ABW’s TV Corner – Eureka
So yesterday I watched Tuesday’s episode of Eureka and, I have to say, it was an example of some of the worst writing I’ve ever seen on that show. Normally I can forgive some meh dialogue and a plot point that doesn’t quite work for an overall happy effect. But everything about last night’s episode made me cringe.
Sadly, this is usually the case with me and Eureka. I really want to like the show and every now and then they’ll wow me with a premise or story or character interaction. But ever since last year’s season finale those moments are rarer than ever.
Spoilers below the fold.
Last year, when Eureka first started out, I really loved the show. Though we still get Clueless White Man(TM) in the lead, the ensemble includes some fabulous women and people of color. I was especially pleased to see Salli Richardson, who won my heart as Elisa Maza on Gargoyles. I also really love Joe Morton and will watch anything he’s in at least once. I think the writers are very aware of the issues surrounding characters of color in media and SF in particular, and they do a good job with Alison, Henry, Kevin, Jo, Nathan, etc. But I started to worry about Henry halfway through the season and the season finale cinched all of my horrible realizations.
A few episodes into the the season, we meet Kim, an Asian woman Henry used to date who he’s still in love with but she married another man (Henry’s friend). Due to some evil on the part of the friend, Kim ends up leaving him and taking up with Henry again. She moves to Eureka and they supposedly embark on a new relationship. However, we don’t see any of said relationship because Kim disappears after that. Henry is in every episode, yet after his great love returns to him he never, ever says anything about her. Neither do any of the other characters. No, “How are things with Kim?” or “Hey, I saw you and Kim at the restaurant last night! Looks like things are going well.” I started to think this might be another incident of a black male being denied the role of “romantic lead”. Then, randomly, in the season finale we see Kim again, involved in some experiment, and something goes wrong…
Cut to 4 years later. Many good things have happened. Fan wish-fulfillment things, like Carter and Allison are married and expecting a kid, Zoe is valedictorian of her class, Nathan is gone, Henry and Kim are together and very in love, etc. Turns out that this is all a horrible lie. Because Kim died when that experiment went wrong and Henry, who couldn’t live without her, went back in time, saved her, and created the happy future. But the unhappy past is colliding with the happy future and the universe will self-destruct unless Carter goes back in time and stops Henry from saving Kim.
The thing I had been worried about with Henry throughout season 1 was that he was very close to Magical Negro territory. Carter is the protagonist of Eureka, but he’s not a genius like almost everyone else in the town. Every time there’s a problem everyone turns to Henry. Every Time. (This issue is one of the reasons he wants to leave the town at the end of Purple Haze.) Henry doesn’t even work for Global Dynamics, yet he solves everyone’s problems. When he finally gets a pursuit of his own (though I don’t want to reduce Kim to such a label) it’s barely explored and then snatched away from him cruelly. Everyone else gets to have their desires fulfilled. Everyone else has multiple pursuits and storylines. Henry is just the genius in the garage.
I cannot tell you how pissed I was when it became clear that, not only was Kim dead forever, but Henry is the only person who has to suffer because of what happened. Carter has a bit of angst because he’s gone back in time to before he and Allison were even dating and won’t be welcoming his baby into the world as he expected, but the difference is that Carter could still get all of that back. He could still woo Allison and marry her, Zoe could still excel at school, Kevin could still get whatever treatment to make him ‘normal’, etc. Yet Henry can never, ever get Kim back.
I was almost ready to never watch the show again because of that. And if the show wasn’t one of those Summer Only deals, I might have held on to that. But since it was several months between the finale and the new season, my anger was tempered a bit. This season, Henry’s grief and anger over those events has led to some interesting developments on his part. His main story is not just solving Eureka’s problems but also pursuing the truth behind why Kim died (and possibly planning to try his going back in time thing, again). But still, all the pain and grief and loss and depression is Henry’s. Everyone else is happily flouncing around in their own horrendous storylines and not paying him a lick of attention until they need something. This bothers me.
I’ll reserve final judgment until the end of this season when we see how Henry’s story plays out. I may not last until then, though, if they keep throwing horrible episodes at me like they did this week.