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Charmed

Charmed season 4

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay
Emily Tsiao

TV Series Review

Back in, say, 1939, you knew a bad witch when you saw one. They had green skin and wart-covered noses and pointy hats and long, scraggly brooms. They cackled a lot and occasionally said things like, “I’ll get you, my pretty!”

We live in a kinder, more inclusive age today, of course, and I’m reasonably sure that anyone with green skin and a perfectly understandable yen for brooms could sue The Wizard of Oz for defamation.

We all know better than to judge someone based on the shade of his or her skin, even if that shade is avocado green. Nose warts are not to be judged, because we’re all beautiful in our own ways. And just because someone wears a wide-brimmed, pointy, black hat doesn’t make her a witch. She could simply be a hipster.

No, the only thing that witches have to do today—at least if they’re television witches—is cast a little magic. And boy, is there some magic-casting going on over at The CW these days.

EVERY WITCH WAY

Welcome to Hilltowne, Michigan, affectionately known as “Helltowne” by its in-the-know residents. The nickname is fitting, if unintentionally so. Most of the townsfolk (many of whom are connected to Hilltowne University) unwittingly rub elbows with monsters and demons. They’re everywhere, it seems, often disguising themselves as mortals (or possessing otherwise innocent humans) and wreaking their particular brand of infernal havoc on the world. All their activity is a precursor to, well, the end of the world—and the “awakening of the source of all evil,” according to the ancient Book of Shadows.

Unless, of course, some kindly enterprising witches put a stop to it. And Hilltowne is home to three such witches—the most powerful trio of magic-makers to ever quaff a 21st-century latte, in fact. Naturally, they’re sisters.

Well, half-sisters, at any rate. Macy, Mel and Maggie all shared the same mom–a fact that, much like their witchy powers, none of them knew about until after they were asked to save the world. For several years, the “Charmed Ones” wielded the legendary Power of Three, defending the world from everything that goes bump in the night. But then tragedy struck.

It turns out their lives weren’t as charmed as they once believed: At least one sister has died an untimely death in every previous iteration of the trio. (Perhaps this is why their mother tried to keep the girls apart.)

Like the original series that ran from 1998 to 2006, the actress portraying the eldest Charmed sister wanted to leave. And while Madeleine Mantock’s (who played Macy) departure wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Shannon Doherty’s was, fans of the series (not to mention characters within it) will certainly feel the loss as Mel and Maggie discover yet another half-sister they knew nothing about, (Mi)Kaela, who also knew nothing about her witchy powers until she was asked to help save the world.

OOH EEH OOH AH AHH, TING, TANG, WALLA WALLA BING BANG

As mentioned, Charmed is a reboot of the 1998-2006 supernatural dramedy of the same name, one of the most successful series in the history of the old WB network. (Which, frankly, isn’t saying much.) The rebooted version strives to keep much of the original’s light, campy vibe intact, and a good chunk of the original show’s structure, too: three sisters learning about their superpowers!

But this version has visions of being more than a new Charmed for a new generation: It wants to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a new generation—filled, as Buffy was, with loads of metaphorical baggage and socio-political commentary. And that requires some unpacking.

The new Charmed uses (as the old one did, to a less-shrill extent) the vocation of witchcraft as a way to express the inherent power of women, and how (in the show’s perspective) people try to usurp, undermine or belittle that power. Mel, a lesbian engaged in physical relationships with several women throughout the show, seems the most obvious conduit for the show’s righteous anger. (That said, the show often pokes a bit of fun at Mel’s double-barreled quest for justice, too.) But all the characters here are party to its in-the-moment “woke” vibe.

Sometimes, that’s not bad. In the show’s first episode, when Maggie’s on-again, off-again boyfriend becomes possessed by a demon hoping to plant a kiss of death on her, Maggie shouts, “When it comes to consent I can change my mind at any time!” as she kicks him away. It’s funny and silly and true.

But make no mistake: The politics of this show lean progressive—sometimes radically so—and I doubt that conservative Christians will get much of a positive voice here, if they get one at all. Sexuality is a big theme, too, with none of the girls shying away from some serious physicality with various partners. And yes, things can get gory as well.

Then, of course, you’ve got the show’s supernatural premise, predicated as it is on witchcraft. Like lots of entertainment-centric witches, these sisters were born with their gifts: They didn’t make a pact with sinister occult forces to get them. In fact, as mentioned, they’re actively fighting said forces. But still, they engage in plenty of mysterious rites, Ouija-board readings and Latin-loaded spell-casting, which gives their spellcasting a darker spiritual sheen.

Episode Reviews

Mar. 11, 2022 – S4, Ep1: “Not That Girl”

Mel and Maggie process their grief over Macy’s loss while searching for the new third “Charmed” one.

