The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 8

Beginning with it’s fourth season, I was such a big fan of Charmed, a show which can be summed up by:

Charmed is an American television series that ran for eight seasons on The WB. It was produced by Aaron Spelling and is about three sisters who are the world’s most powerful good witches, known throughout the supernatural community as “The Charmed Ones” but known to everyone else as the Halliwells. Each sister possesses unique magical powers that grow and evolve over the course of their lives. The Charmed Ones live together in a manor house and use their supernatural abilities to battle the warlocks, demons and other evil forces that populate San Francisco, California, to protect the innocent and good magical beings.

The show was the last in its generation of supernatural-themed shows such as Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngel and Roswell, and has many times been noted for its mixing of multiple genres (from horror and fantasy to comedy and even soap), as well as continuing after a number of archetypal jump the shark moments, most famously the departure of one of the leading actresses at the end of season three. It also had the highest rated debut (until the debut of Smallville at 8.4 million), for the WB Television Network, with 7.7 million viewers tuning in for the series premiere, “Something Wicca This Way Comes”.

In January 2006, with the airing of “Payback’s a Witch”, Charmed became the longest running show with all-female leads, surpassing Laverne & Shirley. However it was overtaken by Desperate Housewives in 2012, which completed with 180 episodes opposed to Charmed’s 178 episodes. The series ended its run on May 21, 2006. The Charmed series finale, “Forever Charmed”, pulled in a season high of 4.49 million viewers.

The-Craft-Poster

Debuting 2 years and 5 months after The Craft entered theaters, while the film was about a group of friends – Charmed was driven by the fact they were sisters, family.

Is it any surprise both share the same song, “How Soon is Now?” by Love Spit Love?

Billie-christy

Oddly enough, during this final season they did try to get back to the beginning (recapture) their roots, with sisters Billie and Christy Jenkins, but it was really just a failed attempt. While Prue, Piper and Phoebe knew each other well, and fought, the Jenkins shared stark differences, like Christy being kidnapped and raised by demons. So it’s completely different!

Brandon Quinn, who plays Homeland Security Agent Murphy, is pretty cute.

Finally, Jason Lewis from Sex and the City and the subsequent film plays Dex Lawson.

 

The Best:

Run Piper Run, Desperate Housewitches, Rewitched, The Lost Picture Show, Battle of the Hexes, Vaya Con Leos, Repo Manor, The Last Temptation of Christy, Generation Hex, The Torn Identity, The Jung and The Restless, Kill Billie: Vol. 2, and Forever Charmed

8x13-Dollhouse

  • Run, Piper, Run sees Piper as her adopted glamour appearance get arrested for murder;

  • Desperate Housewitches finally sees the return, albeit briefly, of the The Source;

  • Rewitched finally sees the sisters remove the glamour, and no longer live in hiding;

  • The Lost Picture Show sees the return of the one of my favorite characters, Sam Wilder, Paige’s father;

  • Battle of the Hexes is a great reminder that Charmed never did gender politics that well at all. Lots of Straw Feminism here (see Feminist Frequency‘s #6);

  • Vaya Con Leos sees Leo and Piper’s relationship facing another hurdle, but was pretty cool to see her summon an Avatar and an Elder at the same time about Leo;

  • Repo Manor is a super meta episode with the dollhouse, and it’s explosion in this episode would mirror the explosion in the future episode, Kill Billie: Vol. 2;

  • The Last Temptation of Christy is the first episode to feature Billie’s sister, Christy, and the return of the The Triad;

  • Generation Hex sees two of Leo’s students from Magic School seek help in vanquishing unvanquishable Noxon Demons. Meanwhile, Coop takes Phoebe through time to her past loves;

  • The Torn Identity sees Coop put Paige inside Henry’s body, in order for them to better understand each other;

  • The Jung and The Restless sees Billie and Christy put the Charmed Ones in a dream state, so that way Christy can show her that the Charmed Ones are corrupted;

  • Kill Billie: Vol. 2 sees the Halliwell and Jenkins sisters both conjure the Hollow, leading to the devastation of the Halliwell Manor; and,

  • Forever Charmed is the rather mediocre finale, though it does have nice appearances of Grams, Patty, Wyatt, and Chris.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Run, Piper, Run:

Cameron Litvack has become Charmed‘s most reliable writer. Not that there’s huge competition, but his scripts generally have a certain sparkle to them, especially when it comes to dialogue. Run Piper Run puts Charmed’s strongest character center stage and features a couple of neat lines here and there, especially some fun shout-outs in response to the ridiculous story arcs at work right now. Piper also doesn’t bug this week, unlike her random bout of hagitude last episode. There’s still a lethargy to Holly’s performance, but at least it beats somebody like Rose McGowan, who’s been acting like somebody coming down off a four-day coke bender all season.

The A-plot is riddled with plotholes, but is generally fine. It plays on the already-existing problems in the ‘identity switch’ story arc, and features some reliably trashy acting from Davis Gaines’ waxy-faced D.A. bad guy. The story sags a little at times, notably those horrible scenes featuring Piper’s adventures in Prison Cliches (butch cellmate, ineffectual lawyers, wardrobe commentary etc.), but there’s a drive to it and some actual thinking on the part of the sisters, all of whom actually come up with a successful plan this week.

Everything else in Run Piper Run is pretty mundane. Phoebe’s romantic junk with Dex continues to be hideous, and furthers Phoebe’s own selfish characterization of late (“Can’t help you with the whole ‘being in jail’ thing Piper, gotta save my future-husband-slash-sperm-donor!”). I did get a kick out of seeing Dex’s fug metal Africa shit tumble and break in that premonition, but this storyline is still a time-filler. Just like Leo’s random flirtation with some horny housewife. Ugh. There’s also the Billie problem, and don’t you just love that the show threw her into scenes with Rose? There’s so much scenery-chewing they’re practically upchucking splinters.

Besides the awful subplots, Run Piper Run has some successful elements. It’s not an overt disaster like last week and for that I’m thankful, but Charmed seriously shouldn’t exist at this point.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Desperate Housewitches:

I’ve talked a lot this season about the general lack of effort that is radiating off this show like expired meat, and Desperate Housewitches is one of the more obvious examples of the show coasting on old stories and pre-existing characterization, as well as cribbing themes from far more popular series. There are a ton of problems with this episode, the largest being a general sense of futility to everything on screen. Whole minutes of time pass by with people just sniping at each other for no discernible reason, while demons just hover around glowering at folks. It’s ridiculously vacuous.

Piper’s storyline is an empty Desperate Housewives pastiche lifted straight from one of that show’s stories in season one, bar all the demon hijinks. The dialogue is painfully self-aware, while the demon angle is hilariously half-assed. The Source was an intriguingly grand and gothic antagonist back in season four, yet his return is a resounding fail. He stands around, yells a little, and is casually destroyed by proxy when Piper blows up the demon that summoned him. He’s on-screen for probably four minutes in total, and I still have no idea why this storyline was considered strong enough to run with.

