Oh, little town of Eureka. How we’ve missed you.
Not counting the one-off Christmas episode that aired on Syfy in early December, it has been over ten months since the last proper episode of Eureka graced our television screens. As a “summer series” for the network, we should be used to it by now, right? Maybe — but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. All that being said, maybe the long wait actually works in the series’ favor this time around, as the back half of Season Four finally begins this evening at 8/7 P.M. (E/P) on Syfy.
Despite the episode being filmed in the same production span as the ten before it, it truly feels like some time has passed for the characters — and that they are all, for the most part, coming to grips and embracing the life-altering changes that were introduced in Season 4.o.
Tonight’s premiere, “Liftoff,” starts strong and doesn’t let up — beginning with a wedding scene that makes you wonder just how much time has passed for our favorite characters … and ending with Zane (Niall Matter) and Fargo (Neil Grayston) put into a life-threatening situation that there may be no returning from. And that’s all before the opening credits even hit.
The episode, crafted by series co-creator Jaime Paglia and Bruce Miller, is tightly written and allows for all the main characters to have their moments to shine. Steady viewers will also be rewarded as an earlier season plot device helps Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson) and the gang find a way out of their latest dilemna.
In addition to the stellar writing, director Mike Rohl and Director of Photography Rick Maquire seems to have infused a darker, more cinematic feel into the proceedings. As stylistic changes go, they began slowly working toward that point as early as last summer’s premiere, “Founder’s Day.” Ten episodes later, that shift is very evident … so much so that it may take long-time viewers a bit to adjust. But in the end, it’s a change that is welcome and another sign of the series’ continued growth and confidence.
Some great guest stars work their way into this season, beginning with tonight’s premiere. Events that you’ll see tonight put in motion a new story arc that brings in some fresh (albeit familiar) blood to the goings-on around town. Ming-Na, fresh off her two-year stint on the now defunct Stargate Universe pops up as a U.S. Senator who intends to keep a very close eye on Eureka going forward. Felicia Day (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, The Guild) and Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) both begin multi-episode recurring spots … and Marvel Comics godfather Stan Lee will pop up (not playing himself) in a cameo spot before this month is out that — in addition to not feeling forced — also slyly winks at one of his real-life comic creations.
All in all, it’s a solid summer debut for a series that continues to grow both in maturity, tone and storytelling capability. While this season may techicnally be labeled Season 4.5, the truth is it’s been almost a year between halves. The number isn’t important. This is essentially a new season with all the trappings thereof. Many series begin to sputter and die five years into a run as they struggle to evolve and keep fresh. But based on tonight’s premiere, the chances of Eureka falling into that rut are slim to none — at least for now. For both the series itself, and in terms of the direction of some of the characters, the only place they’re headed is upward.