Warehouse 13 wrapped up most of the arc of its final mini-season last night, with the frenetic "Shisi Cangku." Claudia's sister and the evil alternate Benedict Valda collide in a frenetic story in which a record player nearly kills people but a capella singing saves everyone.
Warehouse 13 has always been a show about the power of human emotion — that's what creates these magical artifacts, in the first place, and people tend to use them in crimes of passion rather a lot. I'm not sure, but last night's episode might be the first time we've seen human emotion overcome the power of an artifact, as Claudia sings the Garbage song "When I Grow Up" to her sister, and their love breaks the mind control device Benedict Valda has put onto Claire.
Benedict Valda is more or less trying to restore the Warehouse he knew in the alternate universe where Paracelsus ruled everything for hundreds of years — and there's no room for sentiment in that cold, ruthless place. Except that Valda doesn't just want to systematize and duplicate the artifacts created by people's weird individual catharsis — he wants to sell them as weapons, mostly to the Chinese, the hosts of the new Warehouse 14.
(Incidentally, "Cangku" is pronounced with a hard "Ts" sound at the beginning — in the old Wade-Giles romanization system, it would be spelled "Ts'ang-k'u." The "Cang" is a long flat tone, and the "ku" is a sharp falling tone that starts out high. Also, both syllables in "shisi" are short "I" sounds, sort of like "itch" only slightly more throaty. And I think it would be "Shisi Cangku," not the other way around. Mark Sheppard's pronunciation gave me a new appreciation for Nathan Fillion's.)
Evil Valda has stolen Claudia's sister Claire — but not because of her out-of-control telekinetic powers, but so he can turn her into the caretaker of this new Warehouse, using her familial connection with the caretaker-in-waiting. (And we learn that Mrs. Frederic had a sister, way back when.) He uses the record player that kept Claire in a coma to cause seizures at a park, then convinces the Chinese that these artifacts can be weaponized and used to take out a city.
Soon enough, Valda's gotten everything he needs to trigger the launch of a new Warehouse in a new country — and the Warehouse's stuff all start relocating to a stadium in China, to Artie's dismay. The gang has to rush through a portal to China and stop him.
There's a political question that everybody carefully avoids discussing — is Valda's plan so successful because the United States is a waning superpower, and our time of hosting the Warehouse is actually over, just like when the British Empire lost the Warehouse back in the day? Is China in the ascendant enough that it actually deserves the Warehouse? Nobody ever raises this issue, but it seems relevant somehow.
In any case, facing their very last Big Bad, the crew gets some nice moments of resourcefulness and ingenuity, like finding a way out of Paul Revere's basement. And there are some neat character bits here and there, like Artie saying he stopped being sure of things in 1983. And the way Pete tricks Valda is pretty cute too — transferring Claudia's dangerous music-box energy into Valda and then sending him back to the defunct reality he came from. (Not sure it fits with how the tuning forks previously worked, but we'll let it slide.)
It all leads up to a happy ending — with just two loose ends. First, the Warehouse is still moving, although maybe not to China any more? And also, Pete finally blurts out to Steve that he's in love with Myka, and apparently he's not lying. Yep, this show is fully committing to a Pete-Myka romance at the eleventh hour. Apparently because the power of friendship or having each other's back really isn't as compelling as the power of love, after all.