The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 5

 

Norman Reedus of Blade II played Nate Park, a love interest of Paige’s.

The Avatars make their first appearance this season in connection with Cole Turner, having a place in the 100th episode, Centennial Charmed. Cole becomes an Avatar briefly in this episode. They would return in the seventh season.

 

The Best:

Happily Ever After, Witches in Tights, Sympathy for the Demon, A Witch in Time, Sam I Am, Y Tu Mummy  Tambien, Centennial Charmed, House Call, Cat House, Sense and Sense Ability, and Oh My Goddess

5x22-54

  • Happily Ever After, features Natalija Nogulich (Admiral Alynna Nechayev in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), as the Evil Witch from the Snow White fairytale, who desired to get rid of the Charmed Ones to become the most powerful witch of all;
  • Witches in Tights makes the sisters in superheroes, which is a topic I know a lot about;
  • Sympathy for the Demon sees the return of Barbas, who wanted Cole’s powers from the Wasteland, in order to become the New Source;
  • A Witch in Time sees Phoebe continually save her boyfriend, who has only appeared in this episode, again, and again from dying, when she knows better;
  • Sam I Am features probably the best of Paige this entire season, with her being secretly sent to find a charge, none other than her father, Sam Wilder;
  • Y Tu Mummy También sees Isis possess the body of both Paige and Phoebe via demon Jeric, thanks to the help of Cole;
  • Centennial Charmed sees Paige accidentally transport herself to an alternate universe where she would have never existed because of Cole, and alternate Phoebe vanquishes Cole, for good;
  • House Call, though relatively entertaining, features both the Magical Negro trope (see The Legend of Bagger Vance) with the Witch Doctor, and Straw Feminist (see Feminist Frequency‘s #6) with Phoebe’s obsession regarding a vendetta against a rival chauvinistic newspaper columnist, Spencer Ricks;
  • Cat House is a great clip show-meets-time-travel episode about Kit the cat;
  • Sense and Sense Ability sees the Crone steal the Charmed Ones’ sense in order to receive a premonition about Wyatt; and,
  • Oh My Goddess sees the first appearance of Chris Perry, Leo become an Elder, and the Charmed Ones become Goddesses.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Happily Ever After:

The deconstruction of various popular fairy tales made for a ton of fun, seeing Piper dolled up like Red Riding Hood, Paige becoming Snow White, and Grams getting attacked by the big bad wolf. It’s an interesting episode in general, the show utilizing old ideas to create something kind of fresh, instead of merely remaking a concept and calling it a Charmed episode. They did that a lot from here on out, using pre-existing fables and stories as inspiration for Halliwell hoodoo, and this was one of the few examples that didn’t totally blow.

I also liked Grams’ involvement here. The familial tension between her and Paige needed more work and probably should have been the emotional crux of the hour, but I appreciated Grams’ quick-thinking and her ability to concoct potions. Her interaction with Piper was, like always, amusing. I don’t get why they didn’t bring her back more often. Sure, she’s dead, but the entire concept of death had been entirely fried by this point, why couldn’t she have been a regular?

The dynamic between Cole and Phoebe remains repetitive, but I appreciated that they’re trying to do something a little different with Cole himself so far, with his desire to actually help her instead of repeatedly convincing her of his love. I just wish the writers could have given Phoebe better ways to play off him, instead of constantly whining or whatever.Happily Ever After doesn’t provoke a lot of discussion, but I feel it’s a neat little filler episode.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Witches in Tights:

This is one of those episodes that probably should have been a lot better than it actually was. It’s the Charmed Ones as superheroes! Yay-ness, right? There are a couple of cool moments with the sisters dolled up in their multi-colored leather ensembles, but in the end the hour flatlines, full of a multitude of annoying subplots, ridiculous plotting and bad acting. In the A-plot, Kevin’s powers are wildly inconsistent, and Arnon was pretty weak as a bad guy considering the genre vet playing him. Fun costumes though, and for seemingly the first time ever it was Phoebe who actually looked the best.

Elsewhere, the subplots are a barrage of stupidity. For some reason this week, everybody is oh-so-concerned about Piper’s well-being, insisting that she stay quiet and boring while she deals with being horrendously, disgustingly knocked up. Ugh. Ignoring the fact that Piper’s pregnancy isn’t even showing yet and the fact that her various stabbings and electrocutions this year have been conveniently healed by the unborn fetus growing inside of her, it’s a ridiculously offensive storyline that makes Phoebe and Paige look like bigger morons than usual.