Elsewhere, there’s an annoying subplot involving Dex’s ex-girlfriend, who is seemingly fine with discussing her sex life with random women she knows for all of ten seconds. The entire Dex arc feels entirely redundant at this point. Even if we didn’t know that Jason Lewis is only contracted for two more episodes, the entire story hinges on a premonition that probably won’t come true based on past experience with similar visions of the future, leaving Phoebe to pine over some guy she barely knows. That’s before you can address the fact that Phoebe is still under the guise of a Bennet sister, and the whole story stinks.

Paige’s presence in the story is terrible, and Rose looked tired as hell. Her eyes are all sunken this week, like her latest chemical peel has gone terribly awry. Color me insane because I’m actually missing Alyssa Milano, who barely appears in this episode. There’s also some junk involving a vacant Billie Jenkins and a set of flying nunchunks, but let’s not go there.

Desperate Housewitches is weak all round, with a shocking lack of new ideas and performances that seem even more stilted than usual. Alana De La Garza was mighty fine, though.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Rewitched:

I don’t know if it was at all intentional, but I liked the sisters slowly realizing how ridiculous their entire ‘glamored identities’ plan was. It was most successful, shockingly, in the Phoebe storyline. Alyssa Milano generally seems completely over this show, but she did have a couple of neat moments this week, especially when she finally acknowledged the fact that she’s always lied to Dex and doesn’t know a damn thing about him. I’m happy that both of these stories are finally on their way out, and I appreciated the brief moments of sisterly bonding that Rewitched featured. Being season eight, however, everything else blew.

Billie is just the worst. Kaley Cuoco has a horrible voice, all Valley Girl squeakiness and persistent exasperation, and she seems entirely incapable of finding levels in her performance, nor a vocal delivery that suits varying tones. In short, it’s bad sitcom acting. Which makes sense considering Cuoco’s background, but is so wrong for a show like Charmed. And, yes, Charmed is terrible at this point, but even with that in mind her presence still feels so distracting. She took center stage far too much here, and I dislike that the show is making the sisters so jaded and bored in order to make Billie seem so much stronger and inquisitive by proxy. She’s just terrible. I even dislike her stupid, shiny, over-processed hair. Ugh.

The whole Agent Murphy ‘National Security’ get-out was predictably horrible, especially the elaborate press conference (were the Halliwell deaths a huge story or something? It seems needlessly over-the-top), gaping FBI agents (how does that secretary even know who these three random women are?) and the celebrity reaction at P3. Then again, what else could the writers really do? They painted themselves into a corner and had to scrape around for some kind of resolution. Damn show.

Rewitched is a necessary bridge episode that brings to a close a whole bunch of convoluted stories that never made a whole lot of sense in the first place. Unfortunately, the tale of woe that is Billie Jenkins insists on sticking around for the rest of the season. Rewitched has some interesting moments, but the demon thing is perfunctory and the ending completely ridiculous. Hilariously, none of that stops it from being this season’s best episode so far.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of The Lost Picture Show:

As much as it may look that way, this isn’t actually a re-run. Sure, almost all the storylines here have been done on the show before, but technically it’s still a new episode. Charmed season eight, people — where things are tossed together with all the subtlety of an elephant parading through a retirement village. Everything here blows, but the worst elements involve the complete re-writing of history, notably in the Paige/Sam relationship. Long-standing resentments were resolved back in season five, yet here Paige is ridiculously antagonistic towards him. And while it is pretty shitty that he hasn’t contacted her in three years, the show does such a bad job of depicting her animosity that it reads like they’ve never even met before.

I actually liked the concept of a demon trapping innocents in photographs, but the storyline itself was horribly hackneyed, resolved with a half dozen plotholes and cop-outs, notably the fact that a whole legion of kids from the past escaped into modern day, and yet nothing is mentioned about what will happen to them next. Seriously, show? And I still don’t understand how the curse was even broken in the end, anyway. This is horrifyingly sloppy writing.

Piper and Leo’s subplot is straight out of Siren Song and Cat House, and Charmed seriously needs to quit with the body and power swaps. Like Paige and Phoebe’s body swap in season four, the actors don’t even try to deliver convincing performances, while the spell is reversed with some ‘lessons learned’ dreck that was just as vague as the ‘marital issues’ Piper and Leo suddenly procured last episode.

Then we have Phoebe’s adventures at the sperm bank, one of the most embarrassing and offensive subplots in a long while. Ignoring the fact that Phoebe abandoned her quest for babies just last damn week, the story was still gross. I don’t want to see Feebs talking about her need for seed, and I don’t want to see rampant stupidity and selfishness dressed up as something endearing that’ll make you feel bad for her. Alyssa Milano deserves better.

I should also mention Paige’s decision to become a social worker again. I feel like I’m being tortured with this storyline. Is it even brought up again? Or is it just another example of Paige having such a flaky personality that she can change her entire focus every week? This whole show has become so sad.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Battle of the Hexes:

It’s easy to look back at vintage Charmed through rose-tinted glasses, especially in light of the steaming piles of wet poop being thrust in our collective faces this season. But the Prue years certainly weren’t perfect. Remember the teeth-pulling Dan/Leo love triangle? Lovestruck owls? Jenny Gordon? But in spite of all that, the one thing that kept you coming back to this show was the chemistry between the sisters and the believable interaction between absorbing characters. They were certainly flawed individuals, but their flaws rang true, and the Halliwell sisters were fun to be around. I bring all this up because what was once the show’s saving grace has long vanished. I dislike everybody right now. Paige is a moron, Piper is angry all the time, and Phoebe is eternally wrapped up in her quest for semen…

There also seems to be this generally dismissive tone that the sisters have, like they’re so tired of saving innocents and killing demons that anything remotely supernatural is a huge burden. Now a well-written show would make the sisters likable despite all this, since their feelings are actually understandable — given that they’ve done this for eight long years now. But when continuity is flatlining on a gurney somewhere and each actress is counting the days until they can finally break free of this show’s shackles, it’s hard to find anything remotely likable or sympathetic about them anymore. And that just saddens me, since it’s so easy to remember the days when these were strong females with relatable personalities. Now they’re just bitchy hags.

Battle of the Hexes is one of the worst episodes in Charmed history. It’s another horrible attempt at exploring gender politics (and after The Bare Witch Project, writer Jeannine Renshaw seriously needs to quit trying with that), only entirely undermined by how obscenely offensive the whole thing is to both genders. Billie’s scene in her college lecture is horrifyingly misjudged, the girl coming off like a raging asshole with her bubblegum-popping, cellphone-yakking and illogical sexism. If this is what Charmed considers a strong female, then clearly the writers are dumber than I previously thought.

