Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2011-01-22 Entry: "Warehouse 13 - "Pilot""

Washington, D.C., and Secret Service Agent Myka Bering is inspecting the security arrangements at a museum aheaad of the President's visit. And there's a creepy statue head (an Aztec Blood Stone) being inspected by one of the curators - he cuts his finger on one of its teeth and starts to act strangely subsequently. Meanwhile, there's a mysterious guy with a gun, Latimer, and he's also an Agent, but he and Myka don't exactly see eye-to-eye - he's got a "vibe" about something being wrong, but she's fine with the President showing up.

Meanwhile, there's a scruffy bearded guy with a ray-gun sneaking into the party. Latimer spots the statue head is bleeding, grabs it and runs out. Myka spots that the curator is still bleeding and gets the President out when he pulls a knife. Scruffy bearded guy knows Latimer's name, and he also does something to the statue head that makes it stop bleeding and returns the curator to normal. And in the big flash of light, scruffy guy disappears with the head.

Someone's broken into Latimer's apartment - a Mrs Frederick - and he's being transferred to her department. He's got to go to South Dakota, indefinitely!

South Dakota, The Badlands. Latimer's directions take him out into the middle of nowher. There's an old quarry, and a cow. And a really old, rusty looking warehouse. There's no-one answering the door, but there is an American football falling out of the sky. And another car... with Agent Bering at the wheel! Both got the same spiel from Mrs Frederick... and then the door opens automatically, and they're about to enter when the scruffy bearded guy shows up.

He's Arthur Nielsen, and he too works for the Secret Service. Inside the warehouse is a stark white tunnel, lined with explosives, and an iris scanner into Angel's basement apartment... except his basement apartment never had a balcony looking out onto an enormous warehouse.

No theme tune, just a fanfare and the "Warehouse 13" logo.

Agent Bering isn't exactly happy to be reassigned, but apparently between her and Latimer, they've got the skills necessary for the "job," whatever that is (he's scattershot but gets feelings, she's got a terrific eye for detail). Latimer's an alcoholic. Mrs Frederick doesn't appear to age. Bering manages to get through to her boss, but the transfer orders outrank him, so it might take a while to transfer them back.

The first warehouse was built in 1898, but it burnt down. They've got a car powered by the electrical energy generated by people, a helicopter rescued from the Bermuda Triangle, and various other objects that they can't explain (including, apparently, Pandora's Box).

They've also got vats of purple goo that neutralise objects. While they're dealing with the ferret that's just appeared in the magic wishing kettle, they miss the wallet that sneaks off the shelf and into Myka's handbag.

They've been given rooms at the local Bed and Breakfast, where they meet Lena, the slightly creepy woman who runs the place... is she psychic? Meanwhile, that wallet - it was owned by Harry Houdini... and he now appears to be haunting Bering's hotel room!

Latimer's parents have passed away, while Bering's own a bookstore called "Bering and Sons"... which is interesting considering she has no brothers.

Latimer and Bering get sent to Seever City, to talk to a guy who's just been arrested for beating his girlfriend... and they need to find out what pushed him over the edge. They get issues with their two-way video communicators and their electric stun-gun, and it's off to Iowa.

The guy they're interviewing, Cody, suddenly starts chanting (in Italian) and rips the table (which is bolted down) out of the floor, but not before Latimer gets a "vibe" and gets Bering to the floor before the table gets tossed. After the guy's lawyer shuts down their questioning, they get sent to the local college to find someone who speaks Italian... and the faculty member they end up talking to is clearly lying to them... or at least, that's Bering's opinion based on observations of his behaviour. The faculty member makes a call to Cody's girlfriend and discusses some mystery book... and the Italian Cody was quoting is straight out of the book.

The zipline system Artie has for getting around the warehouse is completely ridiculous, but then this show doesn't appear to know precisely what it is... mystery? comedy? It can't exactly be a comedy as it's not really all that funny. Artie has an old painting in the warehouse that looks suspiciously like Cody's girlfriend... a girl Latimer and Bering are even now talking to.

Meanwhile, the faculty member, quoting Italian, covers himself in gasoline and sets himself on fire! Digging through the professor's office, they find the mystery book, and there's a hollow space inside where something's missing. Both Cody (who's made it out of gaol) and his girlfriend are going to be at a party for a play being put on. Cody's lawyer shows up at the office, and it's only while they're driving her to the party that they spot she's wearing the missing object from the book - a jeweled hair comb. Unfortunately, the woman flips the car rather than let them pull over.

Myka wakes up in the hospital two days later... and Latimer's still out cold... except it isn't two days later, it's a vision, and her dead boyfriend shows up to tell her to wake up... and there she is by the side of the road. After getting a call from Artie, they learn that it was made for Lucrezia Borgia and that the comb alters brain chemistry.

When Bering and Latimer make the party, everyone's already under the spell of the comb, but at least the two agents have learnt to trust one another, so hopefully Latimer blundering through the crowd works as a diversion! It doesn't go quite as planned, but it does sort of work out when they manage to get the comb in the vat of purple goo and everyone returns to normal.

And yes, that was a thoroughly underwhelming opening episode... I'm not sure whether my synopsis was more rambling than usual because the show rambled all over the place, or because I hadn't seen it before and trying to write a synopsis while I'm trying to get my own head around what's going on is a particularly tricky thing to do.

The cast are generally likeable - Latimer and Bering are both pretty fun, and nicely well defined. Artie's harder to get a handle on as he's pretty much just "crazy guy in a warehouse" for most of this episode. He's clearly damaged by his history of hunting these crazy artifacts but the extent of that at the moment is hard to get to grips with and he's got to carry most of the silly in the episode.

As a companion piece to Eureka it sort-of works, but it's definitely not as good as the opener of that show. It also dragged a bit in the hour and a half... hopefully the rest of the season will find a better balance, but this wouldn't have made me reschedule stuff to watch it week in week out.

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