Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Idiot Box: Warehouse 13 4x16/4x17 - “Runaway” and “What Matters Most” Reviews

Okay, quick note, if you read these regularly but missed the thing last week where there wasn't a review, some stuff came up, so this week's TV reviews are all doubled up. The last two weeks of Warehouse 13 have seen lava assisted prison breaks, old boyfriends, creepy math geniuses, and one of the cooler ideas for an artifact this whole season, as well as the most insulting (in the same episode no less!). For the most part, given my past gripes about the show's slow pace, while its only just kicked up, I'm still a little more interested than I was at the beginning of the season, and only more so now that it looks like the home stretch might actually get us to something.

First up, “Runaway,” primarily a Jinx story, which we don't get nearly enough of in my opinion, whereupon a new case forces him to deal with his ex when two criminals use an artifact to escape from prison and go on the run. I started liking Jinx the minute the whole gay thing was revealed, not because I have any particular emotional investment in the representation of gay people on TV or any preference for it, but because it just seemed like such a casual screw you to the standard character arc template where a guy and a girl are paired up, both assumed to be straight to the point where it doesn't need to be said, and eventually they end up together. I also like that they've kept up with it and were willing to do an episode like this, which seemed more real than anything I've ever seen on other, supposedly more gay-friendly shows like Glee, steering clear of stereotypes and incorporating Jinx's human lie detector ability in a clever twist explaining the end of their relationship.

The B plot was a little less satisfying, if only because it started off well with a Claudia and Artie romp but kind of fizzled out pointlessly in the end. When Artie is infected with a constant stream of Mozart in his head that threatens to make him go deaf, they go off to find a second piece of the artifact that hit him. There's really nothing to this story, and given the events of earlier this season, pairing these two up together and not doing anything is a wasted opportunity. They've left hints of Claudia's unease with being around Artie since the stabbing, but I wish they would either finally hash it out or use the strain of their friendship for something other than the occasional reference. Also, the episode ends with Claudia's birthday party, complete with a self-indulgent, “let's let the actress show us how she knows how to play guitar” moment which I hate in every show. I remember when they did this with the lawyer guy on Angel when he left, and of course whenever they do it, all the other characters have to marvel at how great the person plays. The whole thing seems like it should have been saved for a different episode, as here it feels like there is very little set up for it.

Next up, “What Matters Most,” overall a much better episode, and one that finally advances the plot in a way that seems like it might actually stick, even if it does so in a bit of a hacky way. The main story follows Pete and Myka on the trail of an artifact in a wealthy suburban gated community that kills people in a variety of different ways based on bad things they've done in their past. This is largely a flimsy set up to give Eddie McClintock an Emmy moment related to his character's alcoholism, but it works as far as it goes. What doesn't is a last minute reveal related to Myka, which I won't spoil, except that it feels completely out of place, so much so that I thought they'd started the next episode by mistake. It presents an interesting wrinkle for later on, but its too abrupt for this episode. As is the introduction of someone who I guess will be a recurring villain that relies on casually accepting that the crew of the Warehouse would do something they've never been shown to have done, and that it was all part of some elaborate plan that they would act so out of character. 

The B plot is the one that advances this larger story, as we finally get a glimpse of the bad guy's plan as Claudia and Artie try to help a homeless kid afflicted with killer math genius. I mentioned a particularly insulting artifact, and this one is what I was talking about. It turns out that a wall street mathematician is using Orville Wright's goggles to leech off the minds of others to be better at his job, with the explanation that they, like Orville, steal from those more talented. Now, I don't know much about the relationship of the Wright Brothers, but this seems unnecessarily mean to a historical figure. I'm sure there were more clear cut examples of intellectual theft they could have used. By contrast, the human face mask made of salt from Sodom and Gomorrah was awesome, even if the motives of the person using it seemed a little silly.

There are only three episodes left in this season, and Wikipedia tells me that Anthony Stewart Head of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame is in at least three of them this season as a major character, along with Polly Walker, the villainess introduced in the premiere, who is slated for five and has only been in two. My point is, clearly they've got to have some action packed stuff planned for the rest of this batch of episodes. That they decided to save all the story development for the last three seems a little strange in my opinion, especially in the wake of the much more interesting Brother Adrian story line last year, but at least this is progress, or the promise of it. I can't in good consciences give up on a show so soon before its gone for good, and its getting incrementally better with each episode, so here's hoping we go out with a bang.  

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