The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 7

Continuing from a previous post, the seventh season was my last favorite season of the show, considering, as it was the first since the fifth season that did not have a major story arc involving any of Piper’s children: Chris, or Wyatt. What a relief!

Additionally, Oded Fehr of The Mummy and Resident Evil film series’ played the recurring demon foe, Zankou.

Charisma Carpenter of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel TV series’ played Kyra, the Seer.

John de Lancie of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate SG-1, and Gene Roddenberry’s Androemda played the Elder, Odin.

Jenya Lano of Blade, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Mutant X, played Inspector Sheridan.

Billy Zane of Titanic, Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight, Back to the Future, Back to the Future Part II, played Drake dè Mon.

Finally, Kerr Smith of Dawson’s Creek played Agent Kyle Brody.

The Best:

Cheaper by the Coven, Charrrmed!, Styx Feet Under, Once in a Blue Moon, There’s Something About Leo, Witchness Protection, Extreme Makeover: World Edition, Chamageddon, Showghoals, The Seven Year Witch, Little Box of Horrors, Death Becomes Them, and Something Wicca This Way Goes

Pass Out 2

  • Cheaper by the Coven sees the reappearance of Victor, Penny, and Patty, as well as the introduction of Kyra the Seer. Strangely, Wyatt is unintentionally gaslighting (causing Leo to question his own reality) in this episode with the conjuring of an evil version of Leo;

  • Charrrmed! is inspired by Pirates of the Carribean. It also features the first – and only – gay couple ever in the show, Carly and Brenda;

  • Styx Feet Under sees Piper become Death, while they are attempting to stop the half-demon Sirk from killing every mortal relative on his mother’s side;

  • Once in a Blue Moon, though not a terrible story, has allusions to the Charmed Ones having their period and turning into monsters;

  • There’s Something About Leo sees Leo annouce that he is an Avatar, which causes chaos, but time gets reversed so nothing actually happens;

  • Witchness Protection sees Leo rescue Kyra the Seer from demon kind, because she has betrayed her kind, and has a vision of the future with the Avatars being successful;

  • Extreme Makeover: World Edition sees the Charmed Ones help bring about the Utopian vision of the Avatars. However, Zankou manages to plant doubt within Leo;

  • Chamageddon sees the conflict-free Utopian Avatar world vision fall under it’s owns pillars, as the message of the episode is quite similar to that of this NPR article, “Without Conflict There Is No Growth“:

It would be quite naïve to expect a life without conflict, naïve and boring. After all, as we struggle to find solutions, conflict leads to new ways of thinking. Nothing ever changes in a world without discord. We see this in our lives; we see this in science. In fact, in science crises are essential: Without them there is no innovation. A life lived in harmony can’t be a life without conflict. It must be a life where conflict leads to growth. Harmony is not the absence of conflict. It is the state in which conflict leads to positive change. Harmony is dynamic, not static.

Innovation and growth challenge the status quo, shaking the very foundations where most base their values. Change only comes when we are ready to embrace it; change needs open minds. It’s much easier to plant our feet in the traditional, the convenient, in what doesn’t force us to reexamine our views. No one likes to be wrong. This is why great innovation comes with revolution, often bloody. The blood that is spilled is not always the one coursing through our veins: it is the blood of conviction, of prejudices, of deep-seated ideas that are abandoned by the inexorable force of reason.

We live in a world of rapid change. It’s not just the Internet revolution, with its easy access to information and the democratization of opinion. It’s how the Internet promotes conflict, good and bad. It’s amusing how brave people become on the Internet as they hide behind a pseudonym; they attack with impunity, self-defined authorities in all topics, presenting their opinion as the only reasonable or plausible, even when part of an open discussion forum. (No doubt this will happen here, as it does in any open Internet forum.) As my son, who works for Google, once told me, the Internet shows the best and worst of humankind. The challenge is to make it into a force for constructive conflict.

  • Show Ghouls sees Phoebe and Drake travel back to a cabaret fire in 1899 in order to free thousands of Lost Souls;

  • The Seven Year Witch sees the return of Cole after Piper gets stuck in the cosmic void between life and death. Meanwhile, the Elder’s issue their judgement regarding Leo;

  • Little Box of Horrors sees the shapeshifting demon Katya attempt to open Pandora’s Box and release all the sorrows of the world;

  • Death Becomes Them sees the return of Inspector Reece Davison (killed in Death Takes a Halliwell); and,

  • Something Wicca This Way Goes..? features the death of Zankou, and the faked death of the Charmed Ones.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Cheaper by the Coven:

Along with the show’s rapid denigration of the concept of death, continuity is also getting brutally beaten every week, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most glaring mistakes occur whenever Grams appears. Just as in Witchstock, here we have a Grams episode undermined by a ton of errors. She’s aware of Gideon, yet didn’t know that Piper just had a baby? She had a ‘witch talk’ with the sisters when they were teens? What? TV series always have a ‘show bible’ that helps prevent insanity like this, and I have no idea why Charmed isn’t using it.

The rest of Cheaper by the Coven is wildly uneven, but its heart is in the right place. The main thrust of the hour involves the sisters turning back into teenagers, and while there are definite shades of that season three abortion Once Upon a Time, it’s nowhere near as embarrassing and I liked the relatable teenage drama that the show explored, with the sisters mournfully overhearing Grams and Victor fighting in another room, and that wonderful scene between Grams and a weepy Piper, even if the latter does feature one of the errors I mentioned before.

