Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c
Written by Bob Goodman
Directed by Vincent Misiano
Pete: I’m sure if it were really dangerous, Artie would have told us.
Well, maybe not, Pete. While most of the rest of these episodes are becoming more fun to watch every week, the character of Artie Nielsen is growing progressively more annoying. The character’s adamant refusal to engage in any kind of dialogue with the agents he orders around every week is just plain ridiculous. Any self-respecting agent would have either quit or transferred after being repeatedly put in needless danger by this myopic geek. Maybe the writers think Artie is “lovable”. Maybe they think he’s a tortured, lonely soul we can identify with. Well, this reviewer doesn’t identify with a sullen, muttering, self-absorbed, oblivious troglodyte who doesn’t bother to tell his agents about the dangers associated with their missions. At this point, he’s no longer a character so much as a plot device.
Which is lazy writing, and highlights an increasing problem with this show. It relies on too many dumb plots, it relies on people not saying things to each other that normal human beings would say to one another (like, “the sword can make its wielder invisible”), and it absolutely relies on the bad guys being stupid. A prime example is the scene where Pete and Myka need to escape from the two Secret Service Agents escorting them to the airport. Myka, who is now fully committed to the Warehouse, initiates a pantomime sequence which, while hilarious in itself, had me wondering how it played to the agents in front. Seriously, they never looked in the rear view mirror at two agents who had twice given them the slip? Dumb. Agent Dickinson, their former boss, calls in “more people” to guard his office but doesn’t double them up–dumb. The ice flower fireworks were pretty, but what if only one person in that building had not been looking out of the window? Dumb. The bad guy hands over a lethal weapon to a worse bad guy holding a six foot long sword, and then just stands there to be decapitated. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
At least we got a suitably weird and intriguing artifact. The Japanese katana sword that was this week’s McGuffin rendered its wielder invisible–way cool. No more supernaturally gifted comfy chairs. As usual, the McGuffin itself was less interesting than the other artifacts displayed on the show. For example, the entire concept of the implosion grenade was fascinating, as was the resulting modern sculpture it created when detonated in the middle of a crowded, furnished office. When the agents walked in and found the contents of the room squeezed into the center like something out of a trash compactor, that was interesting enough. But then Myka strolled around and found a man’s arm sticking out of the mess, and the whole idea got creepier by a factor of ten. That’s the kind of shivery moment I look forward to on this show. But scenes of Mrs. Fredericks and Artie having an incomprehensible argument at a bar, discussing events in the past we’re not party to, is just frustrating. It was like listening to half a phone conversation.
The main attraction of this series continues to be Pete and Myka’s superb dynamic. Pete is especially funny in this episode. His delayed reaction to her implication that she’s the smart one, his delight when he finds out she knows what a “red shirt” is, and his hilarious opening bit where he imitates bad Japanese dubbing in a movie were all comedy gold.
But this is also bad news, because if these characters are carrying the show, I have to ask where the plots are? Science fiction is all about a sense of wonder, and so far, most of the wonder in this show has been associated with ancillary artifacts, never the main target. I can’t imagine where the writers are coming up with these ideas, but many science fiction fans could point them to far more interesting ideas than Tesla coils and magic capes.
I will, however, give full props to the research department on this show. The swordmaker referenced in this episode was the legendary Masamune, whose swords are the epitome of the craft. The Honjo Masamune is actually his finest sword, and has been missing since the Second World War. (In fact, the real story behind its disappearance is even more mysterious and fascinating than the one the writers made up for this episode.) I love these tie-ins to “real” events and devices in this show, just as I love the tie-ins to geek culture like the Star Trek red shirt reference. I just wish the writers would spend a little less time on gee-whiz research and little more time on building a better plot. And I really, really, really don’t want those plots built on navel-gazing: I don’t care about Artie’s past, or Myka’s past, or Pete’s. I care about the cool gadgets Claudia invents and the team retrieves. Can we have more of those, please?
I have to end with a question: Am I seeing things, or do all the artifacts highlighted in the episodes flash briefly across the screen during the opening credits?