Then there’s that heinous Paige subplot where she keeps orbing out during orgasm. Yeesh. There’s not enough words to describe how illogical the entire concept is, or how embarrassed Rose McGowan looks when discussing her problem with Piper. Gah. Finally, P3 is in trouble again. I’ve never seen a business with such an inconsistent financial state.

I liked some of the superhero angle, but Witches in Tights is just too annoying to truly work. There’s also some real issues with the script, with way too many stories occurring at once, the slumlord subplot leading to a final scene which feels almost half-finished, like they cut it right in half. Bad episode.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Sympathy for the Demon:

I mentioned it last review, but I’m not enjoying Phoebe’s characterization of late. It feels like ever since she got her job at the paper, she’s been almost entirely insufferable. She continues to be awful here, too, sniping at Paige for inadvertently summoning Barbas, and then whining that Barbas’ arrival had interrupted her date with Ken Marino. She’s truly becoming the most hateful hag around. What is her problem? There used to be something so sympathetic about Phoebe, somebody still trying to find their place in the world, but she’s become colder and more obnoxious as the years have passed. It’s really horrible to watch unfold.

What isn’t horrible to watch is the rest of this episode. Billy Drago is insanely awful as always, but the fears of the sisters are far greater realized than in any of Barbas’ other appearances. The fears ranged from the everyday (spiders) to the character-driven (Piper’s fear of raising her child in a demonic environment), and the scenes where the terror infected the characters were all well staged. And I admit that the final scene of the story, in which Phoebe overcomes her fear and the bricks encasing the Manor fall away piece-by-piece, was sort of moving.

I’m also enjoying the Cole work, too. I always remembered disliking his season five appearances, but when he isn’t pining over Phoebe there are some interesting elements to his breakdown. And Julian McMahon plays everything so well that you can excuse some of the weaker plotholes.

Sympathy for the Demon is a strong episode with a ton of great imagery (the doves, Phoebe beating Paige senseless), and a story that manages to stay true to the characters we’ve watched for the last four and a bit years.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of A Witch in Time:

I’ve always loved stories where a character secretly goes back in time to avert some kind of catastrophe, and A Witch in Time does the surprising thing by having Piper be the one who saves the day, and not the character the rest of the episode is centered around. This episode is all about cause and effect, and revisits the concept of being unable to prevent death. The show explored the same idea in season three’s intriguing Death Takes a Halliwell, and this is just as good. Phoebe blindly tries to protect a man who is unfortunately fated to die, and the script neatly folds in themes of time travel and Cole’s deep-seated love for his ex-wife to create something surprisingly ambitious.

It’s still a little frustrating to see Charmed’s strange relationship with death as a concept, but I love it when it’s portrayed as something inevitable that can’t be avoided. The whole idea becomes so blurred when you take into account the frequent re-appearances of dead characters as well as the messy preventing-the-future hoodoo in season six, but at this point the concept remains true to the mythology as we know it so far.

Cole is a wreck since last episode, unshaven and eating take-out in his empty apartment. It’s all pretty angsty. But his heart, at this point at least, remains in the right place, and I’m enjoying the fact that the writers have recently been giving him scenes with characters that aren’t Phoebe. I never thought his chemistry with her was all that great anyway. He always seemed to have more fun when playing off Rose McGowan and especially Shannen Doherty. So I liked his banter with Piper here.

A Witch in Time treads familiar territory, but does so in ways that are both surprising and unusually emotional, especially when Piper has to make an agonizing choice over Miles’ fate. It’s another strong season five hour.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Sam I Am:

“I can’t orgasm”, “I want to quit my job”, “I’m a failure because I quit my job”, “Which random person should I sleep with this week?” Considering the pedigree of annoying subplots Paige has been saddled with this season, it’s surprising to see the writers exploring one element of her character that has long remained untapped. Sam I Am attempts to fill in some gaps in Paige’s history, reuniting her with her long-lost father and helping her acknowledge some of her so-called ‘abandonment issues’. It’s an admirable attempt to explore a character’s personality, even more so because the characterization on Charmed has been pretty one-note of late.

