Warehouse 13 – Season Two
For the sake of argument let us say that the history of science fiction on TV started in 1959 with The Twilight Zone. That would give us 51 years worth of material to judge SyFy’s returning Warehouse 13 against. Those more inclined towards optimism might want to declare it the long awaited Americanized version of BBC’s long running, shape shifting, recently reincarnated Doctor Who, and while there is a case to be made, that is simply too generous of an assessment. One thing Warehouse 13 thankfully has in common with that legendary series is their playful approach to time and space.
This season our two lead government agents, Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly), are matched up against the nefarious and recently back from the dead HG Wells who also happens to be…surprise…a woman. The zeal with which the writers re-imagine history is inspiring which makes it all the sadder when you realize that too much time is wasted on banality and wonkiness. On average 20% of any given episode will feel like filler and another 20% will be spent on them digging themselves deeper and deeper into their own mythology. Both shows use a mix of self-contained episodes and long overarching plotlines to make a season but while Doctor Who uses each of their 45 minutes to create something cinematic and stimulating Warehouse 13, underneath it all, is just a gussied up police procedural that uses supernatural beings in place of your basic perps.
Which brings us to our next natural comparison. For many, the recent taste of The X-Files still lingers on their palette, and why not seeing as how there was a new movie just two years ago. Besides the obvious fact that Warehouse 13 has their own Mulder and Scully type team one need look no further than episode two of this season to see how similar these two beasts actually are. In it a love sick do-gooder gets his hands on a pair of magic underwear (insert Mormon joke here) and uses them to become a superhero; a one man vigilante force out to save his famously beleaguered Detroit.
He turns out to be something of a moron and Detroit is left to pay the price (sound familiar?) as he inflicts more harm than good by zipping through brick walls and toppling power lines. The whole thing culminates in true comic book fashion as all of the main players end up on screen together in an overtly homoerotic episode of grab ass. The plot faithfully moves from establishing a conflict to the solving of the mystery and finally onto the apprehension of the aggressor. It is boring and rather useless as a storytelling technique but both producers and viewers find comfort in it so it persists.
The true realist, however, will recognize this show as the second coming of the Canadian import Friday the 13th which terrorized unsuspecting channel surfers from 1987-1990, and has nothing (I repeat NOTHING) to do with Jason Voorhees, hockey masks or Camp Crystal Lake. There an odd group of altruistic antique dealers set out to recover cursed collectables that gave the owner satanic powers. Warehouse 13 has almost the exact same premise in play only the protagonists are government agents so their motivations are a little clearer. It is also far and away better, the production value, is six times as good, and they choose actors who can actually act (though what exactly is CCH Pounder doing here?).
But as with all SyFy shows and movies their special effects ambitions far outstrip their abilities and budget. Anybody who has seen Moon or Primer is aware that a big CGI budget is not a necessity for telling good science fiction, but the network insists on pumping out infantile scripts that could only possibly appeal to those who show up only for the fireworks. If they made an effort to attract a more upscale clientele then people would moan less about the cheesiness of their visuals. Overall the shows tries to be hip and knowing but just isn’t, but somehow its nerdy underachieving charm is enough to recommend it . . . though we suggest you don’t tell your friends about your addiction to it.