Warehouse 13 – “Magnetism”



July 21st, 2009

In choosing to blog about Warehouse 13 of the past few nights’ television lineups, I don’t want you to think I prefer it to any of them: I quite liked the third episode of Hung, preferred the second episode of Entourage’s sixth season to the premiere, thought last night’s Weeds and Nurse Jackie were decent and laughed a whole lot at tonight’s Better Off Ted. However, none of those things were particularly surprising, and Warehouse 13 is a show still trying to find its legs and thus somewhat more unique in terms of analysis.

While I thought “Resonance” was a really winning turn for the series, “Magnetism” starts to show some holes in the show’s premise. It’s clear why they aired episodes out of order in order to be able to go with the dramatic and compelling story of the world’s most powerful pop song as opposed to, say, an episode about a piece of furniture. In the same vein as the show’s pilot, which dragged in its mystery, this week’s episode has them searching for what’s causing some strange behaviour, a trope that is only as interesting as the behaviour itself considering that the object will remain a MacGuffin.

In the end, I thought “Magnetism” was ultimately quite charming, integrating enough humour into the storyline itself to overcome its seriousness. There’s a serious contrast going on with this show, where some rather broad (but entertaining) comedy emerges in storylines that are actually quite serious in their ramifications. The action demonstrated that the show could become tedious in its procedural plotting, especially if they repeat themselves too often, but the comedy and the relationship between characters was really strong, and inspired me to actually kind of like the episode despite some of my concerns over its tone.

It shows that the show continues to win the war, regardless of the battle at hand, which is a pretty good endorsement at this stage in its run.

Just to be clear, this show has no bones about scientific or realistic: while a show like Fringe uses pseudoscience to create complex and hypothetical reasoning for something to take place, depicting Walter (and Peter) as smart enough to understand the complicated procedure, this show is going to just breeze on by it. So, when the show asks us to believe that the iron coils in an old Hypnotherapist’s chair have begun to act independently on the subconscious of those who sit in it, but only when spurned on by the voice of someone who sounds like the old Hypnotherapist, we’re just supposed to roll with it. As long as you’re cool with that, the show operates just like any other supernatural themed procedural: whether X-Files or Supernatural, it’s about observing weird behaviour and discovering its cause. However, while those shows got monsters, this show gets old armchairs, which is a bit of a handicap dramatically speaking.

There’s two ways the show seems to amp this up, and both are concerning. Firstly, I have some doubts about the show’s ability to turn every scenario into a worst case one, especially here with the Sheriff strapping a bomb to himself (complete with a nonsensical one-minute timer that looks like it was snatched from a debate competition) and holding the Church hostage. When the threat is an armchair, there’s a tendency to present its effects in the most dramatic way possible: it’s the same thing that led to the firey death of the dude from Spin City and the huge ritualized setting of the Pilot, and it always feels a bit out of place.

Secondly, the idea of one of the agents being effected by the object is similarly a problem. In both instances (here and in last week’s episode), they’ve used it as a form of comedy, but there’s a distinct difference: while Pete going all lovey-dovey after hearing the song and Myka punching Pete for being juvenile are both funny, in the context of their episodes they may not be quite as humorous. Myka’s condition was supposed to put her in danger of falling into a coma, and it was a condition that led someone to strap a bomb to their chest. This wasn’t a laughing matter, and yet the episode turned it into one through that development. It was one thing in the Pop Song episode where there wasn’t any real danger to those involved as shown by the resolution, but here it was quite different.

I understand that it’s all a way to spice up a story about an evil chair, but the show’s balance of drama and comedy is about as sporadic as the electric shortages at Warehouse 13. It’s an example of a show knowing that the chemistry between its leads and the show’s ability to tap into it is one of its strong suits, and yet being unable to necessarily mediate that with the kinds of stories they appear to want to tell. There’s a time and a place for it, don’t get me wrong – I thought the comedy bits that bookended the episode (in a very USA Network-like fashion, I might add) about the necessity of a leader and their prank on Artie were really fun, and made me want to spend more time with this team. The problem is that the stories themselves aren’t anywhere near as fun, and the writers are bringing too much of the zany into stories they apparently want to take in really dark directions. I don’t want the show to be as on the nose as it was with the father/daughter stuff in “Resonance,” but at least that felt tonally consistent.

Overall, though, I thought it was enjoyable, and continues to be the kind of breezy summer fare I tend to appreciate, even if they occasionally want to become an episode of Criminal Minds as well.

Cultural Observations

  • Taking a page from Chuck, amongst other shows, the episode opened with an “in media res” of a mission to capture the blade from the guillotine which killed Marie Antoniette. That we never learned what it did was kind of part of the fun, as if there are missions ongoing for these two that we don’t get to see. Gives a real impression of a living universe.
  • I’m pretty certain this episode is in order based on last week’s episode, although it’s tough to tell: while Artie may have been dealing with his hacker, those scenes were almost all disconnected from Myka and Pete, so it’s possible that they reused the basic storyline from Episode 2 and added those scenes. However, at the same time, we still haven’t dealt with Myka’s uncertainty about joining the team that the Pilot seemed to leave on, although leaving the second episode on the shelf for too long seems like it will only be more jarring.
  • Speaking of Artie’s scenes, they were pretty pointless: it’s all a big mystery without much hope for an immediate payoff, athough the Knock Knock bit was kind of creepy.
  • Did anyone else figure out that it was the subconscious acting out the moment that Meg smashed the nurse’s head into the counter? For such instinctual agents, Pete and Myka were slow to pick up that one.

1 Comment

Filed under Warehouse 13

One response to “Warehouse 13 – “Magnetism”

  1. Abe

    I forgot that the episodes aired out of order, and I really agree that this episode pales in comparison to last week’s. I’m seeing constant parallels to “The X-Files” and I agree with you about it being problematic that the agents are affected by the object. That rarely occurred on “The X-Files,” and for it to have happened twice already after only three episodes is very problematic. My review will be up tonight.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s