Eureka reveals why humans really shouldn't try to impersonate AI

Eureka wrapped up the season's opening arc, as an unlikely alliance was forged to bring home the Astraeus crew. It also featured Carter pretending to be his virtual-reality self... which went about as well as expected. Also, gratuitous nudity!

Spoilers ahead...

"Force Quit" provides a nice end to the virtual reality arc, as perennial nemesis Beverly Barlowe decides to help Eureka bring the Astraeus crew home in the wake of Holly's death last week. The plan is a simple one — hack one of our heroes into the simulation, then have them blow up something big enough to overheat the servers and reveal their particular thermal signature. After a quick and wholly unconvincing misdirect that this would be Henry, Carter volunteers to go, and hilarity most definitely ensues.

As is often the case when Carter goes into action-hero mode, the show becomes very funny. His unbelievably nonsensical attempt to explain to Zane what's going on — which convinces Zane that this Carter is the real deal, because no computer could be this incoherent — is a great opening salvo, and Carter is hilariously unconvincing in his efforts both to reconnect with Allison (I loved his "I thought that would go differently" after his first attempt to convince her this wasn't real) and to stay the hell away from virtual Jo, particularly when she tries to put a new spin on the phrase "naked lunch"... and unlike the William S. Burroughs book, that description was apparently wholly accurate.

This episode is a good encapsulation of what makes Carter such a fun protagonist — sure, a lot of his methods border on comic relief, but when push comes to shove he's more than willing to throw a bomb into the virtual Astraeus and just run like hell. Throw in the fact that he successfully worked out Senator Wen's role in all this, even if I suppose it is more instincts than detective work, and you've got one of the best showcases for the leading man in a good long while, and Colin Ferguson is as usual a lot of fun to watch.

Indeed, this episode gives some great material for quite a bit of the show's cast. As Henry, Joe Morton is pretty damn terrifying in the virtual world as he threatens Grace, while in the real world he is all barely contained rage at having to work with Beverly to bring Grace home. Erica Cerra gets to cross over into full-on villainy as the AI version of Jo, with her virtual character moving from subtle betrayal of the Jo we know to a complete murderous psychopath. Really, there's just very little about this episode that didn't entertain me a lot, and as such I found it a very satisfying end to the arc. There's still the matter of the grieving Fargo, but I think I'll leave that one to next week to judge better where it might be headed.

Where the episode falls down a bit, however, is the stuff on the edges. I've generally been impressed with how Eureka has handled this latest round of conspiracy plot, particularly since it's never been in the show's comfort zone. Still, it definitely falls into the cliche of having the Consortium members speak in pointlessly vague, menacing sentences, resolutely leaving the ciphers in place when this was a golden opportunity to start doling out some larger explanations. Also, as Senator Wen, Ming-Na seems to make her performance more obviously villainous once we know the truth about her, which seems like a weaker choice — I'd rather she act no different, since the situation hasn't really changed from her perspective... well, at least not until her inevitable comeuppance, of course.

The other problem I have is with Beverly. I like her character and Debrah Farentino's performance more than some of you do, but I'll be the first to admit that she's particularly hard to fit into Eureka's tangled continuity. We can still only guess how her backstory was changed by the timeline shift (probably not that much, but it's still a complicating factor), and the show has moved so far away from its first season that it's forced to elide around what really should be the defining aspect of Henry and Beverly's relationship — her culpability for the death of his first love Kim. Considering the near murderous rage he has in the past displayed towards her, their scenes feel like they're dodging around one hell of a big elephant in the room.

It doesn't help that her whole central argument — that Global Dynamics is bad because it works for the military — never really goes beyond some cliched platitudes about peace and Albert Einstein. It's all stuff we heard her tell James Callis (ya know, Gaius Frakking Baltar) back in season 4.0, and it feels just as superficial now as it did then. Also, if a key crux of the argument is the danger of military power, it seems kind of problematic that the other major Consortium character, Senator Wen, seems to use the army as her own personal strike force. I suppose it's possible Eureka was intentionally trying to play up that contradiction, but what we see in the episode feels very muddled.

Really, what I'm saying is that Eureka is really good at comedy and character moments, and it's less good at big thought-provoking drama. That really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone at this point, and the show is certainly a lot better at the latter stuff than it has in previous seasons. The time to draw everything together into one massive five-year story has probably long since passed, at least from a narrative standpoint — this is a show best experienced one episode at a time, with previous continuity really only brought in on a strictly as-necessary basis.

And sure, it's one of the things keeping this show from reaching greatness, but I'm OK with that. Because, as we head into the final eleven episodes, what "Force Quit" does suggest is we'll get a rich conclusion from a character perspective. And really, it's the characters and the goofy sense of fun that keep me coming back to this show, so that's all fine by me.