When the first season of Warehouse 13 concluded last September, I thought there was a chance the sci-fi comedy-drama was about to break away from its comfortable relic-of-the-week formula: Leena, the psychic B&B owner, was revealed to be helping the fiendish former agent MacPherson. Techno-whiz Claudia Donovan, framed as a traitor, was on the run. And Pete and Myka were left gaping and helpless after the tunnel between the Warehouse door and the caretaker's office blew up with Artie inside.
Oh, we knew Artie (Saul Rubinek) would survive -- after all, he oversees a building filled to the rafters with dei ex machina -- but it appeared as if the Leena and Claudia threads could send the show careening into a different, and vastly more interesting, direction. However, by the end of the Season Two premiere, "Time Will Tell," everyone was pretty much as they had been before the explosive cliffhanger. Except for MacPherson (Roger Rees), and Mrs. Frederic's poor driver; they're both dead. And Claudia's brother Joshua who, after filling the role assigned to him by the plot, had both of his legs broken. Hey, Claudia got her own Farnsworth, though, so one central character emerged from the episode changed. I guess.
I didn't want Warehouse 13 to suddenly become The Fugitive or 24, with Pete, Myka and Artie hounding MacPherson and Claudia across the globe for a dozen episodes. But I wouldn't have objected to Claudia clearing her name by exposing that MacPherson was manipulating Leena, who was using Harriet Tubman's Thimble (groan) to impersonate her. Likewise, it might've been interesting for Leena to continue as the Warehouse traitor/saboteur for a couple of episodes before revealing that MacPherson had ... shoved the mind-controlling Pearl of Wisdom -- it's an actual pearl! -- into her ear when nobody was looking. Better still, the writers could take that extra time to come up with a better explanation for Leena's behavior.
Instead of any real developments, "Time Will Tell" gives us characters flying halfway around the world and back simply because they need something to do. When confronted with evidence of her betrayal, Claudia doesn't stay and fight, but rather makes a beeline for Geneva -- with a trusting Artie on her heels -- where her brother Joshua works with antimatter. Conveniently, that's the very substance MacPherson needs to realize his plan. So he uses that handy thimble to impersonate Joshua's supervisor and order him to hand over a briefcase of the stuff. Why MacPherson requires Joshua's assistance is never explained. Presumably it's so Claudia, Artie and the audience can see just how nasty MacPherson is when he pushes the elder Donovan over a rail, breaking both of his legs. Don't worry about Joshua, though; Artie sure doesn't.
Relegated to supporting-character status back at the Warehouse, Pete and Myka play detectives and quickly determine that MacPherson's mole freed someone else from the Bronze Sector, where the most dangerous people in history are interred: author H.G. Wells. So they immediately fly to London -- against Artie's orders to stay put, of course -- because they figure the reawakened science fiction writer is heading to the H.G. Wells House to find ... something. I forgive the senseless air travel, though, because it provides the best revelation of the episode: that H.G. Wells is actually a woman who crafted many of the devices in her books, then passed along the ideas to her brother Charles, who "supplied the mustache." Even better, she was apprenticed to Warehouse 12, apparently alongside Tesla and Escher. The downside, unfortunately, is that actress Jaime Murray, who was so fun in Hustle, oscillates between manic and bored here. I can't say that I blame her, though.
Everyone ends up back in South Dakota with little to show for their trips but an Imperceptor Vest, a suitcase of antimatter and a bunch of frequent flier points. Mrs. Frederic literally chokes the Pearl of Wisdom out of Leena, because that's apparently the best way to dislodge objects from the brain, and Pete, Myka and Artie stop MacPherson, who tries to sell out Wells -- just before she kills him. Wells escapes with her locket, ring and compact that she retrieved from the Escher Vault, which should look just as awesome as you imagine. Unfortunately, when Artie and Mrs. Frederic head in to the room to see what Wells stole, we're subjected to the worst green screen work this side of Blue's Clues. It's really, really bad.
And with that, the reset button is pushed, except that we now have a new, and potentially interesting, villain for Season Two. (Let's hope that the show explores the disturbing revelation that those interred in the Bronze Sector remain conscious the whole time. What's worse is that Artie is aware of, and untroubled by, that tidbit.) So I guess it's not all bad.
The shortcomings of this episode aside, I don't dislike Warehouse 13. Honestly. There's something to be said for popcorn television. But in the end, I find the series as frustrating as it is fun, primarily because it could be so much better than it is.