Cole’s elaborate plan to make the sisters think he’s evil so that they kill him is needlessly complex, but I guess it’s in keeping with his character. I’m of the opinion that his turnaround in sanity happened a little too quickly, but the show is at least giving Julian McMahon some interesting material to work with. Phoebe’s constant bitching about her ex-husband is really grating on me, though. If she’s not worried that he’s stalking her, she’s worried when he’s not stalking her. She wants to kill him, then she doesn’t want to kill him. Ugh. Make up your damn mind, woman, or move the hell on. Yeesh!

There are a couple of logic gaps along the way, but generally Sam I Am works well as an episode. Rose McGowan and Scott Jaeck are great, and it’s always neat to see the show look back and explore abandoned plot strands from the past.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Y Tu Mummy También:

Can Alyssa Milano put on some fucking clothes? Yeesh! I don’t need to see her saline bags every other week, and her ridiculous mummy dance half-way through this episode was the ugliest thing that’s appeared on this show since the evening gown she wore in Happily Ever After. Y Tu Mummy También, as an episode, is a little strange. It features a bunch of concepts that, while tired, are pretty reliable when it comes to trashy fun. Possessed sisters? Check. Piper saving the day? Check. Some Cole evilness. Check. But the hour feels hollow and overlong, a last-minute Sophie’s Choice drama kind of redundant and a Darryl subplot that nobody asked for.

Cole’s presence on the show is still a lot of fun, primarily because of Julian McMahon’s performance, but the writers are quickly turning him into a caricature of a wacky psychopath. Sure, parts of his scenes here were funny (the guillotine, especially), but it feels a little weak to be reducing such a strong character to suicidal silliness. Eh.

Adrian Paul is pretty good as Jeric, and I liked the concept of his quest to find a body for his lover, even if that was done to better effect in season three’s Coyote Piper. I was also surprised at Paul’s obvious research for his guest spot, as he nailed Brian Krause’s mannerisms and facial movements perfectly during that brief subplot where Leo morphed into him. It’s always funny when one-episode guest stars showcase more conviction and effort than the actual regulars.

But, as previously mentioned, there’s a flatness to the episode which majorly drags it down, and a feeling of the show coasting on the most basic characteristics of the sisters: Piper acting whiny and bored, Paige being all inquisitive and wicca-happy, and Phoebe being a huge pair of tits. Filler.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Centennial Charmed:

This was absolutely the right time to kill Cole. In actuality, he probably should have been written out in Long Live the Queen, but his scheme here feels a lot more epic than the one he executed in season four. The problem raised is that this is the third time Cole has been vanquished, and it’s lost a lot of its power by now. Similarly, his execution wasn’t the grand spectacle it probably should have been for such a strong character. It was your ordinary tried-and-tested vanquish, rendered even more underwhelming with Piper splayed out across the floor during his demise. Meh.

But away from that flat exit, Centennial Charmed is pretty great. Rose McGowan successfully carries the episode, Paige being the only person who can convince alterna-Piper and Phoebe to come together and turn the world back to how it should be. I also enjoyed the reasonably trashy characterization of the other universe: Piper in her leatherXena outfit, Phoebe a chain-smoking trophy wife, Leo in rags. I even enjoyed the throwbacks to past episodes, especially the brief return of Debbi Morgan’s awesome Seer. Didn’t understand why Ava from The Eyes Have It has suddenly changed both her nameand her face, but whatever.

Cole probably deserved a better final scene, but this was an admirable attempt at exploring a familiar idea and depicting it with some renewed freshness. Great work by pretty much all the cast, especially Rose and Julian. I really liked Cole. He was probably the one male series regular who wasn’t painfully underwritten or played by an actor with the charisma of a park bench. Happy 100, Charmed.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of House Call:

You can understand why the writers wanted to do a bunch of comedy episodes after a run of heavy storytelling (for Charmed, anyway) with Cole’s machinations and his eventual demise, but this is the point of the series where ‘comedic’ gets unfortunately confused with ‘dumb’. House Call is a pretty terrible episode, the sisters acting insufferably annoying, the special effects worse than ever, and the guest stars perfecting the art of scenery-chewing. Kill me now.