The whole ‘evil Leo doppelganger’ thing isn’t a total wash-out thanks to the divine presence of Charisma Carpenter (who doesn’t get a lot to do, but is reliably entertaining), but the show really needs to stop using Wyatt as a plot device. I’m so tired of seeing demons stood over his crib, the sisters rushing in and the demon flaming out or whatever. Gah. It’s the same story over and over again.

Regardless, Cheaper by the Coven is frequently fun, with some decent humor (I actually kind of liked Alyssa’s bleary-eyed acceptance speech) and surprising depth every once in a while. I just wish Rose McGowan gave a little more effort. Her subplot is weak, sure, but she seems so distant right now.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Charrrmed!:

“Did you just call me a ho?” This really shouldn’t work, but somehow winds up being crazily entertaining. It seems more than ever that Charmed’s cribbing of pre-existing source material ends up being a game of chance. I felt the whole ‘sword in the stone’ story in season six was an hour of boredom that added nothing new to the concept, while the Sleepy Hollow riff was similarly weak. But here we have freaking pirates and parrots and ridiculous ghost fog, yet it all kind of works. It feels like something fresh, throwing in some new sets and even stronger new set pieces for the Halliwells to plow through, and I really liked the damn thing.

Charrrmed! sticks close to original pirate lore with the fountain of youth and the ‘ahoy-matey’ crew, but I liked that a bunch of reference is made to pirate movies, the sisters turning to Hollywood when the Book of Shadows provides little information. It’s another approach that breaks from tradition, happily veering away from the annoying predictability of recent antagonists.

Also worthy of considerable praise is the whole Entrapment knock-off with Phoebe slinking between the lasers during the museum heist. It’s ridiculously silly, but again somehow works. Plus the ‘blowing up the glass and freezing it mid-explosion’ shot was majorly cool, am I right?

Charrrmed! also introduces Agent Kyle Brody, a lunk of vagueness with insider knowledge on the Charmed Ones. His arrival also coincides with the departure (for now, at least) of annoying Inspector Sheridan, whose entire subplot was becoming more ridiculous by the week. Fun episode, the show finally doing something right after coasting for so long.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Styx Feet Under:

This works like something of a sequel to season three’s Death Takes a Halliwell, another episode in which the Angel of Death lamented over the importance of his job to a not-so-agreeable Charmed One. It’s not as earnest and moving as that previous hour, but still manages to be something pretty absorbing, notably when the fundamental importance of death gradually begins to dawn on Piper. Styx Feet Under works well in spite of Charmed’s overriding plotholes relating to death, as well as the continued existence of ridiculous plot devices like ‘protection spells’.

But it’s undeniable that parts of Styx Feet Under strike you as more than a little messy. A lot of attention is given to ‘the grand design’, which doesn’t correspond with a whole bunch of Charmed episodes lately, but that doesn’t necessarily impact on the episode’s power. It’s an hour where characters learn something important, and while it’ll probably get forgotten by the start of next episode, it’s welcome to see it at all.

The episode drags a little whenever we learn more about Sirk and his human life, but I think that’s just because I’m tired of the demons on this show in general. I guess I should be appreciative that Sirk is something a little different, even if he’s played in the exact same ‘crush-kill-destroy’ manor that has made these characters so disposable. There’s also a brief Charisma Carpenter guest spot, but she gets even less to do here than in Cheaper by the Coven.

Styx Feet Under isn’t flawless, but its heart is in the right place and both Holly and Rose approach the script with a ton of conviction. Holly in particular always grasps Piper-driven stories at the horn and runs with them, anyway. Skip through the Phoebe/Leslie shit though, if you have any sanity.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Once in a Blue Moon:

Season seven gets a bad rap, when I always thought it had a drive and ambition that hadn’t been seen on the show since at least late season four. I think the fact it’s lumped in between arguably the worst Charmed seasons kind of harms it’s reputation, since nearly every episode so far has managed to be something kind of fun and interesting — even if the basic concepts of most of these hours sound horrible in principle. PMS werewolves? Really? But I always sort of liked Once in a Blue Moon, video-game CGI and all.

I feel like I’m talking about this all the time, but I admire any episode from this period that didn’t rely on the same plot trappings that have become so familiar to any long-time viewer. I’m sick of demons pursuing Wyatt, I’m sick of the Halliwells knocking their increasingly vapid heads together and creating a vanquishing potion to save the day — but here we have actual monsters, big CGI beast-things and folks getting torn apart. There’s also the great midway point twist involving the sisters, and in general it’s a pretty absorbing story that’s well performed and wonderfully directed.

There’s also been the ‘Gathering Storm’ arc that has been bubbling under the surface this season, finally confirmed to involve those Avatars glimpsed in season five. It’s a curious development, and it’s all pretty vague at this point, but I like that the show is pursuing real serialization this year, instead of repetitive standalone stories. It also folds in nicely with Agent Brody, whose back-story isn’t entirely remarkable, but who remains an intriguing new character nonetheless. And unlike, say, Richard, he actually has chemistry with Paige.

