Warehouse 13: “Time Will Tell”

Overlords 13

Warehouse 13

Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c
“Time Will Tell”
Written by Jack Kenny
Directed by Stephen Surjik

“I supplied the ideas, the research, the stories. He supplied the mustache.” —H.G. Wells

Let’s see if I have this straight. We have a bunch of agents who work for the government, but who snatch people they think may someday commit a crime, have them flash-frozen, bronzed, and kept fully aware yet paralyzed for centuries. No trial. No habeas corpus. No actual crime committed. No recourse. Just lock some innocent person in their own personal solitary confinement forever, just because you think they might, at some point in the future, commit some unnamed crime.

And these are the good guys.

I know Warehouse 13 is supposed to be popcorn TV; we have Eddie McClintock’s word on that. I know it’s all supposed to be light-hearted fun. But there’s fun, and there’s stupid. This totalitarian outlook, which sees no harm at all in presumptive incarceration, scares the hell out of me. To have it sugar-coated in lighthearted banter makes it worse. I can’t laugh at the level of oblivious acceptance I’m seeing here. Did no one sit down at any time and ask, “What’s so funny about this idea?” It took a master like Mel Brooks, plus several hundred years, to make the Spanish Inquisition funny. It’s going to take a lot longer to make fascism a knee-slapper.

This season two opener picks up where the season one cliff-hanger left off. Artie reappears in a puff of smoke and Mrs. Frederic suffers an auto accident. MacPherson (Roger Rees, The Invasion) escapes the Warehouse with another newly revived Bronzed person, who turns out to be H.G. Wells. No, not that one, the “real” one, who turns out to be a woman (Jaime Murray, Dexter). No one can quite explain why the author of science fiction classics like War of the Worlds and The Time Machine was locked in with proto-criminals. Myka suspects that she was incarcerated for the crime of supporting women’s rights.

When Wells corners Myka and Pete (after making out with Pete), she tells them that while she was in stasis for 80 some odd years, she was awake the entire time. Myka is, rightly, appalled by this; she has, after all, taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, including the Fourth Amendment. Yet she still follows orders and tries to capture Wells. Artie figures out that MacPherson is zeroing in on Claudia’s physicist brother Joshua, who works at CERN. We then lift a plot point from Dan Brown’sAngels & Demons, in which MacPherson steals some antimatter from the supercollider.

As if this plot could not get any more complicated, it turns out that MacPherson plans to use a device invented by Wells, powered by the antimatter, to penetrate the Warehouse’s special Escher vault. When Artie and Mrs. Frederic check inventory in the vault later, they discover that all of this scheming and plotting and murder has been to recover—a locket and a compact?

But then, this is Warehouse 13, where anything can have any powers. That’s the charm of this conceit. And I love it. I loved the Escher vault—a brilliant idea—and the toys that Myka and Pete get to play with. I would love to know the story behind the red sombrero Artie is archiving in one scene. I love the double agent theme, I love every delicious syllable Claudia, Myka, or Pete utters, and given time I might even come to like Artie, who is showing signs of evolution into an actual human being. There is just so much to love in this show.

So the Bronze Collection has to go. My personal hope is that the writers are going to make H.G. Wells a good guy, not a villain, and demonstrate that the idea of locking someone up just because you suspect them is one of the worst ideas in the sorry history of mankind. There is nothing more dangerous than someone who thinks he knows what is good for everyoneelse. This would be a level of subtlety beyond what I expect in a show built on giggles and cool toys, but then, Jane Espenson and her cohorts have surprised me (in a good way) before.

Kudos go to writer Jack Kenny and director Stephen Surjik. They combined to keep a complicated plot sizzling, with an unflagging pace. This first episode hit a nice balance between scenes in the always-fascinating warehouse, with field locations in equally fascinating places like Wells’ home. The research, as always, is first class. The show continues to resonate with audiences fascinated by conspiracy theories, alternate histories, and downright mysteries.

Syfy’s most popular new show returned with a bang (literally), with 2.96 million viewers and a 2.0 rating for the second season premiere. That is down from the original series premiere of 3.5 million viewers last summer, but the demographics from the 18-49 crowd (the only one that counts) was 1.354 million, a 13 (heh) percent increase over last year’s 1.2 million. Syfy called it their “most watched telecast of the year”. These numbers are high enough that I would not be surprised to see Syfy renew the show for another season today. It’s nice, for once, to see a well written show so fervently received. This is kick-ass television, and it bodes well for the rest of the summer.