Let’s start with Phoebe’s cries of wanting modesty. Hah! This is a lady who probably uses a crotch shot for her driving license picture. And why does she believe Cole is responsible for the demon-residue hauntings when he got vanquished in another damn reality?? Then there’s the gratuitous Phoebe nudity again, followed by her anvil-a-licious proclaiming that Spencer Ricks is a ‘turkey’. Ricks himself is the most ridiculous caricature of a misogynist in the world. Meanwhile, Paige’s jealousy of Glenn’s new fiancée is stupid even before she gets possessed; while Piper’s obsessive cleaning comes completely out of left-field. Gah.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amusing moments here: the plaster falling on Piper’s head is straight out of an Acme cartoon, Rose McGowan gives her lines some neat delivery, and Erinn Bartlett completely nails Rose’s distinctive body language and vocal pattern. But… that’s pretty much it. House Call is a routinely annoying Charmed filler episode.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Cat House:

A clip show. But at least they went and made Cat House an imaginative clip show. It has an actual structure to it, and there’s at least some attempts to give the story a real purpose, instead of just showcasing past moments from the show in order to save a couple of bucks. I also liked that the show actually pulled from continuity. Sure, Kit’s had a sex change, but I appreciated the writers bringing him/her back at all, and once again exploring the importance Wiccans place on ‘familiars’.

The show does a great job inserting Paige and Phoebe into the various flashback sequences, and their reactions are pretty funny, too. The clips themselves are mostly Piper and Leo-related, so boredom ensues if you’re sane and couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the two of them. Speaking of the two of them, their marital problems could have used a little more build-up, instead of just being dumped randomly into this episode after a couple of vague hints last week.

Marita Geraghty (who I always remember as the Jerry Seinfeld girlfriend who got dumped by Newman of all people) and Zachary Quinto (bar the unfortunate haircut) are pretty memorable in their guest spots, Geraghty fiery and endearing, and Quinto hitting that difficult level of unsettling, interesting campiness. Think more W. Earl Brown inPrewitched and less Jason Carter in Power Outage.

Cat House has its drab moments, but generally it succeeds in spinning something fresh out of the ‘clip show’ formula. Or maybe I’m just thankful for anything half-decent after last week’s abortion.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Sense and Sense Ability:

It’s all in the delivery, people. Sense and Sense Ability is pretty underwhelming in terms of story, while the concept is pretty thin, and the performances are so broad, but somehow… insanely, this episode actually works. The moments where the sisters try and communicate are all pretty funny, Alyssa Milano’s shrieky performance surprisingly not setting my teeth on edge this week. Rose McGowan, too, seems to be having fun in the manic charades sequence.

Grace Zabriskie, who is the most gifted ‘crazy lady’ character actress working, is a little wasted here — considering the Crone’s master plan is just to kidnap Wyatt. Blah. But she chews the scenery in every one of her scenes, giving off a casually cunning vibe, totally relaxed in her own madness. It sticks out like a sore thumb on a show like this, where the demons are ordinarily played so wildly, but Zabriskie makes it her own. Those stacked black guy demons were pretty vacuous, but I did raise an eyebrow at the fact that they were all illiterate. Like… what the hell, show? Seriously?

Similarly annoying is the continued insistence that Phoebe’s advice column is something worthy of nationwide acclaim. Please. She’s not only getting awarded, she’s now getting syndicated, but folks are worrying she’s “too edgy”. This needs to stop, now. I refuse to believe that Phoebe is anything but a moron.

Great performances, a lot of cheap laughs, and a general sense of fun. It’s not a series classic, but it’s one of the few comedy episodes in the later Charmed seasons that doesn’t feel like a cheap excuse for some penis gags.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Oh My Goddess, Part 1:

This is the latest in a run of season premieres/finales that involved the sisters getting dressed up in some kind of magical ensemble, presumably to give the WB promo department something to work with. Unfortunately, the whole Titans thing looks resoundingly cheap, like an annoyingly low-rent Xena pastiche full of bad acting, melodramatic dialogue and tacky outfits. Throw in a reunion from hell that nobody asked for, rounding up all the hideous magical creatures inflicted upon us this year (including the trashy nymphs, the snarky dwarfs, that barf-worthy fairy girl and those damn leprechauns), and Oh My Goddess! ends up among the worst finales this show ever did.

Also thrown into this cacophony of crumminess is Chris Perry. Now, there are some models that end up pursuing acting and are surprisingly great. Cameron Diaz is a good example, Famke Janssen another. Then there are models like Drew Fuller, here delivering every line with the same lifeless tone of a moronic valley girl, so consumed with trying to look ‘pretty-pretty’ that he entirely fails to emote in any sense of the word. Bizarrely he’s sustained a career since his tenure on Charmed, presumably handed to him by casting directors who fail to look past his bland, non-threatening facial features. Ugh.

