Warehouse 13: Personal Effects

… in which the team hunts down Walter Sykes’ collection of artifacts.

Warehouse 13 is not working for me right now. ‘Personal Effects’ had some small overarching story elements that were intriguing, and a few moments here and there that made me chuckle, but I largely found myself unengaged and disappointed. The ideas for the various artifacts were entertaining, but the story developed around them was uninspired, the effects were middling, and most of the guest actors were underwhelming (Brian J. Smith was reasonably decent as Jesse, but I wasn’t overly impressed with Dee Wallace as the hospital administrator --- although I’m tempted to put that one on the writing --- and the woman playing Jesse’s mom was terrible).

The funny thing is, none of this is really new. The guest actors are often weak or poorly used, the effects are usually nothing to write home about, and the stories of the week are often unmemorable filler on which to hang the zany team interactions. But the weaknesses are bothering me a lot more these days, and I’m thinking that last part is the reason why. I just can’t enjoy the “zany team interactions” anymore. The writers keep pushing the humor and wackiness, but it just isn’t sitting well with me given the darker direction of the overall story. How am I supposed to enjoy lighthearted banter when Undead Jinks has “doomed future” and “unresolved angst” written all over him? Or when Artie is being consumed by his fears about what evil he might have summoned and his inability to share these anxieties with anyone? I can’t. The darkness hangs over everything, and it keeps me from being able to truly appreciate the funny.

I can’t decide if I just want the show to be something it isn’t, or if the writers want the show to be something different but are afraid to commit. Because right now, it feels like what they really want is to tell a much darker and more painful story than they’ve attempted in the past, but they can’t let go of the lighthearted tone originally established for the series. They clearly recognize the inherent darkness in what’s happened to Jinks and Artie, and want to pursue the idea that use of artifacts has consequences. But they are simultaneously pushing the humorous team dynamic and comical character tics. As a result, the show feels like it is floundering as it tries to balance dark and painful journeys for Claudia, Artie, and Jinks with the humorous “business as usual” approach to artifact hunting. Maybe the Powers that Be are afraid of alienating the audience if they take things too dark. Or maybe the creative team just isn’t capable of sustaining that more serious tone. Either way, I’m hoping the show either commits to the darker path or gives us a shiny happy reset button soon, because trying to have it both ways isn’t doing anyone any favors.

Then again, perhaps I’m not giving the creative team enough credit. It is entirely possible that this episode was designed to show us that the series can’t go back to “business as usual” at this point, even if that’s what we may want. After all, that message is reflected in both the Artie and Claudia stories this week. Artie thinks he can handle his day-to-day Warehouse responsibilities and his big dark secret all on his own, but he clearly can’t. The stress of everything he’s dealing with is too much, and it is just a matter of time before he goes ballistic, with or without a push from a hostile artifact (see ‘Artie’s Vision Theory,’ below).

Meanwhile, Claudia is trying hard to recapture that old magic with Jinks, but their dynamic isn’t really the same anymore, and stubborn reality continually reminded Steve and the audience that things are different now. He’s only alive because an artifact keeps him so, and apparently he’s now physically linked to Claudia. It remains to be seen what this means for her. We saw that Marcus could survive falls and wounds that would kill anyone else, so we have to assume that Steve is now “unkillable” unless the metronome stops. But Claudia certainly isn’t. So if Jinks falls off a third-story balcony, does Claudia die? And what happens to her if the metronome stops?

Other Thoughts

Myka’s Hair Report: Still in the relatively messy bedhead zone. But it seemed a little more under control this week.

Artie’s Vision Theory: I read a theory that the “evil of his own making” will infect Artie himself, and that in his vision, Claudia is using the knife to save him, not harm him. Since we all know vision snippets are rarely what they appear to be, this seems like a solid theory to me.

This episode seemed to have a number of Breaking Bad allusions. The main guest character was named Jesse. His recent crime spree was due to a medical crisis. And there was even mention of a meth lab in one of the downstairs apartments in Jesse’s building. An intentional nod?

Admittedly, I’m not a doctor, but doesn’t it seem like getting struck by a big giant bolt of lightning would damage Jesse’s heart? I found it hard to believe it would be a viable organ at that point. Anyone with medical expertise in our readership?

Hopefully Artie was contacting H.G. to hunt up the knife and we can look forward to seeing her again sooner than anticipated.

Final Analysis: The bloom is off the rose. I’m certainly not ready to quit, but WH13 has fallen into the “show I watch but don’t eagerly anticipate” category. At least I’m not at the “dreading it” point yet, right?

8 comments:

Matthew L said...

Jess,

In terms of the direction of this season we could always go with the cliche of "without darkness there is no light" chestnut or "there is a light at the end of the tunnel" or "It's darkest before the dawn" :D

Does any of that help? ;)

Jess Lynde said...

Not exactly, Matthew, but thanks. :) In this case, the dark isn't really paving the way for the light. It feels more like they are trying to tell a dark story through a largely lighthearted lens, and the mismatch is jarring for me. I need them to commit to one path then transition more smoothly between the extremes.

Maybe they should actually watch Breaking Bad for some tips on how to more effectively blend dark storytelling with humor. Because that show can crush my soul and make me laugh heartily within the span of a single hour with very little tonal whiplash.

Matthew L said...

In terms of the episode, I enjoyed the side quests for the other 5 artifacts more than the main storyline with the pipe. Did they ever say who the pipe belonged to like they did with the other artifacts? Just curious.

I really liked the birdcage scene, gonna guess that the birdcage belonged to Alfred Hitchcock, cause who else could it be. :)


As for the Claudia-Jinks connection, is the metronome affecting them differently than it was between Sykes-Marcus? Because when Marcus got hurt, nothing seemed to happen to Sykes, not the way it is with Claudia and Jinks.

And I agree with you, I think it's H G Wells that Artie is calling there at the end to recover the dagger.

I'm not a doctor, but I am studying to be a pharmacist, and yea the whole suicide by lightning should have damaged his heart beyond viability, but this is a tv show, so why should reality intrude? :)

celticmarc said...

Jess

Right on the nose....again. Agreeing with you 100 %.

Hum, Steve taking a picture of the famous war re enactment episode of last season : it was, and remains, my favourite moments between these two. (Claudia as a Dixie looks great too. Probably an image that will stick in my subconscious for a LONG time.)

And the interaction between Claudia and Jinks : you called him poopy pants ??? Wow.

And yes, seriously, Jesse's heart would have been in a bad condition after that jolt. But, hey, yes it's TV.

Agreeing with Matthew too : definitely Hitchcock's cage....(oh, that poor Tippy Hedren)

Anonymous said...

Uh-oh..the Claudia-Jinks stuff can't end well..either he'll die(anew) or she will..I'm guessing Claudia's safe since she's been with us longer. I hope. Also I want more H.G and Myka..
Yes, I agree about the show not knowing which direction to take..I vote shiny happy reset button, even though that's unsatisfying..
Anna

Anonymous said...

On the plus side..good to see more of Leena. Hope she continues to show up as a more active member of the team.
Anna

Anonymous said...

I just finished season 3. I have a question. What episode does Arty get MacPherson's watch? What does it do that allows them to survive after the explosion of the warehouse by Sykes?

Jess Lynde said...

If memory serves, Artie got the watch from MacPherson's "room" in the Warehouse. I seem to remember Mrs. Frederic giving it to him or him retrieving it when they were putting Jinks's "room" away after his death. I'm pretty sure that was near the beginning of the S3 finale.

As of the end of the S3 finale, we don't know what the watch does. We find out in the S4 premiere.