Leslie finally departed the show and man what a boring storyline that was. He and Phoebe spent almost their entire time sniping at one another, before randomly sleeping together, trying to be a legit couple and then going their separate ways. I’ve discussed Charmed’s hideously contrived love interests in the past, but this one was particularly awful. Alyssa Milano and Nick Lachey never had chemistry, and real-life relationships should never be this much work. The entire story hinged on ridiculous contrivance and ended up being a pretty empty excuse for stunt-casting. Good riddance.

Once in a Blue Moon features an entertaining A-plot that is nowhere near as hackneyed as you would imagine, alongside a couple of intriguing subplots. I hated this show last season, and it’s rewarding to see the show gradually returning to form. There are obviously still elements that bug me, but that’s latter-day Charmed, I guess.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of There’s Something About Leo:

One of the major story arcs last season was Piper and Leo’s break-up, problems in their marriage further exacerbated by Leo’s promotion to Elder status. What entirely destroyed the story was how illogical it was, Piper ending their marriage because of his absence from their lives, only for Leo to show up every week doing the exact same things he always did. This season, the Avatar arc is doing a far greater job at creating conflict between the two of them, Leo clearly having been seduced by this mysterious new power, but unsure about telling Piper. It’s something sort of believable as a source of angst, as you can understand why both parties are feeling distant from each other.

This is another one of those episodes where everything is undone by a convenient time reversal, but that doesn’t necessarily dampen its power. One of the most successful elements of the story is Kyle’s rapid evolution into gun-toting psychotic murderer, so determined to destroy the Avatars that he’s happy to kill his girlfriend’s sister in his quest for revenge. Sure, it’s a little on-the-nose, but there’s a great sadness to the post-time travel scene between Kyle and Paige, Paige completely unaware of just how secretly nuts her boyfriend is.

Like pretty much every other Charmed episode from this period, the demon subplot is complete ass. There’s a group of them, and they’re invisible, and they spend most of their time plotting in a dank cave somewhere. They attack the sisters, and unsurprisingly get blown up. Nothing new occurs there, and the whole thing feels crazily redundant. Were demons contractual or something? Just leave them out all-together when you have other character-driven material to work with, show!

Parts of this feel like the writers building a bridge to future events, but it’s still an entertaining hour on its own, helped by that intriguing tone where all the characters seem to be on the same page in that something major is right around the corner. And Leo isn’t making me want to leap in front of a freight train right now, despite getting more screen-time than anybody else. Miracles, people.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Witchness Protection:

Something I’m finding interesting about this season is that most of the character-driven drama is rooted in ideas that are sort of derivative. There’s tension between Piper and Leo, the sisterhood is threatened by distrust and separate allegiances, the Elders are self-involved and ridiculous, and so forth. But for some insanely positive reason, the writers are finding new shading to old storylines. There’s logic to these arcs, and right now each character is being driven by something that feels personal and believable, not things that are only there to service a plot. I feel like I’m praising Charmed a lot lately, which in itself is something new and unexpected. I’m suddenly liking this show all over again.

Charisma Carpenter had been pretty wasted in her previous appearances, but this is truly her hour. In just forty minutes, she creates one of the most engaging characters this show has featured in years, somebody funny and confident and ambiguous in her allegiances. She also finds the vulnerability in the character, one of the finest scenes being her conversation with Phoebe about aching to be human. There’s a real warmth to Kira, as we watch her gradually embrace the possibility of becoming a real person. It all makes her eventual demise that much more affecting, since it’s so senseless and brutal for this show. She also has a ton of chemistry with both Piper and Phoebe, and I loved her declaration that Piper’s ‘the surly one’. Heh.

Elsewhere, the characterization continues to be inspired. Phoebe is entirely won over by the Avatars via her vision of a utopian future, while Piper too eventually comes around. It all sounds so positive, a world without good and evil, a world where everybody leads contented lives. But, at the same time, there’s that nagging sense that this is all too good to be true, making the audience unable to entirely write Paige off as a Debbie Downer for not buying into it.

The Paige subplot is also pretty intriguing for this show, as we as an audience are the only ones who know that Brody is secretly nuts. It’s a fascinating position to put us in, and gives everybody involved a feeling of moral ambiguity that has been lacking on this show since the Cole years.

If there’s one annoyance, it’s those freakin’ demons. Are the actors worse than usual here? Damn. There’s so much screaming and hollering and macho posturing and melodramatic scenery-chewing — it’s insane. Or maybe Charisma’s layered performance just made all these other rent-a-demons look particularly terrible?

Witchness Protection is an ambitious episode with a gorgeous central performance, along with some of the most interesting character work this show has featured in a long time. Season seven is firing on all cylinders right now, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Extreme Makeover: World Edition:

Zankou is proving to be one of the most charismatic villains since Cole. Oded Fehr is brilliantly underplaying the character, being snidely and menacing without being melodramatic, making Zankou a real threat in the process. It’s also interesting to see a bad guy who has an actual plan with real levels, instead of a ‘crush-kill-destroy’ method that can only lead to death-by-Charmed One. Once again, the season continues to surprise with its crazy levels of ambition, the Avatar story allowing for profound conversations about cause and effect and the importance of moral duality. Yes, this is the same show that brought us Nymphs Just Wanna Have Fun.

Surprisingly, the paranoia spell isn’t overplayed by the show, merely allowing the sisters to ask the questions that they probably should have asked already. The story is unfolding intriguingly, everybody so caught up in the glorious promises that the Avatars are making that they’re not trying to understand the minutiae of what’s actually happening. Like Phoebe asked, what did happen to all the airplanes in the sky? And, like always, the answers she’s given are pretty vague.

