The midseason finale of Warehouse 13 turned out to be a little disappointing, and not just because we’ll have to wait until April to see the rest of season four. It’s hard to articulate what I was expecting since this season has definitely been different from the past three, but part of me thinks last week’s “The Ones You Love” might have been a better way to leave us all hanging until spring.
There were some great moments in “We All Fall Down,” though, and one of them comes right in the beginning. The episode starts off immediately after the end of last week’s, with Pete and Myka rushing into the Warehouse to find out what’s going on with Leena and Artie. Pete heads off to the Dark Vault only to find it completely trashed, torn apart by Artie in his search for the astrolabe. Myka had the misfortune to pick the bronzing sector to investigate, making her the first one to find Leena’s body.
I’m impressed by both Joanne Kelly and Eddie McClintock in this scene; the shock and sadness that crosses both of their faces, before they shut it down a bit to focus on investigating what happened, is so perfectly in character for both of them. Mrs. Frederic informs them via Farnsworth that it was Artie who killed Leena, and we see a rare glimpse of emotion from her (that isn’t anger, at least). I don’t often consider Mrs. Frederic’s history, but she’s been alive so long she must have lost almost everyone she cares about.
It’s unfortunate that Leena’s character wasn’t explored more while she was alive; she’s the one we know the least about on the Warehouse staff, and the characters (and the writers sometimes) took her for granted as a constant. Considering she appears to Pete as a ghostly image twice this episode though, there’s always the possibility we may still get to know about her past.
Claudia takes the news especially hard because she still desperately wants to believe in the good in Artie. He’s her mentor and father figure, after all. Even the opening credits are serious and subdued, just the title on black, no sweeping view of the Warehouse or theme music. It’ll be interesting to see how the team copes with Leena’s death moving forward; for now, there’s the matter of Artie appearing and demanding the astrolabe.
The agents deny him, knowing the consequences of reversing those 24 hours would be disastrous. Artie drops the charade of memory loss and switches back to his new default setting of evilness, evoking what he did to Leena as a threat to the others. He says he isn’t Artie, and that he’ll use the astrolabe to set Artie free from the Warehouse and everyone in it. The first part is true on multiple levels—this Artie is, in fact, a hologram projected from elsewhere in the Warehouse.
An explosion in the IRS Quartum (which, predictably, Pete doesn’t know a thing about) distracts them from their search for Artie as they rush to contain the fire. IRS stands for Imperium Romanum Sanctum; all the artifacts from Holy Roman Empire-era Warehouse 8 are stored here. It’s also a fun nod to the cover story they tell in town, that they work for an IRS storage facility for tax returns. Pete, Myka, and Claudia get to work sifting through the charred artifacts for whatever tracks Artie was trying to cover.
Meanwhile, Steve and Mrs. Frederic are hitting nothing but dead ends in their astrolabe research with Brother Adrian. At least, until Adrian pulls out a seemingly random book and it has information: using the astrolabe causes one’s mind to fracture into two, and the evil shall overcome the good. That’s what happened to Robespierre, who used it, and suddenly, Reign of Terror. Brother Adrian agrees to help get Mrs. Frederic and Steve back to the Warehouse, but he wants his astrolabe back when this is all over.
Leena’s ghost/spirit/aural projection/whatever leads Pete away from the IRS Quantum into a section Pete describes as “dark and torture-y,” pointing silently at a cabinet on one side. It’s empty, but when Pete turns around to say so, Leena’s gone. “I’m definitely going to be one of those agents who goes crazy,” Pete decides, but takes it back when he finds the hidden panel with H.G.’s research on the mysterious dagger Artie kept seeing Claudia use on him.
Mrs. Frederic confirms that it is H.G.’s research and tells them about Artie’s visions, and Pete confesses his Leena sightings. Everyone seems concerned for Pete’s mental health, but Leena was the person H.G. told about her secret research in case something happened to her. Speaking of which, it would be nice to see H.G. be around as an agent again once in a while. Just saying, I hope she’s present more in the second half of the season.
Claudia works some of her techno-magic to track down Artie, who’s traveling to Budapest under an assumed name. Pete and Myka head out after him, and end up going to Prague to find the dagger in an art collection on display there. Artie’s being held in custody at the airport for suspected terrorism, but he uses the USS Eldridge’s (DE-173) barometer to stop time for 47 seconds and escape.
Here’s where the plot gets unnecessarily complicated. It makes sense for Artie to want the dagger; he’s wanted it almost all season since seeing the vision of Claudia stabbing him so he can prevent it. Understandable. But now it seems he’s also after the Chinese Orchid, the deadliest artifact in Warehouse 8. It releases the English Sweating Sickness, a 24-hour death-with-no-cure kind of epidemic. Remember how the episode title comes from “Ring Around the Rosie?” And how there’s that legend that the song refers to the Plague? Yeah, keep that in mind.
In any case, Claudia and Steve are off to Germany to track down the Chinese Orchid, which is buried at the old site of Warehouse 8 in an impenetrable glass container. Impenetrable except for the dagger, it seems. The official explanation for this is that Artie is going to use the disease as a bargaining chip: give him the astrolabe, or he’ll decimate the population in a blink. It’s like he’s a cartoon supervillain or something—just go straight after the thing you want, don’t waste time with elaborate plans the hero(es) can foil at multiple points along the way. Maybe it’s simply because he doesn’t know where the astrolabe is (safe with H.G., wherever she is), but it all feels unnecessarily complex to me.
