From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

TV Review: Eureka and Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13: “Pilot”

For having a two hour pilot episode, there isn’t a whole lot to Warehouse 13. The gist is that two Secret Service agents are co-opted into a very secretive branch of the United States government, one so secret that it is funded through a black-ops budget – though there should be an obvious question as to how that was even revealed. The agents are “recruited” for this special division after an incident-of-sorts at the Capitol Museum of Natural History. Let us just say that there are supernatural happenings, a mystical artifact, and bright flashing purple lights and leave it at that. Exactly what happens doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the two agents, Peter Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), then find themselves ordered to the ass-end of South Dakota where they find a big rusted building and some crazy hermit looking guy walking towards them. He looks like a batty Gandalf, complete with weird staff. This is the role Arthur Nielsen (Saul Rubinek) is to play, though perhaps with less guidance than Gandalf provided.

“But if a radio landed in the hands of Thomas Jefferson, you know what Jefferson would do? He would just lock it up until he figured out it wasn’t going to kill him. And that is exactly what we do here. Take the unexplained and we just safely tuck it away in this supersize Pandora’s Box”

Welcome to Warehouse 13, a secret repository of the United States Government. This is where they keep the strange supernatural stuff. It is crazy big. Actually, crazy big does not adequately cover it.

This is SF comedy with special agents. Peter and Myka are polar opposites – Peter trusts his instincts (there is crappy backstory to explain his “hunches”) and Myka is an agent who follows the rules and trusts logic. Yeah, it’s poorly done stereotypical characterization. Think Mulder and Scully with the edges filed down.

The first half hour of the pilot is pure set up, nothing of note occurs. There are some snappy lines of dialogue and other lines which aim for snappy and fall far short. The next hour begins to introduce what sort of show this will be. Everything of note happens in the last half hour. This is where we have to remember that the pilot does not necessarily indicate how the rest of the show will go. It’s an introduction that should give a sense of the tenor of the show, but the show should only improve from the start.

It’s not a bad start. Perfectly pleasant, with a tone that feels like Eureka (only less witty)

What is quite cool about Warehouse 13 is so much of the hidden technology and artifacts are steampunk gadgets. Guns, communicators, a cart powered by human electricity. It’s not enough to build the show upon, but as a cool visual bit – steampunk works. Now, there are logic issues as to why these devices are inherently better than real technology, but we’ll ignore that for the time being.

“What you are supposed to is hunt down whatever is threatening to ruin the world’s day and neutralize it and bring it here. You’re gonna snag it and bag it and tag it.”

From the resolution to Warehouse 13, the method of storytelling will likely involve a Monster-of-the-Week or an Artifact-of-the-Week and will require our two intrepid agents to figure out what is at the heart of the mystery / crime and recover said artifact. That’s fair. Most shows work with a Something-of-the-Week format.

The biggest problem regarding the pilot episode of Warehouse 13 is that it was 2 hours long and there wasn’t near enough story for two hours. The main series needs to tighten, tighten, tighten. Yes, this is the introduction to the characters, the setting, and the types of stories that will be told on Warehouse 13. Everybody has secrets and there will be strange artifacts throughout the world (mostly likely). The pilot was decent enough, entertaining, lightweight with a hint of something behind it. It’s not a perfect start, or even necessarily a very good one, but it is enough to suggest that the show has promise. Do I believe that the (somewhat hidden) potential will be realized? No, not really. The pilot episode was moderately poor and only suggests that there is goodness to be uncovered. It should not be difficult to improve upon this overlong episode, but developing into a show worth recommending is something else entirely.

Eureka: “Welcome Back Carter”

The midseason premiere of Eureka picks up where the last episode left off – Carter is still fired. He interviewed with the Department of Homeland Security, but can’t tell them anything about his time in Eureka. The perpetually awesome Jo Lupo is all ready to take over Carter’s duties as Sheriff when Carter, Lupo, and Allison Blake are introduced to the new sheriff: Andy – a high tech law enforcement robot who looks like a human.

Right away Eureka is successful in re-engaging the viewer into the town of Eureka, building a solid story that allows Carter to keep investigating Eureka-Weirdness (this week’s weird: semi-random gravity disturbances) while remaining fired.

We have great character moments – Lupo admitting to Carter that she really wants his job and thinks she can do a better job of it than he could, but that she didn’t want it this way – everything with SARAH this episode – Carter’s resignation of not being the Sheriff but his love of the town (and his nature) keeping him working off the book. Oh, hell. This episode is a character moment. The only thing that doesn’t entirely work is the hard nosed general, but what else would that general be? Actually – what doesn’t work is Sheriff Andy. For the cutting edge of cutting edge of law enforcement design, Sheriff Andy is a bit of a simpleton. Yeah, he has a big encyclopedic hard-drive of a brain and should be a great cop (though clearly one not prepared to handle Eureka), but Andy comes across as one big plot device…and the ending of the episode, which I will not go into detail, is resolved in a typically Eurekan manner…a bit obvious in retrospect.

But isn’t that the point?

Oh…how much to spoil?

Isn’t it the point to keep Carter in Eureka? The show is built around him in Eureka and there is no show if Carter doesn’t stay. Does that spoil? It shouldn’t, because it is the ultimate premise of the show. It’s like shutting down the X-Files. Of COURSE the X-Files will be reopened and of COURSE Carter will stay in Eureka. That’s the point.

So long as Carter’s return isn’t handled too clumsily, I’m not sure we really care.

Hmm. That’s not entirely true. The big moment of Carter losing his job was such an emotional gut punch, but the viewer knows that Carter can’t leave Eureka. He’ll either regain his job during this episode or stick around unofficially doing his job until he gets his job back and that won’t last more than three episodes. So, where’s the gut punch?

In retrospect there is no gut punch and the shock of Carter losing his job is lessened, but that was still an outstanding way to end the midseason finale all those months ago and this episode gives us everything we want from Eureka: Characters, Wit, and Small Mystery that Could Destroy World.

It’s what works about Eureka. It’s the tone that Warehouse 13 is clearly aiming at but has not yet hit.

This was everything I had wanted from Eureka.

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