I have to admit, I was a little bit frustrated with last night's midseason finale of Warehouse 13. There was so much to love about it, and it led up to a huge stonking cliffhanger that will keep us on pins and needles until April. But at the same time, I kept shouting at the TV screen, because all of the good guys had apparently forgotten the number one rule of adventure fiction: Never let the villain monologue. It never ends well. Of course, it could have something to do with who was the villain this time around.
No clue why this bothered me more than countless other examples of main characters acting in a non-sensible fashion on television. But it did. After Artie becomes Evil Artie, the Warehouse agents have approximately a dozen chances to shoot him (with their non-lethal ordinance, let's not forget) but they keep letting him get the drop on them. Over and over again. Yes, he's their old friend and comrade. Yes, it's terribly sad that he's turned evil and there may be no way to turn him good again. But he's preparing to wipe out billions of people — priorities, people!
Like I said, I normally have a huge tolerance for "idiot ball" storytelling, because people are flawed and mistakes are made. But the Warehouse 13 crew is usually so competent and good at thinking on their feet, it seems weird that they just stand around while Artie plays mind games with them, giving him time to reach for a magic noose, or later a magic stopwatch. Just shoot him, already! You have non-lethal ordnance for a reason.
And yet, it's sort of understandable. The whole team is in total shock, thanks to the death of Leena. The whole first half of the episode shows the Warehouse agents grieving, and features some of the best performances the show has ever seen — Pete, in particular, manages to go through a whole range of emotions without overplaying it at all. And once Pete sees Leena's ghost, the relief followed by crushing disappointment is pretty amazing. Myka, also, has some pretty intense emotional moments when she's the one to find the body and let the others know that "We're not okay." But probably the most indelible performance comes from the always-graceful Mrs. Frederic, who lets just a flicker of emotion show as she notes that she made a promise that she will now be unable to keep. Just crushing.
Leena's death also hangs over the crew for the rest of the episode, both sealing the notion that Artie is not just having a typical "whammied by an artifact" experience and underscoring that our heroes are vulnerable and this could be a high-body-count operation.
The rest of the episode is a typical Warehouse 13 globe-trotting scavenger hunt, as our heroes search for the lethal Chinese flower that Artie could use to unleash a plague, and the unstoppable dagger he'll need to release the flower from its containment. Claudia and Steve team up to look for the flower, and along the way debate whether they're the "B" team. (I especially love Steve saying that Claudia doesn't need any other reasons to stop Artie other than "You'll be dead.") Pete and Myka almost get to the dagger before Artie, but they make the aforementioned mistake of listening to him explain their personal failings. (Plus of course, they forget that Artie can probably eavesdrop on all their Farnsworth communications, something else that they might have thought of.)
In any case, the meat of the episode is really the confrontations between Evil Artie and his former friends, and these are sort of a mixed bag. There are some great moments here, especially the jarring thing where Artie calls Pete a dancing monkey and Pete actually starts making dancing monkey motions — because Pete is so used to making fun of himself, it's his reflexive response, and he's also used to Artie being mean to him in jest. And then it sort of dawns on Pete that this isn't like those other times, and he stops dancing around.
On the other hand, in an episode of really strong performances, the normally excellent Saul Rubinek stands out. Evil Artie is just too... scenery-chewing for my taste, I guess. There are too many scenes where Evil Artie goes into a rant about how these people have ruined his life and he wants to be free of them, and it doesn't feel like an evil version of regular Artie so much as Artie going way over the top into mustache-twirling. I'd almost rather have seen a more understated, ruthlessly sly Evil Artie, rather than a ranting, supervillain version. Saul Rubinek does "twinkle in his eye" so well, it would have been nice to see Artie killing people with that same lovable, cute gruffness.
At the same time, though, the episode does a pretty good job of playing with the premise of "what if one of the good guys went completely bad?". We already sort of had that a couple years ago with H.G. Wells — but this time around, in addition to knowing all about artifacts and knowing his way around the Warehouse, Artie also knows his team in and out and can out-think them and play head games with them.
(Oh, and it was great to see that one moment of snippiness from the real Brother Data, who's all sweet and friendly until he goes, "Give me my damn astrolabe back" in one parting shot. Excellent.)
In any case, Artie's plan works, and he unleashes the magic orchid thingy — although one wonders who's going to be left alive to give Artie the astrolabe after this? And at the last moment, Claudia has some realization, which seems to involve the dagger being the cure for Artie's evilness. So she stabs Artie, and it does seem to have some effect — but it's too late, because the orchid is already unleashing the sweating sickness on everybody, including all of our heroes.
This was a pretty solid episode, in spite of the two Artie-related things that bugged me a little — and more importantly, it caps off a remarkably solid run of episodes this summer. Looking forward to seeing where the show goes next spring.