The story quickly descends into predictability, and here’s another thing I can’t stand. I’m getting real tired of the sisters exposition-ing, the show cutting to some magical hijinks, then back to the sisters and their incessant talking, then cutting back to more demon stuff, before returning to the Halliwells and their awkward vanquishing schemes. It’s the same pattern every damn week, and ridiculously boring to watch. The superhero belt story makes no sense, features more expendable demons and another wacky outfit.

Elsewhere, Piper spends the episode whining (again) because P3 is supposedly failing (again!!??), and Leo is schmoozing some misogynist jackass in order to book a hot musical guest (Liz Phair, have you no shame?). While it’s a story that ties into the whole ‘man-hating’ theme, they really didn’t have to make Piper even more shrewish than usual. Ugh. Paige’s subplot is also horrible, full of racial stereotypes and ghetto kids named ‘Speed’. But it’s saved by a winning performance by Ivan Sergei, who nails that sort of sleepy, charming manliness that Paige unsurprisingly falls for. They have actual chemistry for once, which makes for a welcome change.

But besides the Sergei, Battle of the Hexes is a ridiculous shit-show of hideous morals, hideous outfits, and Kaley Cuoco even more horrifying than usual. Kill it with fire.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Vaya Con Leos:

Charmed caught a ton of heat around this time for writing out Brian Krause due to budget cuts, fans (including myself) pinning the blame on Brad Kern and fried-ass car-wreck Billie Jenkins. Maybe that was all a little unfair, in retrospect. Especially on the latter, since it’s not entirely Kaley Cuoco’s fault that she was miscast in a role that was ridiculously ill-conceived from the very beginning. But here we go with the embarrassing dismissal of Charmed‘s sole male regular, another flat tire in a season that has so far done nothing to justify its entire existence.

Vaya Con Leos is a total showcase for Holly Marie Combs, and it goes without saying that she knocks it out of the park. She conveys full-blown horror and apathy at what’s happening, as well as a mournful sadness over the loss of her husband. Both Alyssa and Rose are pretty good, too. But it doesn’t disguise the fact that Leo’s departure is pretty damn stupid. So the sisters would only be motivated for the final battle if they knew Leo’s frozen ass was at risk? Really? Although, it could just be some knowing comment on the sister’s own selfishness. These are the same women who’d rather hit up a sperm bank than save an innocent… Phoebe! Or fuck a cop instead of getting a real job… Paige!

Away from the Piper scenes, this is business as usual. The ‘everybody’s Leo’ spell is entirely half-assed, and I have no idea why this show on that presumably $300 budget would even attempt difficult special effects like they did here — particularly when the plot itself is only there to fill time. Elsewhere we have Billie and her Christy Jenkins issues, and of course she thinks her missing-for-fifteen-years sister is more important than Leo and his rapid countdown to popsicle-ization. Ugh.

There’s a lot to like about Vaya Con Leos, notably whenever the emotion of losing Leo is pushed center stage, but if anything the real-life contractual stuff dampers the whole thing. I never particularly cared about Leo, but it sucks that the show’s unnecessary eighth season has forced so many changes to occur that cut right through to the heart of Charmed itself.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Repo Manor:

The most derivative episode in Charmed history. We have three female demons impersonating the sisters (The Power of Three Blondes), the sisters miniaturized (Size Matters), folks trapped in inanimate objects (The Painted World, Scry Hard), Phoebe getting attacked and lobotomized in an elevator (Freaky Phoebe), and Paige working with leprechauns and fairies (Lucky Charmed, Spin City), as well as thematic riffs on Bride and Gloom and The Importance of Being Phoebe. Everything here has been done before, and if this were an episode from a different season I’d be a hell of a lot more critical. But since this has the good fortune of being placed at the midpoint of season eight, a year that gives abject crumminess new definition, it’s actually weirdly entertaining.

My enjoyment of Repo Manor comes from the fact that it feels like the first episode in a long while that positions the sisters center stage and features them working together to meet a collective goal. They’ve all been thrown off-course this year on their own separate missions and semen crises, so it made for a welcome change to see the girls knocking their pea brains together to wriggle their way out of a doomed demon scheme.

The demons themselves are underwritten and played by three women who make Jenny McCarthy and her rent-a-hookers in season six seem like classy Meryl Streep clones, but I kind of enjoyed the ridiculousness of everything. Repo Manor also features the greatest use of Billie so far, since all her screentime this week consists of the sisters telling her how boring she is and that she’s a huge pain in the ass. Any episode that features this abortion of a character getting tossed out of the Manor on her butt deserves special credit.

Elsewhere, we once again see Paige wrapped up in magical creature hijinks, and I swear if I see that damn fairy one more time I’m prepared to drown a basket of kittens. Not really, before PETA jumps on me. But that’s the kind of threats this show has got me making! Finally, Phoebe’s moved out of the Manor for good. Eh. I guess it was time, but I really wish Billie hadn’t taken her spot in the Halliwell home. A whole bedroom that she’s (supposedly) not even paying for? The most she deserves is a doghouse out back…

Also, it’s neat to see Henry react normally to Paige’s secret, since it got old fast seeing various bland love interests freak out or faint at the slightest hint of magic. I also liked that Paige actually described her powers and the existence of magic, instead of just erupting with “I’m a witch”, something any self-respecting person would read as “I’m one of those annoying wiccans who idolize Fairuza Balk”.

Repo Manor is another episode with the sisters acting dumber than usual while one of their own is obviously possessed by evil, but the Billie abuse and sisterly screentime more than make up for the episode’s many, many faults.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of The Last Temptation of Christy:

So the season is at last launching into its major final arc. As much as I dislike Billie and Christy being at the center of it, I appreciate the forward momentum, as well as the return of the Triad — logic be damned that Cole vanquished them, but whatever… Sure, you can roll your eyes at all the dramatic dialogue about ‘the Key’ and Billie’s continued insistence on being as moronic as possible, but there’s was the only storyline this week that actually felt purposeful. It still sucks that the Charmed Ones have become an irrelevant presence in their own series, but I guess we just have to sit back and deal.

Watching season eight again, it’s surprising to see how little Leo’s departure has ruptured the show. Both Paige and Phoebe seem entirely unaffected, like his need to be rescued is more of a burden than anything else, while Piper doesn’t seem too concerned either. Compared to her season long depression in season six, it feels ridiculously contrived as a result. With the return of some random fuck-buddy from that same season, we even have Paige suggesting Piper start dating him again. What?? The story could have been effective if the returning ex was somebody actually important, like Dan from season two or whoever, but instead the whole thing feels superfluous and unnecessary. And, yes, I was just crying out for a return from human cinder block Dan Gordon, but that’s what this season has done to me!

Paige’s story was horrible. There are few words for how weak Simon was as a plot device, and I don’t understand why the writers thought this would be a strong means to get Henry to propose. Speaking of that engagement closer, this is way too fast a marriage, regardless of how much chemistry they have. I’ll talk more about my problems with this later on, in order to hold back on spoilers for first-time viewers, but it’s something that bothers me about Charmed‘s final season and the messages it conveys.

