On Eureka, the heroes make the best possible villains

Yesterday's Eureka found Allison, Fargo, and Zane as the only ones left to stop a complete takeover by bio-printed replicants. The episode taught one very clear, terrifying lesson — you do not want to mess with evil clone Sheriff Carter.

Spoilers ahead...

"Double Take" throws us right back into the horrific situation our heroes found themselves in at the end of last week's episode, as a brainwashed Holly and Andy were slowly replacing people with bio-printed replicants. With Jo, Henry, and now Carter all replaced, the villains hold a ridiculous advantage, and it's soon revealed that the NPCs from Beverly Barlowe's matrix program are behind it all, following their programming to keep the Astraeus crew in the simulation to ridiculous extremes. The only ones left to save the day are Allison, Fargo, a freshly exonerated Zane, and — for the minuscule good it does — Dr. Parrish.

Since we dealt with the setup last week, the characters already pretty much know how to stop the replicants, so the question is whether they actually have a chance in hell of putting their plan into action. While Zane and Dr. Parrish are quickly captured — this is what comes when you let Parrish make your plans, particularly when they rely on him channeling Han Solo — Allison has to deal with the truly sadistic Jack replicant, who uses her own children — both real and bio-printed — to wreck her psyche. And Fargo is put through the wringer one last time, with Holly trying to convince him that she's not the villain she appears to be. Worse, even though Fargo isn't fooled and does everything he can to save Holly (not to mention the now entirely replaced town), he's still got one last bit of heartbreak waiting for him at the end.

Allow me to make a fine-grained distinction: These two episodes work great as a season finale, but less well as prelude to a series finale. They do everything a good season finale should do — present the heroes with a near insoluble problem, pay off a bunch of stories and threats that have built up over the course of the season, and provide lots of opportunities for great character moments. I'd say this is the best season or mid-season finale the show has done, and it more than justifies the expanded scope lent it by its two-parter status. As a conclusion to the fifth season and tease of things to come in the sixth, it works spectacularly. Any fair evaluation of "Double Take" is that it succeeds at just about everything it set out to do. Of course, as we all know, this particular situation isn't exactly fair.

It's not the fault of this episode that that's not how things worked out. This is a great big fun adventure, but I wish it wasn't the last great big fun adventure (I'm guessing next week's separately produced finale will have a slightly different feel). The episode completely sidelines Jo and Henry — even their evil doppelgangers don't really get that much to do — and our Carter doesn't show up until the final ten minutes, though at least he packs plenty of concentrated awesome into those ten minutes. What's more, the Grace plot — which is still pretty damn important, even if so much else is going on — falls by the wayside in the midst of all the craziness. Fargo, Allison, Zane, and even Dr. Parrish and S.A.R.A.H. get their moments to shine in this episode, but I suspect if the writers knew this was more or less the end, the other main characters would have gotten their moments too.

At least all the evil doppelgangers makes for some fun acting opportunities, with supporting players like Christopher Jacot and Chris Gauthier getting villainous moments out of such decidedly non-intimidating characters like Larry and Vincent. As usual, Colin Ferguson makes the most of the chance to step outside the usual Sheriff Carter performance. He's wonderfully creepy as the replicant, modulating his performance from casually dickish (seriously, does anyone who isn't a total dick ever call their loved one "babe" in a movie or TV show?) to affably malicious — his Mata Hari exchange with Holly was a great inversion of Carter's usual interplay with the geniuses — to full-on evil hunter, complete with a replicant version of Jenna just for added creepy factor. His repeated, utterly remorseless, and clearly successful attempts to get under Allison's skin were all the proof to know that if Ferguson hadn't been cast as the show's hero, he would have made one hell of a villain.

Felicia Day also gets to have some fun with evil Holly, mainly in the character's seemingly successful effort to convince Fargo that she's really good Holly. Like Fargo, I desperately wanted to believe she was telling the truth about coming back to her senses, even though she was so obviously lying. Indeed, she was so convincing that I couldn't imagine Fargo seeing through her, which made the revelation that he had disarmed her — and was even willing to tase her! — a legitimately surprising moment for me. Credit also goes to Neil Grayston, who continues to show just how far Douglas Fargo has come since his days — days as recently as season four — where his character was often little more than comic relief. He's been through a ton of heartbreak this season, and he's sold every moment of it.

As is well-documented, I remain a tremendous sucker for Wil Wheaton as Dr. Parrish, so I was of course overjoyed by the prospect of Dr. Parrish in stereo. The old "But which Dr. Parrish is real?" scenario is one we've seen many times before (including countless examples on Wheaton's other well-known sci-fi franchise), and the resolution that the fake Parrish would give himself away by not being enough of an asshole to Zane is hardly unexpected, but still - just because a joke is obvious doesn't mean it can't be funny. The same logic applies to Parrish's Han Solo-esque plan to sneak Zane out as his fake prisoner, a moment of heroism he claims he was born to do but fails so utterly we don't even need to see it. It's what's known as a Gilligan cut, and it's the perfect way to sneak some quick comedy into what is otherwise a pretty dark episode.

Speaking of dark, there's the latest ending to the Holly story, in which the zeta-bombed Holly wakes up after two weeks in a coma to have lost all memory of her time in Eureka, effectively resetting her all the way back to her very first appearance. It's a brutal turn of events, and worse, it feels so pointless. As a narrative contrivance, mindwipes like this have the potential to be poignant, raising questions about the importance of memory and identity and putting a different spin on Fargo's loss, with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind being the most obvious example of all that.

Anyway, mindwipes might have that potential, but in practice, they usually feel like massive cheats, and not even a cheat that makes the audience feel better. If ever there was a time to relax and just give Holly and Fargo a happy ending, I would say this was it. Maybe a theoretical sixth season could have resolved all this — and perhaps next week's finale will do a shorthand version of that — but I'm with those of you who feel this story has run its course, and I would have preferred this episode have closed things out on a positive note. But hey, at least there's still next week to look forward to, even if it's the last time I get to say that.