Note: The following review contains spoilers for all aired episodes of Warehouse 13, including the most recent, “Secret Santa.”
As with Eureka‘s special holiday episode (and can I just take a moment to thank the people at Syfy for making this, one of the greatest ideas in a long time–special Christmas installments of its two most delightful series–happen?), Warehouse 13‘s stellar hour doesn’t fall into the show’s regular continuity, at least from a chronological perspective, and I am similarly glad about that. Actually, in Warehouse 13‘s case, I’m even more pleased, because after the stunning cliffhanger that closed off the second season proper, I wouldn’t want Myka’s decision to leave the Warehouse resolved too easily. To justify that powerful ending, Myka needs to come around on her own, and it would seem too simple and pat (not to mention overly sentimental) had the holiday season been the thing to ease all of her doubts and convince her to return home. The other option, not having Myka present at all, or at least not with the rest of the team, might have been a dramatically interesting idea that could have added a nice layer of melancholy to the proceedings, but I’m not sorry that for Warehouse 13‘s first (and perhaps only) holiday episode that they decided to give us such a fun, cheery, and even a bit gleefully twisted Christmas treat. Much like the Eureka episode that immediately preceded it, this episode is about family, both the one you were born into and the one you made yourself. Thematically, this celebration of the Warehouse 13 family also indicates indirectly what one can hope Myka will soon realize–that this is where she really belongs.
Interestingly, whereas Eureka mainly focuses on the friends one accumulates in one’s life that makes up one’s new family–though Carter and Zoey are blood relations, as are Allison and Kevin, the episode’s focus is not on these relationships per se–Warehouse 13‘s “Secret Santa” is as much about healing the rifts between estranged family members as it is about cultivating the newer relationships. This, again, also thematically comments on Myka’s current split from the Warehouse, foreshadowing her eventual return, I hope and assume. What I like so much about the way the plot transpires is that, while a large portion of it revolves around Artie finally reuniting with the father he hasn’t had contact with in a vast number of years, the reason these wounds finally heal are due to the actions of Claudia, who happens upon Artie’s dad while trying to find him the perfect present–his childhood piano. In other words, a member of Artie’s new family helps lead the way to sealing the rift with his birth family.
There is also some nice irony in the fact that Artie is the one Claudia blamed for many years for separating her from her brother, Joshua, although he is also the one who helped reunite her with him as well. She is now repaying the favor. It is no coincidence that Joshua appears in this episode, as well, I feel, from a symbolic perspective. Claudia has made Artie her surrogate father of sorts, to his begrudging reluctance, and it is both fitting and touching that she bring his father back into his life, in her uniquely Claudia manner–busybodyish yet lovable. I love how much Artie and his father (played by the legendary Judd Hirsch with sensitivity and kindness) are alike, despite themselves, and I love how realistic their reconnection is, no to mention how steeped it is in the history of the show. My only minor quibble is that neither of them mentions the word, “Hanukkah,” given that they are Jewish. Since Hanukkah is so much earlier than Christmas this year, however, I will just assume they’ve already finished celebrating.
The episode then parallels Artie and his dad with the “artifact of the week” plot, which centers on a high-powered corporate executive, Larry, who has been ignoring his daughter lately whilst in pursuit of money and greed. As the episode begins, we find him being terrorized by what seems to be a malicious Santa Claus, who threatens him with erasure if he fails to become a better person by Christmas, like a very nasty Ghost of Christmas Whatsit. This Santa turns out to be an alternate version of Larry himself, one who claims that he will be the caring dad that his little girl, Callie, needs so badly. This punishing figure, however, seems far more malevolent than the real Larry, whose wrongdoings are the result of a lack of effort on his part rather than cruelty. The artifact-conjured-up “Santa Larry” may think he has the girl’s best interests at heart, but what she needs is her real dad, not a wish fulfillment version to replace him. Furthermore, “Santa Larry” reveals himself to be a three-dimensional embodiment of “Be careful what you wish for.” Guest star Paul Blackthorne, who has been sorely missed on Syfy since long before the spelling of the channel’s name changed and he was star of The Dresden Files, does a fantastic job of making both the weak Larry and the intimidating Santa Larry two distinct parts . Incidentally, this episode also marks a fun reunion between Blackthorne and Joanne Kelley, who played the sexy vampire, Bianca, on Dresden. What is most nifty about the two plots is that the defeat of the monstrous version of Larry parallels the metaphorical dragons both Artie and his dad have to slaughter in order to recover from the hurt they have each inflicted upon one another in the past, to pave the way for a new relationship in the future. In many ways, Artie and his father’s relationship is just as new now as the family that Artie chose (or that chose him, more precisely), and this episode cements the fusion of both.
From start to finish, the episode is an utter delight, indulging in holiday cheer, even as it cheekily tweaks it in the form of the bad Santa and his bag of naughty tricks. If this isn’t the only Christmas episode this year with evil toy soldiers, I would be extremely surprised. I love the insult added to the injury that not only do Pete and Myka have to work on Christmas, but they have to do so in Los Angeles, one of the least Christmasy places imaginable. I love the artifact t-shirts Claudia make for the gang. I adore the holiday-infused opening credits, the storybook pop-ups at the episode’s start and finish, and the commercial animations, not to mention that we got a new episode of Warehouse 13 on an off-season. This episode was obviously made with a lot of love on the part of its entire creative team, and it shows. What a fantastic holiday present!