Runaway is a Warehouse 13 episode that fully embraces the inherent silliness of the show and its characters. At times, the characters feel less like themselves and more like parodies of themselves. The usually grumpy and cantankerous Artie (Saul Rubinek) spends this episode literally screaming about the social importance of birthday clowns. The frequently childish and immature Pete (Eddie McClintock) has devolved into a total buffoon, deliberately misquoting The Fugitive in an attempt to be funny. Bizarrely, this approach of exaggerating the traits of the show’s characters makes the episode surprisingly entertaining- though perhaps not in the way that the show’s creators intended. As is usually the case with Warehouse 13, the episode is split into two plot-lines. The first follows Myka (Joanne Kelly), Pete and Steve (Aaron Ashmore) investigating a bizarre prison break involving molten lava. The trio soon realise that their opponent has some relation to a local gang who’ve members both behind bars and on the streets. The second plot-line deals with Artie gradually going deaf due to an unfortunate attack of Beethoven’s magical clock (as previously mentioned, this episode is more than a little silly). The prison plot-line also features an appearance by an old flame of Steve’s, who provides something of an insight into the most underdeveloped of the Warehouse agents. The episode should be credited for presenting a gay relationship in a matter-of-fact manner rather than feeling the need to overemphasise the character’s orientation in order to appear more tolerant; something many other well-meaning television shows do when presenting LGBT characters.
The overall theme of the episode appears to be compassion. The compassion Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) shows for Artie as she tries to help him save his sense of hearing contrasts with the broken and formerly compassionate relationship shared by Steve and his ex. The episode’s villain (as is so often the case with this show, the term is used very loosely) commits some grisly atrocities for compassionate reasons. There is an overall optimistic and light-hearted tone to this episode. As a result, the comedic aspects that normally feel out of place (like Pete’s childish jokes) feel a great deal more appropriate. Perhaps if Warehouse 13 permitted itself to adopt the tone of this particular episode more often, it could carve out a more distinctive identity for itself amongst procedural genre shows. However, some aspects of the episode suggest that the program is as flawed as ever. Most notable is that the episode’s creators clearly have no understanding of how lava works. At one point, Myka and Pete surf atop a car that is rolling through molten magma as if it’s thick mud. Apparently in the Warehouse 13 universe, car tires simply don’t melt. Whilst some might dismiss this as an unimportant nitpick, it’s not an overstatement to say that it completely takes the viewer out of the scene. One is no longer able to imagine that the characters are in any kind of peril. All the viewer sees is two actors pretending to dodge computer-generated lava. This is a huge problem with the episode because this sequence is supposed to be the epic finale. Despite the fact that the whole episode is clearly more whimsical in tone than most shows modern viewers are likely used to, the lava sequence is so utterly absurd that it essentially breaks the finale. Not uncommonly for Warehouse 13, Runaway is fun but flawed. Its faults, whilst not numerous, are pretty damaging and might make it a frustrating viewing for those more suited to similar programs (such as Supernatural or Fringe) that take themselves more seriously. The episode is ultimately a fun experience and one gets the distinct impression that fun is exactly what it was intended to be.
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