Note: The following review contains spoilers for all aired episodes of Warehouse 13, including the most recent, “The 40th Floor.”
It’s always fantastic when a show that you’ve loved for years truly shakes up your expectations and produces an episode that you could have never seen coming. That is the case for this week’s Warehouse 13, “The 40th Floor,” which takes the show to a level of darkness and personal danger for the characters that is unmatched to date. From the moment the episode opens on a gutwrenching scene of a Regent whom we’ve met in the past being brutally tortured and ultimately murdered with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory doorknob by Agent Stukowski, one could instantly tell that it would be an hour of Warehouse 13 unlike any other. In many ways, it’s more epic, high-octane, and climactic than both of its previous season finales combined and we still have 4 weeks to go until the end of the season. I honestly fear for the lives and well-being of all of our characters, because if the enemy can be this formidable this relatively early, I can imagine the next bunch of episodes being emotionally devastating in all sorts of colorful ways.
And the episode doesn’t only have the sort of heartpounding suspense most often associated with a season finale but ends on a superb twist that could have been at home in one, as well. The revelation that Jane, the Regent played by Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager‘s Captain Janeway), is Pete’s mom is likely the biggest and best surprise the show has unveiled in its past two and half seasons of life. It explains so much. For the first time, we get an indication of how and why Pete was on the Warehouse’s radar in the first place–in other words, how and why it became aware of his abilities (as we know from last season, the Warehouse itself has a level of sentience). It seems that each Warehouse agent had a connection to some sort of artifact at some point, unbeknownst to them before being chosen. Last week, we learned that Myka’s former partner and lover died as the result of an artifact; the course of Claudia’s entire life was shaped by Rhetticus’ compass; Artie had been tracking down artifacts to trade with the Russians before becoming an agent; Jinks seems to have been discovered due to his proximity to Hendrix’s guitar, though it’s possible there was an artifact in his past of which he isn’t aware yet, perhaps related to his sister’s death, his ability to detect lies, or both.
Before, it seemed that both Pete and Myka were selected because of Artie and by extension Mrs. Frederick and/or the Warehouse becoming aware of them during their gig guarding the president at the museum in the pilot. Now, however, two episodes in a row reveal the truth. Again, Myka crossed paths with an artifact, and Pete, whether or not he did, is the son of a Regent, who we learn in this episode for the first time, are indeed former Warehouse agents, adding another piece to the puzzle. Aha! So not all Warehouse agents die tragically, go crazy, or go into virtual hiding. Many of the ones who survive become Regents.
As far as Pete is concerned, this is also a fascinating opportunity to explore his past, since in the past, we heard of his father who died tragically in a fire after Pete experienced an early bad vibe, and of his younger, deaf sister, who introduced him to comic books (another point of significance and very low-key foreshadowing: the first time we see Pete in this episode, he is wearing an Iron Shadow t-shirt, the fictional comic book character he loved as a child), but never of his mother. She seemed to not have been a major presence in his life growing up, and this is a brilliant explanation. I wonder if she was already a Regent by the time he was born (or even retired due to his birth) or if she was still an active agent, constantly on the road. I hope we get more insight into this over the next few weeks.
Either way, I already love Jane Lattimer. Kate Mulgrew plays her with a similarly kind, wise, yet vaguely prickly gumption that made Captain Janeway such a wonderful character. She is a strong, no-nonsense woman who at the same time is neither humorless nor cold. In many ways, she reminds me a great deal of Myka, with whom she instantly gets along so well. In retrospect, these character commonalities might even partially explain why Pete has been so comfortable with Myka these past few years. It is also interesting to note that, even before we learn of Jane’s true identity, she seems quite well-versed in how to handle oneself when trying to escape a burning building, which is likely the result of having been married to a fireman.
Speaking of said burning building, this entire sequence is easily the most heart-pounding in the series’ history, due to the death toll and the fact that the pernicious flames seem to cut them off at every turn. Even under such dire circumstances, however, our characters remain brave and smart, Artie using Frank Lloyd Wright’s son’s pick up sticks to form a ladder, and Jane and Myka using the fire hoses to shimmy down the elevator shaft (not to mention Claudia hacking the henchman’s GPS). The Berlin Wall graffiti can is also an extremely clever concept for an artifact (and led to some of the best special effects we’ve seen on the show to date), and Pete’s idea of neutralizing the anarchy symbol with a peace sign a truly brilliant solution. I love that with this action he is saving not only his beloved partner but, unbeknownst to him, his mom, as well.
After the revelation of Pete’s mother, the second biggest twist of the episode has to be what happens to Jinks upon being confronted with Mrs. Frederic’s do-not-mess-with-this-woman methods. After a unusually prolonged absence, Mrs. F returns with a vengeance this week, torturing Agent Stukowski in an attempt to secure information from her. We always knew that Mrs. Frederic was capable of being a Very Scary Person, but never before have we seen her this furious, like a lioness, attacking the woman who had brutalized and killed her friends. And poor Jinksy. Being that philosophically disturbed by her methods at this moment in time is completely understandable. You also have to give him credit for bravery by actually standing up to someone as intimidating as she. On the other hand, pulling his gun on her also seems inherently unwise, not only due to Mrs. Frederic being extremely powerful but also because, as we see, it gives Sally the advantage she needs to escape. Though he may not be comfortable with the idea of torturing Sally, the fact that she is a person who has actually been able to get around his natural lie detector likely should have indicated to him that he should have been more on his guard with her than he actually was. Instead, he allowed his discomfort to distract him from keeping his eye on her. He was focusing on Mrs. Frederic’s questionable actions rather than Sally’s far worse previous ones, which is in character and, again, understandable, but not a particularly smart move.
And, as he tells Claudia afterwards, Mrs. Frederic punishes him by firing him. Except I’m not sure if I quite believe that she actually did. As angry as she might have been at him, Irene Frederic is an extremely intelligent woman, and I could also see her taking note of how admirable and brave it was for him to stick to his principles, even in the face of someone as powerful as she. She told him that there would be consequences to his decision, and my theory is that that consequence is that she is going to have him go undercover at this Evil Organization and pretend to have been a disenchanted Warehouse agent to gain intel on them and to perhaps sabotage their efforts. This Evil Organization seems as if it thinks it can convince Jinksy to join their ranks, and yet I cannot imagine a man so sickened by any form of torture, even against a villain to truly be convinced to join an organization that murders with impunity and has in fact almost killed him in the past. Therefore, my guess is that if Jinks does seem to join this organization in upcoming episodes, it will be at Mrs. Frederic’s behest. Another option is that he has actually been fired and chooses to go undercover with the bad guys in order to prove to her that there is a better way to win. Either way, Claudia’s reaction to losing Steve is heartbreaking and beautifully underplayed.
And now comes the question of who the people in this Evil Organization could possibly be. The fact that the man’s face continues to be obscured seems to indicate that it’s someone we know, though no one comes to mind. I keep listing possible options, then dismissing them. As soon as my partner and I learned that Jane is Pete’s mom, we wondered whether the Bad Guy might be Pete’s dad, though I’m not quite sure how feasible that would be. Because this is a fantasy series, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it couldn’t happen, but tarnishing the legacy of Pete’s father would be a fairly major deal, and I’m not sure if the writers would want to go in that direction. Hmm…Could the Bad Guy be Mr. Frederic?