Warehouse 13: “Regrets”

Critical Mass

Warehouse 13

Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c

Written by Tamara Becher
Directed by Michael Watkins

I will not disobey Artie. I will not disobey Artie. I will not disobey Artie. I will not disobey Artie. —Claudia

Now this is how you do character development. This episode far outshone previous ones by extending and deepening our understanding of who our primary four characters are, and reinforcing their relationship to one another. Rather than have Pete and Myka’s bad memories haunt them for years to come, the writers have disposed of the most destructive elements of those “regrets” while making that disposal the basis for an enrichment of their partnership. And still no sexual tension. I am much impressed.

Myka receives a “final report” of the investigation into the recent shooting death of her partner, Sam. Before she can open it, Pete waltzes in with their new assignment: investigating a spate of suicides in a Florida prison. As usual, Artie has little or no information for them, but for once it seems that this is the result of ignorance rather than his usual stubborn obliviousness. (Could it be that Artie is turning into a human being? Even if he becomes a curmudgeon, that would be a step up from Obstacle, which he’s been up to now.) The troubles at the Florida prison are explained by the new warden, a woman who has only been on the job a month. By a not very stunning coincidence, the suicides started about a month ago. The prison contains one Reverend Hill (Joe Morton, Eureka), who wears an ouroboros symbol and claims to be divinely inspired. When questioned, his version of religion seems to be “don’t regret anything”, apparently even murder, which casts him in a sinister light. The agents dunk his necklace in purple goo and confidently predict no more suicides.

Immediately, the prison doctor commits suicide while dictating his autopsy report, and when Pete plays back the tape they hear a weird hiss. In one of his usual leaps of intuition, Artie identifies it as the “signature” of some mineral, and says the piezoelectric effect, combined with the tropical storm currently hitting the prison, is making whatever phenomenon is operating even worse. At which point Myka, drawing on her vast reading as a youngster in her father’s bookstore, slaps together a scanner out of a walkie-talkie. She quickly discovers that the entire building is built out of quartz. Pete retrieves an Artifact belonging to the former prison warden that counteracts the psychic field enveloping the prison. This was a nice inversion from the usual story; usually the Artifact causes the effects, but in this one it repressed them. I believe this is the first time Pete and Myka have been forced to leave the Artifact in the field.

Another inversion mirrors the A-story: Claudia puts on a lab coat once owned by Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electric battery. The coat turns Claudia into a strange attractor, as she finds herself magnetically bonded to a girder. First paper clips, then bicycles, then trucks, and finally the entire Warehouse start flying her way. Artie rescues her by countering the magnetic/electrical field she is generating; his punishment for her failure to heed his warning is for her to write “I will not disobey Artie” one thousand times—and really mean it this time.

The best part of this episode was in the use of character: Pete and Myka not only resolve their past traumas but open up to one another. I liked scenes where Myka catches a glimpse of her former partner, for example, and Pete, after one glance, instantly diagnoses: “Sam?” The unspoken understanding between these two carries over into lighter moments as well, as when Pete offers at the end to take Myka out for ice cream with Claudia and Lena:

Pete: Can I bring you back something?

Myka: You know I never eat sugar.

Pete: Right. Butter pecan with caramel sauce and chocolate sprinkles.

Best of all, Artie showed some humanity in this episode. His noodling around on the piano, writing a song for his lost father, gave us a better backstory than some contrived nonsense about his past as a “traitor”. His rescue of Claudia was clever, his “punishment” appropriate to the offense. One character really surprised me: Reverend Hill. Having set him up as a sinister presence, the story then inverted my expectations by letting him die trying to save the warden. My only complaint with this episode was that Hill was sadly under-used. He had some promise as a philosopher/cultist, but that was pretty much glossed over. His character was pretty inconsequential, although he did have one of the better death scenes I’ve witnessed lately.

This was one of the creepier episodes of the series, which was much needed after some of the light episodes we’ve seen lately. Several times during this episode, ghosts crossed in back of Pete or Myka, or another character. I got so jumpy that I was never sure that any stray guard was actually there. The hallucinations had a certain quality of stiff wrongnessabout them that reminded me of The Shining. Lightning flashes, thunder, and the dim lighting all contributed to a haunted-house effect.

Dean Devlin has turned his Librarian movies into a light version of The X-Files meets Indiana Jones, a very clever idea combining three different genres. It’s well written, well cast and for the most part the characters are quite likable. I have liked Myka from the beginning—mostly because she’s a geek at heart. I like it that Pete has intuitive/precognitive flashes but doesn’t make a big deal out of it. I especially like the sibling rivalry vibe I get from Pete and Myka; I was afraid we would have Mulder/Scully sexual tension all over the place. Claudia is growing on me, mainly because she’s smart and I like watching smart people on TV. I think the show has found the right balance between external, Pete-and-Myka-go-Artifact-hunting, and internal Claudia-stays-home-and-plays-with-the-toys storylines. I don’t know how long I want that formula to continue, but for now I’m enjoying it rather a lot.

From the inception of this series, I’ve been wondering why this is Warehouse number thirteen. Now, I’d like to point readers to some amazingly in-depth backstory on the earlier twelve Warehouseshttp://www.SyFy.com/warehouse13/index.php#/about_history. Very cute. There’s a lot of creativity behind this show, which is why it’s gratifying to report that it is garnering some of the highest ratings in the SyFy channel’s history. Since the SyFy Channel was hinting not too long ago that it would be relying more heavily on so-called unscripted shows like Ghost Hunter, it is heartening to see that a scripted show can beat it so handily. Maybe the network will get a clue, and start supporting more original scripted series.