Warehouse 13: “Buried” & “Reset”

The Sleeper Wakens

Warehouse 13

Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c
Written by Robyn Adams & Mike Johnson
Directed by Stephen Surjik
Written by Jack Kenny & Nell Scovell
Directed by Constantine Makris

“The Warehouse is more organic than your average structure.” —Mrs. Frederic

A second kick-ass season of Warehouse 13 ends on a whimper, not a bang, but it’s the kind of whimper that makes you want to join in. The whimper belongs to Pete Lattimer, who watches in stunned disbelief as his partner, Myka Bering, drives away after quitting her job at the Warehouse. It’s not a cliffhanger in the usual sense of science fiction cliffhangers—no one’s life is in danger, the world is safe, the bad guy locked safely away. But it’s appropriate for a show that does not take itself or its fantasy world too seriously, and at the same time takes the zeitgeist behind it very seriously.

“How do you lose a warehouse?” —Pete

This two-part season ender opens with a couple of college kids in a market in Alexandria, Egypt, suddenly turning into mummies. Back in South Dakota, the Warehouse team, including the magically appearing Mrs. Frederic, decides that they had inadvertently found the lost Warehouse 2, supposedly buried under Egyptian sands about the time Julius Caesar was conquering both Cleopatra and Egypt. Somehow, three college geeks on vacation suddenly had the time and money to fly from Peru to Egypt, hire equipment and bearers, and zero in on the one spot where the Warehouse was located. In doing so, they cursed themselves and tripped some alarms in Warehouse 2, alarms which are now causing serious damage to Mrs. Frederic herself. Pete and Myka are on the jump immediately, taking the newly reinstated Agent H.G. Wells with them. Artie sends them a “Warehouse expert” to aid them—who turns out to be Benedict Valda (Mark A. Sheppard, Mysterious Island), whom Pete so recently tried to kill. Awkward, much?

“What? I checked. This is what fashionable British archaeologists are wearing these days.” —HG

Any semblance of serious drama evaporates as soon as H.G. Wells takes off her trench coat and reveals her outfit: pure, unadulterated Lara Croft. Of all the sight gags this show has indulged in, the Tomb Raider costume was the best this year. What follows, as the team infiltrate the awakening Warehouse, is straight out of a Tomb Raider scenario: puzzles to solve, chasms to leap, fires to dodge. Watching the middle third of this episode, my fingers itched for a gaming console. The mood is tense but funny, until Mark Sheppard finally fulfills a wish I expressed a couple of reviews back, and dies a hero. For once, Sheppard gets to play a good guy, and he carried it off with honors. He’s the perfect sardonic, oh-well, aging Han Solo hero, dying for his friends with a last soulful quote: “This is how it must be.” More puzzles ensue, and Pete boasts to Myka that he’s solved more of them than she has. At which point, the moment of sudden yet inevitable betrayal arrives. I had hoped, crossed my fingers, and wished on my lucky 8-ball that it would not, but the inexorable rules of Greek and TV tragedy apply: Agent Wells reveals herself as a traitor, and shoots Pete and Myka with a Tesla.

Artie: Pete! Myka! HG is a bad guy!

Pete and Myka: We know!

The final episode picks up, with Pete and Myka escaping the imminent destruction of Warehouse 2 using the Wings of Daedelus. And I have to give honors to Eddie McClintock in this scene, for selling it at all. The CGI, not particularly good in much of the show this year, was particularly bad in the flying sequence, but Pete’s whooping delight sold me on his flight. Artie (looking, as Pete notes, like “Jerusalem Jones”) rescues them, having never trusted Wells at all. And can I just say, I hate it when Artie is right? I really do. This show is too light-hearted, too much fun, for his grim paranoia to prevail in every episode. I was hoping that Jaime Murray’s H.G. Wells would turn out to be a new character, as fascinating and full of potential as Allison Scagliotti’s Claudia turned out to be. She would have made a great member of the team.

Claudia: Listen! HG’s a bad guy!

Pete, Artie, and Myka: We know!

The remainder of this story is a chase story, with Myka and Artie haring off to stop Wells from ending the world with a trident. The face-off, in Yellowstone Park, has some inadvertently funny moments, chiefly involving Wells poking the trident into the ground as if she were spading up a new garden plot. Artie tries to stop her using weapons, which literally backfire. Myka, having already proved her soulful sympathy in Warehouse 2, uses her most earnest face to argue Wells out of her goal of triggering a new Ice Age. This tense confrontation, building since the de-Bronzing of HG in the season opener, now culminates in—a crying fit. Wells collapses in tears, Myka retrieves the world-destroying trident, and all is resolved.