Brody perished, and while his death wasn’t entirely affecting, he was a strong character. In the end, he was just too driven by revenge, and even his trip to the past last week couldn’t change that. I wish we knew a little more about his so-called ‘evidence’ of the Avatar’s evilness, though. If it even exists, I mean.

In a lot of ways, this episode really felt like part one of a two-hour story, so there’s not a whole lot to really talk about right now. But it’s Charmed experimenting for once, reaching a tone of uncomfortable intensity where everything feels a little ‘off’ but nobody’s confident enough to really talk about it just yet. I should also briefly comment on the awesome scope of the hour, especially those impressive shots of San Francisco collectively falling asleep during ‘the Change’.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Charmageddon:

Watching the Avatar arc, it’s interesting to see the parallels to last season’s finale, in which the characters were all stuck in an alternate universe where everything seemed outwardly perfect, only for the slightest imperfection to be zeroed in on and punished with death or injury. The ‘utopia’ seen in Charmageddon is nowhere near as extreme as the one from last year, and all the better for it. Instead of having their legs blown off for the smallest hint of anger or moral outrage, people simply vanish, while death itself is treated as something pretty inconsequential, handled with the laziest cry of ‘they’re in a better place’.

To go along with the utopian world, the Avatars themselves are thankfully depicted as simply flawed individuals. I was nervous that they’d be exposed as arch villains with murderous agendas, but the big confrontation here is remarkably low-key. The sisters begin to realize that their new surroundings entirely breach whatever free-will humans are supposed to have, and confront the Avatars with their unhappiness over it. The Avatars, while still insistent that their plans would work in the long-run, prefer to avoid any witch/demon team-up and depart, holding onto their scheme for another day.

I don’t think this is necessarily an anti-climax, even if it didn’t feature the usual CGI light-shows or action. If anything, it’s an interesting ending that showcases just how different this storyline was for the show, raising important questions about morality and dictatorship. Of course the utopian world would be perfect, because there would be only one rule and anybody that breaks it would be removed from the equation. But on a purely human level, something like that just isn’t right. Regardless of how terrible Charmedbecame, and how inane so many of the stories were in its later seasons, I have complete respect for whoever came up with this arc and ran with it for so long.

Charmageddon’s narrative unfolds piece by piece, with Leo engineering a chain of events that allow Phoebe to have an epiphany, which itself leads to both Piper and Paige jumping on board. I’m not sure the Brody-Elder thing is entirely logical (isn’t he still nuts?), but everything else here is pretty strong. Zankou continues to be an intriguing villain, and his team-up with the sisters produced some neat sparkage. Probably one of Charmed’s unheralded classics.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Showghouls:

This is just okay. Show Ghouls has an interesting central premise, with the time loop and the doomed victims and the Pardon My Past-style fashions and time period, but the show never really runs with any of it. Count Roget isn’t at all interesting, and the story quickly devolves into annoying out-of-body hijinks soon enough. I did like the thing with the playing cards, and Phoebe’s “uh… Surly?” line, but nothing else really stood out.

Elsewhere, there are a couple of ‘blah’ subplots for everybody else. Piper and Leo embark on a vacation, a story that doesn’t really go anywhere, but presumably they were shooting two episodes at once, forcing them to write the two of them out for a couple of acts. There’s also an annoyingly unfunny story in which Paige glamours into Phoebe for a Cosmo photo-shoot, and Alyssa once again proves to be the worst impersonator in the world. Maybe she isn’t mean enough to do all of Rose’s tics and mugging? Heh. The subplot blew, but I did sort of like the bit where Elise enters the Manor and sees Phoebe just sitting there unconscious, Paige coming up with some lame excuse on the spot. I’m easy like that.

I should also mention that the ending of Show Ghouls really bothered me. Charmed always had those clichéd ‘this is what I learned this week’ codas at P3, but what the hell is Paige talking about? She needs to “get a life in the real world” as she’s been “too wrapped up with Magic School”? Seriously? I can’t remember if this goes anywhere, but I’m real tired of the writers randomly making her so flaky at the drop of the hat. She’s not a character anymore, just a collection of jitters and illogical career decisions. Gah.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of The Seven Year Witch:

Not as teeth-pullingly boring as I remember, but still pretty underwhelming for the 150th episode. The Seven Year Witch is a fangirl shriek in the form of a Charmed hour, full of melodramatic dialogue about Piper and Leo’s ‘miraculous love’ and an annoying Route 66 trial for the big ol’ lunk of former Elder. Thank God, then, for Julian McMahon. He doesn’t get a whole lot to do, but sparkles with charisma as always, and the script does us all a favor by making him bounce off of Holly Marie Combs and Billy Zane, the only actors on this show right now who don’t make you want to reach for lighter fluid and a matchbook.

Cole and Piper have always had a ton of chemistry, and their dialogue here was ripe with catty insults and fun banter. Disappointingly, Cole spends most of his on-screen tenure trying to get Piper to not give up on love, one of the most annoying themes that runs through seasons seven and eight. It turns out that he actually sent Drake into the Halliwell’s lives to help Phoebe work through her love issues, and while it’s annoying and predictable and once again all about Pheebs, it’s a nice little closer for Cole. He’s over the evilness, and wants to make sure Phoebe winds up happy in some form. I kind of wish the show didn’t put so much emphasis on ‘finding a man equals happiness’, but I guess it’s just the type of regressive sexism that Brad Kern specializes in.

