Note: The following review contains spoilers for all aired episodes of Warehouse 13, including the most recent, “Past Imperfect.”
As much as last week’s “Don’t Hate the Player” filled me with all kinds of geeky joy, in some ways, I found this week’s episode, “Past Imperfect” by Warehouse 13 co-executive producer Nell Scovell, even more satisfying. I have always been a sucker for continuity and specifically episodes of series that resolve long-running issues that have been simmering away for a long time underneath the surface, and this is a particularly fantastic one. Besides telling a nice, tightly crafted mystery, it solves a key piece of backstory for Myka, a question that has been plaguing her since before the very first episode, which is particularly nifty for a number of reasons–firstly because it hasn’t been brought up in a very long time, and it is always gratifying when shows confirm that past history is not forgotten (and they even got the same actor back to play Myka’s deceased lover, Sam, Gabriel Hogan, also known among culty genre fans as Thomas from Wonderfalls); secondly because Myka’s recent behavior indirectly springs in large part from this same source and so confronting these issues head-on helps address who Myka is as a person now, as well; and thirdly because it helps bring the series back around to its core partnership, Pete and Myka. As great as it is that the world of Warehouse 13 continues to expand and gain complexity, it’s also wonderful that the series never forgets its roots and keeps coming back to this friendship as the true heart of the show.
In many ways, Myka seems to have always defined herself by her partnerships and judged herself on whether she had been able to live up to them. She also bears far more burden for any given accident or mistake she happens to make than she rightly deserves. This is why she left the Warehouse at the end of the second season. She felt that she let her partner (and the rest of her new extended family and by extension, the entire world) down when she failed to judge H. G. Wells correctly. It is significant to note, however, that although that judgment seemed to be wrong, her initial impulse that there was more to Helena than being a simple villain did prove to be correct in the long run, indicating that she is more perceptive than she gives herself credit for when she “fails.” No one blamed Myka for the near-destruction of the world but Myka. Even the Regents were fooled by H.G., after all, but Myka holds herself to such an impossibly high standard that she ironically ended up hurting her new partner, Pete, more by abandoning him than she did by accidentally aiding someone with global destruction on the brain.
But this impulse to run away when she perceives herself to have messed up really has its roots in Sam’s death. She lost her partner and lover due to an unexplained time discrepancy. He ran to nail the perp a few seconds too early, while Myka had worried that she had been a few seconds late, and although she does come to finally accept that it wasn’t her fault in the first season’s “Regrets,” that pesky question of what exactly had happened had never been answered. Her guilt over the failure to stop his death merely became transmuted into guilt over failure to nail his killer. And this episode adds an even more interesting piece to the puzzle that is Myka Bering when we learn that back in the old days, she had been more like Pete–more emotional, more impulsive in solving a case–whereas Sam had been more like the Myka we know today–focused, a bit guarded–which leaves one to assume that it is Sam’s death that led her to close down the way she has and to be so rule-oriented and hard on herself. It’s always more interesting when a character’s past is the opposite of what one would expect, such as in “3…2…1…,” in which we learned that Helena wasn’t a complete sociopathic wreck in the years following her daughter’s death.
This becomes even more fascinating when one adds Pete to the equation, because with Myka once again hot on the trail, she regresses to her old self (the men she used to work with don’t even realize how much she’s changed since then, since she falls right back into the habits by which they define her), leaving Pete to take on Myka’s usual role. Joanne Kelley and Eddie McClintock both act the hell out of their characters here. Their performances and chemistry are always so natural when they are being more playful and actiony that it sometimes takes an episode like this or “Trials” from earlier this year to remind us just how moving they can be when focusing on their characters’ inner emotions.
This is an episode full of personal discoveries for the two characters. I love that Pete–often considered the childish one of the two–is the one who figures out most parts of the case before Myka (by trying to think like her and follow her usual example) but surreptitiously nudges her in the right directions, because he knows that this is a dragon that, psychologically, she has to beat on her own. I also love that he allows her to break down when she needs to but also is there for her to help her realize that she can’t run away as she did when she left Denver after Sam’s death and the Warehouse after Helena’s betrayal. I’ve always been fond of Pete’s “pep talks” to Myka. This might be my favorite example since the one he gave her in the second season’s “Age Before Beauty,” because he is always honest and straightforward with her, rather than schmaltzy or condescending, as less well-handled pep talks can sometimes come across in films and TV. It speaks volumes about their friendship and their respect for one another.
And perhaps the most impressive revelation of all, from a writing perspective, is that the reason behind this pesky question of time and why Sam’s death happened turns out to have been an artifact all along. I love this, because it links Myka’s very destiny to the Warehouse. All of this time, before she even knew what an artifact was, she was connected to one–her very life had been irrevocably altered by it, in fact, just as a whole slew of artifacts would come to irrevocably alter it again a while later. As mentioned by Fargo and Claudia when they visited one another’s respective shows last year, on Eureka, the odd and the unexplained are always eventually explained by science, whereas on Warehouse 13, it is always an artifact, so it stands to reason that the major odd and unexplained event of Myka’s life could be attributed to an artifact. It also makes me wonder whether there is any connection between that fact and the fact that Myka pinged Mrs. Frederic’s agent-material-dar. We don’t yet know how she discovers potential agents and their abilities, and comes to select them for service, but I like the idea that she could somehow tell that Myka had been affected by an artifact in her past. On a separate note, I’m also very impressed with the maturity and grace with which the episode handled the issue of Sam’s ex-wife, refraining from making her a bitter harridan or an enemy for Myka, and instead painting them as two women in an awkward situation who still both loved this man very much and want to see his killer punished.
Moving on to the subplot, it is great seeing partners Claudia and Jinksy in the field once again, doing their thing, and the fact that they came back with a brand-new agent of sorts is even more delightful. The idea of taking in a new stray feels just so perfect for the show, and there is a lot of potential for amusing plot material later. Here’s hoping we see the Warehouse’s new “master” more often than Myka’s pet ferret. I absolutely adore the concept of the animal-mind-reading fezzes (yay Doctor Who shout-outs!) and how cleverly that was woven in with the Agent Stukowski mystery, not to mention the quest to catch that damn scarab and the hilarity of Claudia’s literally Pavlovian drooling–oh the Warehouse 13iniess of it all! It is also, of course, a huge relief that the gang finally knows who their enemy is, even though they don’t yet know about the bugs she let loose in the Warehouse, which I’m going to assume are responsible for both Pete and Jinks’ purple gloves independently failing. Coincidence? I think not.