Eureka, “Liftoff” (4.11)

Zane (Niall Matter) and Fargo (Neil Grayston) in the spaceship.

A review of the 4.5 premiere, written by Jaime Paglia and Bruce Miller and directed by Mike Rohl, after the jump…

It’s been almost a year since Eureka has run regularly, its ‘season 4.0’ having ended in September. And perhaps that wait would have been less frustrating had it not been punctuated by the one-time Christmas episode “O Little Town”  (4.10) in December, a dud that lost the show a lot of goodwill just as it needed to save it up. Thankfully, the front half of the season was one of the show’s strongest consistent runs, and a dud that would have been a standard episode in the show’s weaker first season wasn’t enough to dissipate the effects of it. Does this 4.5 premiere get things back on track?

A definitive yes. After an episode that failed because it fell short on character and long on plot – which, let’s face it, has never been Eureka’s strong point nor focus – the writers wisely give us an hour purely dedicated to showcasing the characters we love, and the interesting dynamics the time switch has created. Trapping Zane and Fargo in a space ship for an episode was genius: not only do their geek/cool guy archetypes clash beautifully, but Niall Matter and Neil Grayston have great chemistry here, and the multitude of scenes between them just pop. And having the time switch secret hang between them does wonders, as Zane needs something and Fargo has the power to answer his questions.  Matter, who has long been one of the show’s secret weapons and has been deployed perfectly in this arc, does a great job with every note Zane has to play: panicked, flirty ne’er-do-well, and surprisingly (at least, to Fargo) raw in his desire to understand his history with Jo.

And the show’s memory geared up in a wonderfully unexpected way when, in addition to the above layers in their engagement, a blast from the past: Fargo’s long-buried crush on Jo, which became moot when she and Zane fell in love, but never really went away. Ultimately, though at first one wouldn’t expect it, pairing these two off for an A plot was a stroke of genius, and the two actors rose to the occasion.

If this were just a showcase for Niall Matter, Neil Grayston and Erica Cerra‘s Jo, that would have made it a very good episode of Eureka already. This plot has so many shifting realities and questions – just as with Henry and Grace’s relationship, and with Jack’s relationship to Allison’s son Kevin – about what is real and what isn’t, and what consequences the time shift has, and who each character is because of what’s happened. But the show wisely gives the rest of its players something to do, too: namely, its central couple, Jack (Colin Ferguson) and Allison (Salli Richardson-Whitfield).

Where Henry (Joe Morton) and Grace (Tembi Locke) remain adorably linked, Jack and Allison are forced to acknowledge that being in a committed and sexual relationship while working together might add some snags to things. Though it doesn’t feel like the show is gearing up for a split down the line, introducing some complication to their lovebird dynamic adds a nice texture to things. The kinds of arguments they have here aren’t solvable, which is a nice touch.

The running wedding plot with Andy (Kavan Smith) and S.A.R.A.H was cute, but ultimately felt underbaked. The opening ‘wedding’ teaser felt like a good moment before introducing Jack and Allison’s issues, but the plot feel by the wayside in a way they don’t often in the show. This was a little disappointing, but ultimately, not so frustrating. It gave Smith a chance to be charming and sad and happy, three of his best modes to play with Andy, and that offered the episode even more heart than before. So, though I’m sad the plot didn’t play out in an episode with more room for it, I enjoyed it.

And the cliffhanger portends interesting times in Eureka, with the government beginning to question its funding of the tech playground that Fargo has found himself running. With the Zane plotline continuing on, this one kicking off, and the ‘secret’ still in the air… I’m excited to see how the back half of this season, and the next season that’s already been ordered, play out.

One Response to “Eureka, “Liftoff” (4.11)”
  1. Bob Andelman says:

    Neil Grayston and Eureka fans will also enjoy this Mr. Media video interview with “Fargo”:

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