Warehouse 13: Season 3
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Warehouse 13: Season 3

 

For a long time an extremely popular format for television programming has been the anthology series. Each week a different group of actors would present a story written by different authors and presented by a select group of directors. The benefits are fairly obvious, an exceptionally broad basis for variety. Three years ago the niche cable network, SyFy came up with a fascinating variation on this method. Instead of changing the casts and creators each episode they remain the same but the props are varied. Now this might appear to be too trivial an alteration to with make a difference of be successful but it worked out exceptionally well on both counts. The resultant series had the somewhat enigmatic title; ‘Warehouse 13’. The reason for the success can be attributed to a number of key factors. First is the premise. Warehouse 13 is a top secret government facility located in a remote section of South Dakota known only by a highly cleared few. The cavernous structure is used for storage of the most dangerous items on earth. These artifacts, as they are called, are typically imbued with strange, paranormal abilities or attributes that straddle the mystic and the outermost fringes of science. Most are tied to a famous, or infamous, person, place or event and the manifestation of the artifacts was typically entwined with that history. For example, a piece of Wood salvaged from the Titanic would instantly freeze anything that it comes in contact with. Knowledge of history is helpful but thanks to well place exposition not necessary to understand or enjoy the show. Each episode a team of Warehouse agents go on a hunt for a stray artifact in order to bring it back to be neutralized and safely contained in the Warehouse. For more seasoned members of fantasy television this might sound familiar and it should. A very similar plot was used in the TV horror series, Friday the 13th: the series’ only there the objects were demonically cursed items sold in a damned curio shop. Warehouse 13 was largely inspired by the last scene in the first Indiana Jones Movie depicting the Ark of the Covenant being placed in a dramatically huge storage area.

The second reason for the success of the series is it doesn’t rely too heavily on the artifacts to drive the overall story. If that was the case you would have a variation on the dreaded ‘freak of the week’ format. In this methodology the never ending parade of freaky items is the sole motivation for each episode and by extension, the entire series. The saving grace beautifully infused in the show it ultimately it is a character based series. The people are paramount in the construction of the stories and progression of the themes. At the end of the second season it looked as though the current Warehouse field team had split. Former Secret Service agents, Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) were split apart. For personal reasons Myka resigned and returned home to help with the family business, a bookstore. There was a perfect symmetry between the by-the-book Myka and the freewheeling Pete but between her logic and his hunches the job was done exceedingly well. Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek), the Special Agent in charge regrets her going but the work has to go on and a new field agent hired. The technology whiz kid, Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti) itching to get into field work but she is young, headstrong and impulsive; besides Artie finds her knack for the strange technology of the Warehouse more valuable on site. Although Myka does return much of the season features Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore), a former agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with the uncanny ability to detect when someone is lying. The interaction of this cadre of unique and quirky personalities manages to keep the stories perpetually interesting. There is also the gradual revelation of their back stories that has the effect of fleshing out the characters realistically. The writers also manage to keep the sexual attraction between Pet and Myka in check. Traditionally failure to follow this is a sure fire ramp to make that fateful jump over the proverbial shark. There was one particular episode this season where the teammates wake up naked in bed together with no memory of how they got to that contention. The gag artifact included here is the hair brush owned by Marilyn Monroe which turns Myka into a blonde.

While most of the artifacts are dangerous a few do manage to provide a touch of comic relief. In the first episode of this season the artifact to retrieve is the guitar pick of Jimi Hendrix. The devices that the team uses in the pursuit of the artifacts have a distinctive steam punk look and feel to them. This gives a twist to the series that differentiates it from other technology based shows. The most common devices is gun that shoots a stunning electrical charge invented by Nikola Tesla, and their communicators that may function in a similar fashion to a modern cell phone but this was created by the early inventors of television, Philo Farnsworth.

The plots are strengthened in several way including cross over episodes with two other series on SyFy, the new series, ‘Alphas’ and the lamentably cancelled ‘Eureka’. This does allow for some intra channel cross promotion but also expands the fictional universe used as a setting. Another aspect that is greatly expanded on this season is the history of the Warehouse. It is the thirteenth in a line of mystical storage facilities beginning with Warehouse 1 built between 336-323 BC under Alexander the Great. The previous incarnation, Warehouse 12, was located in Great Britain with one of its agents a recurring character the morally ambiguous H.G. Wells (Jaime Murray).

In all the series continues to be one of the brightest shows of its kind and thankfully still seems to be in good favor with the network. The cast is strong and capable of depicting a full gamut of range. There is adventure, science fiction, and drama balanced with the perfect amount of tongue in cheek humor.

Posted 07/05/12

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