Warehouse 13: “MacPherson”

This Time, It’s Personal

Warehouse 13

Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c
Written by Jack Kenny
Directed by Stephen Surjik

“Agent Nielsen! You’re forgetting yourself!” —Mrs. Frederic

Looks like the rest of us can forget about Agent Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek), unless he was carrying the Phoenix at the very moment that Nefarious James MacPherson (Roger Rees) set off the self-destruct sequence in the umbilicus connecting the Warehouse to… reality. While the season finale of this excellent series mostly recycled material we already knew, the final few minutes knocked a few old assumptions down and set up a possible new lineup for next summer’s return.

We open with Pete and Myka trying to figure out how to track down MacPherson. After last week’s episode, in which he threatened Myka’s parents, this mission has become personal. The two agents are absolutely locked in synchronicity—they finish one another’s sentences, grill Artie like a cheap hamburger, and assert their independence and their worth to Mrs. Frederic. On this subject, they are not deferential. Myka and Pete have come a long way in only one summer, from new acquaintances more inclined to squabble than cooperate, to a well-coordinated team who know one another’s strengths and weaknesses to a T.

They don’t have to look far for MacPherson; in fact, he leaves breadcrumbs for them. Claudia discovers that MacPherson is auctioning off Warehouse artifacts, including an item called the Phoenix which allows the wearer to walk through fire unscathed. Artie uncharacteristically triggers a virus attack on the Warehouse network, and finally goes with Pete and Myka to track down the auction site. Even as they approach it, Pete starts getting a bad feeling something is going to happen to Artie; but Artie dismisses Pete’s gut feeling. Which is strange, because in the series pilot he said it was one of Pete’s most valuable characteristics. As always, the problem with Artie is that he blows hot and cold, smart and dumb, with the needs of the plot.

After an interesting confrontation in which we learn that Harriet Tubman’s thimble can make the wearer look like someone else, MacPherson is captured. Now the agents have the same problem as a dog chasing a car—once you’ve caught what you’re after, what do you do with it? MacPherson already escaped from prison once. Artie decides to imprison him in the Warehouse, which set off all kinds of alarms in my head. He assured Pete and Myka that he’d be stashed in the Bronze Section. This is one of the more grotesque sections of the Warehouse, where people are frozen and then encased in bronze. I fully expected to see Han Solo’s carbonite-slab leaning against a wall. I was made profoundly uneasy by Artie’s explanation that the people in the Bronze Section were not villains, but only people whowould be villains if they were not pre-emptively incarcerated. This is fascism with a vengeance, and I was surprised that sworn Federal agents with some knowledge of the Constitution didn’t put up at least a token protest. For me, it was just another example of how dangerous Artie’s arrogance is.

Naturally, MacPherson is way ahead of the game and has already prepared his escape—via his mole. There have been hints all season that someone is not who they appear to be—hackers in the Warehouse, and now the video that seems to show Claudia stealing artifacts. But the use of Harriet Tubman’s thimble has prepared us, and the revelation of who MacPherson’s mole is was both surprising, and not. It was one of those very satisfying moments where I slap my forehead and say, “Oy! I should have known!” But I didn’t, and it was a good surprise, and I look forward to the enriching of this theme next year. If we can remember that far back by June 2010. In any case, we end with a shocker that I am sure will turn out to be considerably less shocking than I would like (have you guessed yet that I would like to see the end of Agent Nielsen?). This cliffhanger leaves us quite literally in limbo—I’m very glad the show has been renewed because I really want to find out if they’re in another dimension now.

All of the good aspects of this show were on display for the season finale: Claudia’s whip-fast repartee, Mrs. Frederic’s majestic and enigmatic presence, and the bubbling humor and bond of Myka and Pete. The Artifacts were outstanding—no silly magic chairs this time, but powerful talismans that could kill or save, that worked even when broken in pieces. And beautifully whimsical as well—I loved Timothy Leary’s glasses (although Leary did not, as Pete asserts, invent LSD; we have Albert Hoffman to thank for that). I especially loved the fact that while wearing them, you not only see the world as Vincent Van Gogh would have painted it, but hear it with a Jimi Hendrix soundtrack. Awesome. There was even a notable James Bond film reference. All in all, this was a fine wrap-up to a freshman season, and has left me wanting more. I look forward to next summer with much anticipation.

I want to see this show take off like a rocket, not least of all because it showcases the talents of Eddie McClintock. Besides the rugged good looks, his acting shows heart and brains, which while not all that hard to find in Hollywood, are sometimes extremely difficult to put across onscreen. McClintock is always memorable, and his dead-perfect quips and comic timing beautifully highlight his occasional sober moments, such as when Pete’s “intuition” flashes on Artie and warns him that Something Bad is Going to Happen. This schtick could become as annoying as something from Medium, but the show has been careful to use Pete’s talent sparingly and delicately, to its credit. McClintock brings just enough manly gravitas to his comic turns to keep him from becoming some annoying frat boy; instead, he imbues Pete with the boyish charm of a younger but beloved brother. It’s a rare talent who can combine silliness with intelligence this well.

Myka’s wide-eyed naiveté took some getting used to, but Joanne Kelly eventually sold me on it. I like it that this character has not been made into the standard whiny perfectionist wound so tightly she’d crack if she sneezed. Instead, she’s funny and sisterly and smart, and not afraid to call on Pete. I was very glad that she was not made into a version of Scully—she has far more humor and liveliness about her. Myka is an excellent foil for Pete, and vice versa; Kelly and McClintock have better chemistry than most couples onscreen today.

Apparently, McClintock’s clicking with female viewers in a big way. Syfy reports that Warehouse 13 is pulling in the biggest female audience numbers in the network’s 17-year history. That’s good news, because last night’s finale pulled in pretty poor numbers: 2.23 million viewers and a 0.7/2 (rating/share) among adults 18-49. That’s down from last week, and I’m hoping it’s only because Warehouse 13‘s 9:00 slot was up against a couple of fall premieres. These numbers only highlight what I’ve been thinking—that this show is a great summer series, but could never hold its own against a major network show. But that’s okay—niche programming is a good thing, and not every show has to be American IdolWarehouse 13was a light, frothy summer entertainment, and I look forward to it again next year.