The series finale of Warehouse 13 was pretty lovely, even if you didn't agree with every choice the show made in its final hours. If you'd followed the show since the beginning, this was a nice send-off that summed up what made people feel so passionate about these characters.
Here are eight different ways of looking at the show, now that it's over:
1. It's an extended comedy sketch about thinking on your feet
In "Endless," the Warehouse might be going away, and everybody has to sit down and relive their favorite memory of working there, through the focal point of some magical doohickey. This being Warehouse 13, this doesn't lead to a clip show, or even any moments that feel like they were turning points, but instead some bizarrely silly set pieces in which the characters get to be clever and nimble one last time. Including a last look at H.G. Wells being dashing, Claudia and the gang dancing for their lives with a deadly chorus line, and Myka being a detective and fighting a gang of ninjas. (Side note: "used to be a man" jokes really are beneath this show. I expected better.) The finale made a case that this was a comedy at heart, with characters whose main strength is their ability to be silly and creative in a tight spot.
2. Loss isn't always as inevitable as you think it is.
The biggest surprise in the finale was meeting Artie's son, whom we've never heard about before... and he's not actually dead. You almost assume that's where this is going. Artie is exploring this nice moment with his son, when they went on a case together, and you think he's about to say "That was the last nice moment we had together, before he accidentally touched Grover Cleveland's mustache trimmer, and... sob." But no. He's just living in SoCal or something. Artie just keeps his relationship with his son separate from his job, while also trying to be a dad to Claudia. And then we also get a flashback to when Leena joined the team, and used her psychic aura-detecting powers to realize that she was going to die in the Warehouse. In this case, we know that Leena's right, and that Artie's going to kill her — but her acceptance, once again, shows that some sacrifices can't be considered a total loss.
3. This was a show about how wielding power required understanding context
You couldn't use Dorothy Parker's glasses or Houdini's straitjacket unless you understood what those objects were and what meaning they had to their original owners. And the villains of the show tended to be people who wanted to use items forged by one person's idiosyncratic pain for their own ambition or revenge, as weapons or tools. This last mini-season got pretty deep into Artifact Theory, what with Paracelsus and Evil Benedict trying to combine and duplicate and mash up artifacts — and the more the rules got stretched and warped, the less they entirely seemed to make sense. But that only makes you appreciate Artie, who delivers the five-second biography of the artifact's original owner, a bit more. Knowing the context of the item means being able to control it rather than just wield it. And a lesson in understanding context can be helpful in all sorts of areas, really.
4. This was a show about loving your job, maybe too much.
In "Endless," nobody wants the Warehouse to move — least of all Pete, who's having kind of a meltdown about it. The whole exercise of reliving great moments as Warehouse agents only makes everyone more upset, and the benign figure of Mrs. Frederic seems more and more like a mother hen. Maybe the biggest escapist fantasy here was always loving your job and having benign, well-adjusted bosses? People who nurture you rather than try and destroy your psyche?
5. At some point, the question of Warehouse employees winding up "crazy, evil or dead" was settled. I'm not saying those options were taken off the table — these folks could still wind up any of those three. (I'm guessing not, though.) But after Hugo went crazy, Artie turned evil and Steve died, these things apparently lost some of their sting. I can't remember the last time anybody on this show mentioned their fear of those outcomes — and this final episode is all about how leaving the Warehouse is the worst thing that could happen to them. Nobody ever says, "Hey. At least with the Warehouse moving, we're not going to end up C, E or D."
So even if it wasn't exactly signposted, maybe this show was leading us to a place where that fear of hurting yourself or others no longer holds so much power. Maybe that was an arc over the course of the show, and last night was its endpoint.
6. This was a show about love. And for most of its run, it was about the love of friends who become a de facto family, rather than romantic love. Most of this show's attempts at exploring romance (Kelly, Hardware Store Guy) were so lackluster, even the writers admitted defeat a little. Meanwhile, the relationships among the core characters were the lifeblood of the show, and most shows would kill to have such effortless chemistry among their main cast. In the finale, the strongest love — the love that's really explored — is the love of the Warehouse, and it's sort of hinted that our gang pours out enough love in their testimonials that the Warehouse changes its mind about moving. In the midst of that, Pete and Myka find each other as well — but the real moment of requited love is when Artie pours out his hurt and outrage to the Warehouse until at last, it sends him an apple. (And if I choose to believe that after this episode, Pete and Myka went on three dates and then had a "Lou Dates Mary" moment, then I think the show still leaves that possibility open.)
7. It's a show about necromancers who use the possessions of dead people instead of their actual bodies. Look at it this way: the Warehouse agents haven't only been "snagging, bagging and tagging" for at least a couple years now. Whatever hesitance about using artifacts they might once have felt (because "there's always a downside") has largely faded — Artie now routinely pulls out tuning forks and magic widgets. He kept Claudia's sister in a coma for a decade using a record player and some bands. And that feels more realistic, honestly — but these aren't just Men in Black-esque agents who lock dangerous stuff away, they're sorcerers who use knowledge to control magic. Watching the final episode, with Mrs. Frederic communing with the Warehouse via the big memory swirl thingy, made it clearer than ever. They draw power from the dreams and loss of people who died, and the thing that keeps them from becoming monsters is their connection to each other.
8. It's a more inclusive, less dehumanizing version of the standard hero origin. Two things stand out in the final episode: Pete feels that he's become a better person as a Warehouse agent, and fears that he will backslide without the Warehouse. And Claudia realizes she still has a choice about becoming the next Caretaker, even after all of the ways she's taken advantage of her Caretaker-in-waiting status lately. Myka's big scene with Pete is as much about convincing him that he's not going to lose the new people in his life — nor can he turn back into who he was five years ago, as it is about romance. Pete's gone through a heroic origin story that's less about being "chosen" and pointed towards a grand destiny like one of Joseph Campbell's endless identical soup cans, and more about becoming less of a jerk as he works for something bigger, with people who care about him. And meanwhile, Claudia has been "chosen" for greatness — when she was a kid, apparently — but it means nothing unless she can still be her own person. And indeed, when she does become the Caretaker, years later, she still keeps the same colorful eye makeup and snarky disposition. The stories of Pete and Claudia (and the rest of the crew) were useful correctives to the more usual heroic-origin, coming-to-power stories that seem to be the only option sometimes. And that's another reason we'll miss this show.