It’s difficult to care about anything that’s happening right now, but the aforementioned momentum is there, and I guess that’s worth celebrating. I just wish the sisters were more actively involved in it all, as it doesn’t feel right that the show is ending like this.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Generation Hex:

Call me crazy, but is Christy Jenkins rapidly becoming the one shining beacon of interest on this show? I’ve always loved that television trope of a secretly evil character insidiously manipulating folks from within a group of good guys, and Christy is filling that role really well. The story was filled with a surprising amount of shocks, from Mom and Pop Jenkins turning up in a pile of their own innards to that awesome moment with Christy punching through the Triad dude’s chest. It’s all just surprisingly impressive watching her various attempts to divert attention from her own secret evilness and fill Billie’s head with hooey. Marnette Patterson also deserves special credit for being mildly convincing all the while acting against somebody who looks like she’s been living in a trash can for six weeks. What is up with Billie’s hair?? Nesting crows would think it was too frazzled…

My enjoyment in the Christy saga is also derived from how weak everything else is at this point on the show. Piper’s subplot is particularly annoying. I’ve never especially liked Charmed‘s ‘next generation magical kids’ storylines (Aaron Carter firestarter Tyler, Kyle and his magic stick, Wyatt and his daddy issues, etc.) and this one similarly fits into that bubble. I also didn’t understand the timeline, the show implying that Leo was prepping field trips and assignments right before he was frozen, despite Magic School being occupied by demons for what must have been almost a year now. And I know I always say this, but I can’t believe the writers are still employing the generic Charmed motif of doomed demons in dank caves plotting to kill the Charmed Ones. Eight long years, people!

While we’re on the subject of tired storylines, I’m so over Phoebe’s quest for love, and I dislike this theme that’s been running through her character for the last two seasons that she’s some huge goddess of love who’s always been about love and therefore deserves amazing love. I never really understood where that came from, considering she never previously exhibited any greater inclination to settle down and find love than, say, Piper or Prue. Now she’s become this anonymous cipher driven by her need for a husband, and it’s ridiculously regressive and horrible.

The episode sees Coop taking her on a flashback trip of her old romances, so cue clips of her various love interests over the years (girl got around!), some Cat House riffs with Coop and Feebs hiding out in the background of old shots, and a Cole vanquish that Phoebe never actually experienced because it happened in a whole different reality. All the story did was make me wish I was watching Pardon My Past instead. Snore.

As an episode, Generation Hex is crazily disjointed, with storylines appearing infrequently with little rhythm or cohesion. Paige also appears in just three brief scenes, but I’m assuming Rose’s Grindhouse schedule explains her absence. Not that I’m complaining, because I can’t stand Paige. But it only adds to this episode feeling a little ‘off’. When Christy Jenkins is suddenly Charmed‘s saving grace, you know something has gone terribly awry.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of The Torn Identity:

So Christy’s machinations continue. Sure, if Marnette Patterson had a mustache, she’d be twirling it 24/7. And, sure, the sisters come off as bigger fools than normal by entirely missing the insidious evil hanging out in their own damn kitchen, but the story continues to be pretty absorbing. Everybody’s behaving in an unbelievable manner purely to service the script (particularly the strangely-unmoved-by-her-parents’-horrible-murder Billie Jenkins, or maybe that’s just the terrible acting), but it’s nice to see that forward momentum surfacing again. The only issue is that the Charmed Ones are still wrapped up in their assy personal problems, leaving most of the interesting material in the hands of Patterson and her horribly vacant on-screen sis. Stupid show.

It’s all sort of obvious, but I liked Christy becoming more overtly crazy, contriving that Piper is some haggy pyromaniac who wants her dead. Billie, she with the intelligence of a bag of dirt, instantly falls for her goop, but while I’m enjoying Christy’s budding madness, Billie’s anger at the Halliwells for ignoring her personal traumas and attacking her sister comes off as crazily irrational. Are we supposed to hate her by this point? At least Piper seems to have realized that she’s a hideous monstrosity who needs to burn to death in a pool of acid and garbage. That is what she’s thinking, right? Or am I just projecting?

As previously mentioned, Paige and Phoebe are distracted by two horrible subplots. Paige continues to be the most tired character on this show and has suddenly adopted an identity crisis, explained away with some vague statements about her personality being compromised by becoming somebody’s wife. It’s ridiculously nonsensical as a story, and quickly becomes yet another excuse for lazy body swaps of some kind. Sure, Paige is actually inside Henry’s head here, but it’s still an example of the writers plucking a relationship crisis out of nowhere, having wiccan wackiness ensue, followed by some last-minute ‘lessons learned’ monologue. They have entirely ran out of ideas.

Elsewhere, Phoebe is involved in her most tedious subplot yet. Coop, while rapidly falling in love with Feebs himself, is intent on setting her up with some newspaper asshole (presumably this show’s moral being that it’s better to slum it by dating some douche than daring to be gross and single), and what follows is a horrible Cyrano knock-off that is neither funny nor entertaining. Can’t they just get together already, and spare us these hairbrained courtship storylines?

The assassination of Charmed is now complete, the writers making the Halliwell sisters the worst thing about their own series. Away from their increasingly hackneyed subplots, however, the Christy saga is weirdly fun… in a ‘plothole-ridden, Billie-infested mess’ kind of way.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of The Jung and the Restless:

Kaley Cuoco is probably the biggest problem with season eight. Because, shockingly, I actually like the concept of Billie and Christy as explained here. Lady-Elder tells Piper that the existence of the Jenkins sisters was set in motion long before the Charmed Ones came into their powers, as a means to destroy the essence of good in the world — the Triad being keenly aware that it’s not just ultimate power than would tip the scale, but sisterhood. It’s an interesting approach that entirely resuscitates the Jenkins women as characters, grants them added purpose and calls back to what this show was at one point actually about: the Halliwells being, deeper than any of their powers, strong women with a sisterly connection.

But Kaley Cuoco got hired to play one half of these doppelganger sisters, and her manic, shrieky delivery entirely bulldozed any chance she had of becoming even slightly absorbing. Of course, the writing for her character at the start of the season was consistently hacky, the writers seemingly unaware of how she was supposed to work long-term. Sometimes she was this reckless pun-machine, other times she was positioned as adorable and ingratiating. Then she suddenly became whiny and rude, the sisters treating her like an annoying houseguest. She was messy at the best of times, but a stronger, more confident actor could have probably played the role more consistently, in spite of the horrible material she was handed every week.

Take guest star Sara Downing, an actress who here makes her stale ‘doomed charge’ character far more engaging than she has any right to be. She projects a certain something, an energy that doesn’t quite jar with Charmed‘s tone, and makes Mikelle smart and naturally inquisitive — a sensibility that Billie as a character was crying out for. Cuoco, however, always struggled to craft a different schtick to the one she perfected in sitcoms before and after Charmed, and it dragged the character down. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an actress who has since carved out an incredibly successful career and absolutely owns that, but was so miscast here. Which sucks, because as a concept, Billie could have been a strong presence to help close the series.

