Warehouse 13: A New Hope

... in which the team races against the clock to save the Warehouse.

When last we left our intrepid heroes, they had defeated Big Bad Walter Sykes, but the price of victory was exceedingly high, including the loss of Jinks, H.G. Wells, Mrs. Frederic, and the Warehouse. Myka, Pete, and Artie were left standing with only their lives and a mysterious pocket watch, which was clearly the key to reversing the destruction wrought by Sykes.

As the new season kicks off, we rejoin the team in the bombed out ruins of the Warehouse, where Pete and Myka are just as eager as the audience to find out how the watch is going to fix everything. Turns out things aren’t as simple as waving the watch around and turning back time (which is pretty much what I was anticipating). Instead, the team has to first figure out what the watch does, then travel across the globe hunting up complimentary artifacts and parrying threats from a sect of campy, evil (?) monks. All the while, desperately hoping what they find will allow them to turn the clock back 24 hours and give them enough time to defuse the wheelchair bomb.

And, of course, in the end we learn there’s a big honking catch: if Artie uses the failsafe device, he’ll unleash an evil of his own making that will live with him for the rest of his days. Okay then. Unfortunately, by that point, it’s not like he really has much of a choice. The Warehouse is destroyed, most of his team members are dead or have otherwise fallen by the wayside, and the entire world is succumbing to fear and chaos because it lost hope after Pandora’s Box was destroyed in the Warehouse explosion. So Artie resigns himself to his fate, reverses time, saves the Warehouse, H.G., and Mrs. Frederic, and even manages to give Walter Sykes a peaceful resolution. But, the great evil he’s unleashed appears to be Claudia, as she’s gone off the reservation and is seemingly trying to kill him, setting the stage for the season to come.

So. I hate spending several paragraphs basically recapping the episode, instead of reviewing it, but this premiere was so jam-packed, that I felt the need to get it straight in my mind. Or maybe I thought the recap exercise would help push me past my frustrations with the episode. I was wrong.

The root of my problem with ‘A New Hope’ is tone. The season-ending two-parter took Warehouse 13 to a seriously dark place. The death of Jinks is the single darkest moment the show has ever had, and I, for one, am still reeling from it, all these months later. It is clear that Claudia is still feeling his death keenly, but unfortunately, everything else about the premiere feels like it is pushing us to move on. We got some lip service to everyone being stunned and grief-stricken, and some language about how they all needed to focus and not wallow in their grief or they’d succumb to the same hopelessness gripping the world, but then the episode bounced between manic puzzle solving, goofy comic bits, and seriously over-the-top melodrama.

I need more time to grieve. I can’t just rebound from that kind of blow and get back to lighthearted artifact hijinks as usual. Don’t get me wrong --- I don’t want the show to stay dark forever. I originally fell for it because of its mix of heart and humor. I love the Warehouse family, with their affectionate teasing and the fun way they bounce off each other. I want to get back to that place, I really do. But first I need some truly resonant character moments and some cathartic release, so that I can pull out of this dark space. Simply reversing the damage to the Warehouse isn’t enough.

The weird part is, that in a lot of ways, the story seems to recognize this need. We didn’t get a shiny happy reset button. Yes, the most extensive damage was reversed, but Jinks is still dead and Claudia is still deeply grieving. Clearly, the writers recognize that Claudia can’t just bounce back from this terrible loss, and it seems as though they intend to let her pain and resentment towards the Warehouse play out. Even within this episode, there were times when it seemed like the words on the page were meant to reflect the characters’ very real pain. Certainly, Allison Scagliotti infused Claudia’s every word and action with her massive anger and grief, even when she was trying to keep things in check for the good of the team. Unfortunately, the direction and scoring for just about everything else refused to let us linger in these early stages of grief, pushing most of the episode past resonant and right into camp.

