Warehouse 13: “Magnetism”

Strange Attractors

Warehouse 13

Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c


Written by Jack Kenny

Directed by Jace Alexander

The weird thing about this series is how uneven yet delightful it can be. Tonight’s episode opens with Myka and Pete stealing the blade from the guillotine that killed Marie Antoinette, and replacing it with a substitute. Apparently there is something about this particular artifact that endangers Reality As We Know It. We never learn what that is, because Pete and Myka are all about the squabbling. They exit the museum so engrossed in their argument they nearly forget the blade. Throughout the rest of the episode (which has nothing whatsoever to do with Marie Antoinette, guillotines, or the French Revolution), they squabble and bicker continuously. And it’s utterly charming. There is virtually no sexual tension here, it’s all sibling rivalry and partner dynamics. No matter how ludicrous their situation is, Pete and Myka can find some way to start sniping at one another with wit and style.

It’s almost enough to make me forget how lame the plots can be. It’s maddening to be presented with glimpses of fascinating cases like the guillotine, which never gets explained, and then be plunged into an hour of a strictly mediocre plot. Artie, through what amounts to sheer omniscience, decides that Something Is Wrong with three people in Unionville, Colorado. He doesn’t know what, exactly, except that a ten-year-old boy, a thirty-something nun, and a late-fifties schoolteacher are all acting “out of character”. That’s ridiculous. Humans act “out of character” all the time, we’re not characters in a play. Nor are these three acting in particularly dangerous ways, except for the nun, who thinks she can fly and tries to prove it. Otherwise, the boy who smashes his violin in music class and the schoolmarm who spray-paints obscenities on the hospital where her husband died can be easily accounted for with conventional explanations. Yet Artie never does explain what got his spidey senses tingling about these three. The fact that he’s proved right about their behavior being linked by an artifact does not diminish the fact that he’s annoyingly incoherent.

Artie’s vague mumblings are more eccentric every week, and are approaching the downright neurotic. Someone needs to re-tool this character, really fast. He’s becoming a walking cliché. He tells Pete and Myka that he relies on their “intuition and observation”, but it doesn’t seem to occur to him that his pet agents rely on him for something other than smoke and mirrors. He’s supposed to be their boss, but he acts more like an uncle who lives in the attic and talks to King Charles’ head. Saul Rubinek is doing a fine job, but he can’t make bricks without straw.

Pete and Myka (Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly), on the other hand, get better every week. Their dialogue sparkles, the chemistry sizzles—but again, not in a sexual way. This is a refreshing departure from the standard male/female partnership, one I’ve only really seen on dramas such as Law & Order: SVU. Normally, comedies (which Warehouse 13 definitely is, sometimes) rely on sexual innuendo to bond opposite-sex partnerships. How nice to get a fresh (and more realistic) take on partnerships. Pete and Myka act like grownup brother and sister, right down to a tickle match to defuse a tense shouting match—one that came off with no sexual tease in it. For all I know, this constitutes a woeful failure on the part of writers who were seeking to instill the usual UST, but from where I sit it read like a nice new form of friendship. I hope it stays on this plane. The best part of the entire episode was the fake-out they pulled on Artie; united against his manipulating ways, they cooperated to psych him out, like brother and sister ganging up on Dad. Great stuff.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the acting or most of the dialogue in this series. But I am persistently bugged by the lame plots. I think it may have to do with Warehouse 13 looking for its footing. While it seems to deal with esoteric threats to World Peace, or at least Peace of Mind, it soft-pedals too much of its subject matter. A nun jumps off a building—twice—and both times survives her fall by some convenient miracle. Nobody dies. The menace of these mysterious devices that Pete and Myka are trying to track down doesn’t seem to warrant the kind of subterfuge and secrecy surrounding them—no one seems to really be threatened by them. Again, nobody dies. The writers need to up the stakes on these stories considerably. I know this show is The X-Files played as farce, but even so, the tension in the plotlines is utterly slack when the worst thing that might happen to a “victim” of one of these weird artifacts is to fall into a snowbank.

One thing the writers should avoid, however, is the Reveal. That is to say, it’s better to tease us with hints about guillotines and Artie’s weird camera (see last week) than to actually try to convince us that the source of all this drama and weirdness is… a comfy chair. An overstuffed piece of furniture inherited by the descendant of James Braid, the real-life inventor of hypnotherapy, is the Artifact? I love an historical tie-in as much, or more, as the next history buff, but this is silly. It would be better not to explain these things, if the explanation is going to be this lame. The plots need to zing up, too; so far they’ve been rather plodding. In fact, everything that happens in the Warehouse is far more interesting than everything that has, so far, happened outside of it.

I can’t end without a tip of the hat to writer Jack Kenny, for his reference to the classic Avengers TV show of the Sixties, which involved a plot device that had people laughing themselves to death. Nice.

So far, I still find this a very entertaining series and look forward to it every week. It’s not deep, it’s not mind-blowing, but it is fun.