“Pilot” and “Resonance”
July 7th & July 14th, 2009
I fell asleep watching the Warehouse 13 pilot.
It’s a true story. I was there, trying to get through it, but I was exhausted from being up early and the pilot wasn’t really engaging me on any level. It wasn’t that it was bad, or that it actually put me to sleep (I consciously paused it before conking out moments later), but the fact remains that there was something about Warehouse 13 that wasn’t really connecting with me.
However, upon finishing the Pilot last night, and digging into “Resonance” this afternoon, I can say quite emphatically that the show is more than capable of keeping me awake. No, it’s not a replacement for Battlestar Galactica by any means, but it doesn’t try to be. What it represents is Reaper with less comedy, Fringe without the mythology, and every crime procedural you’ve ever seen with a sense of whimsy that’s often sorely lacking on those shows. It has no grandiose ideas about its position in the television world: what it delivers is what it sets out to achieve, a light-hearted but nonetheless resonant piece of dramedic television.
And in the middle of summer, when television often feels like a wasteland, a weekly trip into the depths of Warehouse 13 is something I’m already looking forward to, if not particularly obsessing over.
The problem with the Warehouse 13 pilot is that it has to do too many things, and its two-hour running time actually hinders the most important one: providing entertainment. In terms of getting to know the characters, and providing some flashy scenes, the crazy Italian comb sequence offered some potential, but it was a bit too abstract a story to tell over the two hour running time. It felt like it was being dragged out, and while I understand the need to introduce the premise of the Warehouse as well as the bureacracy involved it didn’t seem as if the procedural plotline really did enough to connect with all of that in terms of pacing. The pilot just showed a lack of care in a few areas, a sign of a show struggling to come to terms with its own identity.
In the end, though, I thought it did a good job of letting its archetypal characters (By the book hard-nosed female meets impulsive ladies man) show a little bit more about themselves, and more importantly started to build up a sense of trust between them. Myka’s past, where an operation in Denver screaming for a flashback episode resulted in the death of her boyfriend, and Pete’s ability to sense when something is about to go wrong are both things that help contribute to a sense of unease around these characters. Any scenario where someone “hand picks” their team can feel contrived, but there’s a sense that Myka’s past combined with her ability makes her a strong partner for Pete’s slightly supernatural ability. I’m still not sure how, precisely, the ability to have a magic tea kettle appear in your hand is a sign, but there’s a definite bit of light mythology in the “special like Pete” department.
The one thing the Pilot doesn’t get a chance to do is to make Warehouse 13 seem like a fun place to be: I’m enjoying Saul Rubinek, and his slightly off-kilter but in control demeanor is certainly fun to watch, but the pilot never quite brings Myka and Pete around to why the Warehouse could be something more. That’s what it was so strange when the pilot’s “cliffhanger,” when Myka is left considering if she’ll stay, was ignored entirely in “Resonance” – I discovered after the fact that the episodes were aired out of order, which at least explains that. Overall, though, the Pilot seemed like it was dragging 90 minutes of material into two hours, and the show was still a bit bi-polar coming out of it.
I felt “Resonance,” though, was much more consistent on those levels. I love stuff like the Lewis Carroll mirror ping pong, with Pete playing a version of himself. Those were the kinds of discoveries that the pilot needed but couldn’t really engage in because Pete and Myka needed to want to leave right up until the point they discover the comb is actually real. Here, they don’t need to worry about that since they’re both firm believers in the existence of such objects, and can take things for granted in favour of some comedy. I think that this transition would have felt considerably more natural with an episode in between, but that doesn’t make the shift any less welcome.
I also think the show deserves credit for giving a decent amount of pathos and threat with its “Case of the Week.” The comb one seemed a bit over the top, but this one was able to overcome a clunky log line (“World’s happiest pop song paralyzes bank-goers”) to feel legitimately cool, which should really be the show’s goal. Fringe learned a lesson as time when on that its own supernatural cases were at their best when they felt unique or had some sort of aesthetic element. The record player structure was a really clever way of handling things here, and the scene where they came into the FBI with the record was a really fun piece of staging. The storyline also worked because the clues made sense (the perfume smell emerging from Pete’s overly touchy post-song activity, the echo theory foreshadowed at the first bank visit, etc.), and because the conclusion gave the storyline an additional level of pathos.
I’d like to think it’s that ending and not Tricia Helfer’s pretty minimal guest appearance that really drove this episode to be showed second as opposed to third. Helfer was fine, as usual, but it was pretty much a one-note role and she couldn’t do much with it. Instead, the ending was what really struck me: the goal of Warehouse 13 is to neutralize the threat of these items, not to find justice in the traditional sense. So, when it’s revealed that the bank robberies were just being done in order to get enough money to buy back the composer’s collection from the sketchy agent who stole it, Pete makes the decision not to call the FBI, and to chance that the FBI won’t find them. While Myka’s drama with her father seemed a bit too much of a cliche, especially since we haven’t seen her father yet, I thought the story within the episode was actually quite effective in its own right, so I can’t say the show doesn’t know how to do it.
I want the show to embrace its fun side a bit more, and I think there’s potential they’ve yet to try to tap into, but the show’s fun early on. It’s a summer show, with a solid is unremarkable cast who has been given an enjoyable universe to inhabit. I’m sticking around for a while, and will stop by with a post should an episode prove particularly remarkable in some fashion.
- I’ve got a few issues with the show’s basic premise (like why people don’t raise more eyebrows about why the Secret Service is involved in these affairs), so I’m curious to what degree the show tests these questions in perhaps that missing second episode, or in future ones.
- t was a bit dry and boring here, but the fact that Michael Hogan (Saul Tigh, Battlestar Galactica) is playing Myka’s father makes me extremely excited for the storyline’s future.
- I like the work here in terms of integrating Dickenson into the Warehouse 13 universe – it’s a really simple storyline, but he’s a genuine resource for the series in terms of expanding its bureaucray when C.C.H. Pounder isn’t around.
- The identity of the hacker, and the strange nature of the flash that Saul saw, would seem to indicate there’s a mythology here the show isn’t yet tapping into. It’s not quite on the level of Fringe, but I think that’s for the best, as it better fits the show’s light-hearted style.