As you might have been able to guess, I’ve been a bit stingy on my posts lately, posting more Journal entries than artwork [although I’ve noticed those in my Inner circle have shown the same diligence, albeit for probably very good reasons, so I’m not exactly ashamed of myself… yet] Anyway, that said, I’ve decided to try a consistent line of submissions I call ‘In Retrospect’, where, obviously, I go over stuff without it really being a review (not too long ago, I realized that I suck at completing decent reviews)
So I’ve decided to start this series with a Sci-Fi original series Warehouse-13:
[CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD!]
Warehouse-13 [2009-2014] is a series about Secret Service agents who go around the world collecting ‘Artifacts’ with supernatural properties to keep them out of the hands of those that would abuse them, accidentally or intentionally. These artifacts are then neutralized and stored indefinitely in the titular Warehouse, a secret government facility out in a remote South Dakotan desert that bears supernatural properties of it’s own. Its sort of ‘National Treasure’ meets ‘The X-Files’ and ‘Haven’.
The lead characters are Agent Pete Lattimer [Eddie McLintock] and Agent Myka Bering [Joanne Kelly] former regular Secret Service Agents who got transferred to Warehouse duty –which is a much harder and more important job, I assure you- after an encounter with an Artifact known as the Bloodstone (its Mayan, I assume) There they meet fellow Agent and veteran collector Arthur ‘Artie’ Neilson [Saul Rubinek] and learn just what their transfer means for their futures.
Pete is perhaps the strongest character in the series, if only for the sake of being consistent to the show’s theme all the way through; he’s easily the most light-hearted of the main cast, goofy, kinda’ dumb at times (the show gets notably goofier as it progresses and, admittedly, kinda’ dumb at times. But we’ll get to that later) That said, he can also be something of a trouble maker as his more fun-loving persona leads him to make sometimes childish decisions. Although despite his more childish persona, he maintains about as much optimism as the rest of the cast, not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, but I found it to be a bit annoying later on. He has a sort of ‘Spider-Sense’ that generally alerts him of impending danger which he calls ‘Vibes’. Not Bad or Good Vibes, just Vibes.
Myka is Pete’s stark contrast; serious, by the book, and when the series starts will have NONE of ANYONE’S nonsense, which of course means that anything out of the ordinary –like the Warehouse and the Artifacts, she refuses to believe any of it until proof is forced upon her. As the show goes on, Myka lightens up and is able to show her own strengths just as much as Pete and the subsequent other characters. Myka’s own unique skill is her slightly less impressive attention to detail, however this isn’t nearly as prevalent as Pete’s Vibes. [Something I should probably note is that I always found her name to be a discomforting factor, given how ‘Micah’ happens to be the name of one of my brothers, and I never felt that she was likable enough for me to look past this]
Artie is the team leader and has been working at the Warehouse for around 40 years; he starts out as the professional but fun-loving old guy, like everyone’s fun uncle or favorite grandfather; he treats the anomalies at the Warehouse as though their nothing, amusing, even; greets both Pete and Myka warmly despite both their misgivings about him; and he makes cookies in his free time. He gives off the impression that although he doesn’t know everything, he knows enough to make you feel confident. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last very long as he very quickly descends to a cranky old man whose irritated by pretty much everyone and everything halfway through season 1 and pretty much stays that way.
Other characters include Claudia Donovan [Allison Scagliotti] and Steve Jinx [Aaron Ashmore], both of them are introduced later in the series and become both Agents and regular lead characters.
Claudia is the Rebel, a young punk who regularly disobeys orders from old fogies like Artie… and usually gets into trouble for it. She is also a master tech wizard, often tinkering with Warehouse tech and usually improving it. Her story in the series begins after about five episodes or so, with her as an antagonist, getting revenge on Artie for letting her brother die in a failed teleportation experiment years ago by taking over the Warehouse’s internal wiring from a remote location, trapping Arte and forcing him to help her bring back her brother [who is on fact not dead] Although Claudia has a good strong start as a character and adds a decent story to the series, her character doesn’t go anywhere beyond this and it just becomes the same old thing of her annoying Artie and usually disregarding safety precautions just to annoy Artie. She has her uses, yes, but I never felt as though she did anything beyond her introduction.
