Shocking Spines and Screwball Dialogue Burn Through Warehouse 13

Syfy's new show may be about agents who chase down technological and mystical artifacts, but it's the charming characters and Buffy-influenced dialogue that take center stage. If you haven't seen Warehouse 13, it may be time to take a gander.

Most of Warehouse 13's charm comes from two sources: the chemistry between the characters, and the more surprising and goofy artifacts located inside the Warehouse itself. Artifact-hunting agents Peter Lattimer and Myka Bering aren't quite Mulder and Scully or Booth and Bones, but the actors' ability to play off one another — and the dialogue by Buffy and Battlestar Galactica writer Jane Espenson — result in the sort of amiable sniping that's always fun to watch. And Saul Rubinek is a brain-addled force of nature as Artie Nielsen, a senior agent at the Warehouse who seems to have forgotten how to communicate with normal human beings, but his role has been much improved by the addition of Allison Scagliotti to the cast as Claudia, a young tinkering genius who has become both Artie's assistant and his verbal sparring partner.

The previous episodes have also introduced us to some of the gadgets and mystical thingamajiggers that populate the Warehouse, including a kettle that grants wishes (impossible wishes become ferrets; no one knows why), Pandora's Box (empty), and a magic mirror that lets you interact (and play ping pong) with your reflection. Yes, they tend a bit to the goofy side, but they give the series a sense that it doesn't take itself and is interested in having a bit of fun with its ideas.

However, this week's episode, "Burnout" suffers for pulling back on that sense of humor and focusing far too much on the mystery of the week. Warehouse's primary plots, in which Peter and Myka travel to a town being terrorized by an artifact, identify said artifact, and take it back to the Warehouse for safekeeping, has been the weakest part of the show, and "Burnout" is no exception. Peter and Myka discover a device called the Spine of Saracen, a Turkish machine that pulls electricity out of the wearer's body and causes them to electrocute anyone they touch until their body runs out of energy and they eventually die. And it's too predictable when the Spine becomes attached to Peter and Myka, Artie, and Claudia must determine a way to remove it without killing him.

"Burnout" is also a tad darker than previous episodes, pulling way back on the humor that's made the other episodes fun to watch despite their flaws. A running gag in previous episodes has been that Artie often forces Peter and Myka to ask victims of the artifacts a ludicrous series of diagnostic questions ("Do you smell fudge when no fudge is around?" "Do you have the sense that today is yesterday?"), a gag that could get old, but could also be easily built upon. But we get none of that here, nor are we treated to more of the Warehouse's fun and funky artifacts.

But even where "Burnout" falls flat, I have high hopes for this rough-around-the-edges show, provided it can move a bit beyond its artifact of the week format. I just hope that next week's episode brings us back to the land of shiny Warehouse toys and screwball dialogue.