Sunday, July 22, 2012

Warehouse 13: Season 2 Review

Without recapping the plots of each episodes, I have to say that a lot of what was good about Warehouse 13 season 1 remains the same in season 2. It has an interesting concept, it draws artefacts from a variety of different sources and continues to try and give them some solid basis rather than just saying “look, magic rock” (though I think it relied a little more on the magic rock trope this time than before).

And I love love love the character interactions. When they all talk at once, when they argue when they play, when they debate – they have amazing chemistry as a cast. Frankly, these characters could have been in any show in any context and I would have watched them because they bounce off each other really well. They’re excellent characters with excellent human reactions and I believe every single conversation they’ve had. They work, they’re often funny, sometimes sad and sometimes very powerful – it’s probably what I love most about this show.

Unfortunately, I also feel like every complaint I had about series 1 of Warehouse 13 needs repeating – but repeating over and over because they have been magnified. Especially the “Artefact of the Week” issue.

The series began with the most monumental anti-climax after the epic ending and cliffhanger of Series 1. Macpherson was set up as the ultimate, conniving, incredible bad guy in truly menacing fashion – and then he’s brushed aside almost instantly, his death an almost after thought to the actual plot. And into his shoes steps HG Wells… except she doesn’t. We start with a lot of worry over her – the Regents and Mrs. Frederick even thinks it’s necessary to risk Lena’s life to find out more of Macpherson’s plans involving HG – and then they kind of forget her. If she didn’t show up now and then from episode 5 onwards – and her only role is basically to wave at the cameras so we don’t forget she exists.

Which continues for the vast majority of the season where we get random artefact after random artefact, which, y’know they’ve already kind of done in season 1. Yes there are artefacts that do special things, aren’t they interesting? We threw in some standard tropes – the body switch episode, the time travel episode, the computers took over episode, just waiting for the amnesia episode and we’ll have a complete set. In some ways I think that because I watch so much Urban Fantasy, it makes me less patient with unoriginality – I was sat there through the super hero episode and the models with their stolen youth thinking “this has been done, oh, 3, 4 times?” And I don’t necessarily mind these standard plot lines resurfacing, if there’s something more to back them up.

Not that the episodes weren’t interesting in and of themselves – there were several unique elements I like, Pete being made delusional by the telegraph, Artie trying to hunt down an old enemy from his time as a Soviet double agent; there were some great episodes here that were interesting in their own right, but there was nothing to draw the season together, even the introduction of HG felt more akin to the introduction of Claudia – a  new permanent character insert.

It wasn’t really until episode 11 that we finally put together all the pieces, sort of linked what had come before and revealed the master plan. But it felt flat – especially after season 1 where we had Macpherson’s diabolical master plan that was both more cunning and better foreshadowed than HG’s. I think it was going more for shock value than build up of evil – and it was surprising, yes – but it didn’t make up for 8 episodes of blah.

What did go a long way towards redeeming the season was both character development and world building. The characters have evolved a lot, especially Artie and Claudia. Seeing more of Artie’s history, what made him who he is and his development within that was great and more of Claudia growing up, looking at field work, starting to adapt and even her awkward relationship were all excellent fodder for adding weight and depth to this character.

To a degree I think we got the same with Pete with his own relationship and, while still being playful, him developing some level of competence. He still annoys me with his childishness, his foolishness and his clowning, but it’s less of a constant issue and more things that keep peaking.

Myka’s development fell flat for me – they based it nearly entirely around her insecurities, which wasn’t Myka from Season 1. That Myka was competent, capable and frustrated by Pete’s lack of serious behaviour. Here every analysis of Myka (while Pete and Claudia and Artie were developing love interests and histories), singled in on a new insecurity – that just didn’t seem to be there before. She was the studious shy girl at school (who joined the Secret Service?), she’s insecure about her looks, about her weight, about her lack of vibes and capability. Claudia has her own insecurities but they fit her character – her lack of real schooling, her unique upbringing, how she can’t relate to people since she has no life outside the warehouse; they’re personal insecurities. With Myka it looks more like someone drew up a list of common female insecurities and taped it to the character – whether they fit or not.

But the world building was awesome, again, towards the end of the series. After so much time knowing Artie gave secrets to the Soviets, it’s nice to see that developed to see his very good reasons behind it. The introduction of Warehouse 2 and the very nature of Mrs. Frederick was also incredible. As is Mrs. Frederick – she effortlessly steals every scene she’s in. Frankly, I would have much rather had a show with Mrs. Frederick as the lead, backed by Claudia (tech support), Myka (muscle) and HG Wells (investigator). A Mrs. Frederick’s Angels, you know it would be awesome.

We had a lot more information added here, this season, all at appropriate moments and there promises to be a lot more to come, I hope anyway. I’m also very glad to see more of the Regents in a less outright incompetent/evil fashion – Valda’s self-sacrifice and even the Regents unwillingness to just bronze HG Wells and be done were both very good humanising elements.

I have the same complaint as before about the inclusion of this programme. Leena, after a brief period of being duped by Macpherson and having to be examined, faded into even more obscurity than she did in season 1. We saw more of Mrs. Frederick but she was still largely promoted to obscurity. We didn’t get much inclusion on the mission either – including a Detroit with one black person; to investigate Leena we also got a textbook stereotype of the slightly sinister and enigmatic Asian character. There remains no GBLT characters – though a hint that HG Wells may, possibly, have been bisexual and I imagine the dramatic, camp, stereotyped fashion designer was supposed to be read as gay – Pete certainly addressed a tacky gay joke at the situation. And that’s it. Really, if you’re going to include prejudiced humour at least include the group you’re mocking!

At the end, we did have a lot of drama and emotion. I’m not happy with Myka’s departure (even though I know it won’t stick) or her blaming herself for lack of “vibes” (a problem I had last time) but with the new knowledge revealed about the warehouse and, I hope, greater inclusion of Mrs. Franklin, I really do hope we’re going to see a great turn around for season 3.