Steve and Claudia get to share a few trademark funny moments (“We are not the B team, fool, we are the second A team” might be my favorite Claudia meta-reference to date, and I love that Steve is scared of spiders) as they journey beneath a German insurance company to find the buried orchid. This is what I hope the show can find its way back to—a little less drama, a little more humor.
Pete and Myka explore the museum, managing both a serious conversation about the consequences of Artie murdering Leena, and Pete getting distracted by weapons that look like Klingon battle axes. That’s the Warehouse 13 I know and love. They find the dagger in a display case, and Artie shows up across the room. Tension mounts as Artie begins to systematically destroy his agents’ emotions by playing on their fears: Pete, his fear of truly being an idiot and his guilt over his father’s death, and Myka’s fear of spending her life alone because of her tendency to be a know-it-all. It’s a rough scene to watch, but Saul Rubinek does Menacing Artie incredibly well.
Artie tosses the noose of Isaac Parker—most famous hanging judge in the Old West—up to the ceiling, hoisting everyone in the room up by their necks along with it. I largely feel bad for the tourists who got caught up in this; how do they explain away near-death by phantom hanging? Pete manages to swing himself over to a battle ax and cut everyone loose with an incredibly lucky toss at the noose.
All Steve and Claudia have found is a carving of a stone bridge carved into the cave wall underneath the former Warehouse 8. Mrs. Frederic informs them via Farnsworth that it’s a symbol for the Steinbrook family, the head of which (Franz) was “the Artie of Warehouse 8.” Artie himself meets up with the current members of the Steinbrook family, who have been guarding the orchid since the 30s, when they were afraid Nazi troops would find it. He feeds them a story about rogue agents on his tail so they won’t trust Pete, Myka, Steve, or Claudia, and they show him the old mill where they’ve hidden the orchid.
Through the magic of Mrs. Frederic’s knowledge, the Warehouse team shows up at the mill at the same time. They confront Artie, who’s got shockingly dead eyes—again, my compliments to Saul Rubinek—though he seems to respond to Claudia’s pleas for a split second. The Steinbrooks distract everyone by using the finger cymbals artifact from way back with Macpherson in season one, deafening the Warehouse team so they and Artie can get away.
Claudia and Steve take on the Steinbrooks: Claudia Teslas the father, then fights the daughter as Steve fights the son. Claudia is surprisingly good at hand to hand combat for never having been formally trained. Pete and Myka manage to find Artie and get their hands on the dagger, but when Steve finds the orchid behind a secret panel (which probably should have taken longer to find, to be honest), they find that Artie has Pete at gunpoint.
“You know I’m capable of this,” he threatens. If that isn’t rubbing salt in everyone’s Leena-shaped wound, I don’t know what is. Evil Artie is actually pretty convincingly evil. The question might become, how much of that was a direct influence of the astrolabe and how much was Artie’s personality? For now, though, Pete and Myka have an eye contact conversation that amounts to Myka tossing the dagger down into the heart of the mill because Pete is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the Warehouse. His “good job partner” to her right before he thinks Artie will shoot him is heartbreaking. Eddie McClintock deserves several rounds of applause for his acting this episode.
Artie points the gun at each of them in turn, but ends up using the barometer to freeze time and grab the orchid as well as the dagger. It’s Claudia who finds him as he’s trying to escape, and she tells him it’s not too late to stop all this. He softens for a moment, but then proceeds to tear Claudia’s fragile heart apart, insisting that Artie never loved her.
He takes advantage of her stunned silence to use the dagger on the glass orb, shouting “I cast you out!” as he stabs it, as if the glass is some kind of demon to be exorcised. That’s not the point, though; Claudia picks up the dagger as Artie’s vision flashes across the screen for the umpteenth time, and she’s put the pieces together. Artie’s disembodied voice (Is she imagining it? Is it us getting to know his inner thoughts? It isn’t clear) asks her to do it, to save him, and she repeats the phrase as she completes the vision and stabs him in the chest.
She collapses on him, sobbing, but Regular Artie’s voice is back, comforting her. The downside to Artie having been violently stabbed is that he flung the orchid into the air upon the knife’s impact. Pete dives to catch it in ridiculous slow motion, and when it touches his palm, the blue flower turns into a swirl of black smoke that quickly grows and infects everyone in the room before spreading out across the globe. The ending shot, in fact, is of Earth from space as the continents grow black with disease. Seriously, that’s it until spring.
I know midseason finales usually end on cliffhangers to keep people coming back, but this feels forced. How are they going to fix the incurable, 24-hour-long worldwide epidemic without resorting to cheap writing tricks? I am genuinely curious to see how the team deals with whatever consequences they actually end up with in the second half of the season, especially in terms of Artie murdering one of their own. I hope season four will finish itself out next year on a stronger note. For now, all I can say is that while I enjoyed the idea of Warehouse 13 becoming darker and more serialized, the execution was not always as good as the idea, and nowhere is that more clear than in this episode.