Eureka throws itself into a black hole... with awesome results

Yesterday's Eureka wrapped up the season in spectacular fashion, with a bunch of awesome guest stars, one of the biggest threats ever, a lovely celebration of space exploration, and a truly epic cliffhanger. Eureka doesn't get much better than this.

Spoilers ahead...

"One Giant Leap" finds Eureka making final preparations for the Astraeus mission to Titan. Senator Wen (Ming-Na) is on hand for the historic occasion, and even President Obama is going to put in an appearance — at least until a charged particle blast from a naked singularity destroys the decoy limo sent in ahead of his visit. Carter and Jo are on the trail of mini black holes, the inadvertent creation of Dave Foley's Dr. Plotkin, a former unconventional weapons maker turned ultra-pacifistic environmentalist. Foley is a lot of fun as the positive energy obsessed Plotkin, particularly when bickering with Matt Frewer's Dr. Taggart and spectacularly failing to bond with Jo.

The singularities are sucking up beloved landmarks all over Eureka - including Taggart's mega-truck and Cafe Diem - but they can't be allowed to interfere with the Astraeus launch, which must go ahead in the set window. Henry and Allison come up with a plan to quarantine the singularities far away from the town and Global Dynamics, where they can dissipate safely. But the singularities merge together into a single, much bigger black hole, and Carter is once again the only person who can stop it. And, once again, he succeeds... and that's when the episode really gets interesting.

I generally loved "One Giant Leap", but I need to get my big problem with the episode out of the way. I'm not going to get on a moral high horse about this, but I do find it a bit distasteful to use the apparent death of the president as the pre-credits teaser, especially when the in-universe president is actually Barack Obama. (And this isn't a political thing — I'd feel just as uncomfortable about this if the president was George W. Bush or whoever else.) Worse, the whole thing plays like a bit of a narrative cul-de-sac, a cheap shock that comes out of nowhere and then is resolved with a cop-out. Yes, the sequence establishes the singularities as the new threat, but there's a bunch of other possible ways the episode could have accomplished this, and almost any of them would have been preferable.

Eureka throws itself into a black hole... with awesome results

Still, if given the choice, I'll always prefer an episode that starts poorly and ends well to the alternative. And, if you judge an episode by its ending then this was just about the greatest Eureka episode ever. The singularity plot is one of the fuzzier threats the show has thrown at us, but as soon as all the tiny singularities merge into a single black hole, it's game on for about twenty minutes of sustained awesome.

There's just no two ways about this - if an episode can be described as "Carter vs. a black hole", then it's probably a pretty good episode. Colin Ferguson was on rare form, ratcheting up his general irritation with all things singularity while also getting his big damn hero moment when he fires an antimatter missile into the event horizon of the black hole. Special credit to director Matt Hastings and the effects team - Eureka generally does at least a decent job with its special effects, but everyone clearly stepped up their game for when Carter runs from the black hole. It's a bravura sequence that really sells that this episode is giving us a more epic adventure than what we usually see.

The rest of the episode is all about the long-awaited launch of the Astraeus, and for much of the final fifteen minutes it feels like we're watching an epilogue to all of season 4.5. I realize I'm not saying anything particularly groundbreaking here, but space exploration is arguably the defining aspect of scifi television - a lot of that is Star Trek, obviously, but there's also everything from Firefly and Farscape to Space: 1999 and Blake's 7. (Not to mention about a third of Doctor Who stories, give or take.)

So what's so cool about the Astraeus project - and season 4.5 in general - is that it feels like a bridge between Eureka's contemporaneous scifi and the world of hard scifi space opera that lays ahead. While this show's science has always been pretty out there - we've had time travel, human cloning, whatever the hell the Artifact was, and even some light space exploration before now - but it all happened in a world that was basically our own, just with one top-secret town in Oregon doing a bunch of crazy crap. Astraeus feels like a giant leap into a more broadly scifi world, and while I highly doubt we'll see the ramifications on Eureka itself, it's cool to think that what we've been watching over the last six years is how we get from "our" world to one of starships and endless exploration.

Eureka throws itself into a black hole... with awesome results

Obviously, I love the subtext of this episode, but the actual text was pretty strong as well. There are a couple nice, albeit heartbreaking emotional beats in the final fifteen minutes. The more obvious one is Jo's decision to leave Eureka so that she can finally figure out just who she is without having to prove herself to others. I wasn't really expecting Jo to leave until her farewell scene with Carter, but it's the right culmination to a season that has revealed just how confused and damaged Jo really is. Erica Cerra does some nice work conveying how she really can't stay in Eureka anymore, and I loved Matt Frewer's observation that she was going on a walkabout. I mentioned last week that I wasn't sure the Jo and Taggart relationship really worked anymore — for that moment alone, I'm willing to retract that stance.

But as far as I'm concerned, the most devastating moment belonged to, of all people, Dr. Parrish. When he hobbles in on his cane and makes one last "offer" to join the mission, he's still a jerk, albeit one with a certain dickish nobility in his abject refusal to admit it's over. When he responds to Fargo's putdown about how it must be tough not to be a pioneer with a strained, "You have no idea", Parrish becomes a tragic figure.

Yes, he's still an ass, he's still an egotistical weasel, he's still a fundamentally limited human being who is arguably his own worst enemy... and yet, he deserved better than this. Among other things, Eureka is about scientific discovery and the quest for knowledge, and it's brutal watching Parrish's dreams shattered like this. A ton of credit goes to Wil Wheaton, who all season has managed the difficult trick of making Parrish oddly sympathetic while never making him cuddly or nice, and it was nice to see that final moment of detente between him and Fargo.

Eureka throws itself into a black hole... with awesome results

During the final launch preparations, we're treated to a cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man" - although not the cover of "Rocket Man", much as a little Shatner would have been appropriate. There are some nice little moments between Grace and Henry and between Fargo and Allison, and all looks set for a successful mission. And then shit gets absolutely crazy.

The final sequence, in which forces unknown - presumably Beverly Barlowe and the Consortium - hijack Astraeus and send it to goodness knows where, is an incredibly tense bit of television, and a very well-executed cliffhanger. Everyone involved really sells the terror of the scene - I particularly liked how Ming-Na allowed Senator Wen to lose her cool for the first time all season and look genuinely scared - and Carter even gets one last moment of heroic ingenuity, even if it's all for naught.

We have no idea where the Astraeus went, and worse we've got no idea whether Allison will survive the jump. I mean, obviously, she did survive, because there's no way she's getting killed off, but that doesn't matter - the sequence is gripping enough that her survival seems genuinely in doubt, even if rationally we know she'll be fine come next season. All in all, that's one hell of a setup for season five.

"One Giant Leap" isn't a perfect episode, but it does so much right and ends with so much awesome that I'd still put it in the absolute top tier of Eureka episodes. This has been a very strong half-season for the show, and I'd say "Liftoff", "Glimpse", "Up in the Air", and this episode all rank among the show's best efforts all-time, with several other episodes this season trailing right behind. While I still wish the show would stretch itself just a little bit more, season 4.5 represents Eureka as pretty much the best version of itself it could hope to be. And, as these things go, that's still pretty damn good. I'll see you all next year for the final fourteen episodes. Should be a good ride - it's certainly been a lot of fun so far.