Jane Espenson has been involved in a list of shows longer than my arm. As a writer and producer she has worked on Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Gilmore Girls, Tru Calling, Jake in Progress, The Inside, Battlestar Galactica and Caprica to name just a few… but now she comes to us with a show that she created… Warehouse 13.
In the interest of fairness I should probably mention that Jane is only Co-Creator with D. Brent Mote.
Warehouse 13 is a fusion of the X-Files, Bones, Chuck, Supernatural and Eureka with a dash of Indiana Jones and some Whedonesque quick quips. I could stop right there because no doubt I’ve already got you hooked… but for the sake of completeness I’ll go on and waffle about the pilot… but if you want to skip ahead to the conclusion I’ll tell you right now it says “Go watch it…!”
So, the story… Two FBI agents get recruited by a mysterious woman called Frederic who runs the Warehouse 13 project. Pete Lattimer played by Eddie McClintock who I know as Sully from Bones is recruited for his finely tuned intuition and his open minded nature. While Myka Bering played by Joanne Kelly is recruited for her astute attention to detail and her brilliantly deductive mind.
Warehouse 13 is “America’s Attic” run by Artie Nielson played by Saul Rubinek and it is essentially a depository for every dangerous artefact known to man, including the legendary Pandora’s Box…! Lattimer and Bering are to work for the Warehouse by collecting these dangerous artefacts from around the world and bringing them back.
The show is not in the least bit serious about this last part, much in the same way that Chuck is not a serious Spy drama. Everything from the music to the comedy segments let us know that this is, at heart, a comedy drama, like Eureka and if you try and take it too seriously you will be disappointed. But by the same merit if the writers try and take the show too serious, without doing the appropriate ground work, the show will fail to deliver it’s impact. Keep it light, keep it fun, but build in the drama too.
The pilot itself is very good. Although it’s not rolling in the aisles funny (which is a good thing) it’s charming, it’s intelligent, it’s everything we’d expect from someone with a credit on every Joss Whedon series to date. The characters are well set up, we learn that both of them are flawed in one way or another, as all good heroes are. Pete lost his father and suffers from a drinking problem, while Myka believes her drive and ambition led directly to the death of her partner. Artie, who we discover has been the caretaker of Warehouse 13 for quite some time, is simply delightful. He reminds me of a cuddly version of Q or Marshall Flinkman (from Alias).
As the pilot progresses and the two agents are recruited to work for Warehouse 13, they remain sceptical about the magical artefacts they have been recruited to collect. A scepticism that will pass (mostly) before the first episode closes out. Unlike Scully in the X-Files who spent an unbelievably long time disbelieving. But, like Scully, Myka rails against the assignment, believing it to be a demotion, although by the time she is offered an out at the end of the pilot she obviously chooses to stay.
The second half of the double length pilot episode focuses on the retrieval of an artefact in the shape of a hair comb. The comb has the power to possess a person, driving them to extraordinary lengths to protect their loved ones. Both Myka and Pete flounder about, completely out of their depths with unhelpful clues and tales of death from Artie in a light hearted and fun exploration of the world of the show.
This will be the format that the series will take as it continues forward, but with each passing episode the characters will slowly learn to depend less on Artie and begin to actually understand what is going on. Of course, as soon as they do, everything will change. It isn’t a new format but it is fresh and fun and it has a lot of potential, especially going down the light hearted “mild peril” route.
If the episode had one flaw it would be the final set piece, which came across as a bit silly and stage-y But this is a flaw that many shows with a supernatural element face, just look at Reaper. I hope that as the show progresses that it will change from an “Artefact of the Week” show into something more, without losing the fun stuff, but uping the drama and the tension, maybe raising “Mild Peril” to “Intermediate Peril”
But all in all I loved the pilot and I’m really glad I decided to check it out. Warehouse 13 has already been renewed for a second season and the first series is currently being repeated after Caprica on Friday nights on SyFy. My advice, go watch it and enjoy the fun.
This has been My Two Cents… Coming Soon a Spotlight on Chuck vs. The Beard…