Eureka reveals the wonderful (and the terrible) of its brave new worldS

Last night's Eureka delivered on the huge promise of the previous episode, exploring the repercussions of our heroes' time-traveling by showing us an alternate timeline that's equal parts better, worse, and just plain different than the one they left behind.

It's clear that this season's alternate timeline arc needs three episodes to do the requisite heavy lifting to establish the new status quo. Last week's premiere explained how the timeline got altered, this week's episode explains what it means for the affected characters, and at some point later I assume there's going to be at least a partial reset which restores the world as it was...or something like it. This episode also made it perfectly clear that that reset isn't coming for a while, with Henry pronouncing their time bridge fried and the space-time continuum stuck as is for the foreseeable future.

Obviously, that's a lot of overarching narrative to deal with, and once again the episode's ostensible conflict - what to do with that dangerous positronic lightning? - felt like an afterthought. Or it would, if not for the fact that it's even more proof that its creator, the alternate timeline Fargo, is quite possibly a tyrannical, unapologetic, superweapon-creating bastard. (Although alter-Fargo still had "Dougie the Vampire Slayer" as his password, so he can't be all bad.) The other four time travelers seem as though they were pretty much the exact same people in this new timeline, but Fargo finds himself in a world where he's feared and hated. Of all the alternate storylines, that's probably the one I'm most interested in seeing where the show can go with it.

In any event, the majority of this episode revolved around the time travelers figuring out what had changed and how they now fit in. The changes range from bad to baffling to wonderful - Jo's would-be fiance Zane is unreformed and has no interest in her, Henry is married to a woman he doesn't know, Jack is back with Tess after he had made peace with the fact that they didn't work as a couple, and Allison's son is no longer autistic. This episode mostly focused on those last two developments, playing up the humor of Jack not knowing what Tess was saying "yes" to while focusing on the pathos of Allison meeting her son for what was really the first time.

And then there was Gaius Frakking Baltar, back again as Dr. Trevor Grant. It turns out he did indeed scheme to send himself forward in time, showing tremendous technical know-how and questionable scruples in the process, which admittedly sounds nothing like characters James Callis has played before. Anyway, once Dr. Grant got to 2010 the episode didn't seem to have all that much for him to do, probably feeling the focus of this episode was best left on the regulars and what the timeline change means for them. I suspect we'll get a better sense of him in the next few episodes, but for now he's still mostly a cipher, albeit what appears to be a basically decent sort of cipher. Either way, that "American" accent of his is growing on me.

What excites me so much about this arc is that it's something we haven't really seen before - a long-form exploration of living in an altered timeline that's not horrible, just different - and there are so many opportunities to explore largely uncharted emotional territory. How will Henry deal with this mysterious woman who calls herself his wife? As wonderful as it for Allison to know her son, can she actually get to know him when they've only just met? Can Fargo reconcile himself with the man he apparently was/is/would-have-been? (Altered timelines are absolute murder on nomenclature.) This is the sort of material that could transform this season into something really special, and Jo's sad reflection on the fact that she never got a second chance to say yes to Zane's proposal suggests to me that Eureka knows exactly what it's doing.