Elsewhere, Piper is unhappy that Leo is constantly being called away by the Elders, and they now communicate through annoying therapy speak, presumably recommended by somebody entirely unqualified. Holly is fine in any story like this, but you can’t really support Piper’s whining. At least one person in every marriage has to work, especially when there are kids involved, and you can’t expect to have them around 24/7. It’s another story this year that can’t help but alienate the audience. Same with the voluntarily unemployed Paige whining about having no money. Relationships, work, money: it’s all rough, but people deal with it. So cram it, shrews.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Oh My Goddess, Part 2:

The showy central story continues to bug, this time an excuse to allow everyone to fawn over Phoebe’s beauty and elegance (hah!) and Rose McGowan to mug like she’s never mugged before. Both actresses are intensely annoying here, but it does allow Holly Marie Combs to provide some levity as the one sister who isn’t lobotomized by the titan spell. “I find this ridiculous”, “This is getting tired”: are we sure Holly didn’t improvise most of her dialogue this week?

When the Greek shit finally wraps, Oh My Goddess! Part 2 isn’t a total crock. I still have problems with how the Piper/Leo story was constructed, but Holly always sells the hell out of these things, and her final scene up in Elderville with Leo showcases why she’s by farCharmed’s greatest asset at this point.

I just wish Leo’s departure didn’t involve so much contrivance. The sisters are nothing without him? Paige and Phoebe act like idea-free morons without his advice and guidance? Pffft. Leo’s always been useless, so don’t try and say otherwise, show.

Season five has been a rough year for Charmed, opening with drive and confidence as it settled into a more lightweight tone, before spinning out of control with episode after episode of suck soon after Cole’s demise. The show still has the ability to amuse every once in a while, but a lot of the themes that made the series so endearing at the start (the sisterly chemistry, the bond between family) have slowly faded in favor of vapid silliness and unnecessary cleavage.

 

The Worst:

A Witch’s Tail, Siren Song, The Eyes Have It, The Importance of Being Phoebe, Sand Francisco Dreamin’, Lucky Charmed, Nymphs Just Wanna Have Fun, and Necromancing the Stone

5.17

  • A Witch’s Tail tells a familiar story of a mermaid wanting to be granted legs, and finds someone she has fallen in love with, like The Little Mermaid;
  • Siren Song, features Melinda Clarke (Xena: Warrior Princess), who plays a Siren, an Evil Demon Seductress (see Feminist Frequency‘s #4);
  • The Eyes Have It, features Tobin Bell (Saw) and Emmauelle Vaugiar (Smallville, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda), playing Gypsy Hunter Cree, and Ava Nicolae, last of the powerful Shuvani Gypsy Clan, respectively;
  • The Importance of Being Phoebe sees Phoebe being replaced by a demon, and having her sisters unable to tell the difference. This would occur again in Freaky Phoebe, and Repo Manor;
  • Sand Francisco Dreamin’ is an episode I found just silly;
  • Lucky Charmed features the first appearence of the Leprechauns in the series, and it sucks;
  • Nymphs Just Wanna Have Fun is both ridiculous and dumb for an episode, featuring hippie nymphs who depend upon men (a satyr), but learn not to anymore; and,
  • Necromancing the Stone can be summed up with one Grams quote:

Men are just silverware, once you’ve used them, just toss them aside.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of A Witch’s Tail, Part 1:

So we enter ‘part two’ of Charmed, the half that is almost insufferably shitty. Okay, that’s maybe a little unfair. But most of the series did blow chunks from here on out. A Witch’s Tail Part 1 isn’t totally heinous, but it really promotes the ‘new’ Charmed’s mission statement: More revealing costumes! More whining! More cribbing of existing source material! Gah. So we have another exploration into some kind of magical mythology, this time mermaids. And being Charmed part two, Alyssa Milano is thrown into a cleavage-revealing ensemble midway through the hour. Once more, gah!

Jaime Pressly isn’t half-bad as Mylie, and while the story itself is a Disney knock-off, there are at least some attempts to make Mylie’s plight sort of endearing. I liked the Sea Hag too, especially the water effects as she splashed onto Phoebe’s car. But that fishy minion of Necron’s definitely ranks up there with the most shrill and hateful actors to ever appear onCharmed. Shudder.

