Artie's Dark Past is Revealed at the Point of an Invisible Samurai Sword

Last night's Warehouse 13 featured better gadgets, delved into the dirty details of one character's past, and introduced us to the series antagonist. Could we finally be seeing the show breaking out of its weekly artifact hunt?

In this week's episode, "Implosion," we finally see Warehouse 13 break out of its artifact-of-the-week plot, even as we see it continue to scramble to try to find its footing.

We know from talking to actor Saul Rubinek that his character, Artie, has a deep, dark secret, and tonight we finally got to delve into Artie's past, a past that includes espionage charges and a stint in prison. But first, Peter and Myka have to steal a Japanese sword (one that, incidentally, can make its bearer invisible) and replace it with a fake, when an implosion grenade goes off in the Japanese agency, apparently taking the artifact with it.

This week's episode had its share of great moments. For one thing, the artifacts were more gadgety and less mystical this time around: the implosion grenade, the mesmerizing Ice Flower firecracker, the gun that vaporizes people — the writers even attempt to give the Japanese sword's powers of invisibility a physical explanation, albeit a vague one. And the interactions between Peter and Myka and their fellow Secret Service agents offered some moments of levity while promising to make the series a little richer. Watching Peter and Myka try to explain their assignment (Myka smugly describing it as "archival") and convince the other agents that they've been hit with a gun that erases short-term memory when obviously the agents recall no such thing brings the show's absurdity a bit into the real world, and reintroducing their former boss Dickinson as the anti-Artie adds another dimension. I like the idea that it's not always the Warehouse vs. the artifacts and their abusers, but the Warehouse vs. the rest of the Secret Service vs. competing artifact hunters.

And we soon learn that there is indeed a rival artifact hunter behind the implosion grenade and the theft of the invisibility-granting sword. James MacPherson, Artie's professional and romantic rival, disapproves of the Warehouse's mission, and uses exactly the sort of technology Artie and company want to keep from the public. James adds a nice bit of intrigue to the episode and brings us out of the weekly drudgery of finding some havoc-wreaking device. And, from the title of the season's final episode "MacPherson," he could function as the season's Big Bad.

But there's also a great deal about this episode that's strangely abrupt. For one thing, the absence of Claudia (which is mentioned, but never satisfactorily explained) feels like a step backwards and an excuse for alienating Artie from the rest of the cast. And too much of Artie's past is revealed too quickly — we meet James, who is a character from Artie's past, as well as the woman who once chose James over Artie, and get the handle on Artie's criminal record all in one episode. Also, when it comes to Myka and Peter's respective relationships with Artie, previous episodes haven't led up to this episode in a satisfactory way. Myka complains that Artie treats his field agents like redshirts (and Peter is adorably too excited that she understands the terminology), a feeling supported by their trips to the hospital, though we haven't seen this sentiment bubbling nearly enough. And Peter's sense of betrayal at learning about Artie's past doesn't hit home as much as if he'd developed more paternal feelings toward his new boss.

I keep waiting for the relationships between the characters to gel into something a bit more familial (as well as a more distinct role for aura-reader Leena who feels too much like a mere social balm). I suspect Claudia could be the glue to bind the team together, and the new developments with the rest of the Secret Service and James could push and prod the team into shape. I'm encouraged by the new plot elements, but I do wonder if, in just five more episodes, Warehouse 13 can get where it's trying to go.