Warehouse 13: “Duped”

Spurned and Burned Warehouse 13
Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c


Written by Benjamin Raab & Deric A. Hughes

Directed by Michael Watkins

Artie, when I get out of here, I’m hugging her and I’m kicking your ass. —Myka-in-the-mirror

Through the looking-glass, indeed. A little imagination, a lot of continuity, and some daring moves for one of the main characters enliven an episode which is overall one of the best. If the central concept is problematic, there’s no difficulty with its execution: we get some of the best acting and the best byplay of the series. There’s a real sense of these people settling into a routine just familiar enough to make the audience comfortable without boring us to death.

While helping Claudia take inventory in the Warehouse, Pete diverts himself with a little ping-pong, played with his own reflection in a mirror once owned by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), author of Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. We’ve already seen this in an earlier episode, so it’s nice to have continuity. Pete even mentions Myka’s pet ferret, which materialized out of a teakettle in the pilot. Myka accidentally knocks down a mirror-ball that once hung in Studio 54. It kicks into disco mode, always a dangerous melody, and projects its stored lust, frenzy, and general chaos into the mirror image of Myka. Which becomes Myka. Which we’re not going to inquire too closely into, because none of the Artifacts in this series stands up to close examination.

Unaware that Myka is now a doppelganger, Artie sends her and Pete off on a mission to retrieve an Artifact which is causing two petty thieves (Erica Cerra and Niall Matter, Eureka) to have too much luck at the casino tables. This mission was staged in a family conference so smoothly rendered that it wasn’t until the commercial break that I realized it makes no sense. In what possible scenario can the exploitation of a casino be considered a threat to consensual reality? Why would Artie consider this Artifact a threat in any way? What are his criteria for determining what’s important in an Artifact? Is he just out to crush any manifestation of supernatural or super-scientific phenomena? Does that mean he’s trying to hold back progress, the process of discovery, innovation per se? In short, who the hell does Artie think he is?

The annoyance factor of Artie Nielsen reached its apogee with this episode. He mumbled so badly, evaded so thoroughly, and dissimulated so completely that he didn’t even finish his sentences. He yelled at Claudia, dismissed her every effort to help, and even snarked off to Lena. Is he constipated or what? He sent Myka and Pete off without even a clear idea as to what they were hunting down. When he discovers that the mirror holds an image of Myka, he instantly dismisses the idea that it could be the “real” her. It takes two very persuasive women and a clever new invention by Claudia to change his mind. Finally, he listens to Myka-in-the-mirror, who chastises him in a genuine, heartfelt speech that even Artie has to pay attention to. Brilliantly, she eschews anger for pathos, knowing perhaps instinctively that Artie would harden his heart against the former but is a sucker for the latter. Myka poured out all the criticism I’ve been hurling at Artie’s head, in a long overdue lecture on trust, friendship, and responsibility. He seems to have listened, so I hope that we will soon see a little mellowing, a little thawing, and a helluva lot more common sense out of Artie.

Meanwhile, Myka-the-doppelganger is having loads of fun. She gets to kiss Pete, knock a cute con artist around, and gamble a bit. She sashays around in a spray-painted little black number that knocks Pete sideways, drinks plenty of alcohol, and plots a mad killing spree. She may not be Myka, but she sure is interesting.

The trouble is, who the hell is she? According to Leena and Artie, she is the “real” Alice Liddell, the young girl Dodgson/Carroll allegedly based Alice on. But also according to Artie, the real Alice was a psychotic serial killer, and Dodgson’s stories about “Wonderland” were only his attempts to document the madness of a young girl. Say what? It sounds as if the writers have decided to incorporate the storyline behind a video game (American McGee’s Alice), rather than the book, into this plot. That’s unfortunate, and out of character for the show. Up to now, the show has stuck to what we really know of real people referred to in the episodes—Nicola Tesla, Philo Farnsworth, James Braid, etc. The real Alice Liddell was an 11-year-old girl who grew up, married, had kids, and lived a quiet, law-abiding life. I can’t imagine why the writers felt compelled to blacken her name by turning her into a psycho killer. However, I’ll admit that the brief glimpse we got of the mad Alice will be giving me nightmares for a week.

And as I said, we get more questions than answers. For example, if Myka-the-doppelganger is really someone else, how does she know everything there is to know about Myka-in-the-mirror, right down to the banter with Pete and their arguments over earlier missions? I enjoyed the fact that Pete figured out on his own that Myka was not “herself”, but his leap from “the real Myka would never kiss me” to “this must be a duplicate from the Mirror” is a little hard to believe. I appreciated the magic coin the gamblers had, especially for the fact that it only “saw” a few seconds into the future. It limited the gamblers to casino gambling rather than, say, the lottery or the stock market, which made it easier to find them. Clever and effective, but again, why is it so dangerous it has to go to the Warehouse?

Other facets of the writing continue to shine. The very idea of the Studio 54 disco ball in synergy with Lewis Carroll’s mirror is pure gold. I love the continuity—Claudia recognizes the look of someone caught between worlds. Pete’s dialogue is some of the best (“Kirk out!”), and his “dark vault/oy gevalt” pun with Artie just made my night. Using Studio 54 as a magical Wonderland was a cute idea, along with Claudia’s cluelessness as to dates—she thinks Disco was an ’80s phenomenon. Kids today. The Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” were perfect choices for music, but is it an unwritten rule in Hollywood that allreferences to Las Vegas must feature either Elvis or Frank Sinatra? So, so overdone. High-fives to Joanne Kelly, who got to play variations of the same character and kept them both recognizable and completely separate in the audience’s mind. Subtle and brilliant acting, that. And although I love the sibling vibe we usually get with Pete and Myka, I got a little chuckle out of that hallway kiss; Myka-the-doppelganger was pulling away, but Pete wasn’t through yet. Heh. There could be heat there; it’s just that I would hate to give up that unique brother/sister rivalry these two have going, for something much more mundane.

A recent press release touted the fifth episode, “Elements”, as being the most popular episode in the 17-year history of the Syfy network. It beatSaving GraceRaising the BarDark Blue, and Army Wives. Syfy’s own press release says, “Having just reached the mid-point of the season,Warehouse 13 is tracking to be the highest-rated and most-watched first season ever for a Syfy original series, even topping Battlestar Galactica‘s 2.4 Household rating and 2.86 million total viewer averages.”

Last Friday, the network announced that it is renewing Warehouse 13 for a second season of 13 episodes to be broadcast in the summer of 2010. I’m already ready to call this the second best summer series of the year, afterTrue Blood. I’m delighted to know it will be back.