WAREHOUSE 13 3.13: “The Greatest Gift”

Christmas specials are usually about two things: family, and the “magic” of the holiday. And there’s usually one other element crammed in: an old fat guy with a white beard who may or may not be Santa Claus — but who invariably turns out to be the real Santa, after all. (He even mentioned that bike you wanted as a child!)

The great thing about the WAREHOUSE 13 Christmas episode is that it wasn’t really about Christmas — it was the relationship between the characters we have come to know so well, and reveals that Pete is pretty much the lynchpin that holds the gang together. And, yes, they are a “family” of sorts. Oh, and there was no pseudo Santa — despite being one of the few shows on which such a character would actually work!

This story saw yet another artifact put a whammy on Pete: Philip Van Doren Stern’s upholstery brush sweeps Pete out of existence, setting up a fun riff on that holiday classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. As Myka points out, Stern wrote the story “The Greatest Gift,” the basis for Frank Capra’s movie It’s a Wonderful Life. The plot is something of a gamble, given that it has been recycled over and over and over, and I was suspicious of beating that dead horse again. However, W13 manages to put a nice spin on it and find some life in the old tale yet.

Pete (Eddie McClintock) found himself in a world where he was never born, so Myka (Joanne Kelly) stopped Artie (Saul Rubinek) from saving the president (way back in the W13 pilot) and sent him to prison as a would-be assassin. Myka stayed with the Secret Service in D.C. and never reconciled with her father, who died estranged from her. Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) remained locked up in a mental ward, and the evil MacPherson (Roger Rees) took control of Warehouse 13. Naturally it was up to Pete to somehow put right what once went wrong.

Pete tackles this Earth-shattering problem with typical aplomb, winning through on grit, determination, confidence and charm. A true fish out of water, he’s still the Pete Lattimer fans know: pragmatic yet immature. The Myka of this “Peteless World” is a calcified version of the chilly Myka we met in the pilot, leavened only slightly by her still-potent love of the written world. (Who else would buy herself a top-of-the-line pen as a Christmas present and pretend it came from her assistant?) Kelly plays Myka as intelligent but completely buttoned-up. Still, it doesn’t takes long for Pete’s boyish enthusiasm to unleash her inner affability. Pete’s knowledge of the intimate details of her life — particularly her strained relationship with her father — convinced her of his sincerity, and the promise of saving her dad from the Grim Reaper persuaded her to help Pete rescue his reality. McClintock and Kelly have such an easy rapport that I was glad they didn’t have to fake being enemies for too long. Their professional relationship mirrors Pete and Myka’s: each makes the other better, and they fit like hand-in-glove.

Pete also serves as a calming influence on Claudia, whose anger over the loss of her brother kept festering in the asylum. Again, his memories of the old world and his big brother vibe enabled him to win her over by promising to save her trapped sibling.  Interestingly, Pete didn’t have to do much to turn Artie — probably because the warehouse honcho is so familiar with the power of artifacts that he had no trouble recognizing a whammy when he saw it.

The moments that made the biggest impact were the character bits, like Pete convincing glum, isolated Myka that she really did/does live a full, exciting life (in South Dakota!) chasing missing artifacts around the globe, and that she is surrounded by friends. Claudia clutching Artie’s hand in forgiveness just as they were about to be bronzed mirrored their father/daughter relationship in the “real” world. And then there was Artie and Pete both making self-sacrificing leaps of faith in each other!

OK, so maybe once reality was restored Pete did get a little corny around the Christmas tree at the end — a trait it shared with SyFy stable mate EUREKA’s Xmas special — but Pete’s emotions were heartfelt (same as the gang on EUREKA), not purchased at a Hallmark store. And that kind of love and warmth is the gift that keeps on giving.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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