Last night's Warehouse 13 was one of the show's best ever episodes, presenting an ethical quandary with no straw man arguments and covering a ton of ground in the process. But the thing that jumped out at me most about "Endless Wonder" was probably just the fact that this show is in the habit of introducing strong, competent, clever women characters — and then, shockingly enough, not killing them off. Spoilers ahead...
First and foremost, of course, last night's episode introduced Deb, a drug company executive who gets curious about Pete and Myka's job. The fact that Deb is actually a good love interest for Pete would be miraculous enough — after the vet a couple seasons back, Pete really deserves a better romantic foil, and a woman who can match him with sexy innuendo (subpoena sounds like penis!) is an excellent candidate. They're both slapstick sluts. And there's, you know, actual chemistry between them.
But on top of that, Deb is also incredibly smart and resourceful, and basically figures out the secret of the warehouse in less than an episode. It's not even because Pete slips up and says something dumb — she just keeps her eyes open and observes the weird goings-on, and then tracks Pete to his lair. And then we are able to sidestep the whole question of whether she's a good guy or a bad guy, by having Pete's "vibes" tell us that she's basically a good person — which means she doesn't get mind-wiped or whatever, but also means that the situation is actually more interesting, too.
Soon enough, Deb has told her sleazy drug company boss about the Warehouse, and he's getting ready to pull some strings with a U.S. Senator to get access to all of the potentially lucrative toys therein. It would actually be pretty interesting to see a storyline about what happens when the U.S. government tries to seize direct control over the Warehouse, but you'd need a whole season to explore that properly. In any case, the Regents manage to dodge a bullet this time around, partly because Deb cooperates in helping divert her (former) boss to a crappy storage space full of scary/silly toys instead.
Deb is definitely the sort of character who usually gets offed, or swept under the rug, on television shows. She's not only smart, she also challenges the main characters in a way they need to get challenged. I was reminded of that super-smart medical student in last year's Doctor Who episode "The God Complex," who's so clever and competent, you know she's marked for death. The fact that Deb isn't thrown under a bus, or even put on a bus, at the end of this episode, points to one reason why Warehouse 13 has earned our love.
And Deb really does raise questions that need to be asked, about the Warehouse and its mission. Her scenes with Pete, when they're in the Warehouse debating the morality of locking away artifacts that could save people's lives, are really sharp. And as I said above, devoid of straw men. When Pete trots out the line that all these artifacts have downsides, Deb points out that fire has a downside. And yet, we haven't stopped using fire just because it can burn people. Pete is forced to think a bit more deeply about why he's devoted years to locking these devices away — and that means we get to see how smart Pete really is. I love Deb's line, "Science isn't science until it is."
So yeah, the debate between Pete and Deb is a nice chance to explain, yet again, the show's basic mission statement. But it also gives Pete a lot more layers, by showing him being more than just the comic relief. (And the show has really found a nice balance with Pete lately, making him more of a Xander-like jokey character but then still being able to turn him into the hero.) And meanwhile, Myka is off dealing with the actual artifact of the week, a bowl that makes people grow taller until they die and stuff.
In the episode's "B" plot, the season-long arc about Brother Data continues (and Pete actually makes a "Commander Data" joke at one point!). Here, too, it's noticeable just how many smart female characters this show has become populated with.
Artie is still being secretive about the whole "somebody is stealing shit from the Warehouse" thing, and Claudia and Steve won't let it go. Claudia, in particular, takes the lead and shows Artie just why he needs help from his friends — because she's an uber-hacker genius who can track down Brother Data's cell phone, and Artie isn't. Of course, the cellphone-hunt is a wild goose chase, and a chance for Brother Data to set a death trap for Claudia and Steve — but at least now we know how Brother Data's been getting into the Warehouse. (And we know it's not Artie stealing from himself, as some of us had speculated.)
Claudia and Steve have actually gotten to be a funnier double act now that Claudia knows that she feels Steve's pain, literally. And yay for them not actually being silly to walk into an obvious booby trap.
And then, at the end of the episode, we see the long-awaited return of H.G. Wells — someone the show flirted with killing off, at the end of last season. H.G. turns out to be the person whom Artie recruited to find that scary dagger he's been dreaming about — but meanwhile, she's already figured out that Artie must have used some kind of time-travel device. Hence Artie knowing that she would give her life for the Warehouse, and also that Walter Sykes had a bomb in his wheelchair cushion. Not only that, but H.G.'s already deduced which artifact Artie used, and instead of being needlessly secretive, she's already told Mrs. Frederic of her suspicions.
(Side note: I love that in this episode, people don't keep things to themselves for no reason. It's also great when Deb is like, "I've already seen this movie, and people know where I am.")
So now both H.G. and Mrs. Frederic are going to be trying to help Artie work out the deal with the astrolabe and the "terrible evil" it supposedly unleashes. Which means that we might actually start getting somewhere, since those two are both pretty perspicacious on their own, and probably nearly unstoppable combined. And meanwhile, it's increasingly obvious that Artie is not protecting anybody by keeping the truth from them — even if knowing about the astrolabe puts people in danger, the people around him are already in danger in any case. As evidenced by the honking big death trap thingy. Artie only has Brother Data's word for it that telling people the truth is a bad thing, and Brother Data's already made this a no-win situation. So why not just come clean?
Anyway, the bottom line is, this might be my favorite Warehouse 13 episode to date. Because yay competence. And yay for Pete actually seeming like a cooler, smarter person as a result of being surrounded by smart women.