It's pretty cheeky for a show to get Star Trek: Voyager's Jeri Ryan as a guest star, and then to turn her into a version of the Borg Queen for half an hour or so... although at least Ryan herself remained unBorged. Still, it was... fascinating.
Spoilers for last night's Warehouse 13 ahead...
We've said all along that Warehouse 13's greatest strength comes from its characters, and it appears the show's writers are taking that sentiment to heart, writing a lot of character development and strong relationships into the episodes. And last night's episode was largely devoted to character development, with only the thinnest layers of plot — which could easily have gone way overboard into navel-gazey-land, but managed to work surprisingly well.
For one thing, the episode managed to stay funny enough to keep the emotional sharing and healing from getting too draggy. For another, the beneficiary of most of the heavy-duty character development was Pete, the character who most needed an extra dimension or so. The script gave Eddie McClintock a lot of heavy lifting to do, and to his credit, he took it all on his big shoulders.
In "Queen for a Day," we meet Pete's ex-wife, who's come back to get her grandfather's ring from Pete because she's marrying someone else, who's a lifeless mannequin, basically. And we quickly learn that when Pete and his ex were together, he was a drunk jerk and she was a type-A control freak who was obsessed with her career. Pete has been wanting to apologize and make amends for his past obnoxiousness, which he's embarrassed to have his new friends/coworkers even know about. But over time, we discover that Pete's ex Amanda has stuff to apologize for too.
The more I think about it, the more I like the way the episode's "artifact of the week" externalizes Amanda's character issues. On the surface, it's all about the fact that Amanda wants to be a "princess for a day" as part of her storybook wedding — and so it's ironic for her to get hit with an artifact that turns her into a queen bee. Princess — bee, geddit? But it actually goes deeper than that, because then you realize what a control freak Amanda is, and how that contributed to the destruction of her relationship with Pete — and the artifact takes her control-freak-hood and amps it up to 11, giving her a small army of bridesmaids and groomsmen who will obey her every order, implicit or explicit. Until the final irony hits, and her "hive" becomes so slavishly devoted to her that they won't even obey her, because that conflicts with their desire to protect and serve her fully.
And meanwhile, we're not just getting more details on what we already knew about Pete — he was an alcoholic who misbehaved — we're also getting another believable level to to the character, in the form of his reluctance to have his old life and his new life even touch each other. He's so scared of the person he used to be, he won't even let any part of that person's world come close to his new world. And a lot of Pete's famous "humor" has to do with defusing his shame and the horrible anger that underlies it. Drunk Pete was probably an angry guy, but sober Pete channels his aggression into weird humor, instead.
Meanwhile, over in the episode's barely-there B-plot, Claudia and Steve are dealing with the most straightforward assignment ever: tracking down a magic flask at a Civil War reenactment. (There are complications, but it's mostly a pretty simple job.) The assignment is mostly an excuse for Claudia to probe Steve's secrets, and discover a mystery woman from Steve's own past — not his ex-wife, but his dead sister. And we learn that Claudia reminds Steve of his dead sister, leading to more bonding, under the paternal but distant gaze of Artie.
Does anybody else hope the dead-sister thing is a red herring, and Steve steered Claudia towards that discovery because he's playing her? My ongoing theory about Steve is that being the human lie detector, he's also a compulsive liar. "Jinks" may not even be his real last name, and that may not really be his sister.
In any case, this episode pushed the plot/character development scales way, way over to character development — and pulled it off, thanks to some funny writing, and the fact that we've gotten to know these characters and they actually have some real layers by now.