The TV Series
For those who like lighthearted sci-fi with a special accent on goofiness, there's plenty to enjoy in the third season of the SyFy series Warehouse 13. Sure, an ever-present seriousness comes up in the agents' continuing quest to retrieve dangerous historic artifacts and keep the nefarious baddies at bay, but if anything this set is an object lesson in how sci-fi television has loosened up over the decades to the point where goofy is the norm, not the exception.
Not that there's anything wrong with that - in the case of Warehouse 13's third year, the productions are tighter and more assuredly directed, the stories crackle with lighthearted spirit, and the cast has gotten into an engaging rhythm where they're comfortable with each other without being too complacent. The show still has that vaguely Canadian feel with noticeably clean exteriors and loads of cheesy special effects, but at least it's getting more legit appearing as it goes along. Many of the scripts from this particular season suffer from trying to be too clever, with a few episodes here that could be considered outright duds (I'm looking at you, Eureka crossover Don't Hate The Player). It definitely gives a creeping sense that they're starting to run out of steam, but the season is enjoyable enough on its own popcorn-y level. Universal's DVD edition of this season packs a lot of extras into an affordable package.
As in the first two seasons, this outing revolves around the cavernous Warehouse 13, a massive storehouse of artifacts - supernaturally possessed historic objects which cause extraordinary things to happen to whoever touches them - which the U.S. government houses and retrieves as part of a centuries-long, shrouded-in-mystery program. The warehouse is run by the rumpled yet lovable Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek), operating under the godlike supervision of the enigmatic Mrs. Frederic (CCH Pounder). The retrieval of the objects are headed by Secret Service agents Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) and Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock), a contrasting yet personable duo whose Moonlighting-esque repartee provides a lot of the show's humor. The opening of this season finds Myka in exile since a decision she made had destructive consequences, causing her to quit in disgrace. While the producers set it up as a huge cliffhanger at the conclusion of the previous season, the situation's resolved all too tidily at the end of the opening episode (while it kinda goes along with the show's weird alterna-reality, it also made me wonder if the actress was renegotiating her contract at the time).
That first episode of the season, The New Guy, also serves as the welcome launching of a new regular character. A sensible straight-arrow type (who happens to be gay), Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore) joins Myka and Pete as Warehouse 13 agents, eventually forging a close bond with the warehouse's smartass tech support guru, Claudia (Allison Scagliotti). As one of the few characters who isn't consumed by flippancy, the likable Steve is an excellent addition (WH13's other relatively normal regular, Genelle Williams' earthy warehouse keeper/b&b manager Leena, is sorely under-utilized this year). The scenes with Steve and Claudia together form some of the highlights of this set, even if they often get thrown into underwritten "B" stories. Actually, for a character who started off as a bratty cyber-girl cliché, actress Scagliotti has really brought Claudia into her own this season. Her character gets a lot more to do, a development that comes through winningly in Scagliotti's energetic work.
Both structurally and story-wise, the twelve episodes in this set are all over the place (a thirteenth episode, the holiday-themed special The Greatest Gift, aired too late in the season to be included on the DVD). Ongoing story arcs involving the Regents, a shadowy network of protectors to the warehouse's treasures, and a rogue band of evildoers headed by the callous Walter Sykes (played by a ragged, surprisingly effective Anthony Michael Hall) contribute to some of the season's better moments. The action comes to a head in the explosive, generally fantastic two-part conclusion to this season, but generally this year is characterized by sometimes entertaining, often silly self-contained episodes. There are breezy, fun installments like 3... 2... 1... (three generations of warehouse agents uncover the mystery of Joshua's lethal trumpet) or Love Sick (Artie and his ex-flame are trapped in an electronics store with a deadly computer virus that turns people into clay statues) - along with mind-meltingly stupid ones like Queen for a Day (Pete's ex-wife unwittingly incites members of her bridal party into being her slaves) and the aforementioned Don't Hate The Player (to save a friend, Pete and Claudia become players in a virtual video game).
Overwhelming silliness aside, one thing that makes this particular season of Warehouse 13 work is the contributions of an impressive array of guest stars, many of whom come from other sci-fi series of the past. Jaime Murray as the sexy, kickass time traveling H.G. Wells (the famous author was her brother, taking credit for what she did) makes a few welcome return appearances here, and Star Trek: Voyager's Kate Mulgrew has a multi-episode arc involving her as a Regent with a special connection with one of the agents. Other guest stars include Lindsay Wagner, René Auberjonois, Jeri Ryan, and Gareth David-Lloyd.
Warehouse 13: Season Three consists of the following episodes, spread over three discs:
3-01 ____ 11/Jul/11 ____ The New Guy
3-02 ____ 18/Jul/11 ____ Trials
3-03 ____ 25/Jul/11 ____ Love Sick
3-04 ____ 01/Aug/11 ____ Queen For A Day
3-05 ____ 08/Aug/11 ____ 3 ... 2 ... 1
3-06 ____ 15/Aug/11 ____ Don't Hate The Player
3-07 ____ 22/Aug/11 ____ Past Imperfect
3-08 ____ 29/Aug/11 ____ The 40th Floor
3-09 ____ 20/Sep/11 ____ Shadows
3-10 ____ 27/Sep/11 ____ Insatiable
3-11 ____ 19/Oct/11 ____ Emily Lake
3-12 ____ 19/Oct/11 ____ Stand
This set packs a lot of material on each disc, which normally leads to compression issues with the picture. Visually the 16x9 image looks fine, but there are some instances where the edges are overly sharpened and large, flat areas have a bit of grainy pixelation. Nothing noticeable to detract from the overall viewing experience, however.
Warehouse 13: Season Three sports a good 5.1 Dolby Digital English soundtrack as the only audio option. It's a clear, pleasant track with dialogue and sound effects given equal footing. Optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired are also offered on all of the episodes.
As with previous Warehouse 13 sets, Universal has given this one a generous amount of bonus material which encompass featurettes, commentaries, a gag reel, deleted scenes, a bonus web-only series and the Secret Santa episode from season two that was left off the previous set. The commentaries, which involve Saul Rubinek, Eddie McClintock, Allison Scagliotti and a handful of directors and writers, are the typical sort where everybody fawns over each other, but they are entertaining and sport a few informative bits (the tale of an over-zealous stage dad on one episode was especially amusing). The love-fest continues with 11-minute 'Guest Starring' featurette on disc one, which details how they netted the guest actors (warning: it does contain spoilers). Brief deleted scenes are included for the episodes The New Guy, Love Sick, Emily Lake and Stand. Disc three contains the holiday episode from the previous season, along with the mostly animated 'Of Monsters And Men' web series which pits Pete, Artie and Claudia against creatures from a '50s comic book (as a bonus for the bonus, it has an extra chapter that wasn't included on the SyFy.com website). A 3-1/2 minute gag reel, also on disc one, rounds out the extras.
Season three of Warehouse 13 finds the SyFy hit goofier than ever before, its intriguing artifact-hunting plots played out by a likable cast with a few welcome newbies (hello, Jinksie). There are a few daft, silly episodes that spoil the season, but the DVD edition is still a good deal packed with action, heart and some decent extras. Where can I get Cecil B. DeMille's riding crop? Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and dilettante-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's seen are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.