Good Witch

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay
Emily Clark

TV Series Review

There’s something special about Cassie Nightingale. Magical, you might say.

Admittedly, her enchantments (if that’s what we should call them) are fairly subtle. She doesn’t wave a magic wand about and fret over He Who Must Not Be Named, à la Harry Potter. She doesn’t wiggle her nose, like Samantha did on the 1960s sitcom Bewitched. If she uses newt’s eyes and bat wings in her soup, she keeps those ingredients well back in the pantry.

No, Cassandra simply seems to have a certain intuition about her. A knack for saying just the right thing at just the right time. A talent for bringing hurting people together, or solving the low-stakes problems that crop up in the quaint hamlet of Middleton. Sure, she certainly believes in aromatherapy and the healing benefits of ginger. But if Macbeth came to get some advice from this witch, well, she’d likely tell him to spend a weekend at her bed and breakfast (The Grey House), have a nice cuppa tea, spend more quality time with his wife and forget all about killing the King of Scotland.

Still, she and her daughter, Grace, have effectively charmed Middleton and, apparently, much of the audience of the Hallmark channel. Through 11 made-for-TV movies and a show with an ongoing run of several seasons, Cassandra (known to most just as Cassie) has helped turn Middleton into a kinder, gentler, happier place—the sort of hamlet that folks who visit just want to enjoy and stay for a … spell.

Oh, My, Stars

It’s not as though Middleton is problem free. Martha Tinsdale is perpetually in a tizzy about the latest fair or festival, insisting that everything go just right. Folks like Stephanie Borden (who runs the local bistro) and Abigail Pershing (Cassie’s cousin who seems to share some of Cassie’s low-key abilities) have to deal with awkward misunderstandings and unhappy customers, just like the rest of us. Why, Dr. Sam Radford, Middleton’s newish physician, couldn’t see the town’s attraction at first; and the pragmatic, no-nonsense, logical doc had very little time for Cassie’s slightly hippie-esque sensibilities.

But since he’s now married to Cassie, we can assume he’s come around. Either that, or there’s an empty love potion vial somewhere in Cassie’s closet.

Still, no one in Middleton is trying to take over the Ministry of Magic or conquer Westeros or cause all of its citizens to lose their immortal souls.

Or are they?

Reviewicus Complididius

Much like the town, Good Witch looks pretty bucolic when you first encounter it. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve seen a cleaner show in many a year. Rarely, if ever, does anyone swear. A stern scowl is as close as this show typically gets to outright violence. And if there’s any hanky-panky in Middleton, the cameras here aren’t focusing on it. On the surface, Good Witch makes Disney’s DuckTales look like Breaking Bad.

“Don’t get me wrong,” star Catherine Bell told Biography some years back, “I love Game of Thrones and all the deep, dark stuff, but sometimes it’s nice to just lay in bed, eat popcorn and watch something that makes us feel good about life and the nature of humanity.”

This is, unquestionably, a feel-good show. Middleton has its share of characters and disagreements, but everything there just feels nice. And when things aren’t nice, Cassie (along with her inter-relational skillsets, magical or no) sidles alongside and helps make everything better. Matches are made. Misunderstandings are resolved. Homework is done, and dinner parties are had.

But all that gentle-goodness and saccharine-sweetness and oh-so-niceness won’t alleviate the concern that the title itself will spark.

For lo these many years that Hallmark’s been pushing out its Good Witch stories, Cassandra’s “powers” have never been explicitly labeled as supernatural, much less diabolical. Do she and Grace have actual magical powers? Or do they simply have a particularly powerful, edifying set of social skills and a rabid sense of what my mom used to call “women’s intuition”? Good Witch, despite its name, will never tell.

But let’s just say that Cassandra is a witch. While her powers wouldn’t impress anyone at Hogwarts, they might feel familiar to a Puritan from the 17th century, perhaps, what with Cassie’s devotion to herbal remedies and impressive knack for manipulating social situations. Indeed, her very goodness might alarm some—casting as she does a spell, as it were, on viewers themselves, making witchcraft look not just benign, but positively beneficial.

I hardly think that Hallmark is out to enlist its viewers into an army for Satan. Through its unusual trope, the network likely intends the show to salute traditional-but-powerful femininity in a new, engaging way—and all while staying away from the shock-and-schlock template that so much television seems to gravitate toward these days. Still, some Christians may look at Cassandra and see a power behind her more influential than Voldemort.

Episode Reviews

June 16, 2019: “The Honeymoon”

Cassie and Sam are celebrating their honeymoon at a local vineyard. However, they are disappointed to learn their new favorite getaway location might not be there next year as the harvest hasn’t been, ahem, fruitful, and the owner’s brother, Connor, wants to sell it. Meanwhile, just as her mom’s romance is taking off, Grace finds her own coming to a close when her long-distance boyfriend, Noah, dumps her. Martha chokes at a television audition, Abigail finds herself receiving mixed signals from the neighboring town’s Mayor, and Stephanie gets asked on a date by not just one, but two potential suitors. And is the Grey House haunted after all?

Wanting to skip the pain of her breakup, Grace changes the date on her phone in an effort to “jump forward in time.” She denies to others that anything has happened, despite the growing concern of her family. Nick’s childhood friend, Tyler, investigates the Grey House for the ghost of the Grey Lady and the mysterious “Clementine.” When the lights suddenly turn off and Clementine’s name echoes through the house, Nick thinks Tyler might be right. (As it turns out, the lights were just Grace playing a joke, but who was the voice behind that spooky whisper?)

Cassie and Sam kiss twice and have their arms around each other whenever they are walking or standing next to each other. Abigail and Mayor Davenport nearly kiss, but are interrupted by Martha, who states there is a 200-year-old curse on all Merriwick/Davenport couples. Adults drink wine at the vineyard and at the charity event. Two women greet each other with a double-cheek kiss in the background of the charity event.

May 26, 2018: “Written Like a Merriwick”

Grace, Cassie’s daughter, needs to write a fiction story for English class. But she struggles with writer’s block until a mysterious steamer chest arrives—one that belonged to her grandmother, Elizabeth Merriwick. When she begins wearing some of the clothes she finds therein, Grace begins to write imagined stories of Elizabeth’s adventures. But when Elizabeth’s journal arrives later, Grace discovers that her fictional stories and Elizabeth’s own past seem remarkably similar. Meanwhile, bistro owner Stephanie struggles with how to respond to an online troll. And a couple of guests at Cassie’s bed and breakfast—a mother and a daughter—try to recreate a photo that was taken of them there 20 years before.

The mother seems obsessed about recreating the details in the photo exactly—much to her harried daughter’s annoyance. They even help the B&B’s gardener replant some roses, so the new picture can better replicate the original. Eventually, we learn that this seemingly high-maintenance mom’s real motivation was simply spending time with her daughter. “The other day, we actually gardened together,” the mom says. When she looks at the new photo, she says she’ll remember those special times, not the details in the pic that still weren’t quite right.

Grace frets that because her stories mirror her grandmother’s own life so closely, she somehow “cheated.” Those stories get her an interview with a recruiter at a prestigious college—an interview that was supposed to go to one of Grace’s friends. Grace sacrifices her own chance at the college to extol, in the interview, the virtues of her friend instead.

Cassie shows a knack for predicting who’ll walk through her doors before they actually do, and she name-drops some natural cures for headaches. The B&B groundskeeper mentions that roses seem to bloom almost all year long, “like there’s some sort of magic in the soil.” Sam kisses the nape of Cassie’s neck.

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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 Clark
Emily Clark

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 indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

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