Warehouse 13: “Burnout”

Spurned and Burned

Warehouse 13
Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c


Written by Matthew Federman & Stephen Scaid

Directed by Constantine Makris

Artie: I don’t have time for your new-fangled stuff.
Claudia: No, no, no. This is totally old-fangled.

Well, I asked for a darker version of Warehouse 13, and I got it. For the first time in recent weeks, someone dies on the show—and not just one person, but a dozen or so. Bodies fry left and right as some lightning-wielding perp stalks the citizens of St. Louis, Missouri. It starts with what looks like a routine accident—a gas explosion and fire at the precinct house takes out six cops. The uncommonly uncooperative chief of police can’t be bothered to investigate the deaths of his own men, because he’s just got too much paperwork, so it’s up to Pete and Myka to investigate the chief’s own basement. There they discover the remains of a Secret Service agent—and not just any agent, a Warehouse agent. He’s carrying a Tesla gun.

So now we’re hip deep in corpses both fried and mummified. Back at the Warehouse, Artie is more surly and uncommunicative than ever, leaving it to Claudia to not only corral all the good lines but to do most of the work. Artie is combing through backlists of missing Artifacts that might have been responsible for all this loose electricity lying about (and I love that he mentions the Babylonian Battery not once but twice). Claudia, meanwhile, uses her considerable native wit to cobble together a holographic projector, among other things, that allows them to reconstruct what the jerky-like corpse on their table might have looked like in life. Fully half of the episode is devoted to identifying this lost agent, but they finally track down not only his name but his old girlfriend, Rebecca (Roberta Maxwell, The Mermaid Chair). Turns out she was a Warehouse Agent too, but she went AWOL permanently when John (the mummy) disappeared. She also, it turns out, bakes a mean plate of cookies, which unleashes Pete’s inner Cookie Monster in an endearingly childish way. Independently, Pete/Myka and Claudia/Artie discover that the Artifact causing so much havoc is a relic of the First Crusade; looking very much like a metal scorpion, it attaches to the spine of a “warrior” and amplifies his emotions into a lethal lightning strike before it burns up its host.

Yeah, it’s better not to examine these things too closely. The concept behind this MacGuffin is no more preposterous than the other devices Pete and Myka spend their time chasing, but it’s also not the only gaffe. There’s the moment when Pete and Myka rush out of Rebecca’s house (after scarfing up all but one of her cookies) without noticing that she just revealed that she knows more about this MacGuffin than they do. There’s the moment when Claudia, who is savvy enough to cannibalize various electronics to build her own futuristic MacGuffin, says that electricity had not been “invented” in the 1100s. And the show is developing continuity problems as well—what happened to the purple liquid Artie insists all Artifacts be neutralized with? Did Pete and Myka run out, or just forget to bring it along? Because in the end, Rebecca has to step in to save Pete and stomp the scorpion to death. Without repercussions. And somehow these knowledgeable Warehouse people are so confused about history, they think Saracens were Turks. Oh, dear.

But if the foundations lurch a little bit, the superstructure is solid. Claudia, in three episodes, has added more to this show than the character of Artie, who is growing so grouchy and useless that I am beginning to suspect he’s a saboteur. It may be that he was originally imagined as a version of Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer; if so, he’s turning into Mr. Crankypants instead. Claudia snarks at him, critiques his wardrobe, and mischievously declares herself to be “Warehouse: The Next Generation”. She’s smart, feisty, fresh, and fun in every episode. If I didn’t know that creator Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire SlayerBattlestar Galactica) had left this show, I’d wonder if she was writing these sassy lines for Claudia. She also has the best job on the show: she gets to stay home in the Warehouse and play with all the toys. If I was Pete, I’d be trying to swap jobs with her.

Clearly, the concept is selling itself. Viewership has been consistently steady and even rising since the premiere. Mediaweek reports that the July 14 episode increased total viewers from 3.41 million to 4.15 million (when DVR viewers are added). In the adults 18-49 category, Warehouse 13showed a 32% increase from the previous week. This will make Warehouse 13 one of the Syfy Channel’s most popular shows. “The added viewership made the July 14 episode of Warehouse 13 the most-watched non-premiere telecast in the 17-year history of Syfy (née Sci Fi Channel).” This is good news: a show this fun and whimsical is a welcome refreshment to the palate after a course of heavier genre shows like Lost and Fringe. I’m enjoying it, and hope it stays around.