The Jung and the Restless is, without a doubt, the strongest episode of season eight. At its heart is the interesting running theme of self-analysis, all the sisters left wounded by Christy’s belief that they’ve lost track of their responsibilities and have instead become driven by their own selfish desires. It’s something I can’t entirely disagree with, since I’ve always believed the Halliwells became increasingly shrewish and flaky over their last couple of seasons. But while the introspection leads to the ultimate declaration of “Yeah, we’re selfish — so sue us!”, it’s annoying that the ladies believe that wanting personal success is all that Christy is talking about.

There’s nothing at all wrong with wanting a child, or wanting to settle down, or wanting to save your soulmate from being Han Solo’d. What is wrong are the many, many times in recent memory when the sisters martyred themselves and disregarded their duties in favor of whining about said duties — in the process completely ignoring all the wonderful positivity they have in their lives already. Like the successful careers they have, or the businesses they run, or the important work they embarked on before irrationally abandoning it. It’s not selfishness that made the sisters unlikable, it’s all the success that they took for granted.

I bring all this up because The Jung and the Restless at least addresses it. Sure, it isn’t entirely winning as an episode, but it’s an hour that dares to treat its protagonists as less-than, or maybe not as amazingly-wonderfully-flawlessly perfect as Charmed does on a consistent basis. For that, it deserves significant praise.

It also looks gorgeous, the dreamworld given a sinister visual quality with its moody imagery and blurry focus. The dialogue is appropriately vague and ambiguous, while I adore that genuinely creepy moment in which dream-Paige opens up her mouth and projects a strange, detached scream. Elsewhere, I loved seeing the sisters actively working together again, instead of being permanently scattered across the show like they have been all season.

This is the only truly decent episode in Charmed season eight. While there are obviously overriding problems that the story could never entirely navigate around, it has strong themes and a sense of ambition that has been completely absent from the year so far.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Kill Billie: Vol. 2:

Let’s open with discussing how impressive that coda is. It starts off with pyrotechnic mayhem as both sets of sisters send various strands of CGI at each other, producing an elaborate explosion that rips apart the Manor and sends everybody flying, killing almost the entire cast in the process. What follows is the most anticipated beatdown since Ali vs Frazier, Piper leaping on top of raggedy dingleberry Billie and pummeling her repeatedly. It’s crazily fun. But it’s easy to forget that this only occurs in the last five minutes, the rest of the hour being so painfully long-winded that you have to question why it’s such a popular episode in fan circles.

Most of this week is taken up by the sisters gradually coming around to the idea of ingesting the Hollow for the final battle, all their dithering being believable from a character stand-point but not exactly thrilling to watch for thirty minutes. There’s also some hooey with two demons who want to strike up a partnership with the Charmed Ones in order to defeat the Triad once and for all, but since one of them is another dead-eyed British annoyance, it’s never particularly absorbing.

One element of interest is Billie Jenkins and her improbable allegiances. Most of her recent scenes with Christy involve her being generally freaked out by Christy’s overt craziness, yet she’s back to sniping at the Halliwells whenever they confront one another. I don’t understand this character at all anymore, and I’m certainly not eager to see her get redeemed in the final episode — something I’m sure Brad Kern wanted us all to hope for.

There’s a lot of padding here, but those final scenes are spectacular. Holly is incredible, it’s great to see Leo again, and both Phoebe’s body in the rubble and that intense smackdown are obviously shocking. Just one more left, people.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Forever Charmed:

After 178 episodes of cleavage, fairy tales, scenery-chewing, stupid police detectives, crummy exposition, off-screen feuds, skanky hooker outfits, undergroundcaves, depressed alleyways, continuity errors, casual sexism, useless Elders, fugly haircuts, cheap knock-off’s, McGowan mugging, illogical plotholes, shrewish whining, lazy repetition, vacant fuck-buddies, bad teeth, terriblec hild actors, desk sex, sperm quests, Shannen Doherty intrigue, ridiculous media commentary, weepy gorilla-face, gratuitous nudity, stank new cast members, Phoebe worship, sustained dwarf employment, cries for a normal life,nonsensical career decisions, questionable morals and more demonic possessions than there are people in China, Charmed is over.

If anything, Forever Charmed isn’t too concerned with most of the story arcs that have been building over the last couple of episodes. Instead we get an abundance of weepy family scenes, with all the Halliwell family (sans Prue, naturally) coming back together to reminisce and bond and hug like they’ve never hugged before. Most of this is casually affecting, especially the big reunion at the end, but it doesn’t make for the most energetic of series finales. Piper takes center stage for most of the hour while jumping from year to year with Coop’s ring, and Holly absolutely sells the material. It’s also kind of fitting that her presence is all over this episode, considering Piper was the least annoying of a trio of ultimately horrible series protagonists.

The Christy/Dumain story ended with an anticlimactic series of explosions, and I was a little disappointed that Billie didn’t get a stronger punishment. She may have begged forgiveness, but her stupidity killed Paige and Phoebe, while she seemed perfectly happy to kidnap Wyatt and strip him of his powers last week. She’s a huge, dangerous crone, and I would have appreciated a little more retribution, certainly not a nice little coda for her where she ends up babysitting Phoebe’s kids. Then again, maybe I’m just sadistic.

One of the obvious elements differing Forever Charmed from last season’s finale is the end flash-forward, in which all the important events in the characters’ futures are laid out for the audience. I’ve never been a huge fan of this type of finale storytelling, but that’s only because I prefer a little ambiguity. I’m sure there are a ton of people out there who enjoyed seeing the sisters with their kids, as well as the next generation of Halliwells killing demons and taking over from the sisters, but it’s all a little too cookie-cutter for me.

I also eluded to this a while back, but I’ve always had a problem with the sister’s last gasp of happiness being derived from settling down with a husband and a pack of kids. It’s something that became the entire crux of Phoebe’s character over the years, and Paige finds herself dragged into a similar position this episode, too. It feels so regressive a mode of thinking, as if the show is perpetuating the notion that a woman can only be emotionally fulfilled after meeting the perfect guy and shooting out a ton of babies. Paige, in particular, comes off a little jarring in the montage sequence, since I never imagined her even having children, especially ones that look so corny (the twin girls in pink, Henry Jr. — gag). All I ever wanted her to do was settle down in a career that she had an actual investment in, instead of remaining this self-destructive and schizophrenic mess with absolutely zero direction in her life. I certainly don’t recognize the person she became.

Regardless of minor issues, Forever Charmed works fine as a finale. It obviously could have been more interesting as a statement piece, but it’s unsurprisingly neat and unassuming, something that veers so far into formulaic wholesomeness that it becomes near-fanfic. But like I said, that’s just me. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who welcomed all of that. Personally, I prefer a little edge to my finales, or at least an ending that leaves certain things open for interpretation — but maybe I’m just expecting too much from the wrong show.

