows himself to be arrested for his various actions and crimes.

Season Three is broken into two halves. The first half has already aired and contained eight episodes. The second half will feature ten episodes.

The season begins with Henry facing a long prison sentence. Nathan Stark proposes to Allison Blake and she accepts. Enter Eva Thorne, a Defense Department contractor sent to “fix” Global Dynamics. Thorne reinstates Stark as co-head of GD. Thorne works to make GD profitable beyond simple R&D and institutes sponsorships (this gives us the “Degree anti-perspirant” themed episode, with which the writers did the best they could), but there is something deeper and more sinister about Thorne’s actions.

The fourth episode of this season is of particular importance. “I Do Over” features the introduction of Carter’s pregnant sister to Eureka and the wedding of Allison and Stark. Something happens to cause a Groundhog Day like effect and Carter gets to relive the day over and over in an attempt to save the day from some strange flash. The episode ends with Stark and Carter teaming up to save the day, which would normally be entertaining except that saving the day means that Stark sacrifices his life on his wedding day. Yep, Stark is dead. He was a good character and hopefully the writers (or the network) allow him to stay dead so that his death can continue to have the emotional resonance it deserves.

In episode eight the mystery of Eva Thorne is unraveled (secret bunker, extra-long life, weird goo, basically she came back to die and folks got caught in the middle). Carter saves the day, sort of, but because he disobeyed General Mansfield and let Eva escape (she ultimately helped save the day despite her previous villainy and Jack’s moral code permits her to walk away), Jack Carter is fired in the last scene in the episode. Just before that we learn that Allison is pregnant with Dead-Stark’s baby. There’s a nice Carter and Allison moment as friends, but we have to get back to the real shocker of the series. Carter is FIRED!!!

This is a dirty recap of the major story points of the show. It ignores most of the various romances, the awesomeness of Jo Lupo, the insanity that is Douglas Fargo, Henry becoming Mayor of Eureka, and most of the smaller details and interactions which are really at the heart of Eureka. This is a show that lives and breathes far more by its characters than the storylines. Stark’s death is more a character moment than a story moment. The firing of Carter is both, but it matters more because of viewer attachment than for what it means to the direction of the show.

What happens next? Well, that’s what we find out on July 10.

Joe Sherry lives near Minneapolis. He blogs at Adventures in Reading.

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