This season of Warehouse 13 has been pretty tepid. The first half of season three was especially bad, as the early episodes quickly moved away from the emotional weight and damage of season two’s conclusion and chose to re-focus on the quirky – and often dumb – standalone episodes that didn’t have much last impact. Near the middle of the season (“The 40th Floor” onward), W13 tried to pull things together with lots of flashbacks and the reveal that Pete’s mother is actually a Regent, but then the subsequent execution didn’t quite work. For whatever reason, Warehouse doesn’t do flashbacks particularly well and the big story this season about Walter Sykes was never really that interesting. Anthony Michael Hall is a solid performer, but the role wasn’t written very well and again, the flashbacks to when Sykes was a child were especially dull.
This season’s failures are all misfortunate, especially in the light of last night’s two-hour finale. Had this season held together or had much emotional impact, the “Emily Lake”/”Stand” double feature would have been just as fantastic as last season’s conclusion. In fact, these episodes play as if the previous ten that came before were actually dramatically better than they actually were. “Emily Lake” and “Stand” try their damnedest to raise the stakes, put the characters in danger and make us at home cry, as if there was a tremendous journey we all went on together. Unfortunately, that’s not really true and if it weren’t for some really great performances from the lead cast, the finale would be even more problematic than it already is.
The worst part about this is that “Emily Lake” and “Stand” are pretty great episodes on their own. They are certainly my favorite of the season and as I said, the performances here are tremendous. Eddie McClintock is typically asked to be the comic relief, but he is a strong dramatic actor as well. Joanne Kelly and Allison Scagliotti are always solid as well and they also upped their games for these episodes. The scene where Pete stumbles upon Steve’s dead, lifeless body and tries to keep Claudia from seeing it might be the most well-acted and emotionally impactful moment in the series’ history. And there are a few others in this two-parter that come fairly close to that level as well, including the moment where Pete decides he has to destroy the coin artifact that will kill H.G. Wells. Warehouse 13 is a generally goofy and light series, but the actors make it really easy to believe that this is all very real and sometimes, very painful. There is no question that Pete, Myka, Claudia and Artie come off as a makeshift family unit and it is that general chemistry and the particularly solid performances that help these episodes feel like the Warehouse 13 I want the series to be.
But again, the problem is that while these individual moments were fantastic and beautifully-performed by an underrated cast, the ultimate effect is lessened somewhat by the season’s overall haphazard construction. I was upset that Steve died after sacrificing himself to learn more about Sykes, but that’s mostly because I like Aaron Ashmore and wish that he gets to keep a job. And while the actors did all they could to make me feel their pain over Steve’s death, the emotional reaction wasn’t earned.
Steve was mishandled from the beginning and then sort of disappeared for a bit just when he was starting to form real relationships with the other characters. I buy that Claudia is destroyed, I do. But I struggle to buy that she’s SO distraught or that she’s willing to use an artifact to bring him back to life. Similarly, I buy that Pete has grown to like H.G. (mostly because Pete is a good person), but I don’t quite buy he’s grown to like her as much as these episodes suggest. The finale is asking us to care a whole lot about Steve or H.G. or Pete’s mom and although I don’t outright despise any of them, the season failed to convince me I should feel as strongly as the finale is asking me to.
This disconnect applies to the episodes’ (and the season’s) big thematic point as well. The finale spent a lot of time addressing the authority and moral code of the Regents and allowed Claudia and other characters to question how the Regents act. I’ve previously enjoyed the series’ exploration of the Warehouse’s history and how certain things have come to be, but W13 has never figured out how to make the Regents interesting. In the first two seasons it didn’t matter because some other things were going on.
However, season three was more or less about the Regents and the series still couldn’t find much quality material to work with. Revealing that Pete’s mother is a Regent was a smart decision because it gave one of the leads a direct connection to larger concerns and yet, the whole thing was still relatively one-note. So the Regents have done some shady things and they are hypocritical when it comes to the use of artifacts in certain situations? Cool. And there’s an inherent danger in having the people in control work within a double standard of power? Yeah, I knew that. Additionally, forcing Pete, Myka, Artie and Claudia to deal with the consequences of terrible actions the Regents took is a solid way to prove the overarching dangers in working at the Warehouse, but that also felt somewhat tacked on in these episodes after not being present in the previous few – even if blowing up the Warehouse was pretty cool.
Individually, both “Emily Lake” and “Stand” were fine episodes of Warehouse 13 that featured some of the lead actors’ best work. Nevertheless, the successes of these two episodes actually only work to emphasize the failures of the season as a whole. This double-feature finale wants the audience to feel certain emotions and see certain themes that are definitely present here, but not necessarily well-connected to the ten hours that came before.
- Mrs. Fredric is dead. CCH Pounder probably deserves better anyway.
- So will Claudia actually bring Steve back? I wouldn’t put it past this series to have a zombie walking around for 12 more episodes.
- With this Warehouse destroyed, I’m guessing another will be built. Does that mean the series should now be called Warehouse 14?