[Review] - Warehouse 13, Season 4 Episode 11, "The Living and the Dead"

Courtesy of Universal Cable Productions
Last season of Warehouse 13 (or, rather the first half of this season; I hate these .5 seasons) left me cold. It was decompressed to the point of frustration, had no idea how to balance the use of the characters it has thrust upon itself, and lacked any of the spark that had made the first two seasons so much fun. By the time its ten episodes had run their course, I had all but given up on the series, and was glad to see it disappear. Now it returns with a further ten episodes, and I'm giving the show one last chance (a decision that has made me not do weekly reviews of Defiance, a show that is really very good and that you should be watchng if you aren't already).

Historically, when SyFy starts breaking shows into .5 seasons, it is a sign that they are preparing to cancel the program (Battlestar, Eureka). I've heard no rumours about Warehouse 13's future, one way or the other, but the fact remains that these ten episodes will conclude it's fourth season, and SyFy scripted series rarely make it past that mark, going all the way back to Farscape. Which means, if these are to be the last (or near the last), they have a certain responsibility to make them as good as they can be, to go out on a high note (something Eureka really did not). And so, with the first episode of the season in the bag, I can say that the results thus far are... tepid. Which I supposed is something.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers whose subconscious takes the form of a hot dog cart.

This wasn't the best opening episode the show has ever done, which considering it was the followup to the worst finale they've ever done, isn't as bad by comparison. What I did like was that each team was conducting their own mission, independent of each other, but working towards solving their own case. A common complaint I had against last season was, with six regulars in the cast, and a steady stream of recurring guests, the shows rarely showed any ability to use them all to their best advantage. If they are going to keep using the case of the week format (a format that it should have grown out of by now), they need to construct the episodes so that, if everyone is involved in the action, they all have something to do. With the main cast now down to five, it shouldn't be that difficult: Artie at base, and team one and team two out in the field.

The show is aware of how obvious it can be sometimes, with Claudia's meta remarks about how Artie's subconscious takes the form of the warehouse. It wasn't a clever idea, but I've long given up on hoping for cleverness from this series, and hope at least for good. And it wasn't really that either, as the world of Artie's mind didn't really have any consistant rules governing it. It at least allowed for some cameos from some former guest stars, but mostly it was a missed opportunity. That exploring Artie's mind might have been a chance to reveal more about the man then has previously been alluded to, and that the manifestation of his fears, concerns and desires taking the form of former loved ones and objects within the warehouse could have been a way for him to process the guilt and grief he was feeling. That, in the wake of killing a close friend, his manifestation of MacPherson might have represented what Artie feared he has become? As is often the case, WH13 got right up to the edge of saying something profound, and fumbled it. It was, however, nice to see Roger Rees again, if only briefly.

My hope is that this isn't the end of Artie's emotional struggle with what he did, as this show has a tendency to wrap things up by episode's end and tuck them away as if they never happened. I hope that Leena's death has a lasting effect on the characters, and on their relationship with Artie. Within this episode, they all seemed far too willing to forgive him straight away, but simply claiming "it wasn't him" doesn't detract from the fact that it actually really was. He wasn't possessed, he wasn't replaced. It was Artie, just a dark version of him. He remembers doing it, he feels guilty about it and should, and the others should be understanding, yes, and supportive, yes, but not pretend like it never happened. I would like to see the show evolve into something with an emotional memory, and not just revert to default every time the credits role.

Elsewhere, I had to applaud the surprise appearance of James Marsters, who was not included on the announced list of this season's guest. And I am left to wonder how it is that he hasn't landed a starring gig on a show since Angel ended. Here, he steals the show away from every single other member of the cast, and I found myself hoping he'd join up, because every team needs a drunken immortal Englishman (I felt the same way about HG, but Jamie Murray jumped ship to a better show). They even got in a good jab at his most famous role, in what was probably the best line of the night. Happily, the epilogue scene, which also redeemed the apparently pointlessness of casting Polly Walker, established that he promises to be a lasting element this season. Suddenly, I've very curious as to how his character might connect to the end of season appearances of fellow Buffy alum Anthony Head.

The show has made a big deal of it's guest stars, and has racked up an impressive list of genre favourites. But I'm worried that they are relying too much on these stunt casting techniques. What promotion the show gets tends to be based on who is appearing in the next week, and not on the show itself. Which would be fine, if the guests were given material to work with. Marsters had a sizable role, but for Rees, Mulgrew, and Wagner it was barely worth showing up for. Last season, Brett Spiner was given probably the emptiest and thankless role the show has ever created. Viewers should be tuning in to see Pete and Myka bickering, rather then which former star of science fiction is playing the evil baddie or hapless victim each week. A show that can't sustain itself on its own merits isn't much of a show, and a show that relies entirely on the guests isn't a scripted drama, it's Hollywood Squares.

Finally, I'm not certain, but their use of the word "mortalities" in the countdown clock at the beginning of every segment should probably have been "fatalities." I could be wrong on that, but it bothered me every time it flashed up there, partly because arbitrary ticking clocks are among my least favourite cliches, and partly because I'm nearly positive they used the wrong word.

I could be wrong, but it still bothered me (which FYI is the motto on my family crest).
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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