The ultimate overthink – again – this time about one of our all-time favorite shows:
Secret Genius: Jack Carter, Alternate Intelligences, and Eureka’s Critique of Scientific Elitism – by Catherine Hicks
After five seasons of sci-fi adventure-comedy riddled with speculative technology and its accompanying speculative technobabble, SyFy channel’s Eureka recently ended its final season. Eureka is set in a fictional small town—called Eureka—that doubles as a Research and Development think tank for the US Government. The town is populated by the world’s most brilliant technological and scientific minds, recruited by the government in order to produce Advanced Science with apparently limitless resources, a bastion of research where the intellectually superior can devote themselves to a life of pure intellect free from the concerns of the outside world. As a SyFy show with such a premise and recurring guest stars like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day (both rockstars in and active promoters of nerd/geek culture), Eureka caters primarily to a niche nerd/geek/(insert your label of choice here) audience.
However, we experience Eureka through the eyes not of one of its many scientific geniuses, but of its most average citizen. Jack Carter, the show’s protagonist, is remarkable for being ordinary. Thrust into the role of sheriff after an accidental arrival, Carter is immediately bemused and disoriented by his new role as one of Eureka’s few denizens of average intelligence. At first glance, Carter appears to be a classic example of a bumbling Everyman, spending much of his time confused and uncomfortable with the intellectual prowess of those around him. The curious incongruity to this narrative, however, is that in both Eureka’s “monster of the week” episodic narrative and their season-length story arcs, it is Carter who consistently rescues other characters and recognizes solutions to crises facing the town, typically through creatively piecing together information supplied by his smarter scientist friends. The writers regularly produce a deus ex Carter to save the Eureka from disaster.
But is the deus ex Carter really just a narrative cop-out? When examined more closely, could this narrative pattern have a deeper point? Like its titular town, Eureka the show could be seen as a kind of think tank for pondering the nature of the human intellect. After five seasons of Carter’s unorthodox successes, I suggest that Carter’s unique problem-solving abilities ultimately inform a more nuanced theory of human intelligence than the traditional scientific mindset upheld by Eureka’s geniuses and, by extension, the show’s audience. In Carter’s incongruently savvy heroism, Eureka deploys a carefully constructed, devastating critique of the very scientific elitism that Eureka’s niche audience is likely to endorse.
We admit it: We have no idea whether Overthinkingit.Com articles are serious or tongue deeply in cheek. We also have never been able to read one of their overthinks all the way through. But we really hope somebody will read all of this one and get back to us about what it really says. Cuz it seems to be headed toward high praise of Carter, and he’s the big, bland heroic as hell dummy we love.