The Leo parts of the episode are crazily tedious, especially the numerous anvils as he goes on an amnesia-leaden quest to find his lost love. I’m also entirely over the Golden Gate Bridge scenes. It looked impressive the first time they did it, but having it become the Elder’s hang-out in what feels like every episode just stinks of the show’s budget rapidly dwindling. Ugh.

The Seven Year Witch has zero dramatic momentum and frequently tires you out with its monotonous pretensions about love, but I guess its heart is in the right place, and at least Julian McMahon saves it from being a total wash.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Little Box of Horrors:

Charmed has fully settled into its post-Avatar, standalone-driven run, and this is another episode that kind of works in spite of all its flaws. The Hope character can easily be called out for being a little too reminiscent of a certain blonde vampire slayer, but I liked the introduction of a new mythology entirely removed from the sisters. It opens up theCharmed world a little, at least implying that the Charmed Ones aren’t the only cursed-with-a-sacred-duty ladies in the universe.

Little Box of Horrors has an interesting structure, full of morphing and duplicities as various characters impersonate others, with bad girl Katya shape-shifting into a variety of different people to get what she wants. I generally like female villains on this show, and Michelle Hurd was probably one of the strongest violent femmes in a while. She managed to be intense without being campy, and threatening while still dressed in a stupid outfit. Can I also add a mention for her insane stomach muscles? Girl is ripped!

Elsewhere, Paige gets stuck in an elevator and has to save the trapped people inside, including the superfluous weepy child with asthma. It’s a ridiculously mundane story, but saved by a strong ending in which lady-Elder tells Paige all about her new destiny as a Whitelighter and how the elevator scenario was orchestrated for her own benefit. I like seeing Paige growing like this, but it’s completely undermined by how flaky she’s become. It’s nice and all that Paige is told that this is what she’s spent her entire life building towards, but who says she won’t abandon this trip as soon as she gets a little bored of it? See, show, this is what happens as a result of character assassination…

This is pretty much filler material, but it has a couple of strong moments with a story that, while cribbed from existing source material, manages to be pretty different and interesting for this show.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Death Becomes Them:

While this is pretty good, it would be foolish to not acknowledge that Death Becomes Them could have been a hell of a lot better. The central conceit for the hour revolves around innocents that were lost, and the guilt that manifests in the Charmed Ones when Zankou brings them back from the dead. The sucky thing being that two of the three zombies are introduced literally twenty minutes before they’re zombified, while season three ‘lost innocent’ Inspector Davidson was more a victim of Prue’s decision making, and not so much Phoebe’s. It’s just a little annoying that behind-the-scenes sniping prevented somebody like Shannen Doherty returning, since that would have made a ton more sense from a storytelling perspective. Then again, Andy or some illusion of Chris could have made interesting zombies, even Charisma Carpenter’s Seer. Eh. The whole thing feels like a missed opportunity in that regard.

However, the ideas are there. And that’s something positive. The sister’s selfish behavior has been one of those things that has really frustrated me over the years, and it’s nice to see them feeling guilty for once. The problem is that the show doesn’t really allow the sisters to be portrayed too negatively in the A-plot, since Tim’s death is accidental and Joanna was forcibly prevented from screaming for Paige. The episode could have been better if somehow the sisters were called out on their everyday selfishness, like their obnoxious treatment of Darryl (sample dialogue: “What do you mean he won’t drop everything to help us??”) or Phoebe’s way of making Tim’s murder all about her own bad luck with men. Ugh. Hell, kill Darryl all-together. That would have probably created something juicy and actually personal for the sisters.

If I’m having too much of a downer on this episode, I should say that, for what it was, it sort of worked. Zankou’s machinations here are far more absorbing than the weak filler material they gave him back in Scry Hard, and I love that his devious plans are far more elaborate and complicated than everyday antagonists on this show. Oded Fehr is also irresistibly smooth and charming in the part, and you totally buy that he’d always get the upper hand. Obviously his enemies are three jiggly morons, but you get what I mean.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Something Wicca This Way Goes:

This feels a lot like a series finale, and knowing the twenty-two brain farts that form season eight, this damn well should have been the series finale. Something Wicca This Way Goes plays like a greatest hits hour, full of references to past episodes, old spells and former characters. Some of the dialogue could be interpreted as too self-conscious, but I feel it kind of worked here. I liked seeing the sisters revisiting the past to try and find new methods to destroy Zankou, as well as the Halliwell’s mutual concern over their newest antagonist and his grand scheme to steal the Nexus and gain ultimate power.

I remember watching this years ago and being pretty blown away by all the action and explosions, but watching it over again I realize I had initially overrated it. While the episodeis full of forward momentum and excitement, it sometimes feels a little too repetitive, with the sisters launching attack after attack to little avail while having their powers stolen one by one. I don’t know… it sort of drags after a while.

