Last night's Warehouse 13 drops us in a prison on a dark and stormy night, where prison inmates are being driven to suicide. But can prison cults and guilty hallucinations compete with last week's disco ball madness?
This week's episode, "Regrets," had all the markings of a fair episode that could have been pretty great. Pete and Myka get shipped off to a prison plagued by mysterious suicides, and it's not clear just what is behind it. Is it the new warden, who took office just before the suicides began? Is it the Reverend John HIll (played by Eureka's Joe Morton), an inmate whose religious teachings against guilt have courted controversy in the prison? Or is it the departure of the deeply Christian previous warden, whose presence seemed to calm the inmates?
Early in the episode, Pete makes a crack about this all probably being the result of some "demonic tchotchke" the new warden keeps on her desk, and it's nice to see that the writers avoided that in this episode, instead giving us an actual mystery complete with false leads and incorrect assumptions. It was also lovely to have Myka and Pete solve the mystery themselves rather than being fed vague kernels of information from Artie, even if it took a bit of plot contrivance to get Artie out of the conversation. We even get a little spookiness going with a traditional dark and stormy night that ends in violence.
Still, there was the sense that so much in this plotline could have been pushed farther. Morton's was our second consecutive Eureka cameo, and he felt underused as the slightly cultish, morally ambiguous preacher. Morton has the chops to push to the darker aspects of his character's personality, but when he eventually steps in to aid our artifact hunters, it's not as surprising as it should be. And given that the prison itself is causing the inmates to experience hallucinations associated with your regret, I would have expected their resulting behavior and suicides to be more — not disturbing (it wouldn't match the tone of the show), but inventive and odd. I also don't quite buy the quick resolution to Pete and Myka's own guilt; we haven't known the characters long enough for the experience to be cathartic, and it would have been more interesting if one of them had been left damaged by their encounter with the prison of regret.
The secondary storyline was a bit trivial, but a sufficiently pleasant sidetrip. I do still enjoy Claudia on inventory duty (What power, I wonder, do the Venus de Milo's detached arms hold?), and Artie's decision to punish her for stealing Alessandro Volta's magnetic suit to change a lightbulb by making her write repetitions on the chalkboard was wonderfully and appropriately old school. I do wonder where his comment about his father being lost but not dead will lead It's clear that Claudia and Artie have a lot in common, and it seems we're being set up for a storyline that will draw them even closer together.
"Regrets" was still a great deal more solid and balanced than the earliest episodes of Warehouse 13, but it didn't have quite the oomph that "Duped" gave us last week. Who would have thought that mirrors and disco balls would make for compelling television that prison cults?