Warehouse 13: “Elements”

Elemental, My Dear Watson

Warehouse 13

Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c


Teleplay by Jack Kenny & David Simkins
Story by Dana Baratta & Jack Kenny
Directed by Ken Girotti

Artie: At the risk of sounding dramatic—

Leena: That’s never stopped you before.

Artie: That’s true.

If Native Americans had possessed even a tenth of the mystic powers accorded them by Hollywood, this review would be written in Algonquin. How are we supposed to believe that people powerful enough to concoct four objects which would confer on their holder enough power to rule the world never actually made use of them to kick the Europeans off their continent? Supposedly, the Lenape were savvy enough to create and bury these objects under Manhattan, but they then sold the island to Peter Minuit for a boatload of beads. No wonder Native Americans get tired of Hollywood mining their culture for stories; nobody looks good in this scenario.

This episode, the fifth one in the show, unfortunately buys into these sentimental stereotypes. A sculpture is stolen by someone who simply walks through a vault wall in Manhattan, picks it up, and walks out. Although no one witnessed this, the nature of this locked-room theft spurs Artie to assign it to Pete and Myka. Justifiably, they wonder why this is a “warehouse case”, but Artie is, as usual, unwilling or too distracted to answer coherently. One of his distractions is Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti) from last episode, who is joining the warehouse team on a permanent basis. I’m hoping the addition of Claudia as Artie’s foil will force him to start explaining a few things.

Pete and Myka quickly learn that two wealthy white men, Jeffrey Weaver (Joe Flanigan, Stargate: Atlantis) and Gilbert Radburn (James Naughton,Gossip Girl) were rivals to acquire the otherwise insignificant sculpture, one of four that illustrates the four elements sacred to Native American mythology. Supposedly, if the cave where the four elemental artifacts are stored is found, and all four artifacts are activated at once, the activee will gain enormous power.

Oh, please. Native American magic? Miraculous cloaks? Last week I was hoping for more intelligent, science-oriented storylines. Now we get this condescending nonsense. Artie looks at one feather and declares that it’s “Native American”. Seriously? The most that feather can tell anyone is that it may have come from a turkey (which I will grant is native to North America). It doesn’t tell anyone how old it is, where it came from (a turkey farm in France?), or what properties it may have. Artie’s continuing ability to pull explanations, theories, and deductions out of nothing whatsoever is becoming ever more annoying. Why are we being offered this mystical mumbo-jumbo, instead of more intriguing Native American mysteries such as the real Lenape Stone, which shows pre-Columbian warriors hunting a woolly mammoth? Ten minutes’ research on the Web could give a competent writer a better story than this mish-mash.

Pete and Myka continue to be the best thing about this show. Their sibling rivalry adds humor and warmth. Better yet, the lack of sexual tension between the two of them allows these characters to support one anther’s attempts to snare a date with their attractive interviewees. Even when the mysterious wall-walker throws Pete through a truck, he finds the strength to tease Myka about her attraction to Weaver in a snarky-brotherly way:

Pete: Smile. You’re pretty when you smile.

Myka: I am?

Pete: Well, yeah.

Myka: So. What does that mean when I’m not smiling?

Pete: Kinda frightening. (ducks)

In earlier episodes, Artie annoyed his agents by requiring them to ask a list of seemingly unrelated and wacky questions of all witnesses. Now Myka cleverly uses that list as a code to tell Pete that she’s found an artifact-related clue: “I smell fudge.” Pete doesn’t miss a beat, he picks up on this right away. Later, he doesn’t hesitate to act on his instincts and plunge an arrow into a man’s chest to save the two of them. Smart, funny, and courageous—I like these two characters very much.

So when do we get better stories? There were more dangling threads left on this story than a buckskin jacket. Radburn dismisses Pete’s suggestion that he stole the sculpture by reminding Pete that he can buy the thing any time he wants. Forty minutes later, we find out he did steal it. Why? Why not just buy it, like he claimed he could? Where did Radburn get the wall-penetrating cloak in the first place? Why did he so carelessly reveal his secret to his foreman, after he killed a henchman who knew about it? How did he know what the four artifacts would do, and why did Pete know how to kill him with them? In fact, why didn’t the artist who made the sculptures use them to find the elements himself? The puzzle was on the one hand too easy to solve (mostly by talking) and too fragmented to make sense. I really, really need smarter plots to go with these sassy, attractive agents. Right now, it looks like they’re spinning their wheels, rather like a perpetual motion machine on Row 44509X.