Elsewhere, our rapidly-vapid Charmed Ones dealt with some annoying personal traumas. Phoebe’s ego is stroked throughout the episode, since her career as ‘Ask Phoebe’ has made her some huge San Fran celebrity. Eye roll. Then there’s Leo’s insensitive treatment of Piper and her mom’s death, ruling Patty irresponsible for dying in battle. Seriously, guy? Paige doesn’t get a whole lot to do except walk around in a wet shirt. See again: new mission statement.

Finally, there’s the return of Cole. While the story itself is tired, Julian McMahon is so great at playing magnificent bastards that the new incarnation of his character adds some necessary energy to this joint. A Witch’s Tail Part 1 is problematic, and Charmed’s new direction is more than a little bothersome, but generally this premiere is fine. Dumb, but fine.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of A Witch’s Tail, Part 2:

Less interesting than its predecessor, primarily because there isn’t a huge amount of story to tell. Phoebe’s mermaid escapades are most evident of this, with various sequences of Alyssa lazing around on rocks and getting caught up in fish nets. I guess the interview with Nancy O’Dell was funny, but the story bottomed out long before the credits rolled. Cole’s involvement produces some interesting moments (I liked his interaction with Paige), but it still feels like the show is exploiting a tired story arc since there’s so little new to say.

Piper’s fear spell is amusing, as is her electric eel torture in the cavern at the end. But too much of the story felt derivative, right down to the exact same ‘vision of Mom’ closer previously used when Prue was drowning way back in season one. Elsewhere, Paige quit her job, which I always found annoying. I liked her as a responsible young woman with an actual career, this plot development ensuring season after season of Paige being a directionless moron.

Season five has opened with a lighter feel, with greater emphasis placed on magical creatures than dark depictions of underworld demons (which I felt grew flat at the back-end of season four). It’s certainly fresh, and Charmed-lite doesn’t necessarily guarantee badness. What is weakening the show are the actual sisters themselves, each one of them creating bouts of annoyance here. Lite is fine if the characters continue to ring true, but when the Halliwells begin to bug, the show is doomed.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Siren Song:

Please excuse the Melinda Clarke compliment trip I’m about to embark on, but I love the girl. Whether she’s playing a sensual dominatrix on CSI, or hardass Julie Cooper on The O.C., or a mysterious torture-junkie on Nikita, she’s always insanely memorable, her delivery always sexy and ambiguous and she’s always been able to lift whatever material she’s been given. Luckily for her, the Siren is an interesting character already; a demon with an actual back-story and an interesting concept. There was also something kind of tragic about her, being forever cursed because of an affair conducted in puritan times; the woman automatically getting the blame.

The Phoebe/Cole saga spins into some interesting directions here. Away from the self-serving silliness of Cole rescuing ladies from burning buildings, he’s only trying to prove his morals to Phoebe and hopefully win her back again. But their relationship is doomed, the insane amount of baggage the two of them lug around all the time permanently crippling any chance they could ever have. Phoebe bugged a lot during this arc, but you can understand her character a lot better here than anywhere else in the first half of season five.

Piper and Leo’s power swap has a couple of funny moments (Holly’s performances always save these asinine subplots), but generally it’s way too reminiscent of the time Phoebe and Prue swapped powers, or Paige and Phoebe swapped bodies. Swaps of any kind are used too sparingly on this show to work out emotional issues, it’s become a cheap contrivance already.

Away from some of the predictable subplots, Siren Song works really well, and it features a couple of really memorable performances, Holly and Julian in particular are great and the aforementioned Melinda Clarke is the best guest star in a long while. Fun episode.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of The Eyes Have It:

The Eyes Have It is an interesting exploration into a different culture, along the lines ofDead Man Dating in season one. I’m not sure if the gypsy stuff here is consistent with reality, but I always liked the depiction of other kinds of medicine and folklore on this show, and there were some great moments here like Aunt Lydia showing the sisters the magic of her culture. The story itself was also a lot of fun, with an interesting demonic conceit and strong performances from the genre vet guest stars, including Tobin Bell and Emmanuelle Vaugier.

Despite so many of latter-day Charmed’s Phoebe-centric stories blowing chunks, her involvement in this episode was pretty intriguing, notably the show actually acknowledging the fact that she hasn’t had a premonition in forever. It also introduced a short-lived power advancement that didn’t feel entirely unnecessary. Great visuals for Phoebe’s visions here, especially in the kitchen scene.