Charmed has been an interesting experience over the years. It’s a show that, when written well, is one of the most engaging and easily watchable series that I’ve ever seen… like comfort food, or the hour-long equivalent of a classic, breezy sitcom that you can drop into at any point and still be satisfied by. But the show frequently became almost too disposable, settling for tired ideas and the most shallow forms of characterization. Creative imagination dried up, Alyssa Milano got bored, and Rose McGowan ended up twitching and sputtering her way through the last couple of seasons.

But the most disappointing problem is that I began disliking everybody. It’s easy to forget, in light of recent sisterly awfulness, how sympathetic the three leads of this show used to be, Prue, Piper and Phoebe being flawed as individuals but consistently believable and engaging… there was heart there. You knew people like that, and I’m sure many of us actually were those people. But after a brief successful period following Paige’s arrival, a brittleness appeared in each of the sisters, and they began to exhibit harsh qualities that weren’t entertaining, weren’t particularly well realized, nor performed with much conviction. They became drags, three women who were never happy with what they had, and who appeared to pluck new problems out of thin air just because they weren’t through with whining. That is the real crime of Charmed — not the lack of fresh ideas, not the weak antagonists, but the fact that the Halliwells lost their way.

But, at the same time, when Charmed was on, it was like nothing else around. I still consider episodes like Prewitched, Sin Francisco and Chick Flick some of the finest hours of anything I’ve ever seen: sassy, smart, well-written and just as tender and endearing as they were hilarious. That’s the Charmed I like to remember, not the crippling redundancy of the later seasons, and it’s the Charmed that I always switch on whenever I’m bored or unhappy. And that’s a mighty fine legacy, don’t you think?

 

The Worst:

Still Charmed and Kicking, Malice in Wonderland, Kill Billie: Vol. 1, Hulkus Pocus, Mr. and Mrs. Witch, Payback’s A Witch, 12 Angry Zen, and Gone with the Witches

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  • Still Charmed and Kicking can at least boast that they got Paige-as-Janice Dickinson;

  • Malice in Wonderland has an Alice in Wonderland-theme, but not much else matters here;

  • Kill Billie: Vol. 1 sees an end between Dex Lawson and Phoebe, which is good considering you should be yourself around potential love interests, except the show made a storyline out of a terrible idea;

  • Hulkus Pocus is just all around awful, terrible garbage;

  • Mr. and Mrs. Witch is some spoof of the Pitt-Jolie film, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, mixed in with Charmed’s terrible take on corporate America;

  • Payback’s A Witch is the usual hostage situation in Charmed that is just “Blah!”;

  • 12 Angry Zen is quite a snorefest; and,

  • Gone with the Witches reminds us that how selfish the sisters really are, since that all started during Season 5.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Still Charmed and Kicking:

Here we go. Still Charmed and Kicking is the beginning of ‘Zombie Charmed’, an entirely unnecessary final gasp of existence that looks as ugly as sin and is barely as exciting. The premiere arrives with an awkward follow-up to last season’s coda, the sisters now undercover with new identities and the demon community eager to unleash all kinds of shiny evilness now that the Halliwells are supposedly dead. It’s the show going in the exact direction you’d think it would. There’s no spark here, little purpose, and everybody seems entirely over the characters they’re playing. Only Brian Krause seems to be having fun anymore, probably because he’s shifted thirty pounds over the summer. But, wait a second. Here I am discussing weight loss when there’s an enormously shitty elephant in the room that deserves immediate discussion!

Billie freakin’ Jenkins, ladies and gentlemen. Uggghhhh. Kaley Cuoco’s vacant delivery and porno-movie theme music slam into the show with all the fun of an acid shower, teen witch dressing up in inappropriate prostitute leather and back-flipping all over a bunch of demons. It’s just terrible. Billie feels entirely un-Charmed, a snarky college bimbo with kung-fu fighting powers and a penchant for hideous one-liners. She doesn’t do a whole lot here, but her three or four scenes are ridiculous and embarrassing in equal measure. I should really be holding back my vocabulary for this abomination, though, considering I have twenty-one more reviews to write. Oy.

Everything else is pretty awful. Phoebe’s demise leads to an avalanche of undeserved adulation from her former colleagues, Paige continues to whine about having no direction in her life (despite abandoning at least three vastly different career opportunities in the last four years), and Piper is having second thoughts about the whole ‘abandoning the Charmed Ones’ idea. To be fair, the whole story is pretty illogical… so she has a point. But that’s the problem with this show running for an eighth season. At least with Something Wicca This Way Goes you could imagine your own follow-through to the identity swap, here we get convoluted hijinks involving weasly FBI agents, bad plotholes and ol’ gargoyle face Janice Dickinson.

Still Charmed and Kicking actually isn’t a total horror show. It doesn’t feature any truly abysmal moment along the lines of Paige dancing around a fountain in a Nymph costume or Phoebe riding naked on a horse. It’s just tired, in every area. Everyone’s bored, characters feel deflated, the antagonists are weak, the sets feel old. And there’s a painfully transparent attempt to entice new viewers in the form of some barely-legal blonde in hooker gear. This isn’t bad, it’s just depressing.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Malice in Wonderland:

I can watch season one’s The Wedding from Hell over and over again, primarily because it’s so completely terrible that it becomes some of the finest unintentional comedy this show ever produced. Hilariously, that episode has a rival for the crown, and it’s this entirely misjudged car crash. Malice in Wonderland is shockingly ill-conceived, every corner of the script peppered with the most ridiculous, offensive storylines ever portrayed on Charmed, propped up by a demon scheme that goes nowhere fast and additional Billie junk that makes your brain leak out from your nose. It’s by far one of the funniest episodes in the show’s history.

Each sister gets her very own mountain of suckage this week, and it’s best to begin with Phoebe’s heinous subplot. Malice in Wonderland is narrated by the Feebster, Brad Kern cribbing Sex and the City with a painfully self-aware episode-long ‘signs’ theme. Not only does it feel entirely unnecessary, it’s also hugely outdated. This episode aired over a year after Sex and the City went off the air, and long before the show had a pop culture rebirth with the movie releases. Throwing it randomly into this episode is just strange — an annoying attempt to break format with absolutely no internal logic to justify it. Sure, Jason Lewis is now in the cast, but it still feels superfluous.

Meanwhile, Phoebe is wrapped up in a flirtation with yet another six-episode lover (oops, spoiler), and her interaction with artist Dex provides some wonderful comedy. Funniest being his ridiculously lame diatribe about how flying over Africa and seeing the pain and suffering on the ground below inspired him to throw together some… um… big metal shard he dubs ‘art’? It’s so eternally stupid.

