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Eureka, “Up in the Air” (4.14)

Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) watches things float into the air, recreating the show's title sequence.

A review of the episode, written by Kira Snyder and directed by Alexandra LaRoche, after the jump…

That was the perfect mix of all of Eureka‘s signature elements: wacky comedy, character drama that makes sense, scientific hijinks and a well-paced plot arc that gets under your skin nicely. I laughed out loud more in this episode than I think I have all season, and yet was completely able to take in the dramatic moments, which were parceled out to the whole cast.

This episode reminded us of everything we already know: Colin Ferguson is a fantastic comedic actor.  And he is completely on his game throughout here. His reaction to the news of a bank robbery, alone, is one of his best moments in years. While the script gives him plenty of opportunities, there’s probably a dozen laughs in moments the script made no significant note of, like his hurt look after turning on the gravity manipulator, showing just how good he is.

“We’re gonna do fingerprints, we’re gonna do a tire impresson, interview… witnesses…” – Sherrif Carter

Since moving to Eureka, Carter’s job has mostly consisted of two modes: puzzling out what the science types are technobabbling about, and action hero. And seeing his excitement at for once being able to be a cop, only to be disappointed, is brilliant. But it didn’t stop there, as Snyder wisely uses Carter’s oft-discussed (though recently forgotten) fear of heights to give him plenty of wonderful moments in the floating bank.

And the comedy isn’t just carried by Ferguson. Jo as military trainer and Fargo’s war with Parrish both feature a number of laugh-out-loud moments. Felicia Day has settled nicely into the character of Holly, making her ticks much less frustrating and quite endearing. Jo’s military talk and voice made me grin every time – the joy Jo gets out of delivering cheesy lines like: “You’re a botanist, right? Kiss my grass!” is infectious. And Wil Wheaton keeps proving his worth in his longform return as Parrish, infusing even the smallest of lines with layers of condescension and dismissal.

The dramatic elements work here as well. The strongest of course, is Allison’s slow realisation that something is very wrong with her. Richardson-Whitfield is so good in these scenes, particularly after she leaves the kids alone for hours, and then in seeing what’s wrong with her brain. The script is smart, tying both her ability to see what’s wrong and her reversion back to Barlow’s control to the Higgs Field Disruptor – meaning, by saving the bank, Carter ruins her chance to tell people what’s wrong. In other weeks, the writers not pulling the trigger on this point after teasing it all episode would frustrate me, but in this episode, it was so well-handled it didn’t.

“I’m a felon. You’re a grunt with a gun. How ’bout we screw some expectations?” – Zane Donovan

I’ve been outspoken about enjoying how the Jo/Zane plot has unfolded, and this is the best these two have been in weeks. The script plays the situation for the drama, giving Cerra and Matter plenty of character work to do here. Jo realising how crushed Zane will be, Zane realising that he can send Jo with the Astraeus mission and boosting her self-esteem, and my favourite: Jo realising that, in some ways, her second chance with this Zane can be even better than her vanished romance:

“We never talked like this before. […] Me and the ‘other you’, we sort of skipped past the being friends part.” – Jo Lupo

Even Henry and Grace, who have been underused in recent weeks, get a few good moments. First, their cute banter about whether she’s going to make it through the physical requirements of the Astraeus mission, then reeling from the fact that Henry’s body couldn’t handle the atmosphere on Titan, despite an otherwise-innocous heart condition. The plot was breezy, made up of short scenes that barely dented the episode, yet plays as a strong arc when taken together. I’m also liking the questions of who will be going to Titan and who will be left behind, with this episode hinting at Henry, Grace, Jo and Fargo being among those leaving, and Allison/Barlow, Carter and Zane being left behind.

Kira Snyder‘s script is excellent: snappy, with heapings of drama and comedy, giving practically everyone who graces the screen a chance to shine. Every person who gets significant airplay here is either a series regular or the recurring equivalent, which I appreciated as guest stars are usually the weakest part of Eureka. The show has such a fantastic cast that 0ne-episode-only guest stars are practically a liability.

And I want to pay attention to Alexandra LaRoche‘s direction, here. I only knew that this was her first time directing Eureka from Twitter, where Eureka writer Amy Berg and Colin Ferguson were giving her props for it. LaRoche is a script editor, and it shows. Why? Because she knows these characters inside and out. I’m shocked that this is the work of a rookie, because every member of the cast was on their A game, even often-overlooked players like Joe Morton and recurring faces like Felicia Day. Ferguson is consistently very good every week, but this was a showcase for him, from a script that on the face of it isn’t that different from other weeks’ episodes. But LaRoche‘s skill isn’t merely at coaxing great performances out of the cast. The moments where Allison loses time, for example, were skillfully executed, giving us in a moment both what just happened, and also how disoriented and disturbed Allison was in the aftermath. You could feel the jump cuts there. LaRoche also has a ball with stuff like Carter’s time in the floating bank, and my favourite shot of the episode: recreating the moment in the opening credits, Carter watching things float up as the series theme plays behind him. This is apparently only LaRoche‘s second time directing (after a Dead Zone episode in 2006), and she’s good.  Even small moments, like the shot of ‘Allison’ enjoying a mug of coffee before Carter returns home, are artful and imply more than they say. That shot tells you… yeah, Allison’s gone.

Best episode since the hiatus. The show’s on a roll.

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