The recent rise in demonic activity has started to test the emerging skills of the Charmed Ones in the short time since they first discovered they were witches. However, in this latest Charmed episode, it seems there’s a particularly dangerous monster which is stalking Hilltowne, and causing all sorts of problems: a pernicious one of the green-eyes variety.
Over the last few weeks, the writers have laid out the backstory for the three sisters, setting up the interpersonal relationships they have not only with each other and their Whitelighter, but also the supporting characters around them. We know that Mel (Melonie Diaz) is in a committed and long term relationship with Hilltowne homicide detective Niko (Ellen Tamaki). Macy (Madeleine Mantock) has had an ongoing flirtation with a work colleague, Galvin (Ser’Darius Blain), which she has come tantalisingly close to acting upon, after they recently shared a kiss. And Maggie (Sarah Jeffery) started the series having recently broken up one guy, only to find herself grabbing the attention of Parker (Nick Hargrove), who happens to be the boyfriend of Lucy (Natalie Hall), the president of Maggie’s sorority. What a tangled web.
The themes which come through in this latest episode of Charmed is that there are always consequences to actions, and having a destiny coupled with a secret identity can come at a cost, namely the ability to have normal relationships with others. The course of true love, it seems, will never run smooth if you happen to be a Charmed One, and Mel is finding herself having to try and comfort Niko, whose late partner was framed by the Elders in ‘Exorcise Your Demons’ to appear to be a serial killer on the Hilltowne University campus; Niko blames herself, doubting her ability to do her job, as she feels that she missed all the signs, but Mel is torn with guilt, as she’s not only inadvertently responsible for the death of Trip (Brendon Zub), but knows she can’t share the truth about what actually happened, and can’t do anything to end Niko’s suffering.
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At the same time that Trip’s demise was being set in motion while exorcising the Harbinger of Hell last week, Maggie had ended up sharing an impromptu kiss with Parker, who had nearly stumbled across what was going on, and needed to distract him somehow. The two had already been subject to an ongoing flirtation, after they had crossed paths briefly while she was at work, and then once again at the huge Halloween party which she’d thrown for the sorority, only to find out there he was dating Lucy. You could just tell the writers were putting all these pieces into place in order to set up some conflict for further down the line, particularly as they’ve so far taken great pains to establish just how much being in Kappa Tau Kappa means to Maggie, so it was never going to end up being straightforward for her.
In fact, they’ve turned the screw a little more here, by having Lucy treat Maggie as her confidante, telling Maggie about Parker having broken up with her, and wanting Maggie’s help in finding out the identity of the ‘other woman’. Lucy has been written very much as the typically shallow and self-obsessed character that we’ve come to expect from American TV and films over the years – think Cordelia in the early years of Buffy, or any of the Mean Girls, for example. it’s nice to see that they’re trying to add some depth to the role, and not just have her as being vapid comic relief; in fact, it’s a telling moment – not to mention something of a turning point for the character – when Lucy finds out directly from Maggie just who the culprit was; Lucy throws back in Maggie’s face her attempt to claim that their sisterhood means too much to her, and we get to see a cold, hard steak which we knew was there all along, buried just under the surface, and setting more strife and angst in motion for Maggie over the cooing weeks.
For some unknown reason, Macy is still inexplicably pining over the tedious and bland Galvin, and is shocked to find out that he’s now hooked up with Summer (Meagan Tandy), an almost impossibly gorgeous and accomplished individual, who seems to have her claws fixed well and truly into him – again, for no readily discernible reason. It’s a true mystery as to how Galvin has quite so many women falling at his feet, as he’s yet to have been given any perceptible character traits, other than being ‘potential love interest’ for Macy. As for Ser’Darius Blain, he gets to flex his acting ‘range’, by getting the chance to play Galvin as being surly and distant, rather than doe-eyed and pining; however, he just manages to come across as grumpy and even more unlikeable than usual. Maybe a more accomplished actor could have done more with the part, but Blain undermines any attempts to get the audience rooting for Macy to finally hook up with him with his performance, and is a real weak spot in the show, given how Galvin is being positioned to play an ongoing role, central to Macy’s place in the series.
Well, at least there’s a mildly entertaining diversion here involving Galvin, Summer, Macy and Maggie, as there’s a suspicion cast that Summer may be a succubus, in view of Galvin’s sudden attraction to her, and the fact Macy spots a magical mark on his back, suggesting he’s under a spell or enchantment. Apart from a rather groanworthy bit of dialogue about the demonisation of women, the writers do try to make a serious point about cyber stalking and social media, as Maggie finds Macy looking up Summer online, having been given essentially the same task by Lucy to do a ‘deep dive’ into social media to try and find the mystery woman who Parker cheated with. I say try, as it falls rather flat if they’re trying to make it land properly, and it mostly gets brushed off with some comedy schtick, rather than it being serious social commentary (which, as we’ve seen, the writers are normally all about). Anyway, Summer isn’t a succubus, which leaves the question hanging about who put the mark on Galvin, and why?
Picking up from last week’s exorcism, we find the mystery character who turned up at the end of the episode is Alastair Caine (Craig Parker), the CEO of Morningstar Biotech, who appears to have a plan for the Harbinger of Hell, having managed to steal it away from the Elders. He’s tasked a shape-shifting assassin with tracking down the DNA of powerful witches, and this puts Niko directly in the firing line – it appears Trip had kept DNA evidence from the murders of several women – including Vera family matriarch Marisol – who all happened to be Elders, and he had been doing his own secret investigation into the matter. After saving Niko from two attempts on her life, Mel realises that the only way to protect her now is to cast a spell to rewrite time, meaning that she and Niko will never have met, and only the Charmed Ones and Harry (Rupert Evans) will retain their memories of the original timeline afterwards.
It all builds up to being a big, emotional, climactic moment as Mel shares a tearful farewell with Niko while the sands of time are literally shifting around them as the spell is taking effect. However, it does feel odd to have this happen so early into the run, as it feels as though it should be held back for a moment later on in the season, where the sacrifice really counted for something, and has maximum impact. As we’re still getting used to the dynamic in Mel and Niko’s relationship, it doesn’t feel quite as hard-hitting as it could have, and it makes Mel seem like even more of a control freak, rushing to a decision before fully exploring all the options first.
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As a result, it all ends up feeling a bit hollow and insubstantial. Unless there’s a plan to bring Niko back in some capacity or other at some point, it does seem rather curious to give a minor character a major sendoff; however, the major ramifications due to the altered timeline look set to be a big part of the coming storyline, but it does seem as though the plot device came first, and the characters involved in it were a secondary consideration.
‘Other Women’ feels like a bit of a pause and a reset, something that would be understandable enough in an established series, but with fewer than half-a-dozen episodes under its belt, Charmed seems to be a bit all over the place at present and is trying to cram in a season’s worth of storylines into just five weeks. A case of more haste, less speed, please.