“The only way to save this world is by destroying the parasites who are eating it alive!” —HG

Really? This is the way the world is saved, not with a bang but a whimper? By turning one of the most likable, strong female characters in science fiction TV into a violent tree-hugger? Into a psychopath who wants to kill the world because someone killed her child? Okay, I can buy that last one. But the idea felt contrived and forced. Since when is the author of The New World Order an eco-terrorist? But the writers slid right past this incongruency by forcing the focus onto Myka, who puts her life on the line when she puts Helena’s gun to her head and tells her to pull the trigger. Joanna Kelley really sold me on her grief and her sense of betrayal, her overwhelming feeling of failure at having so misjudged a woman she thought of as a friend. Without that visceral and honest moment, the whole scene would have come off as laughably funny. As it was, Warehouse 13has much to thank Ms. Kelley for.

“Are you messing around with stuff in the Farnsworth aisle again?” —Artie

Our B-stories both revolve around Claudia, in one way or another. In the first hour, while Mrs. Frederic nears death from Warehouse-overload, she is offered the opportunity to replace her. This throws her stint at the Warehouse into a whole new light for everybody—instead of being the perennial kid sister, she has an opportunity to, metaphorically speaking, become the matron of the entire place, the mom, the matriarch. It’s a heavy responsibility, and she’s scared witless—which only proves her good sense. She is not, in the end, required to step into Mrs. Frederic’s sensible shoes, but everyone is left pondering the possibilities. She works it out the way Claudia always does—by tinkering. She builds a Wells-tracking device out of spare parts even Artie considers cool. In every episode, she embeds herself more firmly into the Warehouse—which may be a dangerous thing for a girl who, by her own admission, can’t even buy a wine cooler in South Dakota. I look forward with much anticipation to watching Claudia grow up and grow into an awesome role in this show.

“I put the team in danger because I thought I knew better than anybody else.” —Myka

Of course, this being a finale, there has to be hyperbole and faux drama. Just once, I wish a TV show would spare us all this fake suspense. Pete, having been dumped by Kelly the Vet, considers quitting the Warehouse. Myka, the patient and wise younger sister, talks him out of it. Then she turns around and resigns, with a tender farewell letter. The only reason this scene worked, even minimally, was because both hours of the finale took pains to establish Myka’s sensitivity, one might even call it oversensitivity. In the Egyptian warehouse, it was her clear understanding of the characters of her friends that led her out of the hypnotic trance to which the team had fallen prey. In the showdown with Helena Wells, we saw how her intimate knowledge of Helena’s character allowed her to find the words to save the world. From the beginning of this series, we have been told that Pete is the intuitive half of the team, Myka the rational, mind-of-a-steel-trap smart girl. Now we see her developing fine instincts about other people, finer than Pete’s. She, like the Egyptian warehouse, wakes from sleep.

It worked for me, kinda. I had a lot of trouble with these two episodes. The writing and pacing seemed forced, off. The humor, in particular, was ill-timed, and everyone knows timing is everything in humor. Pete’s boyish humor, usually the one thing that can save an overwrought scene, was intrusive and inappropriate too often. The relationship between Pete and Kelly felt rushed, and I never bought it. Can I say again that the special effects were often terrible? Particularly the Egyptian warehouse, which borrowed far too heavily from National Treasure. Artie continues to be the most unbearable boss since Michael Scott of The Office. There were too many artifacts that dominated scenes that should have been dominated by the characters we love.

Mrs. Frederic: This is unlike anything you’ve ever faced.

Pete: So. Like always, then.

On the good side, the dialogue snapped as brilliantly as ever, the bond between Artie and Claudia solidified more strongly, and Pete and Myka continue to build a fine sibling relationship almost unique in current television. They are more than partners and considerably less than lovers, and I am happy to have them that way. I hope they stay that way. I’m hoping the innovative team behind Warehouse 13 has the guts to keep them as family, not lovers.

Warehouse 13 has not yet been renewed, and any such announcement will probably wait until mid-October. Since Syfy has been running ads touting it as the most-watched show on the network, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t renew it. So I’ll go out on a limb, consulting my lucky 8-ball, and say, “See you next summer.”