We see magic in many forms—magical portals, pictures that come to life, a woman that turns into a picture, glowing eyes, healing spells, etc. Maggie and another character fight monsters disguised as humans that turn to dust when stabbed. A type of talisman curses two normally docile creatures to become violent. (One grows teeth and the other grows bat-like wings.) A girl dies after revealing the name of the man who gave her the talisman.

A woman says she was raised to respect all forms of spirituality but then wonders if Mel and Maggie are part of a cult. In a ceremony to earn her wings, a pixie offers a gift to the “goddess of flight” and internally recites a “prayer of empowerment.”

Characters make out (including same-sex pairings). Some women wear revealing tops. People drink and become hungover. A woman wonders if someone has given her LSD. We hear uses of “a–,” “b–ch” and “h—.” God’s name is also abused. Someone gets in trouble for creating graffiti.

Jan. 31, 2020: “Dance Like No One is Witching”

Macy and Mel frantically search for a cure to a magical illness when Harry falls deathly ill. Maggie pairs up with her friend, Jordan, in New Orleans to track down a dangerous cult.

A shaman uses a staff to control people and create green lightning that drains their life forces in a necromancy ritual. Witches use their magic to restart someone’s heart and create portals for instant travel. Someone uses magic to throw a man and put him to sleep. A man’s eyes turn yellow when he’s infected with a demon-based illness and he attacks his friends. Blood is used in a potion.

A flashback shows a child trapped in a wrecked car, screaming for help with his dead (and bleeding) parents in the front seat. A woman pours a sizzling concoction on a man’s scratched and bleeding arm. A woman slices her hand open with a knife. A woman uses a baton to beat up a man. A man collapses after becoming sick and later has a seizure. A man claims the ghost of a dead witch tried to kill him.

A couple kisses and enters a bedroom (presumably to spend the night together). Several couples kiss. We see cleavage on several women. People wearing revealing clothing dance wildly in a club. Someone describes a man’s sexual prowess.

People have glowing drinks in a club and also take a glowing green taffy believing it to be similar to ecstasy. Adults drink wine. “P-ss,” “d–n, “h—,” “a–” and the more British-centric profanity “b—ocks” are all used. There is also one misuse of God’s name.

Oct. 14, 2018: “Pilot”

The first episode of this reboot takes its cues from the #MeToo movement: After their mother’s untimely passing, sisters Mel, Macy and Maggie discover that they’re witches and immediately square off against a pair of sexual-harassing demons—one of whom masquerades as a university professor. (Ironically, he repeatedly calls the charges against him a “witch hunt.”)

Harry, a ghost sent to guide the sisters, says they must choose to accept the role of witchery. “Being a witch is a fully pro-choice enterprise,” he says. Arguments about the professor’s guilt-and-innocence echo some of what we heard in the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, with Mel arguing with a student over questions of believability and due process. (Given that the professor was not only guilty, but a demon, viewers are not left with any ambiguity about where the show comes down on these questions.)

We learn that the professor’s main accuser mysteriously suffered a drug overdose (and is in a coma). And the sisters’ mother, who pushed for the prof’s dismissal, dies mysteriously, too: She either fell or was thrown from a second-story window, and we see her dead body on the sidewalk outside. We also see a demon that shoots an ice shard into the chest of his only defender accidentally—an injury that’s healed by Harry.

Before her death, the sisters’ mother was engaged in a complicated spell filled with Latin words. The sibling witches likewise cast their own spell in Latin. They also communicate (apparently) with their dead mother via Ouija board. Characters can and do freeze time, read thoughts and cause objects to fly about.

Mel and her female lover, Nico, kiss and are shown in bed together. Mel texts Nico once to “get naked,” and when Maggie returns home unexpectedly, she sees Mel and Nico hurriedly buttoning and zipping up their garments. Maggie kisses her one-time boyfriend passionately. That same boyfriend, possessed by a demon, makes an unwanted advance on Maggie, which she physically rebuffs. Women wear midriff-revealing and shoulder-baring garb, and Maggie references “slutty” Halloween costumes. There’s also a violent (albeit sarcastic) reference to removing a man’s genitals.

After accidentally causing a beer bottle to fly across the room, Macy apologizes to a friend saying, “I’m drunk and clumsy.” The girls’ mother was drinking before her death, we’re told—explaining why she “fell” from a window. A sorority sister keeps a stash of secret booze on hand, and offers it to someone else. A dog turns demonic and scratches Maggie’s face. Mel asks Maggie if there’s vomit on her shoe. Someone makes a reference to defecating in a vase.

We hear people say “h—,” “d–n” and “b–ch,” as well as a dozen misuses of God’s name. We also hear the f-word stand-in “freaking” several times. Characters make allusions to the political and cultural issues of the day as well.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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