Warehouse 13: “Vendetta”


Warehouse 13

Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c
Written by Michael P. Fox
Directed by Matt Earl Beesley

“That’s what you do, right? Weird and freaky. Super secret weird and freaky.” —Katie Logan

The bizarre murder of their former boss calls Pete and Myka back to Washington, at the behest of Pete’s former flame, Katie Logan (Tia Carrere,CSI: Miami). Daniel Dickinson (Simon Reynolds, Flashpoint) has had every joint in his body pulled apart, as if he’d been racked. Sure enough, Artie says that’s just what happened to him; that whoever killed him used part of the rack employed by Tomas de Torquemada, the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. What’s more, that particular artifact is one Artie personally traded to the Russians a long time ago, in exchange for some political prisoners. It seems that at one time, Artie’s government job was not with the Warehouse, but with the State Department, trading bits of trash the Soviets asked for in exchange for political refugees. It was only when Artie realized that the bits of trash were powerful artifacts that he transferred to the Warehouse, where he now specializes in locking those special powers away. Now it appears that someone is using those artifacts against people Artie knows, or loves. Vendetta, anyone?

At Dickinson’s funeral, HG Wells (Jaime Murray, Eli Stone) shows up and persuades Myka to give her a chance to prove that she can be a good Warehouse agent. Myka finally gets an answer to her question: why was Wells Bronzed in the first place? Surprisingly, Wells answers that she asked to be Bronzed; it became her personal “time machine”, a way to travel into the future, so to speak, by remaining in stasis for many years. Wells precedes the team to Russia, where we discover that the bad guy behind all these Russian artifacts is a vindictive son of one of Artie’s former associates, who feels that his father was betrayed by Artie.

So now we get an episode about Artie’s guilt complex. Oh, please. Of all the characters on Warehouse 13, the least interesting after Leena is Artie. I could stomach his brief role as lovable curmudgeon, when he was mentoring Claudia. The lovable curmudgeon is a cliché, but a tolerable one. Now Artie drops the lovable part and goes back to being the same close-mouthed, paranoid, unpleasant, and self-centered character he’s always been. Phooey.

Artie: The Russians kind of think I was a spy who betrayed them.

Pete: This is something you could have brought up on the plane.

Sure is, Artie. But this is Artie here, the boss who never gives his agents the information they need, who grumbles when they then get into trouble, and whose middle name seems to be Obstacle. Why is Pete surprised that he lied to them? Even by omission? No wonder Pete and Myka are happy when the Regents appoint HG Wells to their team—Wells has told them more useful information in three episodes than Artie has in two seasons. She has saved both Artie’s and Myka’s lives, while destroying their long-time nemesis, MacPherson. For this, Artie hates her? Am I supposed to think this is significant? Artie hates everyone. I vote we trade him in permanently for the independent, fearless team player, HG Wells.

The artifacts were disappointing this week. While Torquemada’s rack-chain was a good one, the chunk of wood from the Titanic and the playing card signifying Artie’s old buddy “Alexander” were off. The Titanic was built from steel, not wood; the idea that the iceberg that struck her imbued that scrap of wood with evil powers doesn’t work, since the only wooden boats on the Titanic were the lifeboats, which weren’t struck by the iceberg. This is not some esoteric knowledge I dug out of a dusty encyclopedia—the movieTitanic was the highest grossing film in the world not long ago. Who hasn’t seen it? Including the scenes where her construction was detailed? That “wooden Titanic” bit was a gaffe.

Another one was the King of Hearts. When Myka holds it up, Artie instantly recognizes it and says “Alexander!”. I assumed he referred to the tradition that the court cards, particularly the kings, in a standard deck were named for four kings of antiquity. It would make perfect sense, in the topsy-turvy world of the Warehouse, for a secret agent named Alexander to use as his calling card the playing card usually associated with Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, the King of Hearts belongs to Charlemagne, not Alexander the Great. If Artie was supposed to recognize “Alexander” from a court card, Myka should have been holding the King of Clubs. If the writers are going to go to this much detail in their research, they should at least get it right. Usually they do, and the more obscure references, the better, but this time they misfired.

Todd: I wasn’t supposed to get close to anybody, let alone fall in love with them.

Claudia: Wait a second. Back that up.

Todd: Okay, “love” is a really strong word.

Claudia: No, no, no, further back. You mean you really are a techie after all?

Todd: Monster.

Claudia: Dude.

One subplot worked for me—Claudia’s on-again, off-again romance with Todd (Nolan Gerard Funk, Castle). I liked the awkward sweetness of her crush on him, her stalkerish behavior. Yes, the character is older than thirteen, physically. But Claudia has been isolated from her peers for so many years she is emotionally stunted—her behavior makes more sense than if she were as suave and self-confident as, say, Pete Lattimer. Her investigation into his background, her disturbing discoveries (all his information appeared six months ago, all on the same day) and her suspicions pay off nicely when she learns that he is actually in a witness protection program, hiding from the Mafia—in short, he’s a good guy. Unfortunately, the writers felt compelled to have them pull guns on one another to prove how suspicious of one another they are. I am really weary of that cliché. People who pull guns on one another in real life are threatening to kill—this is not foreplay, and to treat it as such shows an appalling ignorance of guns and real-people psychology. All is implausibly well between them now, however, and I look forward to this geek romance.

Ratings for Syfy Channel shows are always several weeks late. Fortunately, the news for Warehouse 13 is very good. The August 11 episode set a new record high for the channel, making it the most watched series telecast in Syfy’s history. In actual numbers, that works out to 4.4 million viewers, more than 1 million of whom were via DVR-delayed viewing. When one quarter of the audience is time-shifting viewing, it’s long past the time when the Nielsens need to catch up to the 21st century. Philo Farnsworth would agree.