Last night's season premiere of Warehouse 13 reminded us why we're glad Warehouse is Syfy's biggest success story right now. It's got heart. It's full of hope for our strange world. And it's in love with science fiction. Spoilers ahead...
It's trendy to be "dark" and twisted on television, but there's nothing wrong with a cheery, upbeat show. Like The Middleman, which we're still in mourning for — and which we suspect could have been just as big a hit if it had been on Syfy instead of ABC Family — Warehouse 13 is a positive show that believes there's good in people, and it's also chock full of genre in-jokes and detritus from science fiction's past.
It's not really much of a criticism of Warehouse 13 to say that it's not quite as clever as The Middleman was — but the two shows do share a certain ethos. If the Middleman's vault had been just a bit bigger and more cavernous, you could imagine it turning into Artie's warehouse. Both shows take nothing seriously, but still wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Ever since Syfy changed its name and started adding more reality TV shows to its mix, people have been accusing the channel of wanting to abandon its science fiction roots and spurn its geek audience. So it's encouraging that last night's Warehouse 13, more than any other episode so far, was a love letter to science fiction. There were the usual gadgets and toys, but also we met a new recurring adversary — the cryogenically preserved H.G. Wells, who turns out to have been a preternaturally sassy young woman, in a clever twist. My favorite scene of the episode is the one where she zaps Pete and Myka onto the ceiling using an anti-gravity device. Myka namechecks Cavorite, the anti-gravity metal that H.G. Wells invented, and Pete thinks "cavorite" is an unflattering term for a certain type of lady. It's a brilliant piece of writing, and I'm going to start calling people "cavorites" from now on. (Oh, and I love, "Do all your dates work out this way?" "On a scale of one to ten, I'm giving this a seven.")
It all culminates with a showdown at an M.C. Escher vault that manages to look much, much better than the Escher-themed Doctor Who episode, "Castrovalva." (Which admittedly set the bar pretty low.)
Besides being a love letter to science fiction, last night's season opener struck a super-hopeful tone. All of our main characters were put into deadly jeopardy, but nobody actually died. We were teased with the possibility that somebody might be a traitor, but it turned out nobody actually was — it was just another gizmo, making Leena do the evil McPherson's bidding. When Claudia goes on the run after being suspected of treachery, Artie tracks her down and professes his belief in her, with total good humor. He offers to help her figure out what's going on — "I'm kind of smart" — and it's as if a mixture of faith and smartness can surmount any obstacles, even an incriminating video.
Meanwhile, C.C.H. Pounder continues to rule every scene she's in — even in a coma, she's a fountain of wisdom, and if she ever wants to strangle you, you should just let her. It's probably for a good reason.
It all turns a bit spiritual when we find out that on using the Phoenix device, which allows you to cheat death, McPherson saw hopelessness and darkness on the edge of death. But when Artie uses the device, he sees nothing but hope and peace. (But too bad about Mrs. Frederic's chauffeur, who has to die so Artie can live. Oops.)
Anyway, I'm down with seeing more of Evil H.G. Wells snogging everybody and proving what a cavorite she is. And I continue to love the Artie-Claudia relationship, which feels like it's becoming the real heart of this show. Most of all, I'm glad to see a show that has faith in people, and that isn't ashamed of its love for science fiction, getting a lot of viewers as a result.