Jinx isn’t introduced until somewhere in season 3, an ATF agent who catches Pete and Myka and is let into the loop because his unique Human Lie-Detector talent pierces straight through their cover story. Jinx kind of replaces Pete as the more light-hearted characters he’s ironically even more trusting of others then Pete and gets along well with everybody –especially Claudia [this is revealed to be because she reminds him of his late younger sister], as opposed to Pete often getting people’s nerves, though these two contrasting factors never clash [pity, I feel that would have made for a good story] one thing I found interesting about Jinx is the fact that he’s gay, but that’s never a dominant focus or running gag, and the writers never feel compelled to give him a boyfriend just to show that he really is gay. This is one of the few genuine things in the series where I felt that the writers really were good; unfortunately, this is one of only a few.
Leena [no last name is ever provided] [Genelle Williams] runs the Agent’s more settled base operations, a Bed and Breakfast directly connected (presumably by secret passageway) to the Warehouse. Although she wasn’t an Agent, I really like Leena, I felt that her calm collected nature provided a nice contrast to how serious and at the same time wacky everyone else was –a calm Order in a storm of Chaos, in other words. She had the unique ability to sense other people’s auras and see just what they’re hiding. Agasn, I really liked Leena, a lot more than Myka or Claudia. Sadly, nothing is ever really done with her (…well, there is one thing, but we’ll get to that when we get to that)
Finally we have Mrs. Fredric [CCH Pounder], the seemingly immortal caretaker of Warehouse-13 with a mysterious nature and is capable of appearing and disappearing without a trace (presumably just for dramatic effect; it often leaves people unnerved) Despite this, I do find her to be a rather fun character, always playing it deadly serious while probably secretly enjoying watching everyone squirm under her gaze. She sort of comes off to others as that scary grandmother you never wanted to visit. However, like Leena, her character isn’t really done a lot with over the series and she gradually loses importance.
Most of these characters had their moments, both good and bad, each having their own personal pain; Pete lost his father as a child, his dad was a firefighter and died doing his job, meanwhile Pete couldn’t help but blame himself because he’d gotten a vibe that he’d never see his dad again, but never warned him of this. Myka more recently lost a fellow Agent and lover in the line of duty due to what she believes was also her own fault and never forgave herself for it.
Claudia, meanwhile, never got over her brother’s death/disappearance and was institutionalized due to the trauma, only escaping years later to kidnap Artie in order to set her brother free, everyone else believing he was dead, Artie included. Artie, meanwhile has a lot of personal pains from his past, but his most recent one is losing Claudia’s brother and feeling responsible for it. While I felt this did work to create a certain dynamic between the two, both going easy on each other out of their repaired history despite their heavy contrasts, the show decided to just play with their contrasts a lot more rather than have a unique grandfather/granddaughter type relationship, instead opting for them to just get on each other’s nerves.
Jinx as I’ve already said got along with everyone, he was the big responsible brother, mature enough to keep a cool head and generally stay out of trouble, while still being witty enough for everyone to like him. And again, I would have liked for there to have been some conflict between Pete and Jinx due to their different approaches to light-heartedness, but nothing of the sort ever came.
There are also the supposedly enigmatic Regents, who are of a higher authority than even Mrs. Fredrickson, but to be honest, I never found them to be all that interesting or even that imposing; nothing really interesting was ever actually done with them… that’s really about all I can say.
I’m just going to skip over the villains in this show and cover them with the Plot because they are –to be honest, not really all that important and can be described well enough with the series overview;
The plot of each episode is fairly standard; two Agents are dispatched to find an Artifact and sometimes either have trouble finding it or mistake some other mundane object for it, they discover what it is, whoever is using or abusing it gets away the first one or two times, there’s a climax, and then they bag it and go home. While the series did have over-arching plots to keep the viewers coming back, the only real change to the formula was dispatching two more agents to find another artifact simultaneous to two other agents doing the same thing elsewhere. Formulaic is the appropriate word.
As for the Artifacts themselves, at the start of the series, the writers tried to explain them as scientifically as possible, but soon just gave up on that and just basically said that they were Magical, an even more absurd in their abilities, like how Walt Disney’s Paintbrush can actually create sentient cartoons, for example. Later its explained that an Artifact is created by a person if said object is connected to a strong enough emotional presence (or something like that; they didn’t explain it very clearly) This may sound like nitpicking, but when you really think about it, the word ‘Artifact’ is kind of generic, and when one says generic things a lot it get sold really quickly; likewise the constant use of the word wore on me and wished they’d had an alternative name that they were originally referred to as, like ‘Aurasites’, or something. [Yes, I just made that word up off the top of my head, but cut me some slack; at least I’m trying to be original!]
