WAREHOUSE 13 at the end of season two

I finally finished the season finale to Warehouse 13, and can’t help feeling disappointed by this show. Which is not the same as suggesting that I regret watching or that it isn’t entertaining, but it does have a tendency to point to more than it actually delivers in terms of depth and complexity of both narrative and character.

At the beginning of the season, it appeared as if the creators were bending the series into something a little different from season one, stretching it into more of a team show, really one about an extemporaneous family, before being snapped back to the conventions of season one, focused on Pete and Myka in the field. Leena, who seemed poised to emerge as a more important character, eventually fades into the background even more than she was in the first season. Artie and Claudia received plenty of screen time, but only by making them into kind of a sideshow out in the field. The extended family of Mrs. Fredric and the Regents also became marginally more involved, but not in any material way. Indeed, too much of what these supporting players are made do, aside from maybe Artie and Claudia, seems just for the convenience of plotting, and not because of what they mean within the universe of the show.

But more than anything it is the handling of H.G. Wells that made season two weaker than season one.

The character is a clever conceit, the ‘H’ is for ‘Helena’, and not only is the H.G. Wells we all know nothing more than a front for his sister, but ‘his’ most famous stories actually happened to her, most notably the building of the time machine. In addition, she is introduced as a stone cold killer, and so seemingly a fine nemesis for our plucky heroes.

Unfortunately, after her introduction, she disappears for about five episodes, and doesn’t really re-enter the narrative until episode nine. Last season the series was much more effective at making MacPherson an active presence in the story, even when he wasn’t actually in an episode (and one of the minor nits I have to pick with season two is how the season one narrative is resolved with MacPherson as a sympathetic victim, and his victimization pretty much becomes the only reason that Artie has for distrusting Wells, or accepting her as an agent. And given how this season ends with Myka taking off, I am now thinking that maybe this isn’t such a minor point after all).

More than anything, I think that, if you are going to have a character turn out to be such a nihilist that she is willing to end life on earth as we know it, I think she needs to either be a character that the audience gets to know pretty well or one who is, from the start, abjectly without humanity. Wells certainly is not the latter, and the former isn’t allowed to happen.

I don’t think that it would have taken much to allow viewers inside of her head, an episode devoted to her work as an agent, to her use of time travel, to her daughter’s story, might have been enough. As things are, however, her desire to destroy the world comes out of nowhere, and, particularly in a show where virtually all of the punches get pulled, it never really felt like she would end up pulling off the trick in any event.

I’d be happy enough with Warehouse 13 as a light weight X-Files, dealing mostly with the two partners out on freaky thing of the week missions, but the series producers seem unwilling to rest on that, despite Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly being pretty well made for such a series. I think that Warehouse 13 suffers from trying to be both fannish and accessible, at least to the casual SyFy (sic) viewer. In fact, I think that it’s fair to say that most of the ‘fan moments’ are external to the show, in references to other series and other media or obscure points of history, and in casting.

It probably did not help my perceptions of the finale that I watched it right after seeing the season three premiere for Fringe, which was a great episode, one that left me feeling both uncertain and excited about the direction of the show. Unlike Warehouse 13, the people behind Fringe seem to be moving to a series that demands more and more of an investment from its audience. I just hope that there is enough of a base that they can do that without getting canceled before the show’s time is up.

I would like for Warehouse 13 to have a third season, but also hope for a tighter show with more of a voice of its own than it has had so far.