Hello, everybody and welcome to the Farnsworth Society, where we, as a group, re-watch television shows that are dreampunk, steampunk, cyberpunk, anypunk-related and meet weekly to discuss each episode one at a time. Our first show is the steampunkalicious Warehouse 13 (it only seems fitting to begin the Farnsworth Society with this show, doesn’t it?). Today, we’re covering the seventh episode, “Implosion”. And please fill up the comments with your own thoughts, remembrances, favorite things about the episode, absolutely anything. And, yes, spoilers for any other aired episodes from Seasons 1-3 are allowed. We considered making it spoiler-free, but then decided it would likely constrain conversation far too much. Let’s get to it, kids!
“Implosion” is one of those Warehouse 13 episodes that has practically everything that makes the show awesome (um, with the exception of Claudia, who doesn’t make an appearance). It has multiple artifacts, each niftier than the last, including a Sword of Invisibility (how cool?!), implosion grenades, and fireworks that can fully transfix people for minutes at a time. It has character-driven comedy. It has character-driven drama. Actually, it’s likely the most dramatic episode up to this point of Season 1, building on the ramped-up tension and mythology revelations of the previous episode, “Burnout,” with even more mythology and even greater suspense and impact, as well as a glimpse at Warehouse 13’s first villain–James MacPherson, who fittingly used to be a Warehouse agent himself, which narratively provides us with yet another reason that Artie is so closed off and why he doesn’t like to talk about the past or previous agents’ fates in detail.
In this episode, we don’t learn exactly what caused the rift between MacPherson and the Warehouse, and specifically Artie, though that comes later. We do, however, find out that it has something to do with them both having been in love with the same woman, another former agent, Carol. What has an even more palpable impact, however, isn’t Artie and MacPherson’s shared love for Carol but Artie and MacPherson’s love for each other. From the moment that MacPherson penetrates Artie with the samurai sword, telling him that “You always hurt the one you love,” one can sense an intense level of homoerotic subtext to their relationship. Although they weren’t literal lovers, you can tell that, like Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr (also known as Magneto) from X-Men, Artie and James are two enemies who once cared for each other very deeply, and, in a way, probably still do–that they probably loved and/or knew each other as no one else ever did. Their animosity is largely sparked by their passionate feelings for one another.
And like Charles and Erik, there is a level of searing tragedy to the fact that these former friends can never truly reconcile because their philosophies are so diametrically opposed to one another. People who have seen later episodes know that there is an even deeper level of irony to this, revealed at the close of the second season premiere, but at this point, it is a testament to the great writing and to the fantastic, crackling chemistry between Saul Rubinek and Roger Rees that although we only see them together for a handful of moments here, we can instantly feel their shared history and sense that there is a great deal between them that remains unspoken here. MacPherson may claim that it all springs from his belief that the great wonders that the Warehouse holds shouldn’t be locked up–and, like Magneto, at its core, his philosophy is difficult to find fault with, at least in theory, if not in application–but the viciousness of his actions also imply that they come from a far more personal source of damage, layers of which start to peel away over the course of the rest of the season.
At the same time, “Implosion” already starts to peel back some of Artie’s layers of mystery. It doesn’t fully explain Artie’s espionage-laden past (again, that comes later), but perhaps even more pertinently, it does begin to explain why Artie is the way he is, as well as giving an even clearer-than-before demonstration of just how powerful Mrs. Frederic actually is. And just as it explains Artie’s reservedness, it also shows the danger in that. The central flaw in Artie’s behavior is that, in trying to protect himself from the pain of dealing with his past and (as Leena implies) any future pain that might arise should tragedy befall Pete and/or Myka, he is actually potentially setting all of them up for disaster. As Myka argues, if he had been upfront and honest with them, they could have worked together instead of Pete and Myka flying blind for the majority of the hour, even temporarily thinking he might be a traitor. Joanne Kelley’s “I’m not a redshirt” speech is one of Myka’s (and her) best scenes from the first season. The way she delivers it, conveying frustration, exasperation, and sadness all at once, one can tell that while part of her might–at least from a justification standpoint–understand Artie’s reasoning, she can’t accept it. She’s had it with father figures who keep her at a distance. Ironically, had she and Pete arrived to Artie’s fight with MacPherson a moment sooner, she might have witnessed just how much Artie truly does care for them.