WAREHOUSE 13 is back, beckoning us to return to America’s Attic for another season of runaway artifacts and the agents who live to “Snag it, bag it and tag it.” It marked a fun, suspenseful beginning to the SyFy series’ sophomore summer.
The most shocking aspect of the second-season premiere was not that Artie survived certain incineration in the wake of last season’s cliff-hanger finale, but the way he survived: He used the Phoenix charm to resurrect himself literally from ashes, just like the mythical bird. The downside, of course, is that someone else had to die in his place. When you think about it, that is a supremely selfish decision. Granted, Artie (Saul Rubinek) had to make the call in a split-second under the extreme duress of having a huge fireball bearing down on him, but still… I suppose he was weighing his value as caretaker of the warehouse and balancing that against some unknown person, but he had to know there was a chance Pete (Eddie McClintock) or Myka (Joanne Kelly) could have fallen victim, since it wasn’t established that they had touched the amulet. In fact, Pete’s coughing fit clearly implied that Artie and Myka thought he could die. Needless to say, I was thrilled that our friends all dodged the Reaper. I’m not saying it turned out all right just because a bit player bit the dust. Do you think you’re more important than your boss’ chauffeur?
Anyway, leaving that ethical quagmire behind, the rest of the premiere was devoted to tracking down the renegade former warehouse agent James MacPherson (Roger Rees), figuring out his plan, and ferreting out his co-conspirator(s). Speaking of whom, Lena (Genelle Williams) debronzed someone else: a very particular time-traveler who goes by the moniker H.G. Wells. And not only that, Wells turned out to be a woman (Jaime Murray). “A hot woman,” who had no problem distracting and getting the drop on Pete. Wells may have apprenticed at Warehouse 12, but she never counted on Pete’s ring-tone! BTW, how perfect is “C is for Cookie” for this guy? (And how cool is it that he is a Young Frankenstein fan!). It’s kind of horrifying to realize that Wells was conscious the whole time she was imprisoned in bronze; left alone to contemplate her anger over the early 20th-century mores that did not allow for her to be credited for the research and ideas behind the stories she wrote, forcing her brother Charles to provide the mustache as a public beard for the author. She has had a long time to plot her revenge, so let’s hope that whatever she was sketching out in the café while Portishead moaned “Nobody Loves Me” at the end of the episode is worth it!
For this episode, however, Wells and MacPherson were interested in obtaining her “steampunky” Imperceptor Vest, which allows the wearer to move faster than the eye can follow. The downside was that it needed a really potent power source, like antimatter. A couple of other neat artifacts figured into the storyline, too. Did you know that Harriet Tubman’s Thimble creates a replica so detailed that it can fool a retina scanner? Well, at least the devices at CERN. Buncha amateurs… We learned that MacPherson controlled Lena’s mind via the Pearl of Wisdom, which is inserted in the ear. The baddies needed the Imperceptor Vest to navigate the Escher Vault, a special, shifting-perspective room with confounding imagery based on M.C. Escher’s lithograph “Relativity 1953.” Why did they need to cross that room? Well, Wells stole back her locket, a ring and a compact from deep within the vault.
Two particular lines of dialogue stood out for me:
-“We know MacPherson is out there, and he already killed you once,” Myka pointed out to Artie.
-“In this job, there’s no such thing as ‘no such thing.”” Eddie told Myka. “We just met the female H.G. Wells.”
Wells’ treachery was unexpected, yet welcome, and MacPherson’s death in his former partner’s arms was actually quite poignant. The rogue died knowing he was wrong in his basic assumptions about the very nature of life. MacPherson’s glimpse of What Lies Beyond was dark and empty, and he murdered Artie (knowing he would use the Phoenix) because he wanted his old partner to experience that same despair. “I wanted you to see what I saw – the darkness, the emptiness,” he gasped. “It’s all for nothing.” But Artie told him that while he was dead, he saw light, experienced peace, and felt “nothing but hope.” Rees delivered a devastating, shaken expression as MacPherson turned to his former friend and realized his motivations were misguided. “All this time, I thought I knew the truth. I’m sorry, Arthur.” And then he crumbled to dust, leaving Artie devastated. Clearly, in that moment, Artie believed that MacPherson had repented, and I actually kind of believed him, too.
I actually kinda believe MacPherson is dead, too. Unless he had a clever backup plan. Y’know, the kind of thing every self-respecting evil mastermind always has in reserve…