Warehouse 13: Season Two review
|REVIEWS - TV|
The most fun South Dakota's seen since Mount Rushmore...
[Possible mild spoilers]
A self-styled “Thrilleromedy" (via Jack Kenny, executive producer), Warehouse 13 serves up a scintillating mix of fantasy hijinks, humour and family drama. It is the most successful Syfy show ever, with a fourth installment already set for our screens next year, and it’s not hard to see why.
This, the second season, picks up immediately after the debut’s cliff-hanger (via a rather unhelpful “previously on...”). If you haven’t seen the first series, don’t let this put you off. Forty-five minutes later you’ll be fully clued as to who’s who and just what the heck is going on. Twelve episodes later you’ll be ordering season one, but simply because you want more.
Broadly, the set-up is thus: we follow the travails of US secret service agents Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), together with team-leader/exposition-dispenser Artie (Saul Rubinek) and teen tech-whizz Claudia (Allison Scagliotti). They work in a warehouse, in the arse-end of South Dakota, which houses powerful historical artefacts for safe keeping.
The idea is there were 12 preceding warehouses in various former empires dating back to Alexander the Great, each designed to keep these supernatural corrupting forces – each imbuing the user with unique capabilities ranging from increased-charm to apocalyptic-strength – out of the hands of evil-doers and the innocent yet naive public. The show’s producers call the show apolitical and the warehouse neutral in its mission – a “moving Switzerland” in the words of Kenny – which is curious, as I don’t recall the US officially having an “empire”, whether they choose to use the artifacts for themselves or not...
The episodes are produced with sufficient pizzazz that stuff like this rarely bothers you, however, allowing you to over-look the fact that the storylines are little more than re-jigged fantasy and dramatic tropes. And they are: whether it’s time-travel to a Mad Men office, a Freaky Friday-style body switcharoo, a Miss Congeniality-aping undercover agent on the catwalk, or a team of high-school wrestlers bagging super-strength and paying with their lives. That last one is almost a carbon-copy of a classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode (for wrestlers, see swimmers), and the vamp-staking Scooby Gang’s antics are an excellent touchstone for this warehouse troop more generally.
There’s the close-knit improvised family unit, intelligent females, fantasy setting, combination of whimsy with action, and the procedural element of hunting down individual foes whilst an overarching Big Bad lurks in the background throughout. The show doesn’t execute this quite as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or have characters quite as memorable – few things ever have or will – but it is a mighty fine effort all the same.
What’s more, it’d be wrong to damn the show as entirely formulaic when there are neat little twists also serving to make things more than black and white. Such as the femme fatale who seduces businessmen into parting with their money...for donations to free healthcare clinics after her brother died when his insurance company wouldn’t sanction a liver transplant. The cast themselves are also deceptively deep. Beneath his jock persona Pete is a recovering alcoholic with a deaf sister and a sweet side, Myka is a bookish agent who craves to be beautiful and strong, and Artie hides a dark cold-war past of national betrayal. Oh, and did I mention a key recurring character is the H.G. Wells, re-animated in the 21st century and boasting bigger grievances and breasts than you might expect? [Who might get a spin-off of her own - News Ed.]
The production values are similarly impressive – albeit with green-screen a little too creaky for complete suspension of disbelief – and the show is captivatingly shot and edited, right down to the unconventional 3D animations we get before ad-breaks. There’s also a fair amount of globe-trotting to (thankfully) get us away from South Dakota, as we take in New York, London, Moscow, Cern in Switzerland, etc. This might be a bit token at times (Big Ben and Frenchman in stripy shirt/beret for establishing shots, natch) but the scope is still impressive. The standout production asset is the accompanying musical score, however. Composer Edward Rogers was rightly Emmy nominated for his work and I defy you not to hum the theme tune for weeks afterwards.
Two final points/gripes. A couple of the episodes are literally out of order, on the wrong disc even, and the add-on Christmas episode is missing entirely. Such sloppiness is usually unforgivable for a series box-set, but this one’s so thoroughly entertaining we’ll let it slide. The other gripe? The villains are English. Again. Give it a rest please chaps, pip pip...
It’s mostly a case of quantity over quality with the offerings here, starting with the deleted scenes. There’s a plethora of these, but approximately two which might have added something to the show. The rest fall into the categories of “Well of course you left that out” and “Why did you film that in the first place?!”. Some are only three seconds long.
The stand-out contributions are the three commentaries with cast & crew, but even these are more amusing that revelatory. Elsewhere there’s a bunch of not-terribly-illuminating vignettes on topics like designing the warehouse and the artifacts, a sweary gag reel that is the least funny thing in the boxset, and the complete A Town Called Eureka cross-over episode. Since the latter makes next to no sense out of context, one can only assume it’s there principally to entice the viewer to buy another box set. That’ll have to wait though, as right now I’ve got better things to watch. Things like Warehouse 13 Season One.
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