Piper’s subplot involves more whining, but it’s probably her most overtly shameful whining yet. She spends most of the episode desperate to get her nails done, and complains to Leo that she feels like the last seven years have passed her by because of all the demon hunting and that she doesn’t know her own identity anymore. This coming from a woman who runs her own successful business, is happily married and has two children. The shamelessness of this particular rant is repulsive. Piper also whines that she can’t have a normal life without being constantly interrupted. This would be fine if her ‘normal life’ was being interrupted by supernatural creatures, but her interruptions here involve a power outage at P3 and Leo getting locked out of the house, both entirely mundane and (gasp!) ‘normal’ problems! Lady needs to pipe down.

There’s also Paige’s horrible subplot down at the police academy. I actually like the idea of Paige as a cop, even if it would look all ‘Officer Heather Locklear in TJ Hooker’-stupid. Just like her social work, it’s a legit job that would allow her to protect innocents, and makes a lot of sense from a storytelling perspective at this current time on the show, what with the sisters still living under aliases. But Brad Kern’s script is an abhorrent mess, opening with a hideously overblown sexist police chief who degrades Paige for no apparent reason, followed up by another horrible sequence where a police training instructor comes on to Paige in the middle of a police academy pep talk, surrounded by other rookies. Furthering this array of inappropriate trash, Paige ends up abandoning her interest in police work and instead decides to make out with the instructor late at night in the middle of his office. Thanks, show! Forget about carving out a new career that could actually help people, Paige will settle for a quick fuck with a guy she’ll never see again. What a great role model for the millions of pre-teens watching this show.

Finally, there’s Billie and the case of the missing teenagers. Kaley Cuoco is just as grating as she was last week, and all the ‘hooking up scrying crystals to a GPS’/’learned all about magic after a quick trip to Barnes & Noble’ hooey was painfully vague and nonsensical. The Alice in Wonderland thing is a strange non-event, too, with guest star Noa Tishby strutting around like an old hooker in a Whitesnake video, demons plotting doomed schemes to take over the world, and CGI that brings to mind bad video games from the 90’s. It’s trash of the lowest order.

Malice in Wonderland is the funniest episode in a long time, every storyline awash in terrible dialogue, bad acting and casual sexism. This offends everyone — men are creeps and perverts; women are high-maintenance flakes. The entire Charmed audience deserves better than this.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Kill Billie: Vol. 1:

It either says a lot about her own charisma as an actress, or works as a statement on where season eight is going, but I’m actually missing Alyssa Milano. While she’s still hanging around, it really feels like Phoebe is on the periphery of things this year. Not only have Alyssa’s performances become mostly drab, Phoebe is only ever wrapped up in her own personal dramas this season, and it’s mostly Piper, Paige and Billie that are carrying the show. It was probably at Alyssa’s own request, but I’m missing her presence, especially since the other characters are being saddled with such horrible material.

Phoebe’s story arc comes to an end here, and while I didn’t hate the Dex thing, it sure was something of a non-event. It was another storyline that seemed to consist of two people out-talking one other, the same problem that sunk Phoebe’s fling with Nick Lachey last season. Relationships shouldn’t be all about conversation, and there was never any passion or actual chemistry between Pheebs and Dex. It was, like always, the writers throwing Phoebe together with a name guest star and flailing around for some kind of motivation. It unsurprisingly went nowhere fast and Jason Lewis fled the sound-stage. Alyssa conveyed a real sadness and sense of isolation in this story (art imitating reality? Or am I reading too much into my own feelings about this season?), so props to her for that. But I sort of miss the fun Phoebe of yesteryear, especially in her interaction with her sisters.

For some bizarre reason, the world’s media is fascinated by the sister’s witness protection hijinks (which somehow equals, in Charmed logic, that the sisters are spies), and the girls spend the whole episode avoiding legions of reporters and paparazzi and the whole thing entirely blows. It leads to a redundant ghost haunting and painfully long-winded sequences where Paige tries to prove how boring the Halliwells really are. Honey, we already know. This is additional filler material, a story that saddles Rose McGowan with more stupid dialogue that she adds her own hideous twitching and mugging to. Girl needs some valium.

The ball of suck that is Billie Jenkins continues to bug, with her one-woman mission to kill some demon and later her ‘lessons learned’ pep talk that we already suffered through years ago when folks like Prue and Piper realized they couldn’t use magic to face their fears. She’s still struggling as a character, too, from her cliched back-story to the hilariously misfiring attempts at making her seem cool and edgy, like that random back-flip she did on the staircase. Just walk out the house like a normal person, God!

I should also mention the out-of-nowhere Piper/Leo tensions. Just like their similar tensions back in season five, there’s absolutely no build-up, the writers casually dropping in arguments and dialogue about ‘having problems lately’ and expecting the audience to willfully accept it all, despite the whole thing lacking in any internal logic. It’s ridiculously patronizing.

Kill Billie Vol. 1 is another ill-conceived mess that seems to drag on for a damn century, especially in Billie’s scenes with the Dogon. When Phoebe’s romantic blah-ness is the one thing preventing the show from collapsing beneath the weight of its own laziness, you know Charmed is in serious trouble.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Hulkus Pocus:

Parts of this episode were fresh and interesting, notably the idea of government experiments and demonic viruses. It was like Charmed meets X-Files, and I kind of enjoyed it. It did stick out like a sore thumb, though, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is a script from a new writer. Even though Hulkus Pocus falls back on ridiculous costumes and butch stuntwomen, there were actual ‘ideas’ here that felt pretty inventive, clearly something from the mind of a writer who hasn’t been rapidly lobotomized from spending too long in the Charmed writers room.

There was a lot of Billie this week, but she wasn’t as horrible as in her other appearances. I wish one of the sisters had noticed the danger of her Hulk scratch, though, considering they’ve all been ‘turned’ after similar events in the past — Wendigo, anyone? Then again, I forget that everybody on this show is more likely to trip over their own cleavage than remember anything from the past.

Phoebe continues to be a selfish hag. So she’s abandoning her powers because they don’tbenefit her? Seriously? How did this story make it past the development stages? And why did Alyssa Milano, as a producer, willingly perform something that makes her character appear so repulsive? I also didn’t understand the logic of her flash-forward interactive vision at the end, and I still don’t like seeing any character being so driven by their need for a baby and a husband. It’s like nothing else matters at this point.

Hulkus Pocus is one of the better season eight stories, but still has that tired feel to it that makes even the less-awful episodes this year so forgettable. Blah.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Mr. and Mrs. Witch:

When folks call season eight ‘The Billie Show’, Mr. & Mrs. Witch is the most notorious example of the writers thrusting her center stage and producing terrible results. This is even more worthless than average ‘bad Charmed‘, all about a bunch of day players we barely know and featuring one of the most tiring central storylines in years. Billie, for ridiculously contrived and nonsensical reasons, is investigating corporate America to find Christy, and if The Demon Who Came in from the Cold taught us anything, it’s that sleeping pills are no match for a Charmed episode about corporate America.