Starting with the opening scene. As soon as I heard those first bombastic strains of the “this is a horrifically devastating moment!” music, I started internally groaning. Then we pushed in for lingering close up shots of Pete, Myka, and Artie remembering their lost good times and I started rolling my eyes. I couldn’t feel connected to their agony, because I assumed it would be quickly reversed and because the music kept forcefully telling me I SHOULD BE MOVED. Things didn’t improve much from there. The excessive use of “extreme zooming” made many scenes feel visually campy, while the over-the-top “dramatic” music made many moments irritating, instead of affecting. And that final dream sequence? Claudia stabbing Artie while Evil Brent Spiner “ominously” intoned about the evil Artie hath summoned was like something out of a schlocky horror flick, not a darkly intriguing new direction for the season. Not the best final impression.

Other Thoughts

My second major beef with this episode, is that I don’t really enjoy their Da Vinci Code-esque puzzle quests. The show tends not to do this type of story well. Typically, we get a bunch of hyperspeed talking and ridiculous visuals, with too much plot-focus and not enough character stuff. This episode did a slightly better job with character than some past puzzlers, but as noted, the direction and music kept pushing the moments too far into melodrama and camp, instead of just letting them quietly resonate.

So, Mrs. Frederic died because she’s organically connected to Warehouse. When it “went,” so did she. No surprise there. Interesting that she ended up with a single grey streak to indicate that something happened. Artie remembers, so maybe the Warehouse does, too.

The CGI on this show can be so bad at times. Especially those green-screened backgrounds. Ugh. The scene outside the Warehouse just looked awful. Distractingly bad. And Earth looked like a giant beach ball during the “turning back time” sequence.

The artifact tracking football was kind of nifty.

The Regent helping Lena --- Mr. Keeler of grocery store vault fame --- sort of reminded me of Paul Kinsey from Mad Men. Without the pompous ass overtones, of course.

We did get a few genuinely funny moments between Claudia and Artie, as she momentarily let go of some of her pain to gently tease him. Her calling him “Pooh Bear” when he was trying to squeeze into the chamber behind the wine casks, then going on at length about “rumblies” in his tummy and him being a “silly, old bear” made me laugh out loud.

Artie: “You actually paid attention in fifth grade?”
Claudia: “Yes. Now think back to your youth and try to remember what [Magellan] said to you on deck the night he crossed the International Date Line.”
Artie: “I never tire of those comments.”
Me either, Artie.

Claudia: “They made us read the Bible a lot at the psych hospital. I think it’s how they kept their funding.”

The first time I watched this episode, I felt like there was entirely too much fretting over fallen teammates, which under the circumstances seemed like a huge waste of time. I understood the initial hesitance with Claudia trapped in the chamber, since she was the first one they had to leave behind. But then Pete wanted to help Myka escape the riot police, and Artie kept lingering over the dying Pete … I actually started yelling at Artie to stop wasting time and just fix things! “Just put the astrolabe together, and get on with it already! Once you reverse the clock, he won’t be dead. Hurry up, before you run out of time!” The second time through, the lingering didn’t seem as egregious. I must have been really frustrated on the first watch, and just wanted them to hurry things along.

I liked the revised resolution for Sykes in the new timeline. After a lifetime fueled by hatred and anger, it felt rather fitting for him to finally find peace before his final rest. Hopefully, this is subtle foreshadowing for a happy resolution for Claudia. I don’t want to rush her through her grieving process, but I do hope she’ll eventually find a way to move past her pain and rediscover her joy in the world of endless wonder.

Artie: “I think I’ve earned the occasional, ‘I’m gonna go with Artie’s gut on this,’ don’t you?”

H.G. lives to fight another day! Woo hoo! I don’t know how often we’ll get to see her, since Jaime Murray is starring on a new SyFy series now (Defiance, set to premiere in April), but maybe she can pop by from time to time.

I hope Brent Spiner gets something better to do in upcoming episodes, because this was a fairly campy start as a cryptic and possibly evil monk. Or Templar Knight. Or whatever. Of course, I won’t be too surprised if this is the extent of what he’s asked to do. WH13 tends to waste guest talent on a fairly regular basis.