Where the episode perks up is in the emotional scenes, notably Piper leaving her sons with Victor, about to face what could be her demise. It’s a tender moment, played perfectly by Holly Marie Combs. It’s scenes like this one that fully reflect how serious the situation is, far removed from weaker threats over the years. While Zankou’s demise remains inevitable, it again builds momentum and focuses the intensity. I wish Brad Kern had maybe put greater emphasis on those feelings, while similarly building on the self-doubt created last episode that was mostly absent from this one.

Without discussing too much of the actual series finale, Something Wicca This Way Goes features an intriguing resolution for the sisters. There are a lot of unanswered questions in regards to their identity switcheroo at the end, but it gives the three ladies that fundamental closer that they’d been desperate for since the very first season: a normal life. It’s a Charmed variation on ‘normal’, sure, but it’s something kind of interesting, with enough threads still lingering to keep your imagination running long after the credits roll. Compared to the cookie-cutter “and here’s the entire rundown of what happens next” thing we got one year later, I kind of prefer the ambiguity. But I imagine a ton of folks would have been mightily pissed if the sisters rode off into the sunset with new identities and an uncertain future…

Season seven has been an interesting year for Charmed, with sudden upswings in ambition and characterization mid-season. But, true to form, the show seems to always fall back on the most basic level of storytelling after a while, stranding its protagonists in illogical storylines that treat continuity like a red-headed stepchild. But I enjoyed a lot of this season, which was surprising. With that in mind, it really should have beenCharmed’s swan song. A bunch of episodes blew, but there was a renewed energy every so often that confirmed how strong the show could be when the writers put some effort in.

But, as everybody knows, we got season eight instead. Pray for me.

The Worst:

A Call to Arms, The Bare Witch Project, Charmed Noir, Ordinary Witches, Carpe Demon, Freaky Phoebe, and Imaginary Friends

hqdefault

  • A Call to Arms features the first appearance of Nick Lachey’s Leslie St. Claire, and Piper and Leo get possessed by the Hindu Gods Shatki and Shiva;

  • The Bare Witch Project is arguable an awful, awful episode as explained by tim66’s “Bare Witch Project: An Insult To Women.“:

How many out there feel that the S7 episode, the Bare Witch Project, is the most sexist thing you’ve ever seen.  I mean did we really need another naked Phoebe episode?  And how about that alternate history where women are ruled by men because Lady Godiva never rode her horse naked.  What!?

What surprised me most is that a woman, Jeannine Renshaw, wrote this.  I would love to pin her down and say:  “Ms. Renshaw, how could you, a woman, write such a blatantly sexist piece of rubbish like this.  Just what kind of message are you sending?”

This episode is not only an insult to women, but also an insult the whole history of the Women’s Movement.  Women today do not enjoy their rights because of some mythical horse ride (yep, Lady Godiva’s ride was a myth, it never happened, so it could hardly change history now, right).  Rather they enjoy those rights because of women like Susan B. Anthony and others like her who fought for those rights.  This episode is an insult to all those women who fought that hard fight.

This is another script that needed to be fed into the nearest paper shredder.

  • Charmed Noir was another rather boring Noir episode (think Smallville‘s Noir, Doctor Who‘s The Angels Take Manhattan, or The Flash‘s Duet, for other examples of this media);

  • Ordinary Witches reminds us that common people are pretty damn petty, and selfish, apparently;

  • Carpe Demon is a good reminder that Charmed doesn’t do Corporate America well;

  • Freaky Phoebe has a nice reminder that looks aren’t everything (except on Apps like Tinder, or Grindr) but also the unfortunate trope that Piper and Paige can’t tell who the real Phoebe is, even when she’s narcissistic; and,

  • Imaginary Friends recycles the whole Wyatt-turning-evil trope that has been overused the past two seasons.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of A Call to Arms:

I may be imagining it, but there’s a sense of renewed energy here, presumably because most of the present/future baggage that weighed down season six swiftly exited with the departure of Drew Fuller. There are still stories that have been carried over from last year, but they didn’t bug me too much. Leo is being thrust center stage, more so than ever, and while that would ordinarily inspire eye-rolls, I liked the moral ambiguity of his quest to kill Barbas, as well as the sinister skull-faced presence that is following him everywhere. A Call to Arms isn’t a great episode by any means, but it’s that rare Charmed season premiere that immediately sets up an overall arc for the future.

The Indian thing arrives just as quickly as it casually departs, an unnecessary excuse to give Piper a couple of additional arms. There’s nothing else to the story, and the CGI is horrible — you can literally see the digital joins in the animation. You can’t help but wonder if this was supposed to be a two-hour episode at one point, since this particular storyline feels perfunctory and detached from everything else on-screen.

Phoebe’s annoying dramas haven’t left the building since last season, and her story here is spectacularly ridiculous. She has a problem with giving the same advice she gave to another reader a year ago, but has no problem lying to her (ahem) ‘fans’ by having somebody else write under her name? Plus, what’s with the casual sexism over Leslie? And could Leslie beany more of a vacuous non-entity? Nick damn Lachey, folks. The mid-’00s just camescreaming back to me.

Elsewhere, Magic School is facing closure (God forbid!), and Paige is making it her personal crusade to stop it from happening. Blah. There’s also some annoying hoodoo with Inspector Sheridan investigating the Halliwells, but the story is so useless and illogical that there isn’t a whole lot to report there.