There’s so little to say about Mr. & Mrs. Witch because it’s all so weak, from the absurd plot devices that are employed to the lethargic pacing. The story comes about after Billie clumsily calls her parents “cold-hearted assassins” (right, because that’s such a go-to term in the most heated of arguments), and they instantly become just that, thanks to some super-cool bestest ever new power!!11! that Billie has acquired. Cue horrible scenes of the Parents Jenkins wreaking havoc all over the two alleyway sets that Charmed has access to on the Paramount backlot, followed by corporate intrigue involving some snidely executives and a moronic demon who spills her entire plan in two horrifyingly lazy scenes of crude exposition. Gah.

Can we also address how insane Billie’s new power is? I guess it means that she can just do whatever she wants now, right? So if there’s some indestructible demon, Billie can just say “Die!” and it’ll die? Right? Why do the writers insist on coming up with these things that will only lead to ridiculous plotholes somewhere down the line?

Guest stars Piper, Phoebe and Paige each have their own annoying subplots, but they’re so superfluous that they’re practically invisible. Piper is video-recording everything in preparation for Leo’s return, while Henry has some issues with being open or something. Phoebe’s storyline is particularly asinine as she announces she’s moving out of the Manor (classy timing, lady). There’s also a horrible scene where her assistant pretty much climaxes all over her desk chair describing Phoebe’s ‘amazing writing’ and it’s one of the most embarrassing Charmed moments in history. This whole episode is ass, and an hour that can be entirely skipped over.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Payback’s a Witch:

Lord, this was boring. Hostage crisis episodes are always my least favorite episodes of anything, since they always seem to rely on the exact same tropes time and time again, particularly in the hands of unambitious writers. There’s always the threat of a main character getting shot, there’s always some tool who tries to be a hero and ends up delaying any progress, and there’s always a bunch of annoying cops in a van outside trying to negotiate their way in. Blah. Payback’s a Witch wades through every one of these clichés, only real slowly, which makes it super-super fun!

This was also a script that relied way too much on contrivance and events accidentally aligning at just the right time for things to work out. Like Paige’s hand signals to the security camera, or the hostage taker being accommodating enough to allow Paige a potty break, or Piper getting Homeland Security to help them out, despite Agent Murphy having dropped their butts weeks ago. Logic be damned.

In important news, Paige finally got a power advancement and can now heal folks, and I liked the call-back to Love Hurts in season one with her healing ability only coming through once it’s provoked by true love for somebody. I guess she really digs Henry, and I actually like one of Paige’s relationships for once. They have chemistry together, and Ivan Sergei seems to bring out the best in Rose McGowan, even if she does still descend into mugging most of the time.

Elsewhere there’s an annoying Wyatt subplot in which he magically turns his toys into real-life men, and it takes Professor Shit-for-Brains Phoebe Halliwell a good thirty minutes to figure out what’s actually happening. Not since old episodes of Medium have I been so desperate to jump into my TV set and shake a character into realizing what the audience realized long before they did. Gah.

This is Charmed on autopilot. There are obviously attempts at trying to distract from terrible plotting with a ton of showy stunts, from the helicopter to all the sexy SWAT action, but generally this felt unnecessarily weak. More mid-season filler material, folks.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of 12 Angry Zen:

This cribs elements from both Enter the Demon and Sword and the City, but remains mildly entertaining. It’s a story that rests on obvious familiarity (possessed sisters, a mythical trinket of some kind), and despite a bunch of errors and gaps in logic throughout the script, I kind of liked this one. Maybe it’s just Piper being center stage that piques my interest, being the only sister that appears invested in anything anymore. Even before they were possessed, both Phoebe and Paige seem so driven by their own personal investments and couldn’t care less about their powers or their responsibilities. Considering they’re the only sisters who haven’t got a popsicle of a husband waiting in the wings, it makes them look even worse by comparison.

I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, but I hate Billie’s new power. It’s the biggest magic advancement we’ve ever seen on this show, and I dislike that it’s been handed to this crone. Then again, it would suck regardless of whoever got their hands on it. Where’s the drama in having somebody just think really hard and making whatever happen? — “Demons? Sure, I’ll just think and make them explode”. Blah.

The show also seems to be struggling with Paige and Henry, even if they have a ton of chemistry together. This is the latest episode to have them wrapped up in some mundane subplot, and while Ivan Sergei is the most charismatic actor to recur on this show in an age, there’s a ‘blah’-ness to his side stories. To be fair, I loved their cute scene with Paige drawing the cop/demon caricatures, but everything else tired me out.

I should also mention that I really like Phoebe’s new apartment, purely because it’s a new set. I’m so tired of this show’s dwindling budget meaning that all we see is the Manor, Magic School, the top of the Golden Gate Bridge and the two yards of studio backlot. New digs just open the show up a little. It felt pretty claustrophobic when everything was restrained to the same locales time and time again.

There’s nothing particularly new or exciting about 12 Angry Zen, but it wasn’t a total crock. At this point, I am pretty eager for the show to wrap up, though. Or at least break out of this mid-season funk.

According to the Unweclome Commentary review of Gone with the Witches:

Even if you try and excuse the show for struggling to fill time with an obvious transition episode, this is still pretty horrible. Can I ask what tool on the writing staff thought it was a bright idea to dedicate so much of the second-to-last episode to those Oirish asshat leprechauns? As well as the hideous collection of ogres, fairies and wood nymphs that make up the ‘magical community’ on this show? Ah, remember the days when this poop didn’t exist to permanently stink up Charmed?

The leprechauns are particularly annoying here, and the accents worse than ever. They kind of speak the truth about the sisters treating them like cannon fodder, but completely lose any brownie points once they later trash the Charmed Ones for abandoning them when they were attacked. Way to lose any perspective, dumbasses. Thankfully, we did get a hilarious scene with a bunch of demons killing their annoying butts, which was fun.

Most of Gone with the Witches is an elaborate means to get the sisters banished to the Underworld, and it sure takes a long time for that to happen. In the process we get a trilogy of resurrected ‘possession’ stories and, like a similar collection of retreads three episodes ago, all it did was make me wish I was watching Sin Francisco instead. Love that episode.

One major misfire occurs with the arrival of Billie and Christy’s childhood imaginary friend Dumain, who is secretly conspiring with the limbo-occupying Triad to gain ultimate power when both sets of sisters hopefully kill each other in the upcoming final battle. First of all, I dislike that another villain has been thrown into the mix so late in the game. Second of all, it was fine already with Christy pulling the strings, now we discover that she’s kowtowing to some dude? It’s unnecessary and undermines what was (for season eight, anyway) a strong character.

Gone with the Witches is full of story padding and annoying contrivance engineered to make everybody turn against the Halliwells. It’s an interesting approach, but ruined by bad acting and the continued insistence on making stupid magical creatures so integral to Charmed‘s mythology.

 

Highway

The next in best and worst is Season 7.

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5 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 8

  1. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 7 | The Progressive Democrat

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