Full Spoilers in the review below:
It was obvious from the moment it was given to him that Artie would end up watching Leena's recorded statement. The inevitability made it a matter of when, not if. I wanted to talk about this first because I found the scene moving and beautiful; heart wrenching in only a way those who have lost someone close can commiserate. It would have been an awful shame for Leena's final moments on Warehouse 13 to come at the end of a gun or the crashing down of Artie's mental panic room. So to have this chance, this brief moment to memorialize the character for long time fans with solid finality, is wonderful. Saul Rubinek again brings depth and sincerity to Artie's pain. We feel really bad for that old sourpuss.
Genelle Williams did a fantastic job combining airs of serenity and mysticism with compassion and mystery. Leena isn't a character who can be replaced; she brought something uniquely special. Her duties do have to be attended to though and here is a chance for Aaron Ashmore to grow in the Steve role. The timing couldn't be better as I found myself thinking "Steve really needs to find his niche or needs something to do" during the whole first half of this episode. This gives him differentiation and will help him stand out on his own as a stronger character. With his Buddhist background, this is the perfect fit for him. Look for Ashmore to shine in this new capacity.
I enjoy the gravitas Pete displays in the opening court room scene. Eddie McClintock starts out playing his own straight man before reaching into his sack of jokes for a zinger at his normal straight man's expense (Myka). The scene is a transparent microcosm of the series writ small: serious and tense situations, handled with intelligence and comedy. Faran Tahir brings such fatherly sincerity as Kosan that it's mesmerizing to watch what he'll do next.
On the artifact front, I found it strange that the focus of the main bag and tag adventure (a lantern which buried people alive and can dig great chasms in the earth) is given so little explanation. The writing crew is typically incredibly clever at finding fascinating historical tidbits to assign to the artifacts, that the mere absence of this is fairly noticeable. There also didn't seem to be a drawback to using the lantern, an odd omission. The secondary tale, in among the warehouse stacks, makes up for this with a really cool item: Da Vinci's Gargoyle. It's a sort of Steampunk aesthetic automaton, with design elements from his flying machine ideas. The Claudia designed artifact nullification grenade was also a cool touch.
I haven't really touched on the main adventure plot of the episode. This is because it's a bit forgettable and a bit predictable. Straddling a bunch of tropes to weary effect, it nonetheless works because we love these characters and the action is fun. The climax of the lantern story actually brought with it a bunch of tension. When Pete is dangling Claudia over the cliff by his belt, I noticed my breathing stall a little bit. Of course she succeeded safely, but the sequence does a wonderful job of bending your disbelief to exploit our fright mechanisms.
Two episodes in to the second half of season four and we've already been severed two impeccable deserts to indulge in. Yet despite Warehouse 13's continued overall high quality, it's ratings have been slowly but steadily declining. Perhaps the absence of a mysterious "hook" in these early going episodes has left folks feeling that it's not as necessary to tune in? More likely this is the fallout of having moved the show's times lot to 10pm. As a smart, fun, family friendly adventure series, the later time has got to be hurting them. Keep your fingers crossed that SyFy picks them up for a fifth season because there really is nothing quite like Warehouse 13 on television, and it would be sorely missed.
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 famous Colonial 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.