Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c
Written byDavid Simkins
Directed by Vincent Misiano
Usually it takes a couple of episodes after the pilot for a show to really hit its stride, but Warehouse 13 comes out swinging in the first regular season episode. I expected that the writers would take weeks, if not months, to get Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) and Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) past the awkward we’re-perfect-for-each-other-
>Even better, the relationship with their former boss has quickly skated past the frowning, obstructionist boss figures we see on Fringe and other shows. Dickinson is their friend and ally, and quickly gets drawn into the Warehouse nutjob universe when Artie tracks a “hacker” to Dickinson’s office computer. Dickinson actually helps the pair out; when they are getting no cooperation from the local FBI agent (Tricia Helfer, Battlestar Galactica), the Big D gets things moving with a few phone calls. Nice to see a boss who is actually effective.
The basic story is fascinating in this opening episode: someone is robbing Chicago banks by walking in and playing a song that entrances everyone in hearing. One customer records the song on a cell phone, and when played back later it has the same effect—but only on people who were in the bank during the robbery. Myka and Pete track down the composer, a musician now suffering from some form of depression/near catatonia induced by the theft of his music by an unscrupulous producer. Myka and Pete get stonewalled by the FBI investigating the bank robbery until Agent Belski (Helfer) gets orders from on high to cooperate. Which is fine with Pete, who is entranced himself, by Agent Belski. Myka is annoyed, not jealous, since that means the usually distracted Pete is even more distracted than ever. He isn’t so annoyed he can’t notice and remember the perfume one witness is wearing, and thirty minutes later that proves to be the key to the case. Thereby begging the question which of these two agents is supposed to be the detail-oriented operative, and which one is operating from the gut. Maybe it’s just as well there’s a certain amount of personality crossover going on.
>The detail unlocks the mystery in ways we might or might not have seen coming—the real appeal here is not so much the whodunit as the whatdunit. Myka figures out that the real power of the song (being played, quaintly enough, on a 45 RPM vinyl record) lies in the feedback generated by echo off the marble bank walls. She foils a robbery in progress, she and Pete track down the bad guys—and let them go. It turns out the robberies were in a “good cause”. Morally ambiguous? Yes. Believable—hey, they work for the Secret Service, not the FBI. And with the record safely “snagged, bagged, and tagged” for transport to the warehouse, why bring more trouble on an already troubled house? As for the bank’s losses, after the current banking nosedive, does anyone have any sympathy left for banks? Myka and Pete have the same attitude toward banks that people in the Depression did—they had it coming.
What really astonished me in this episode was the plethora of MacGuffins. Usually a low budget sci-fi show like this will trot out one interesting artifact, two at most. In this episode alone, we had:
* A song that paralyzes people with joy
* A “camera” which turns people temporarily into two-dimensional black and white photographs
* An analog password cracker used to break into a secure CPU
* An impromptu trip by Artie into what looked like another dimension, while fixing a broken cable
* Pete playing ping-pong with an animated version of himself in Alice’s looking glass
>There’s enough there for half a season of episodes, tossed casually our way like Reese’s Pieces luring us into E.T.’s closet. These little glimpses give us background and depth to what otherwise will be a mostly character-driven weekly series. I wanted to see more, not only of these fascinating objects, but of Myka and Pete. And the two-way TVs, which look like they came right out of Dick Tracy comics. I mean, there are cell phones on the market that can probably X-ray people and send the pictures to another phone; using a cell phone to make a video call would be such a yawn. But using some antique, steampunk black-and-white device the size of a paperback novel is fun and retro and a cute commentary on our love of shiny gadgets. It’s like every tool Myka and Pete use has to be a unique prototype. I love it.
I’m starting to get nervous—I like this show. Already I don’t want to lose it. Which means I’ll be biting my nails at renewal time, unless the show goes really downhill from here. Fun, witty, intelligent, and pretty—what’s not to like? I’m crossing my fingers.