Yesterday's Eureka saw Fargo enlist the rest of our heroes — some more willingly than others — in a last-ditch effort to save Holly's life. The episode was an unironic celebration of friendship... not to mention the song "Car Wash."
"Ex Machina" opens with Global Dynamics gathering to play their final respects to Holly, something that Fargo finds unnecessary, what with the fact that Holly is still very much alive inside the "matrix." His odd behavior has his friends worried — in particular Jo, who is convinced that Fargo needs to start grieving properly. She only becomes more convinced of this when she and a Department of Defense taskforce charged with upgrading GD's security and clearing away Astraeus-related tech discover just what he and Zane are up to. It then becomes a race against time to find some way to save Holly from being erased — or worse — at the hands of Jo's old Special Forces superior Major Shaw, the decent but decidedly uncompromising head of the taskforce.
The strongest thread in this episode revolves around the fundamental question of whether being a good friend means telling them the hard truths — which of course assumes you know what those truths are — or whether you should support them, even if they're doing something stupid. Most of the thematic heavy lifting falls to Jo, and Erica Cerra does a nice job playing her character's concern for Fargo as simultaneously compassionate and self-serving.
Jo is probably the most emotionally stunted cast member — you could argue that Carter is even less capable of expressing his feelings, but then that never seems to bother him very much — and the show has gotten some good mileage out of her trying to add a bit more empathy and understanding to go along with her loyalty to her friends, which often means dealing with the sizable personal demons from her past. She gets a great character arc in this episode, moving from knowing what's best for her friends to doing something foolhardy and stupid to help Fargo, even though she probably still thinks this is a bit sick. And then, of course, her friends come bail her out.
In fact, Kira Snyder's script plays around with the idea of people being forced to make decisions for those they care about. Quite unlike Jo's wrongheaded move to protect Fargo from himself, Henry seems to actually know best when he puts Carter through a fairly humiliating experiment to prove unequivocally that he isn't telekinetic, which means the Department of Defense personnel won't be interested in the Astraeus survivors as potential lab subjects. And then there's Fargo, forced to choose what's best for the computerized Holly even when he's fairly sure at that moment that he will never see her again, whatever he decides.
It feels vaguely corny to talk about this episode in terms of the power of friendship, but really, that's what this episode is all about. Allison becomes a willing accomplice to the Holly rescue effort, breaking the rules in a way Carter hasn't quite seen before. Jo, of course, disobeys multiple direct orders from Major Shaw and risks destroying her career, and considering how she feels about computer Holly. Henry works his technical wizardry like never before to rebuild the memory lattice and save Holly, implicitly noting that he does it gladly because of his friendship with Fargo. Zane fiddles with the forensic evidence to ensure Jo doesn't just get out of jail, she actually gets a pay raise and commendation for her trouble. And even that might be nothing compared to Zane's shockingly tender scene in which he comforts the grieving Fargo.
After weeks of infighting and distrust between our main cast — admittedly for some pretty well justified reasons, but still — it's nice to see them come together like this, and to have a strong concrete reminder of just why this team works so well in the first place. We saw some of that in the body-swapping episode, as Wallace Shawn's Department of Defense auditor declared our heroes perfectly suited to respond to the uniquely bizarre catastrophes presented by Global Dynamics. But that declaration came at a point when the team's interpersonal relationships were badly damaged, and it's nice to see here that they're not just the right individuals for the job — they're the right group, as evidenced by the fact that, at the end of the day, they really do manage to save Holly.
If there's one area this episode could have improved upon, it was the military stuff. We got a nice sense of why Global Dynamics doesn't work as a true military outfit, with Jo deciding to do things the Eureka way instead of the Special Forces way. But the episode introduces this huge idea — an all-seeing surveillance system that even gets explicitly compared to 1984 — and doesn't really go anywhere with that thematically. Since the Panop system seems to be gone after this episode, it seems like a wasted opportunity to use it purely as an incidental plot point, when putting our characters under such an unforgiving microscope could have easily been an episode in and of itself.
Meanwhile, the Holly stuff worked a lot better this episode than it did in last week's. The weirdly stilted line readings in the virtual world were gone this time around, and it was an amusing beat to have Holly and Fargo argue over whether a glorified laser pointer is really an appropriate memorial. (It sounded a lot nicer when described at her memorial service.) While last week left me just a touch unsure whether that really was Holly, her friendly squabble with Fargo left me with no doubt that this was the genuine, albeit digitized article.
Perhaps because Holly spent a good chunk of the episode portrayed not by Felicia Day but by various CGI gizmos, her time as the ghost in the machine didn't have quite the emotional resonance I might have hoped for, and her apparent heroic sacrifice with the overloading laser didn't entirely work for me. But after such a long, hard road to get there, the final moment with Fargo and Holly reunited in Carter's smart house was entirely well earned and served as a nice emotional capstone to the last few episodes.
I'm not quite sure where the show goes from here, if for no other reason that because it really seems as though Carter would have to move out for Holly to remain there permanently. Admittedly, that's hardly impossible - presumably, Allison still has a house they could move into. Anyway, pedantic issues of logistics aside, I don't really know what's next for Holly, or for the show in general. But based on the quality of this season so far, I'm not worried.