A Call to Arms is strange in that so much of it bugs, but there’s a definite tone that feels kind of entertaining. Then again, I said the same thing at the very beginning of last season, and we all know how that turned out. I think there’s just a natural burst of enthusiasm with the start of a new Charmed year, and this episode definitely achieves that in some unexplainable way.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of The Bare Witch Project:

Jesus. Try and be serious sometimes, sure, but don’t try and lecture about feminism, show. It only comes off as crass and cheap in equal measure. The Bare Witch Project is an asinine hour already, but what really destroys any potential merit is the script’s attempt to discuss important issues. This is an episode where Lady Godiva is depicted as the defining female voice throughout the history of time, every act of femme power somehow tracing back to her. In the minds of the writers, this ends up meaning that women are only listened to when they’re naked, one of the weirdest ‘messages’ this show has ever put across. Even weirder, Phoebe herself takes all her clothes off in protest — instead of using her celebrity or city-wide readership to make a stand. It’s one of the stupidest episodes of Charmed.

The story comes about as a result of one of the students at Magic School, and while I like seeing Paige with some kind of direction in her life once again, it bothers me that the kids are all jackasses. Shooting spitballs at Paige when she’s in the middle of trying to save your future? Why does this show insist on making adolescents so freaking awful? Ugh.

Outside of the hideous feminism junk, the Lady Godiva plot goes nowhere fast. There’s a scenery-chewing demon, a ridiculous alternate dimension where the entire future of female empowerment hinges on some naked floozy on a horse, and annoying CGI light-shows at the end. Just bad through-and-through.

You can see that Jeannine Renshaw wanted to make some kind of grand statement here, but The Bare Witch Project instead ends up cheap, exploitative and ridiculous, undermining any potential it could have had at one point.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Charmed Noir:

Seven seasons in, and the tropes that once made Charmed so engaging and fun have rapidly become tired and annoying. This season is already doing a strong job in breaking new ground, but Charmed Noir is probably the most single-handedly inventive Charmed hour since, gosh, Chick Flick? It looks gorgeous, has a visual identity all its own, utilizes each character well, features some perceptive dialogue, and entirely resists throwing in a bunch of badly-performed demon characters. Yes, this is still the later years of Charmed.

The story unfolds wonderfully, with a knowing script that cleverly exploits how derivative the novel-within-the-show actually is, from the ‘Burmese’ Falcon to the predictable plot twists. Like any disposable writing, the Mullen brothers thrust themselves center stage in the story, and Curtis Kheel showcases his admirable knowledge of writing tropes, from Mary-Sue’s to gumshoe detective stories.

Rose McGowan is famed for her love of everything 1930’s, and fits into this little bubble perfectly. She gives her most arresting performance in a long time, especially when she embraces the femme fatale within and recites dialogue straight out of a Bogart movie. There’s also a memorably jazzy score, and the direction by Michael Grossman is inspired, notably the awkward camera angles and melodramatic blocking of the actors whenever they’re involved in some kind of stand-off. I also loved the way Phoebe and Piper were positioned into the story, literally writing events as Paige and Kyle experienced them.

If there’s anything to complain about, it’s Phoebe’s distrust of Kyle, one of the most annoying subplots in a while. It’s not annoying on its own (Kyle is mighty shifty), but frustrating when you remember Phoebe’s own anger at Prue and Paige when they distrusted Cole — Cole being the dastardly bastard who tried killing the Halliwells on countless occasions. Damn hypocrite.

But Charmed Noir is a gorgeous standalone mystery, something fresh and attention-grabbing with great characterization and a beautiful visual elegance. Probably one of the more underrated Charmed classics.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Ordinary Witches:

Ordinary Witches straddles two storylines that are both entirely necessary, but both feel somewhat padded out to fill time. What remains absorbing is the Avatar arc and the inevitable questions it brings. Who are the Avatars to decide what actually is good or evil? Like Piper said, is burnt toast something bad enough to be removed from existence in this utopian paradise? The entire story arc itself is riddled with plotholes, and for once the characters are actually acknowledging that fact. It’s a ridiculously strong premise.

Brody and Paige’s trip to the past was fine, if a little underwhelming. It would have been interesting if the Avatars had killed his parents, as that would have opened up a whole new can of worms, but I guess it’s as interesting that it was simply a couple of demons that did it. So is Brody just crazy? Regardless of his history? Eh. What is pretty notable is Jon Hamm’s little guest spot, which ranks up there with Amy Adams’ season two role among this show’s random day players who are now huge stars. Hate that haircut, though. Ugh.

The ‘misplaced powers’ thing is major standalone material. While it had a couple of amusing moments, it felt like the show biding time for next week’s big Avatar episode. It’s understandable, but power swaps and ‘wacky wiccan hijinks’ like that are crazily tired by now.

This is nowhere near as strong as the last couple of episodes, but the major themes of the season are still in play, and it’s that sense of ambition that’s keeping the show afloat, regardless of magic-of-the-week subplots remaining pretty dull.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Carpe Demon:

And we return to our regularly scheduled programming. I get that the show would want to do something lighter after the Avatar arc, but guuhhh. Don’t get me wrong, Billy Zane is ridiculously charismatic as Drake, having immediate chemistry with all the ladies and able to make even the lousiest dialogue sparkle, but the episode begins to blow as soon as the Robin Hood thing starts up, leading to an ending which drags on for what feels like a century and an array of annoying subplots.