I don’t quite understand what’s going on with Claudia’s dark turn. Has she been possessed by the evil that Artie conjured when he used the artifact? Or is she just her lashing out in her grief and rebelling against the Warehouse? “Don’t think this is over. I will remember what I have to do, and nothing will stop me from doing it.” I kind of hope it’s the latter.

Final Analysis: The road back from the darkness of last season is starting off a bit bumpy. Hopefully they can strike a better tonal balance in upcoming episodes, and transition us back to fun artifact hijinks a bit more gently.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

11 comments:

celticmarc said...

Wow Jess !

I have to go to work, and I've seen that you've been quite extensive on this one.....come back of this tonite

Johan said...

I thought Claudia left with the metronome to resurrect Jinks.

CrazyCris said...

Excellent review and you made some good points Jess!

I too am still reeling from Kinks death, but they're not just setting it aside since I figure that's the whole reason Claudia left. And I don't figure her for the big bad, although we all know she can hold a grudge (remember how she started).

My big issue with this episode was Historical! Big, BIG!!! mistake! Magellan wasn't the first person to sail around the world, his captain El Cano was! Magellan died about halfway around!!! Oh, and El Cano was SPANISH, not Portuguese! So their whole watch-astrolabe artifact thingy was WRONG!!! grrrr....

Was glad to see Mrs Fredrick is back, excited we'll get more HG at some point, and very puzzled as to why they wasted Brent Spiner on something like 2 minutes of screen time?

celticmarc said...

Back home now.

Jess,

Wow, wow, WOW.

RIGHT ON THE NOSE.

What can I possibly add to your text ???? I would have said brilliant text, but I already hear my colleagues say "ah ! there you go again !" Ah shut up, she deserves it. So ya, awesome review Jess. Big time.

You rock dude(tte)

ps hum, quite lucky to fly around the globe AFTER World Despair has started ! Eyes rolling.

ps2 I want Claudia back.

zob said...
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zob said...
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Jess Lynde said...

As always, thanks for the comments all. I'm struggling a bit with the darker direction, too. Part of me kind of likes it, but I really miss the team banter. I especially miss Claudia's banter with Artie. Only those few moments by the wine casks came close to recapturing their dynamic, and I was really feeling the lack through most of the episode.

The real crux of my struggle is that I have a very deep affection for Claudia, and I am very invested in her journey. I like and enjoy the other characters, but my investment in Claudia goes beyond my feelings for the others. Perhaps because, even as she brings the quirky and fun to Claudia, Allison Scagliotti also lets us see the damage that lurks underneath. We never quite lose sight of the girl that spent all those years in an institution, or the importance and fragility of her connection to her Warehouse family. And because Allison plays her so well, and makes her seem so fully realized, it is extremely important to me that Claudia's journey feel earned and true to her character.

Now that the writers have decided to take Claudia to this very dark place, I want them to see it through. It's important to me that her emotional recovery from losing Jinks and from what she perceives as a betrayal by the Warehouse overlords plays out believably. Recovery and a return to "fun" Claudia wouldn't feel right at this point. Much as I miss that overall vibe in the show.

Overall, I want to get back to that same place you do, zob. I just want them to take their time getting there, so that the return to form feels like an earned and consistent evolution for Claudia.

CrazyCris said...

Well said Jess! Claudia is definitely the best "well rounded" character on the show, and for the whole thing to remain "true" she can't just bounce back from losing Jinks... I just hope she doesn't go nuts and try to murder Artie on her journey! ;o)

Billie Doux said...

I spent most of it feeling exactly like you did, Jess -- as in, we know the warehouse will be brought back and the 24 hours will rewind, so the character bits with them dying and getting buried and arrested, etc., just felt exasperating and pointless. And I hope that isn't all they hired Brent Spiner to do!

celticmarc said...

Zob, Jess, Billie

RIGHT ON !

celticmarc said...

And I want Claudia back