Onto the villains/over-arching plots: season-1 starts off well enough, introduces us to the main characters, the Warehhouse itself, Claudia’s introduction, and we get a glimpse of our first recurring villain, James MacPherson [Roger Rees], a former Agent and best friend of Artie’s who abused an Artifact and had been doing so ever since. Ever since his name s first spoken, MacPherson is built up as this super-smart, super-scary, everyone should rightfully be in fear of him villain, and for all he does, stealing Artifacts right out of the Warehouse and manipulating the team, he does seem to earn this identity… but then the he’s betrayed by an accomplice and killed, in, admittedly, a very poetically justified fashion. What’s most disappointing about this is just how fast they decide to kill him off, not really allowing him to sink in as an actual threat beyond his initial cloud of doom presence at the beginning. If you find this to be unappealing, then I’m sorry to say “Get used to it; this is a regular thing.” Every time the show introduces some new recurring bad guy with some vendetta against the Warehouse and build him or her up as a major threat, they reduce the threat by getting rid of him far too fast in favor of some new plot point or twist.
The second recurring villain and later good guy is H.G. Wells… who is a woman [Jaime Murray]. Inside the Warehouse is a special room where all people from history who COULD have been like Hitler or Genghis Khan are encased in a sort of suspended animation bronze coating and kept for eternity. Wells was one of them, her plan apparently to steal an ancient trident so that she could destroy the modern world with earthquakes and volcanos and in turn force humanity to start again with a new Ice Age blah blah blah. Throughout the series they juggle her between good and bad until she finally just fades in the background and can’t even be bothered to show up for the series finale. Personally, I didn’t like her all that much; while I get that she was constantly conflicted and did have motivation for what she did, I just never felt that much for her. I dunno’. In season 2 we learn of the other twelve warehouses [NOTE: Are-51, and by extension Warehouse-51, is never mentioned or referenced throughout the series] and that they go back far into Ancient times, Warehouse-2 being an Egyptian temple, and later on we see that Warehouse-1 is located in China. After Wells tries to destroy modern civilization, Myka leaves the Warehouse, feeling that her trust in Wells almost lead to the Earth’s destruction in the season finale… she comes back almost immediately in the next season. Tension is not something this series handled very well.
The next major villain is Walter Sykes [Anthony Michael Hall], a paraplegic who was corrupted by an artifact at a young age and seeks to get back the artifact –which allows him to walk again, destroy the Warehouse and all in it. During this arch Agent Jinx appears to be a mole working for Sykes, apparently not trusting his new handlers; but as it turned out he was really a double agent trying to weaken Sykes’ operation from within. Sadly, Jinx was discovered and killed, his corpse left for Claudia to find as cruel calling card from Sykes. This was actually a good plot twist and very well handled with the drama, another aspect that shows that the writers are capable of good moments. And then we get to major plot twist number#2: Pete’s mother is a Regent. I’ve already covered the Regents; they’re bland and uninteresting, and Pete’s mom is not different. Moving on. After that little big reveal, we come to the season finale, in which Sykes is killed, partly due to his own hubris, but not before he left a parting gift the literal equivalent of a nuclear bomb. The season ends on a cliffhanger with villain actually succeeding; the Warehouse is destroyed, Wells died ensuring that her friends would survive, and because Mrs. Fredrics was connected to the Warehouse, she died just after it’s destruction.
Personally, I was excited to see the following season, believing that the surviving crew would have to travel the Earth without the aid of the Warehouse following clues left by MacPherson so that they could turn back time and undo the damage. As it turns out, since Pandora’s Box was in the Warehouse when it blew up, all hope from the world rapidly began to fall, throwing the world into chaos, so from this I assumed that we’d have a more intense over-arching story, with the characters have to fight through practically a post-apocalyptic world to turn things back to normal… the entire thing was resolved in literally one episode.
What I felt could have been a great running plot they replaced with a nasty after-effect of Artie using a time-turning Astrolabe; because he used it, Artie believed that the Astrolabe’s keeper, Brother Adrian [Brent Spiner] were out to get him for using it, as he’d previously warned him that it would have dire effects if used. In reality, the actual effect was Artie hallucinating and an evil second personality manifesting within him, slowly taking over him. It got so bad that he did what I consider to be this show’s biggest and most unforgivable sin: he killed off Leena. As I’ve said, I really liked Leena and felt that her character was seriously underutilized and had great potential; but in the end, the only purpose she served was to be killed off.
To add insult to injury, they managed to take all the emotional bite out of Jinx’s death by having Claudia break code and use an Artifact to bring him back to life, but NOT do the same for Leena! Essentially, what they did was take the one good consistent female character they had and acknowledged her unimportance to the show by killing her off.
