The concept of Warehouse 13, is, incredibly, an original one – yes something original! Myka and Pete, as Secret Service Agents, have been recruited by Warehouse 13, run by the formidable Mrs. Frederic, to work alongside Artie, the current Warehouse manager and their supervisor. They have the job to hunt down Artefacts and bring them to the Warehouse where they can be kept safe. These Artefacts are have special qualities, usually because they have absorbed some of the incredible natures of notable people through history – so Tesla’s labcoat, Lucretia Borgia’s comb, Lewis Carol’s mirror – all of them have unusual properties that need to be investigated, neutralised and returned to the Warehouse where they can be guarded and kept safe.
It has an almost X-files feel, without the dark, horror, grimness that so often accompanied it. Travelling to find the unknown, the weird and the unexplained, neutralise it and control it, while keeping things light and pretty fun. It is interesting and they have gone to some effort to actually provide some background and reason behind the various objects beyond simple “magic rock” (we do get the odd magic rock or substance, but they’re far more likely to draw in an actual historical figure) that continually makes the series interesting.
Towards the middle of the season it does start to become a little shaky. Like many speculative fiction shows – be they horror, sci-fi, fantasy or urban fantasy (and yes, Grimm, I’m looking at you), it does devolve a little into “adventure of the week.” We get a series of episodes where we follow the same pattern – New Thing arrives! Agent deals with New Thing! New Thing is vanquished! Excellent – everyone rejoice and next week we’ll have another New Thing. On Charmed, Dark Angel (season 2) and Buffy it was a new monster, on Mutant X it was a new super power – and on Warehouse 13 it was a new artefact.
And these episodes aren’t necessarily bad things, certainly at the beginning of season 1. They’re an excellent way to introduce the daily life of the agents (eventually it becomes a given that this is what they do every day and we don’t need to see it) as well as give us chance to develop all the characters and their roles. By not having a complicated over-arching meta-plot to focus on, we can see more of the characters and the world setting all of which deserve the attention.
But it does go on a little too long and is picked up nicely first with the introduction of Claudia and later by the shadow of Macpherson. Even better, Macpherson as a big-bad is excellent. There was a lot of foreshadowing, a lot of groundwork giving us the full idea of just what he’s capable of with the artefacts at his command. And by the end he is confirmed of one of my favourite villains, this is what so many villains try to be – a Moriaty figure who thinks being 4 moves ahead of your opponent is just lazy. He’s the kind of villain where you end up thinking that the good guys should just leave him alone because whatever you’re planning he has already anticipated it, planned for it and countered it – and is now not only ahead of you in the game, but has finished that game and is now playing an entirely new one. He’s a genuinely brilliant villain and I look forward to seeing him in the second season – but I also worry. They’ve set him up as a magnificent, manipulative genius – and that’s hard to maintain
We do have what I hope is an upcoming conflict – the useage of the Artefacts. After all, many of these artefacts can do incredible things and it seems a shame not to use them. At the same time, most of them are dangerous or have severe side effects attached – it’s rare to find an Artefact that doesn’t have some kind of catch attached. But it does give Macpherson a motive beyond “I’m so evil” and adds a level of question and depth to it.