From its inception, Syfy channel’s Warehouse 13 has been a fangirl-friendly series with a gender-balanced, diverse cast and character arcs focused on friendships, teamwork, and even some romance. With Warehouse 13 beginning its fourth season, the time is fitting to delve a bit deeper into the Strong Female Heroines – and occasionally more ominous strong female characters – who give the show its heart.
Warehouse 13’s central characters are Myka Bering and Pete Lattimer, partners in a special division of the U.S. Secret Service devoted to tracking down and securing mysterious “artifacts” from throughout history with magical, often dangerous, powers. Pete is the spontaneous and reckless jokester, and Myka is the serious and organized foil. But they complement each other well, and neither is the lead partner in the pairing.
Myka certainly fits the criteria of a Strong Female Heroine. Her heroism is the cornerstone of the series: both Myka and Pete are deeply committed to protecting lives by retrieving the artifacts. Many times an artifact’s power has corrupted its current possessor, and they strive not only to prevent harm to innocent bystanders, but also to free the artifact’s victim from its destructive influence. They are not afraid to use violence when necessary, but their primary weapon is a specialized form of stun raygun, not a pistol with bullets. Myka is definitely one of the “good guys” in her moral choices and her selfless dedication to protecting others.
The series also consistently portrays Myka’s strengths. Although she is an able fighter when the need arises, her strength typically comes in other forms, particularly her intelligence, cleverness, and photographic memory. She has the courage to remain focused on the mission at hand even when the situation takes a turn for the worse (as it often does), and frequently is the one who pieces together small details to solve the dilemma confronting them. Her dedication to success, though, can border on perfectionism; at one point, she briefly resigns as a Warehouse agent when she blames herself for a near disaster. This negative side of an unwillingness to accept failure is a relatable quality as many women in the real world struggle with it, too. Ultimately, Myka returns to the team, more dedicated than ever to her heroic mission.
Finally, Warehouse 13 excels at keeping Myka’s womanhood as a key aspect of her heroism and strength. Although little is explored onscreen, she had a complicated and difficult relationship with a highly demanding father growing up – another relatable trait for many women. At the Warehouse, this background manifests in a similarly complex relationship with her boss, Artie, a generation her senior and a demanding leader of the Warehouse team. Likewise, Myka’s personality and focus on her career can make romantic relationships with men a challenge, including her conflicted feelings about Pete. Throughout the series, Myka is not an action hero who happens to be a woman, but a Strong Female Heroine.
Impressively, Warehouse 13’s writers have created a supporting cast of woman who also are strong and well-crafted in their own rights. Not all of them are as consistently heroic and morally good as Myka, but they are female characters that succeed where so many attempts to create them fail.
Young Claudia Donovan, the Warehouse’s resident computer hacker and technology guru, began the series in a secondary role but over three seasons has become an integral part of the Warehouse team, reaching a prominence in the cast that rivals and perhaps even surpasses Artie’s in significance. At first lonely and deeply skeptical, she has found a surrogate family in her Warehouse comrades, finding that necessary sense of belonging that many women share. When she cares about someone, she will stop at nothing to protect or rescue them, including her once-missing brother Joshua and her best friend, fellow agent Steve Jinks. This strength and passion sometimes comes at a cost, when Claudia becomes willing to cross moral lines to achieve her goals. But that makes her profoundly relatable as a character, too, because love can readily drive people to lengths they would not otherwise go.
Similar themes appear in a lengthy storyline involving Helena – the true creative mind behind the famous author and foreseer H.G. Wells – and her path from villain to hero. In her grief at the loss of her daughter, she sought vengeance against all of humanity, planning to use an artifact to cause a global catastrophe to remake the world anew. Despite extensive deception to conceal her true agenda from the Warehouse agents, it was ultimately friendship with and loyalty to them – particularly Myka – which inspired her to return to serving as an honest Warehouse agent, ultimately sacrificing herself to save it from annihilation. By juxtaposing Myka’s selfless heroism, Claudia’s sometimes selfish love, and Helena’s arc of revenge and redemption, Warehouse 13 conveys a breadth of strong female characters rarely found on television.
Even some of the minor recurring players in the series are female characters worthy of note. Artie’s boss is Mrs. Frederic, an African-American woman who is decisive, commanding, and unwavering in her role as the Caretaker who leads the Regents overseeing the Warehouse’s mission. (Notably, Mr. Frederic is nowhere to be seen.) Pete’s mother, Jane Lattimer, is one of the Regents – a fact that Pete only learns after several years of serving as a Warehouse agent, suddenly casting in a light so many of her choices and secret-keeping during his childhood. And Leena, the African-American proprietor of the bed & breakfast near the Warehouse, is one of the few non-agents trusted with its secrets.
Season Four of Warehouse 13 has just begun, and already Claudia is moving through another fascinating character arc. In the episodes to come, Myka and the others are surely due for more great storytelling, as well.
Warehouse 13 airs Mondays at 9:00 p.m. on Syfy. While it has ongoing arcs, the show’s premise – track down the artifact of the week and stop whatever mayhem it’s causing – is simple enough to pick up and enjoy even if you start in Season Four.
B.J. Priester is editor of FANgirl Blog and contributes reviews and posts on a range of topics. A longtime Star Wars fandom collaborator with Tricia, he is also editing her upcoming novel Wynde. He is a law professor in Florida and a proud geek dad.