Full Spoilers in the review below.
Welcome back Warehouse 13! I very much missed the whimsical brevity brought by the Pete and Myka adventure hour. Many shows strive so hard to be gritty and edgy that they loose fun in the process. Thankfully Warehouse 13 continually manages to be engaging, mysterious, amusing, and compelling. All of these spinning plates may be why some episodes feel weaker than others, but it's also why no episode is downright terrible. Even if one or two of those aspects don't succeed, the others are still solid enough to entertain. The closest analog I can think of is Quantum Leap.
The midseason cliff hanger left the warehouse team in quite the pickle. The Orchid release set the rapidly lethal sweating sickness upon the world, and Claudia cast out evil Artie at the cost of stabbing him in the chest. The latter has not left physical wounds, but now Artie is fading away inside of his own mind. Meanwhile the plague sweeping the world has a roughly twenty four hour incubation period (I'm hearing Marty McFly lament "Why do we always have to cut these things so damn close" in my head). The flight back from to the Warehouse has cost them eight hours, leaving only sixteen before they succumb (as the first infected).
This ticking clock deadline should feel dangerous and threatening, but never manages to. Primarily this is because the application of the sickness' effects seem inconsistent. Myka seems to be heavily afflicted, while Pete, Claudia, and Steve don't at all seem any worse for the wear. This uneven direction (or perhaps editing down for time) only serves to blunt the danger and tension before it can be established. There is never a doubt that they will succeed, it's only a matter of how they will. Thankfully the method of stopping the sweating sickness is both interesting and serves to setup this half season's potential big bad (or bads perhaps).
Pete and Myka reach out to a Professor Sutton, an expert on The Count of Saint Germaine- who was said to be able to bring flowers back to vibrant health. James Marsters is absolutely delightful as a roguish academic who is an expert on the Count. As it turns out he is the count, granted long life by the ministrations of an alchemist centuries before. The whole affairs feels like somewhat of a light hearted Hellboy adventure. Marsters plays Sutton as a drunk cad with little moral scruples, but he's using the two agents in a bid to get back at his wife (Polly Walker as Charlotte Dupres) and get access to his own tomb in the French catacombs. Their interplay is going to be so entertaining; a centuries old grudge match between immortals which will likely endanger the world in the process.
While the world's being save by our dynamic duo, Claudia and Steve enter Artie's subconscious brain to find and resuscitate him. As you may have guessed, Artie's got warehouse on the brain. The subtle changes to the warehouse set to reflect its subliminal nature are cool, with a deep blue filter and electrical charges running across the miles of shelves to represent the brain's electrical impulses.
The heart of the this week's episode is the struggle for Artie's soul. Unable to face the horror of his murder of Leena, he's locked himself away in a portion of his mind shaped to resemble the bed and breakfast. In almost Groundhog Day fashion, he repeats the same moments of piano playing and playful interaction with Leena over and over, waiting for the end as his mind shuts down. He is punishing himself but at the same time he's acting the coward by refusing to face his actions. Claudia is able to force him back, but only by destroying his mind's illusionary sanctum. This is simply the first round of a battle Artie will be fighting for a long time, but it may be the end of his relationship with Claudia. Allison Scagliotti and Saul Rubinek bring the weighty gravitas, and they share such familial chemistry; even when it's a tough situation it's always great to watch them on screen together.
All told this episode is very much a "reset button", to bring the show back to it's weekly adventure status quo, and there's nothing wrong with that. We've come to expect that our company of heroes will succeed and we're perfectly happy about it, with the added caveat that the method in which they do so is interestingly devised. Thanks to intelligent and clever writing it usually is. Part Indiana Jones and part X-Files, Warehouse 13 is a welcome return to my weekly TV adventures. There's no word on a season five yet and with the odd time slot move to 10 o'clock it seems the show is in a spot of danger like its protagonists. Here's to hoping they find a fascinating way to continue their adventures for another year as my TV would be darker without Warehouse 13.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famousColonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.