Note: The following review contains spoilers for all aired episodes of Warehouse 13, including the most recent, “Beyond Our Control.”
Last week’s Warehouse 13 tweaked classic comic books. This week’s target? B-movies. So far, what is most thrilling about this season is that the writers are taking more and more advantage of the infinite potential of the series’ concept. The first season established the formula of “object or person-wielding-object causes weird things to happen somewhere; Lattimer and Bering investigate.” As the first season progressed, the writers started to riff on the formula in creative ways, such as “Breakdown,” the “bottle episode” in which Pete, Myka, and Claudia had to save the warehouse from destruction-by-silly-string (among other things), and “Duped,” the episode in which the Studio 54 mirrorball accidentally conspires with Lewis Carroll’s mirror to trap Myka through the looking glass. And this season is starting to have even more fun with the practically “endless wonder” and possibilities of Warehouse 13.
Last season, I might never have imagined an episode of Warehouse 13 that involved, as Allison Scagliotti tweeted, “cowboys, gladiators, squawking Farnsworths, and a Snuggie.” And she didn’t even mention the World War II marines, the gangster, the mad scientist, or the killer, magnetic robot. ”Beyond Our Control” presents practically every geektastic, B-movie reference one could think of, satirizing everything from their cheeseball, overwrought dialogue to their silly effects, while also managing to add to the series’ Farnsworth mythology–steampunk 3D projector that brings film to life, for the win–not to mention throwing in some excellent meta jokes and references for good measure, my favorite being the act break in which Pete indicates that if someone fast forwards through commercials, it could spell their doom. Naturally, the next thing I did (along with countless others, I’m sure) was to fast forward through the commercials. Another woven-in, subtle meta joke is that Warehouse 13 itself can be seen as an homage to B-movies, though this is the first time it has acknowledged that nuance as directly.
The episode also manages some nice plotting misdirects, first via Claudia whose tinkering with her Farnsworth, in an attempt to upgrade it, initially seems to be a potential cause for what is going on, when what is actually happening is that the Farnsworths are reacting to the projector, since they are on the same frequency. Another excellent misdirect was actually accomplished through the opening “Previously on Warehouse 13” sequence, which reminded us over and over about H.G. Wells. By the time people who seem to be coming from different historical time periods, start appearing throughout town, it seems very likely that a time machine might be involved, even if one might have questioned how she was able to achieve her dream so swiftly. In another way of looking at things, television and film are time machines of sorts, not only capturing moments in time forever but showing us fictional depiction of any other time period imaginable, so this week’s plot fits into the season’s central brewing themes on multiple levels. I also happen to love that all of the trouble this week is caused by a woman simply trying to curl up at home in her slanket, microwave some popcorn, and watch some movies on her TV, which is basically what we’re doing at that moment, give or take a slanket.
Incidentally, the manner in which this episode builds on the setting and a character established in the previous episode is quite lovely, and it seems as if the show is setting up two potential recurring love interests for Pete and Claudia, which is welcome in my book. Warehouse 13 has a very small and insular cast, so expanding their universe and social group is definitely wise, I feel. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I feel that the show needs a larger ensemble but that it proves very effective when shows with smaller ensembles, like The X-Files, Supernatural, Xena, etc. eventually amass a recurring cast of friends, love interests, enemies, family members, etc, to draw upon in order to tell stories, so I approve. The reason the townspeople don’t take to Myka and Pete is also incredibly amusing. My assumption was that it was because they were new people from the big, outside world, and that they hadn’t made much of an effort with their neighbors. It is actually because Warehouse 13′s cover is a warehouse for the IRS. This reveal is clever, timely, and makes sense in the context of the story, while avoiding the small-town close-minded stereotype–very well-handled. And speaking of continuity, when Claudia knocks out Todd and tells Myka she tried one of her moves, this is a follow-up to last year’s “Breakdown,” when Myka promised to teach Claudia how to do some of the things she does.
While Pete, Myka, Claudia, and Artie are busy trying to save the town from TV gone awry, Mrs. Frederic and the Regents are trying to save Leena from a remnant of MacPherson that had continued to reside in her head. This was another sophisticated storytelling misdirect–a misdirect within a misdirect, actually–this one carried over from the previous episode. Before, it seemed that MacPherson’s “ghost” appearing to Artie was related to Leena’s dizzy spells, but by the end of “Mild Mannered,” the show seemed to confirm that they weren’t related at all. Now, in this episode, yes, they remain not directly connected, however, we do find out that there is yet another “ghost” of MacPherson haunting Leena, one which seems to remain at the close of the episode–or at least an echo of it– even after Mrs. Frederic believes herself to have cured her. Leena’s sketch looks vaguely like a pair of headphones. Interesting. Also interesting is how this vestige of MacPherson repeats the fearful words MacPherson spoke about there being nothing but a dark void after death, something which Artie experienced the opposite of during his short-lived death. It seems that MacPherson, to a large extent, truly was driven by fear.
On a thematic level, Raymond St. James, the fictional actor who appears in all of the B-movies throughout the episode (played by Philip Winchester, and how often does one get an opportunity to play so many fun, campy roles in such a brief amount of time?), is also linked to MacPherson. St. James continues to live on through film and the hearts of his fans just as much as MacPherson continues to haunt the lives of the people he affected–both literally and figuratively. The parallel grows even stronger when one takes the arc of St. James’ films, aired in chronological order, into account. In his early films, he is a hero–a US Marine, a cowboy, and then a gladiator. Then, as his career progresses, he starts being cast in villain roles, which grow in intensity from that of a petty criminal to a lunatic hellbent on power and world domination. A good guy who eventually transforms into a practically sociopathic killer with delusions of grandeur…Sound familiar?
All in all, a very fun episode that revels in all of the geeky possibilities of a show that just gets better and better. Imagine greater, indeed.