Warehouse 13: “Emily Lake/Stand”

The Whip Hand

Warehouse 13

Syfy Channel, Mondays, 8/7 C

“Emily Lake/Stand”

Part 1 written by Nell Scovell & Ian Stokes, directed by Millicent Shelton

Part 2 written by Andrew Kriesberg & Drew Z. Greenberg, directed by Stephen Surjik

“This was never about the good of the world, was it? It was about your guilt.” – Claudia

As in Season One, Warehouse 13 ends its summer with a bang, or in this case a boom. It would appear that even after defeating the Warehouse’s greatest enemy to date, evil won and the Warehouse was destroyed. Worse, we have said goodbye to two popular agents and a cast member who has always been a mystery. Where will Season Four begin? Probably about ten minutes before the end of Season Three – the Warehouse rebuilt itself at the start of Season Two and will probably do so again. Artie has once again survived the destruction of the Warehouse while clutching an Artifact. No, I’m not worried about the future of the Warehouse. Myka’s departure last season was more threatening than the “destruction” of Warehouse 13.

“Cecil B. DeMille’s riding crop lets my mind control your body.” — Sykes

This season has seen a long-running story arc about a shadowy enemy of the Warehouse, only lately revealed as one Walter Sykes (Anthony Michael Hall, No Ordinary Family). He has nursed a lifelong grudge against the Warehouse, and especially Regent Jane (Kate Mulgrew, Mercy) and Artie, who long ago deprived him of the Artifact that allowed him to walk. Now confined to a wheelchair, he has been systematically torturing and killing Regents and other Agents, stealing Artifacts, and generally wreaking havoc. Now he’s using Artifacts like Cecil B. DeMille’s riding crop to battle the agents and break into the Warehouse. What’s his endgame? As we discover, nothing less than the destruction of the Warehouse and all its agents. To this end, he is looking for former Warehouse Agent H. G. Wells (Jaime Murray, Ringer), whom we last saw as a holographic projection. But she’s so much more than that.

“What if she was having one of her ‘let’s end the world’ days?” – Pete

A ping leads Myka and Pete to Wyoming, where they are astonished to find H. G. (Helena to her friends and enemies) teaching school under the name Emily Lake. It seems the Regents decided that wiping her memory and instilling a different identity was more “humane” than bronzing. I guess so, if you’re of the mindset that a guillotine is more humane than disemboweling, but either one used for pre-emptive crimefighting is bad ethics. As Claudia begins to discover, the Regents’ motives cannot always stand the light of day; power without oversight is always a bad idea. Despite their constant warnings to never use Artifacts, it seems the Regents reserve a few for their exclusive use, among them the Janus coin. Named for the two-headed Roman god who adorns it, it was used to erase Helena’s memory – actually, to store it. As Pete and Myka try to process this, Sykes’ henchman Marcus Diamond (Sasha Roiz, Caprica), working with Steve Jinks, kidnaps “Emily” (despite Pete having dropped Diamond off a five story building). But why? What can a nineteenth century Agent know that could threaten the Warehouse?

“I’m still on your side, Claud. I always have been.” – Steve Jinks

Pete, who has never trusted Helena from the day she pulled a gun on him, concludes that the only way to prevent Sykes from carrying out whatever nefarious plan he has is to destroy the coin. Helena (the holographic memory of her, anyway) agrees, and bids them all a tearful farewell, especially Myka. I have always liked the special bond between these two women, who worked so well together. They understand one another better than any two other agents except possibly Claudia and Steve Jinks. Pete is stopped by Steve Jinks. Now Steve chases Claudia to recover the coin, gets her alone, and confesses what I suspected last episode: he’s working undercover in a sting operation. Claudia is practically radiant with joy to find her faith in her BFF confirmed, and gladly hands over the coin.

“We are on the other side of the world from ‘all right’.” — Pete

Now that Sykes has H. G. Wells and the coin, he reunites her with her memories. And once she is back to her old self, Sykes does not need Steve any more. Sykes’ retirement plan for superfluous subordinates is not pretty. Did anyone else see this coming? Certainly Steve should have; he would know how ruthless Sykes is. The Regents absolutely should have seen it coming; maybe they did, and didn’t care. In any case, one of the most heart-rending scenes we got all summer was Pete’s discovery of Jinks’ body, and his efforts to protect Claudia from it. The team is devastated. Myka is all business – that’s how she handles grief – but Pete is quietly sympathetic and gentle with the bereaved Claudia. Steve’s last report gives them the final clue to where Sykes is headed and what he’ll do when he gets there. It’s also the last straw for Claudia.

