This overview encompasses the first three seasons as that is all that has aired at this time.
When someone describes the Syfy series Warehouse 13, the words ‘unholy mix of’ usually followed by at least ‘X-Files’ or ‘Indiana Jones’ seems to come up. It’s about the most accurate description of the scifi drama but not a discouraging one. Warehouse 13 may be a mix of different shows but it’s the right mix, the perfect storm of genres, twists, actors, and production which makes for one very fun ride.
Warehouse 13 is built into the side of a mountain in South Dakota and holds powerful artifacts from all over the world. The idea is that events and people can imbue items with something of mystical/magical/scientifically explainable abilities. It is kind of a physics issue actually, because energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed. During a catastrophic or highly emotional event, energy is transformed then trapped inside an object. That energy then affects the world around them when activated. Sometimes one person simply using an item for most of their life can create an artifact, as it becomes an extension of their psyche and thereby attracts energy. And that’s about as science-y as I’m going to get on this subject.
Anyway, this makes the items dangerous and they have to be kept from running amuck. It is similar to the late 80s tv show Friday the 13th in that the main characters have to hunt down these artifacts, only in this case the protagonists are Secret Service agents, this is a government run (sorta) facility and so far the Devil has nothing to do with the reason these items exists.
The agents are Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) and Peter Lattimer (Eddie McClintock), your typical odd couple law enforcement partners. Myka is more straight laced while Peter is a goof ball. While the dynamic is pretty much cliché in this day and age, Kelly and McClintock are able to keep it fresh several ways.
For one, there is no overt sexual tension between the two leads. It never fails that when you get a male/female partnership the writers end up putting in the “they secretly want to hook up” vibe which becomes a ‘will they/won’t they’ tug. While that can be fun, it’s nice to see a show that can go three seasons without degrading into the trope. There is still the chance the characters will start to swim that way, they haven’t completely degraded into a brother/sister relationship, but for the time being the show doesn’t waste time with that romantic subplot which allows more time for everything else.
Secondly, Kelly and McClintock have wonderful chemistry together and play off each other perfectly. You could believe that they are either siblings or an old married couple, take your pick. When you get two main characters who work so well you can’t help but want to keep watching them perform.
It also helps that their task master, Arthur “Artie” Nelson is played by the great but underappreciated Saul Rubinek. Rubinek is one of those actors who literally can play anyone and each time you see him you have to wonder “is that really Saul Rubinek?” because even if it’s filmed in the same time, he makes the characters look so different, right down to their mannerisms and speech patterns, a true actor. He owns the Artie character and takes the cliché old, grumpy, but wise boss and makes him a real enjoyment to watch. Someone get this man an Emmy and a Golden Globe!
Then there is the enigmatic character of Mrs. Frederic. She is the warehouse gate keeper who has a special bond with the location and mad ninja skills. C.C.H. Pounder plays Mrs. Frederic, an impeccable performance which both leaves the characters and audience in awe. It’s one of those you got to see it to understand the level of awesome.
You also have Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti) who takes her Wesley Crusher character and manages not to be annoying, a feat indeed. Leena (Genelle Williams), whose complete roll is a bit unclear, is a solid, down to Earth character for the others to latch onto and played just as solidly. And there is also Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore) who could have also been real annoying as he can always tells when people lie, but the character is underplayed giving it just the right amount of focus. Here’s hoping he returns in season four.
There is a slew of other supporting/recurring characters, including the always wonderful Jamie Murray. They also manage several scifi alums like Mark Sheppard, Joe Flanigan, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan, Lindsey Wagner, Rene Auberjonois, Tia Carrere, Tricia Helfer, Anthony Michael Hall, and Eureka’s Neil Grayston (as Fargo!), Erica Cerra, Niall Matter, and Joe Morton. Acting wise, the show is very nicely rounded out.
The production values are good despite being an effects-reliant series on a basic cable channel. You can look at sister program Eureka and see a marked contrast. Warehouse 13 could easily be put on a network channel but I doubt its ratings would be good enough for network as the series is a throwback to the late 80s to 90s serials like Friday the 13th, Relic Hunter, Poltergeist: The Legacy and in addition it has a distinct steam punk element. While steam punk is gaining momentum, there isn’t really a big call for that at the moment among network viewers right now.
Warehouse 13 is one of those shows which could have gone horribly wrong but manages to keep it fresh and interesting in its story telling. The writers/producers are well aware of the cliché and trope pitfalls it has before it and instead of falling in either manage a good twist or run in full steam, no holds barred. The artifacts are fun, different, and often not all that you expect. If they hadn’t done this, then it would have been a very bland tv show, so kudos! I love a show that can recognize its own weaknesses and deal with them properly.
The series is strong going into its fourth season and its third season cliffhanger should be enough to bring viewers back to see how they are going to deal with the mess (literally) that they made. As long as the series keeps up the good work and the actors are up for it, I see at least a fifth and a sixth season in the future.