Character Spotlight ~ Jack Carter

Picture courtesy of sharetv.org

Picture courtesy of sharetv.org

Jack Carter is the average-Joe sheriff in a town where everyone else is a genius. I’m quite used to seeing the opposite of this premise and being terribly unimpressed with it. The TV Genius is often a guy who speaks in sesquipedalian loquaciousness that hides simple but inaccurate formulas that if written in plain English could be disproved by a third grader.

I will admit that they have taken creative liberties in Eureka. However, they did this after showing their work and in cases where the plot hinged on it. They didn’t just throw out a “Reverse the polarity” in every episode to fix the problem.

I will admit, for some geniuses, they come up with some really horrible ideas but their genius is in their ability to execute the idea. Foresight is another area entirely. Foresight doesn’t get you an extra number on the IQ test. But Jack Carter isn’t one of these geniuses, he’s just the guy that cleans up after them, the sheriff.

Obviously, he is an audience stand in. I usually find these irritating. I prefer people just make a character. I’ve never seen an audience stand in I could relate to and it’s not because I’m black and female. It’s because I’m not there for other people to project their logic and opinions on to me which an audience stand in is frequently for. Jack Carter’s got his own opinions and his situation is relatable for me. I’m the below average child of “Mensa qualified” geniuses. Jack is a guy with an IQ score of 111 in a town where everyone else is Mensa level. (The Mensa cut off is 132.)

This is why Jack has trouble getting people to take him seriously as sheriff initially and when some part of their invention has gone wrong. He doesn’t understand their jobs or how most of the stuff works until you explain it to him in layman’s terms so people figure “Well if you don’t understand that much, you probably don’t know how it works,” or “I’m way smarter than you. How could you possibly correct me?” Fortunately, most of the main cast doesn’t act like that or it would make the show unwatchable.

In fact the characters that actually matter don’t see the intelligence difference as some huge divide between them understanding each other or being able to relate. They even treat him like a human being. And eventually they have a great deal of respect for him as he’s saved them from turning the town into a crater on several occasions with surprisingly simple solutions to the complicated problems they create.

My favorite example of this would be the time that Fargo accidentally set a nuclear bomb to head over to Russia via satellite and after spending the whole episode getting the answer out of the inventor who now had Alzheimer’s another one started up with a ten minute countdown. Cue the panicking. Jack might have been panicking himself. He rammed his jeep into it to change its course so it never reached the satellite that would have redirected it to Russia and started a nuclear war.

I probably wouldn’t have done that. I would have been under the impression that a bomb made to withstand exiting and entering the atmosphere before detonating upon its landing would have blown slam up from being rammed with a jeep. Of course, wording it like that might have dispelled the thought for me.

I don’t know the age of Jack Carter but it’s clear that his life didn’t just begin as the show started. He’s been in law enforement before. He’s been married and divorced before and he has a teenage daughter from that marriage who actually has her own character development and is a part of his life.

Even though she is a teenage delinquent in the beginning which must be embarrassing when you’re the sheriff, she’s just doing it for the attention and eventually shapes up. I saw a shift in her character when she refused alcohol from her aunt (the adult in the situation) on the grounds that it was illegal and she’d been taught better. It’s eventually found that she is every bit as smart as the others in Eureka and she gets into Harvard.

Of course the timeline for that may vary. Jack goes through several different timelines yet he always tries to create a safe place of semi-predictability. This safe, normal life is taken from him over and over again as inventions malfunction, people misuse power and their own intelligence and time pushes them in and out of the temporal paradox more than once.

Surely, by the end of the show he knows that he’s never going to find it, that things are never going to be normal that even when he settles down into one life he can wake up at the beginning of those four years or in an alternate timeline where Allison is still married to Stark and his daughter is in jail instead of college. Yet, in spite of this, he always keeps a spark of optimism that pushes him to keep trying even when everything he’e done can be snatched up from under him in an instant. Optimism is a good trait to have in a main character. 

My next character spot light is going to be on Rinoa Heartily from FinalFantasy VIII.

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