While the episode is strong, there are a couple of points I violently disliked. It’s disappointing to see Piper and Paige relegated recently to ‘annoying faux-drama of the week’ subplots, Piper’s yet again involving her pregnancy, and Paige this week whining over not having a job anymore. So… why did you quit social services? So freakin’ dumb.

The Eyes Have It also features a bunch of hooey about Phoebe’s blossoming media career, and it’s crazily annoying. There’s nothing more stupid than somebody whining about a job that they weren’t forced to get. Here’s a woman who gets a decent paycheck for writing a small column in a tabloid newspaper answering, what, four or five questions a day. Yet she’s always rushing around to meet her deadline and constantly complaining about being too stressed out by the radio appearances she’s making and the talk shows she’s guesting on and the photo-shoots she has to endure. Nobody is forcing her to do all of this, and Elise is hardly going to fire her for not being a fame-whore. And then there’s the fact that it’s highly improbable that a tabloid advice columnist could become some huge San Francisco celebrity in such a short amount of time. Sorry for rambling, but yeesh Phoebe bugged the hell out of me during this period.

Gah. Apart from those minor complains (which I realize took up most of this review), The Eyes Have It is an interesting episode that is pretty reminiscent of Charmed ‘s ambitious first three seasons. The stupidity is kept to a minimum, and the demon story is actually pretty cool. Surprise, surprise.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of The Importance of Being Phoebe:

This marked another strong use of Cole, even if his motives are a little muddled at this point. Is he just enjoying being evil — or does he still want to make the sisters kill him? Is he still pursuing Phoebe — or does he just want to kill her? He’s become a confusing character, but as a standalone piece, The Importance of Being Phoebe has an interesting concept, with Cole wrapping the sisters up in various legal problems in an attempt to seize control of the Manor and therefore the Nexus. The story rapidly falls apart as the episode goes on, but at least it’s something different.

Like so many season five episodes, this is designed as a showcase for Alyssa Milano. But her acting as Kaia-as-Phoebe is decidedly weak, relying on the most basic level of character contrivance to work (Kaia plays with her hair a lot). And, just like last week, we once again have gratuitous Alyssa nudity, this time in that gross lap dance that opens the show. And she goes down on him too, right? Why do they do this to us? Do they want our collective eyeballs to melt?

While the episode unravels nicely, it’s another Charmed hour where the writers paint themselves into a corner and then come up with some contrived means to get back on track. So Leo tells his charges that they can just ‘reverse’ Cole’s machinations with their magic, and I guess we’re supposed to forget about the woman Cole killed, or the lady who was suing Phoebe, assuming she even existed? Gah. This episode has some interesting ideas, but falters too much to make it a total success.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Sand Francisco Dreamin’:

This feels like another retread, made even more glaring since the show did ‘secret fears’ just seven episodes ago. Sand Francisco Dreamin’ has a strong premise, the idea of demons hunting down sandmen and the resulting anger created due to the absence of dreams, but it soon falls into familiar trappings: Charmed coasting once again, relying on increasingly stale conceits like sitcom power swaps and one-note demons instead of pursuing interesting new material.

Each character has their own deep-seated fears and traumas that get expressed through their dreams, but too many of them are redundant. Piper’s pregnancy has left her feeling unsexy, so she’s been dreaming about an eligible bachelor that wants to get in her pants. Blah. Then there’s Paige and her still-present childhood abandonment issues, but the show already explored that just a couple of weeks back, leaving the story feeling repetitive. Leo has some angst over missing out on Piper’s pregnancy, landing him pregnant via some wacky magic hijinks. Snore.

The most interesting dream belongs to Phoebe, and it’s not only because her dreams have the most interesting visuals, but because it’s more successfully character-driven. Phoebe is being pursued by a masked killer, somebody she initially believes is Cole, until she realizes that she is her own pursuer, and that she’s essentially become her own worst enemy. It’s a subplot that feels a lot more organic than the other elements of this episode, with a central idea that hasn’t been explored already.

Elsewhere, there are a couple of moments that are impressive — I liked Mr. Sandmanplaying at the top of the show, and Beth Orton was great at the end. The visuals for the dream sequences were also surprisingly ambitious, with a blend of various camera techniques and visual trickery to reflect each dream or nightmare. But Sand Francisco Dreamin’ as a whole episode felt like the show relying on familiar tricks too much to truly work. Meh.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Lucky Charmed:

Yeah. It’s the leprechaun episode. Where to begin? It’s a ridiculously stupid storyline, with the same concept as the Sandman one a couple of weeks back: some magical creature with special powers is threatened by a demon, who wants the powers for himself. There are rainbows and pots of gold and Irish accents that make you want to put a drill through your ears. The leprechauns themselves are preachy and annoying, Seamus in particular gross and horny and determined to come on to every Halliwell he encounters.

