August 4th, 2009
Warehouse 13 is a show about some really complex supernatural events, there’s no question about that. However, really, the show wants nothing to actually do with any of them. When a pop song is used to rob banks, the story quickly shifts to the quite humanitarian and kindly reason for the thefts, and the show wants us to empathize with them and let them get off scot free. When the mystery of an evil chair is solved, it’s not due to some evil mastermind plot but rather a crazy scientific explanation and some unfortunate circumstances. Everything needs to right itself in the end, which makes the show’s complexity somewhat quickly resolved by episode’s end.
Last week’s “Claudia,” a compelling tale of Artie’s past encounters with a young scientist and his sister coming back into his life, was another example of this: in the episode, Claudia and Artie manage to bring her brother back from some sort of between world existence, the same age as he was 12 years previous and ready to re-enter the world. The show never stops to question the implications of this, and this week they even shipped him off to Switzerland to work as if the 12 years was just a bunch of facts he needs to learn and Springsteen records to catch up on. The show doesn’t feel the need to stop and consider any of this, and that’s something that really stands out for me.
I’m not suggesting that the storylines should be less complex or more realistic, thus justifying this approach a bit more, but rather that they need to be careful about what kind of shortcuts they pull to achieve their goals. “Elements” is an episode where the mythical meets the realistic, Native American creation mashing up with an epic battle between high-powered businessmen, but in attempting to resolve the storyline there’s a few missing pieces, links that rob the storyline of any real impact in an effort to cleanly move onto the next week without asking the difficult questions.
As has been the case every week, I find this to be a really fun little summer show. I enjoy Pete and Myka’s chemistry with one another, and the cases have a sense of the imaginary that is missing from your traditional investigation show of this nature. The show is good at providing a sense of structure within the cases as well, especially in terms of integrating the two agents. The parallel structure of Pete pairing off with the auction house employee, and then Myka pairing off with Joe Flanigan’s (Stargate: Atlantis) Jeff Weaver, is the kind of thing that didn’t really impact the investigation (neither relationship was given any actual time to develop) but was cute and, more importantly, continuing to develop a relationship between the two leads that feels more natural than it does contrived in both its conflict and its connections.
The case itself was strong in that the mystery element wasn’t extended longer than it should have been: the reveal of the long-standing rivalry between Jeff’s father and the villainous Radburn (James Naughton), and the continued rivalry in an effort to reveal the secret underground cavern, was a good marriage of traditional dramatic plotting (rivalry between businessmen, etc.) and the show’s particularly supernatural perspective. However, when it came time to end the storyline, it became clear that they were creating a dramatic action ending that really didn’t make any sense when you think about it. Not only were the powers provided by the various artifacts somewhat abstract and left unclear, but it was also unclear why precisely the arrow was able to kill someone who apparently has eternal life. Did the fire not have time to soak in? Did the arrow’s qualities allow it to kill him when a gun would not?
All questions that go unanswered when the show zips back to Warehouse 13 and resolves the ongoing question of Claudia’s involvement with the warehouse. I like Claudia, and I think that having someone else in the Warehouse (who isn’t Leena, as she clearly isn’t involved with the nuts and bolts of things) is a good way to sustain that side of the storyline. But in the attempt to balance the two storylines, they failed miserably: yes, we needed closure so that we could say goodbye to Joshua, and there needed to be some setup so that Claudia’s ability to solve the chess problem, fix the warehouse and also help locate the cave could be established, but to not get any sense of closure about what the effects of the giant fire spire, or the sudden storm, were seems to be a bit misguided.
With Claudia now officially part of the team, and Joshua off doing other things, it also raises questions about where the show is going to get a serialized element – I thought the warehouse hacker would provide that, but now that’s been entirely resolved. I’m going to give the show the benefit of the doubt on this one, and give them some time to put it all together, but when you spend time creating a guest character (Weaver) and creating a complicated mythology, it’s kind of tough to accept the complete lack of a resolution. I know the supernatural is big and unwieldy, but the show will have to face the music every once in a while.
- I didn’t particularly recognize Allison Scagliotti, who plays Claudia, from anywhere, but IMDB filled me in that she played the eponymous birthday girl in the “Taylor Stiltskin’s Sweet Sixteen” episode of Party Down, one of my favourite new comedies of the year. This earns her huge bonus points, and makes me forgive those moments when she was a bit too over the top in this set of episodes.
- James Naughton, meanwhile, is recognizable to me as Nate’s grandfather on Gossip Girl.
- Flanigan joins Tricia Helfer amongst past SyFy stars brought out to promote the series, which could be an interesting trend (Kate Vernon and Michael Hogan, also of Battlestar Galactica along with Helfer, are due to appear in time) and something to bring in some new viewers.
- Every now and then I want them to tone down Pete’s comic tone (talking to his badge, “Earth, Wind and Fire! I love those guys!”), but I think they’re doing a pretty good job of balancing it, and it helps liven up the tone in moments where things seem too serious.