Drake is a fun character with an interesting back-story, something along the lines of Kira a couple of episodes back with the whole ‘admiring humans so much that he wants to become one’ thing. There’s also the tragic irony that he’ll be dead in a couple of weeks, which not only spurs on a whirlwind romance with Pheebs, but also conveniently coincides with the end of Billy Zane’s three-week contract on this show. Heh.

Sebastian Roche’s dastardly British villain is a return to annoying demon territory, full of underworld caves, whiny minions, kidnappings and doomed schemes. Blah. Even more annoying is the whole phone company subplot, which grinds into the longest siege sequence in history. Elsewhere, Inspector Sheridan is back stinking up the joint, and I have no idea why the show has resurrected that storyline again. Is it simply to give Dorian Gregory something to do?

Carpe Demon is a showcase for Billy Zane, and he’s goofy charm personified. He has a relaxed, easy banter with everybody and quickly becomes the most engaging love interest for years. Everything else here is hackneyed garbage.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Freaky Phoebe:

Having now entirely ran out of ideas, Charmed’s quality pretty much relies on stumbling across decent actors who can elicit some fresh sparks out of stale material. Guest stars, obviously, since we’d be stupid to expect any real effort from most of our tired regulars anymore. Freaky Phoebe’s A-plot only works because of Suzanne Krull, a character actress who entirely nails Alyssa Milano’s voice and mannerisms and helps lift yet another ‘sister possessed by evil’ story into something far more entertaining than it has any right to be.

There are a couple of amusing moments here, notably in Imara repeatedly checking out her new body in the mirror, as well as changing her outfits every couple of minutes. It’s all easy comedy, but provides some brief laughs. The story eventually becomes the same kind of thing that we’re used to on this show, but I did like Phoebe-in-Imara tricking the demons into thinking the spell had been reversed.

Paige continues to be the most insufferable hag on this show, and that takes some credit when ol’ knockers-face Phoebe is still around stinking up the joint. She opens the episode whining about her new job as a Whitelighter, claiming she’s busy elsewhere. With what, Paige? You have no job, you only vanquish demons with your sisters, you haven’t had a fuck buddy for at least a couple of weeks…

The girl is really trying my patience, and her subplot with her new charge was filled with annoying sentimentality and random bouts of ridiculous (did Paige think about the people who have to clean up the wreckage of her car and that pole, but at all?) I’m also sick of Rose McGowan, who gives her worst performance to date in this episode. Her lines are all over the place, she’s mid-seizure in literally every scene, gesticulates like a crazy-woman and seems to have completely lost her ability to act in a believable way. I used to feel bad for her because of the weak material she’s frequently saddled with, but considering she’s getting paid a boat-load of cash for this, the least she could have done is try a little.

Elsewhere, Phoebe is headed back to college again, but it seems like another plot regression, regardless of Phoebe’s belief that it’s something wonderful. And the whole Sheridan thing is becoming more ridiculous by the week. Why did Piper and Phoebe just flee the councilman’s office mid-freeze, presumably vanishing in a split second when the whole scene un-freezes soon after? And how did the tape in the camera freeze, when whole episodes like Blind Sided hinged on the fact that Piper’s powers can be caught on film? Ugh. So. Many. Errors!

Freaky Phoebe has an A-plot that works in spite of how tired it all is, yet is surrounded by subplots that entirely blow and are riddled with plotholes. After a run of strong hours,Charmed is once again returning to its illogical worst.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Imaginary Friends:

They really exhausted the Wyatt character by this point, am I right? This is another story about Wyatt being taken over by evil, only this time Future Wyatt is dragged into the present day where he once again becomes that leather-clad mumbly-voiced villain with evil facial hair. It’s interesting to see a show that explored moral ambiguity so successfully in the recent Avatar arc unsurprisingly return to obvious characterization. Like always, good and evil are treated as two vastly separate ideologies, awkwardly discussed by Wyatt as he whines at his parents for raising him ‘good’. Ugh. It’s ridiculously mundane.

I know I keep talking about Paige, but I think it’s important to reiterate how repulsive she’s become. She’s just consistently argumentative and whiny, complaining about her new charges, complaining about her sisters. Thanks to Rose McGowan, there are no longer any levels to her performance, right from her first scene here she’s confrontational and flustered, and that continues throughout the episode. I can’t stand the girl anymore.

Brief word should be written about Phoebe’s little encounter with her professor, in which she bulldozes the woman with questions just as she’s leaving for home, and acts all wronged when the professor lady complains that she’s been using her lectures for column fodder. I don’t actually see a problem with what the professor was saying, especially when she recommends that Phoebe actually do some research herself instead of berating her once the class ends. But, being Charmed, professor lady makes some grovelling apology at the end of the episode for supposedly ‘pre-judging’ Phoebe, and the whole thing bugs. These hags frequently deserve to be called out on their bullshit, but the writers always cave. Ugh.

Imaginary Fiends is by no means terrible. It has some strong acting and I guess on an emotional level it may connect with certain sections of the audience, but I got tired by the Wyatt hijinks and related demon predictability. Charmed is crying out for some fresh ideas, and this episode didn’t deliver on that front at all.

6.10

The next in best and worst is Season 6.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 7

  1. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 6 | The Progressive Democrat

  2. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 5 | The Progressive Democrat

  3. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 4 | The Progressive Democrat

  4. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 3 | The Progressive Democrat

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s