“Steve died alone, cut off from everybody who had his back, and for what? Why?” — Claudia

When Regent Jane tries to console and/or excuse Steve’s death, Claudia turns on her with icy venom. In a scene worthy of a standing ovation, she cuts the high and mighty Regents down to size. “I see you and the Regents for what you are – cowards!,” she spits at Jane. And she’s right. The Regents have grown fat and lazy and corrupt on the power they wield, and Claudia calls her on every point. Steve’s death was a human sacrifice, unnecessary and callous. Claudia, for all her adolescent charm and indie cool, has a keen sense of justice, untainted by the “practical” political considerations that drive the Regents. Jane tries to condescend to the young Agent and gets her head handed to her; Claudia reduces the powerful Guardian to babbling incoherence and finally to silence. I only wish Pete had witnessed that confrontation; it would have been illuminating to see whose side he took.

“When the rules do not agree with one, it is sometimes necessary to change them.” – Catanga

When H. G. regains her memories, we learn that when she was introduced to Warehouse 12 back in the 19th century, her mentor was a man named Catanga (Erick Avari, Stargate). Catanga was the Artie of his day, as well as a gamesman and a tea aficionado. Now Sykes is using his memoirs to find a back door into the Warehouse, a back door formerly known only to the Regents. To open the lock Catanga built, he needs Catanga’s student, hence his kidnapping of H. G. When Pete and Myka find them in Hong Kong, H. G. is being forced to play a game of chess in a machine that punishes the loser with death. Sykes sacrifices his pawn, Tyler, the hacker who helped him crack a Warehouse code, just to show us how coldblooded he can be. His next candidate is Myka, and now H. G. must play the game for Myka’s life. When she realizes she can’t win the game unless she breaks the rules, Myka trusts her absolutely. Again, I love the interaction between these two women. But now, of course, Sykes has a back door into the Warehouse, and he uses it.

“I’m tired of arbitrary rules.” — Claudia

The confrontation, the standoff, the chase scene, the fight – they’re all expected, and all here. They end as we would expect: with Sykes lost in a limbo between two non-locations in space, with the agents alive and unharmed, but with the Warehouse still in danger. A side plot involving Marcus threatening Leena at the boardinghouse ends in a standoff between Mrs. Fredericks and the looming henchman – which is resolved when Claudia uses a metronome to stop his heart. Claudia has never killed anyone before, but her vengeance is remorseless. When she gazes into the dying eyes of the man who killed her friend, she says, “That was for Steve” in a soft and merciless voice. She no longer answers to Mrs. Fredericks, either, and contemptuously dismisses Mrs. F’s demand that Claudia return the metronome. When Mrs. F is killed a few minutes later, Claudia watches with no expression as the body instantly mummifies. I suspect that Claudia will now become the new sheriff in town, and woe betide anyone who crosses her. I’m excited by this development – Claudia is the only character strong enough to bend Artie, and honest enough to trust in that role.

Pete: That was his plan: to destroy the entire Warehouse. We lost, Artie. We lost.

Artie: Not yet.

Sykes’ death is not sufficient to stop his evil plan; there’s a bomb about to go off in the Warehouse. While Pete, Myka and Artie do their best to defuse it, H. G. calmly encases them in a protective shield – one which leaves her unprotected. Once again she bids a tearful farewell to her friends, and then all hell breaks loose. When the fiery chaos subsides, Pete, Myka and Artie are the only ones left standing in a devastated Warehouse. So ends Season Three, but the closing credits remind us that Season Four has already been approved and the Warehouse will be back next summer, after the Christmas special airs. So it’s not much of a cliffhanger, as cliffhangers go. I’m much more interested in whether there will actually be a spinoff involving H. G. Wells and Warehouse 12. The fact that she’s now supposed to be dead is no bar to her coming back in her own show; after all, Claudia has definite plans to revive Steve Jinks. Nor am I certain Mrs. Fredericks is going to stay dead; after all, Marcus Diamond survived several deaths. On this show, anything is possible.

“Keep the faith.” – Steve Jinks

This has been the strongest year for Warehouse 13 yet, with some standout writing and always-excellent performances from the leads. The Artifacts continue to be fascinating and clever (Cecil B. DeMille’s riding crop??), and the premise of the show should carry it even further. Mercifully, the writers have refrained from pushing a Pete/Myka romance on us; if a show is going to do this, it should go ahead and jump in, but if not, a tease is pointless. In any case, the sibling vibe between Pete and Myka is nearly unique in TV, and I’d hate to see it wasted. The bold writing, excellent acting and innovative stories (like “Don’t Hate the Player”) made this a standout season for the Warehouse. With the series already renewed for 2012, we can look forward to many more to come.