Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Goodbye Warehouse 13

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for TV series that were somewhere beside the norm, the little gems that might never get major screen time on the big stations, but that make you turn in again and again - or spend whole days on a weekend or a vacation watching the DVDs. Several years ago, I picked up the first season of a little series I’d never had heard about before … it was the first season of “Warehouse 13.” And I was hooked, by the stories, by the characters, by the looks.

I didn’t expect all that much from the DVD set, to be honest. I know most TV series from the US have around 20 episodes for a full season, so I was sure this one with its 13 episodes was a mid-season replacement (and, statistically, only very few of those ever make it to a second season). But I didn’t really mind that, I’ve never had the majority’s taste in my life. I started watching and pulled through with all episodes on the same day. I was hooked, I was researching, and I was seeing talk of one more season online. I got the second DVD set and watched those as well.
The third season I bought from iTunes later on, also going through it at high speed. There was a little break afterwards, from my point of view, season three might just be the weakest (but weakest in a great series still is good, mind you). Yesterday, I got my hands on Season 4, buying another DVD set. It was one of the best seasons of any TV series I have ever watched. The only season with full 20 episodes (Season 1 to 3 have 13 episodes) reminded me of why I loved the other seasons so much. The twists, the turns, the great stories. The character development and the relationships between the characters. The many amazing artefacts stored in the warehouse. Mrs. Frederic. Mrs. Frederic alone is worth watching the whole series, believe me. She’s amazing.
So today I got myself an iTunes prepaid card (filling my iTunes account with enough money for the season pass for season 5, which only has 6 episodes) and bought the last few episodes as well. I bought them in the late afternoon and now, at quarter to eleven pm, I’ve finished watching all of the episodes. I loved every one of them.

So, what do I like about the series? I’ve already listed it above, but now have a little look at the details, shall we?
I was first pulled in by the basic premise of the series, by the principle of the artefacts and hunting them down. It was a nice twist, combining fantasy and science-fiction elements very well. The idea that many people over time have created artefacts in times of extreme circumstances left an open field for stories. I also liked the idea that every artefact would also have a dark side, a price to pay for the powers it could give you. You can’t just take, you also have to give so there’s a balance. It might sometimes be worth it, but in the end it make clear why those artefacts were taken into custody and hidden from the world. They were dangerous, they needed to be kept from those who might use them for their own purposes, sharing the price with the rest of the world. What that might mean shows clearly, especially in the final episodes of the seasons, when the writers were preparing for a possible end every time and pulled out the really good stuff to play with and create a possible end of the world - or at least the warehouse.
But the artefacts, as amazing as they were, weren’t the only reason for watching. With the artefacts alone, “Warehouse 13” could easily have been one of those ‘monster of the week’ series, which present you stories that have nothing or little to do with each other. Great artefacts and nice effects (especially for a TV series, we’re not talking about a Hollywood movie budget here, after all), but no substance underneath. Without the characters, that might have happened, but the writers knew that, too, obviously. So they presented the viewers with a host of interesting and layered characters. Characters that clearly had a life before they came to the warehouse (or the warehouse caught them, depending on how you want to see it), characters that had their weak spots, their strengths, their history. Relationships between the characters were important to the writers as well. The agents of the warehouse became a family over time, with Artie and, to a certain degree, Mrs. Frederic as the parents and the rest as the children. The family grew from season to season. The pasts of the characters had an impact on their present, they triggered events, they became important in the stories. It wasn’t just the typical ‘that’s your new case’ series, it was a series in which, sometimes, the cool artefacts even seemed to take the back seat and let the other parts play out.
Another thing that caught me from the first episode was the look of the series. At the time I watched the first season, I knew little to nothing about Steampunk (although I was reading “Girl Genius” already). That is precisely the style of the warehouse, though. The perfect mix between modern (in some cases hyper-modern) technology and an old, comfortable look. I liked the style from the very beginning, it was something that touched me in a way.

On one hand, I’m sorry “Warehouse 13” has ended. On the other hand, I have seen too many promising series go down after a while, because sooner or later there’s a decline in quality. Those 65 episodes overall are good, more than good. The series has a wonderful, touching, perfect ending. It spends the entire last season tying up the loose threads, the writers didn’t just say ‘what the heck, it’s over anyway,’ they rather decided ‘if we’re going, then let’s make it great, let’s go out in style.’ I also liked actors that I knew before and that turned up as guest stars, in some cases as recurring guest stars. (I especially liked both James Marsters and Anthony Head making an appearance in Season 4 - not together, but overlapping with Brent Spinner.)

If you like science-fiction, fantasy, Steampunk, or just good TV entertainment, take a look at “Warehouse 13.” Enjoy good stories, interesting people, and a not-so-common style.

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