Warehouse 13 [Syfy, Mondays, 9/8C] uses a loose format – agents must track down and neutralize a variety of dangerous artifacts – to go places that most television series would avoid at all costs. This week’s episode, for example, is a high fantasy parody of video games, their programmers, and the show itself.
While the standard A plot/B plot structure is used to great in Don’t Hate the Player, what would normally be an A plot – Artie [Saul Rubinek] and Steve Jinks [Aaron Ashmore] needing the help of dirty FBI Agent Sally Stukowski [Ashley Williams] to snag, bag and tag a killer Van Gogh – plays as support for a wacky – yes, wacky – tale of gaming nightmares.
When Douglas Fargo [Neil Grayston] gets into trouble in his prototype MMO game, Fortress 13, his partner calls on the Warehouse’s tech wizard, Claudia Donovan [Allison Scagliotti] because Fargo gave her his number in case of emergency.
The problem is that Fargo’s life signs have become wildly erratic – interestingly enough, Fargo and fellow game player Jerry [Mark O’Brien] are hooked up to monitors to keep track of their life signs while in the game – and trying to unhook him from the game only makes things worse. Still, what seems like a purely tech problem – not a Warehouse agent’s purview – turns out to be complicated by a teapot!
Can you say artifact? I knew you could!
The only way to help Fargo and Jerry is for someone to enter the game, find them, and then win the darned thing. Not surprisingly, Pete [Eddie McClintock] is gung ho to jump into the game, while Claudia – though a natural choice to help him – is not quite as enthusiastic. But enter the game, they do – and find themselves inside ‘Fortress 13,’ Fargo’s fantasy version of the Warehouse.
Pete chooses to become a gladiator in the game, while Claudia – who had mumbled that she wanted to be ‘herself’ in the game – becomes an elf [causing Pete to exclaim, ‘enunciate!’].
Written by Ian Stokes, Don’t Hate the Player is an even stranger episode than usual. Chris Fisher keeps the pace close to frenetic – allowing momentary pauses for exposition and character beats, but keeping the viewer as off kilter as the characters. Seeing the Warehouse as reimagined by Fargo is a trip.
The efforts of Pete, Claudia and, eventually, Myka, in Fortress 13 are enhanced with a cool color effect that gives them a flatter, more game-like appearance that adds to the fun. Artie and Jinksy’s arc introduces elements that will play out through the remainder of the season – we even get a further glimpse of Agent Stukowski’s mysterious employer [Caprica’s Sasha Roiz].
In terms of enjoyment, Don’t Hate the Player is the most entertaining [and ambitious] Warehouse 13 episode of the season, thus far. Even if it’s odd to see Eureka’s Fargo popping up without any Eureka-based reason, it’s a treat to see the chemistry between Grayston and Scagliotti put to good use once again.
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Photos by Steve Wilkie/courtesy of Syfy