What angers me more about this is that they could have gone with a much better plot; instead of Leena, have a demented Artie kill off Claudia instead (after she revived Jinx, I guess?) leaving Leena to fill in the gap left by Claudia and step up as a character, allowing us to learn more about her and her becoming a part-time field agent. Meanwhile Artie would be dealing with the guilt of having killed Claudia, but also realizing just how much she meant to him, despite their ever-prevalent differences, sort of like realizing how much you miss your bratty little sister when she’s finally gone for good, even though you never admitted it.
But instead, Claudia keeps pissing off Artie (once he copes with the guilt of killing Leena) and my favorite character overall added nothing to the show. Nothing changed, but now the norm suddenly became bitterer. Sigh.
The next major plot; Paracelsus [Anthony Stewart Head] a bronzed renaissance alchemist, former director of the Warehouse program, and the Caretaker of Warehouse 9; gets free and uses the Philosopher’s Stone to cure cancer patients only to kill them for his immortality, and its around this point where the series begins to lose all credibility. He then takes over the Warehouse and seals everyone out, leaving Claudia –made the new caretaker in a previous episode (yes, Mrs. Fredrics did in fact live again), alone in the Warehouse to defend it from him in the season finale cliffhanger.
Not having learned my lesson from the previous finale cliffhanger, I was expecting at least the first half of season 5 to deal with Claudia locked in constant battle with Paracelsus for control of the Warehouse. Season 5, episode 1: Claudia is immediately defeated by Paracelsus and taken prisoner. Do these writers no nothing about how to tell an engaging story?! All they do is bring up compelling plots, blow them over in one episode, then pad out the rest of the seasons with far less interesting stories. Then again, I expected more, so serves me right.
Anyhoo, the villain goes back in time, kills Regents or whatever, and then alters history creating a new timeline in which Artifacts are used and basically weaponized. Do they don a multi-episode arc with this? Of course not! They resolve the whole thing in ONE EPISODE!! It gets even worse when Pete and Myka go back in time after Paracelsus to Renaissance Italy and encounter Leonardo Da Vinci’s granddaughter Lisa Da Vinci [Rebecca Mader]…
Alright… just… where do I even start?
Ok, first, Da Vinci never married or was even in a relationship with a woman, so how could he have a GRANDDAUGHTER?! Second, she is wearing pants, even though woman at that time period wore dresses. It wasn’t gender oppression or any kind of @#$% like that, it was just the norm. Third, she speaks perfect English an accent and everything! THIS IS RENAISSANCE ITALY; WHY IS SHE SPEAKING ENGLISH!?! Fourth; she’s a total gitch. Completely unlikable. I miss Leena.
So blah blah balh, they stop the bad guy, bronze him again, and the season pads out as normal. I don’t even care anymore. One last running plot is an alternate version of a Regent from the alternate timeline comes back into the fixed timeline and tries to wreak havoc, but even he is defeated too quickly for my tastes (throws up hands and walks away)
The final episode is the only plot left that needs mention in my opinion; for whatever reason ‘the Warehouse is moving’ and everyone working there –save for Claudia, will be transferred out. On the one end, this is a heartfelt goodbye to the series as each of the characters meet at the Round Table to recall their best moments from working at the Warehouse (each one I assume was a scrapped episode concept) and imprint them into the Table like a sort of phot album. At the end we cut to a brief glimpse into the future where three agents much like Pete, Myka, and Artie are squabbling over a mission; for Claudia/Mrs. Donavon, its business as usual. A happy ending…
However, to address the elephant in the room; WHY exactly is the warehouse moving? I thought when a Warehouse’s time was done it would just close and the agents would move onto Warehouse 14, I mean, isn’t that what happened with all the OTHER Warehouses? And another finale problem I have with this finale is that Claudia fails epically at trying to be like Mrs. Fredrics, coming off to me as more smug then serious and mysterious. I can’t remember where else I’ve heard such horrible dialogue. But even apart from that, the final scene at the end with a panning shot of the Warehouse beneath the night sky does leave a deep emotional impact on me, regardless of my misgivings.
Overall, Warehouse-13 is an interesting series with some good concepts that unfortunately loses traction in many places, especially the writing department. The characters are ok if you can stand them, but if you want my advice, don’t get too invested in them. As for the sci-fi elements? There are good ideas here, but none of them are really expanded upon and all too often I got a sense of Deus-Ex-Machina. Its like a mix of National Treasure, The X-Files, and Haven, but in many cases far too silly for me to take seriously.
In all, it’s a fun romp through some fun ideas; I’d say watch it if you’re curious enough, but be weary of disappointment.
Next Retrospect: “Transformers Animated”