There’s just too much to hate here. You’ve got successful Broadway actors chewing the scenery as they try and break into television and wind up in a shittier-than-usual episode ofCharmed. Two presumably lesbian demons who are given little to do. A redundant Piper kidnapping. Pat Benatar scraping the bottom of the barrel of her career. Paige whining over having so little money that she can’t afford new clothes, alienating the entire audience in the process because she prefers to complain instead of getting a fucking job!!!! And on, and on, and on…

Phoebe bugs for the entire episode. Her expose on internet dating is annoying, and her flirtations with Jason Dean feel spectacularly contrived. The writers are also pretty insistent this season on making her reprehensibly selfish, with the frequent interruptions here of her latest internet fuck-buddy Cyrano73 beeping on her palm-pilot. Ugh.

Lucky Charmed is hideous; an offensive, worthless sack of misery that should have never seen the light of day. What makes it truly shocking is the fact that it’s not the worst episode of the season, that particular shit-show right around the corner. Yikes.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Nymphs Just Wanna Have Fun:

Aaaaagggggghhhhhhhllrlrrraaaarr! This is another masterpiece of suck. Similarly to Shannen Doherty’s emotional investment rapidly shattering to pieces back in season three’s Once Upon a Time, you can just about spot Rose McGowan’s soul packing up its bags and fleeing the set for a vacation home in Cabo right around the moment where she dances around in a fountain with two morons in fugly green satin. Seriously, whose wheaties did Rose pee in to get saddled with this material? Like getting groiny with a bunch of leprechauns just two weeks ago wasn’t bad enough? Nymphs Just Wanna Have Fun is the total nadir of the series. God, even that title is hideous.

The introduction of the nymphs marks Charmed’s return to awful storytelling presumably directed at pre-teen girls. We’ve had fairies and unicorns and rainbows, but the ideas depicted here are painfully mundane. The villains are once again personality-free drones, the outcome is unsurprisingly contrived, and the annoying wind-chime score accompanying all the nymph sequences feels like a auditory hangover.

Also ridiculous is the idea that all of San Francisco’s media is captivated by these dancing women, who would easily be treated as a bunch of annoying performance artists in the real world. Then again, this is the same bizarro world where Phoebe is awarded ‘Columnist of the Year’. Chortle. Elsewhere there’s a random Piper/Paige rivalry, another Charmedsubplot pulled out of Brad Kern’s butt for no other reason than to fill time.

Finally, there’s Phoebe sleeping with her boss. We don’t need to see her breasts hanging out of her party dress, or the walk of shame the next morning, or the grunting sounds while she remembers the previous night’s tryst. This is just the worst; a forty-minute exercise in embarrassment and absurdity that’s as illogical as it is ugly. Nymphs Just Wanna Have Fun deserves its own special seat in hell.

According to the Unwelcome Commentary review of Necromancing the Stone:

I’ve always thought Necromancing the Stone ranks up there among the most boring Charmed episodes. And I hate describing something as boring. Sure, it’s nice to get some Grams development, and the commentary on gender politics and Grams’ own issues with men are both interesting, but the episode drags like nothing else before it. The necromancer’s plan is a little hazy, and the annoying ‘men are worthless shits’ theme that runs through several of the storylines is more than a little contrived and offensive.

It would have been more interesting for the Necromancer story to be used as a sounding board for some exploration into the love lives of the three sisters. Maybe if there were more of an appreciation for the fact that nearly all of them have fallen for men that are wrong for them, including demons and warlocks along the way. Instead, the storyline is bogged down in exposition and whining, and the concept isn’t given more room to breathe.

Phoebe and Jason’s relationship goes down a familiar TV route, with Jason moving to another country and wanting Pheebs to join him. It’s really not interesting, especially since it just contains more of Phoebe’s flip-flopping over her personal and professional responsibilities. Blah.

Necromancing the Stone is another late season five misfire, and one that I really struggle to get absorbed by, no matter how many times I watch it.

 

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Next in the best and worst is Season 4.

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

  1. Trangender hookers like you should just die. Nobody cares about your drug addcited ass. Died already.

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

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

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