Ten years after we said goodbye to the Halliwell sisters, the Power of Three is setting us free once again.
Or, at least, they’re trying to.
When the news first dropped about the Charmed reboot, I heard it would be a 1970’s spin on the original Halliwell family origins, and I couldn’t have been more excited to delve back into their witchy world.
However, when the creators ultimately decided to redevelop the show into a more "current" version and start afresh with a brand new sisterhood, my excitement shifted to hesitation.
Then showrunner Jennie Synder Urman came out with the now infamous comment that their show would be a “fierce, funny, and feminist” reboot of the original, one that focused on “vanquishing supernatural demons, tearing down the patriarchy, and maintaining familial bonds.”
Okay, but … isn’t that what Charmed was all about in the first place?
Through the entirety of its eight seasons, Charmed revolved around four women managing their social, work, and love lives, all while battling evil and saving the world time and time again through the Power of Three. A bond created by the sisterly connection only they could possess.
That sounds pretty fierce, feminine, and family-centric to me.
I couldn’t help but wonder how this new series could do it all better the second time around. How these new sisters could be more engaging, likable and inspiring than Phoebe, Prue, Piper, and Paige were. Set in the early 2000s or not, those characters taught me so much about my own inner feminine power.
Not to mention they showed me I could be sexy, funny, and loveable while being a totally powerful badass at the same time.
But regardless of my hesitation, I wanted to check my bias and give this reboot a fair shot. I am a huge admirer of the Charmed mythology, and the new sisters (the Vera family) were set to be WOC who “take down the patriarchy.” Those are both things I will always advocate to see on my television screen.
Beyond my hesitations, I did want the chance to experience it all again, from a fresh new perspective. Plus who knew, maybe it would end up fantastic, rivaling the original or, possibly, even surpassing it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
At least for now.
Charmed (2018) Season 1 Episode 1 wasn’t a total disaster, I’ll give it that. It had moments of genuine humor, the chemistry between the sisters is organically there, it wasn’t boring, and there were a few points during the episode I thought, “this could really be something.”
Only a very few though.
The Plot of It All
The plot was really where this reboot had an opportunity to shine.
Yes, it was going to take the skeleton outline of what the initial Charmed was as far as mythology goes, but it had the opportunity to create a new, riveting, unique story that captured viewers attention right from the get-go and made us all forget about that pesky original series from the moment it came on screen.
But it just didn’t do that.
Even if you were a newcomer in the Charmed universe or an old fan who took in the fact that this is, of course, Charmed (and you knew the sisters were ultimately going to win almost every time, but most certainly in the very first episode), the plot was unbelievably contrived and easy to predict.
Right down to every single red herring, plot twist, and “big” reveal.
Again we knew the sisters would be the ultimate champs of any demon battle they faced, and yes, we knew that they would ultimately accept their fate as witches. But did we have to see everything coming before it happened?
From the moment Professor Thane came on screen and explained his release from “false accusations of sexual harassment” to Maci before promptly going on, to, well, sexually harass her, it was clear who the big bad of this storyline was.
Because in this day and age? We all know good and well that any character who is disrespecting women and getting away with it isn’t going to be getting away with it for very long.
Beyond the initial scene with Maci, even though we saw very little screen time of Thane, sister Mel (hell-bent on “tearing down that patriarchy,” all right!) was out for blood when it came to the acquittal of his charges, charges their late mother had originally set in motion.
This guy obviously objectifies women, gets away with it and is the central conflict Mrs. Vera was dealing with when died. If that isn’t a red flag with “VILLAIN” printed all over it, I’m not sure what is.
So when the show then tried to steer us towards Maggie’s slightly stalker-ish ex-boyfriend Brian, or Maggie’s (now covered in baking soda) sorority sister Lucy, or even the random guy who Mel proceeds to punch in the face after he supports Thane’s freedom … as viewers, we knew better than to take the bait.
I suppose I have to give the writers some credit, for trying to serve up three red herrings before “revealing” the true villain of the episode.
I just wish it hadn’t been so lazily thought out.
Lucy was way too obvious; Ryan is a character we are guaranteed to see again due to his backstory with Maggie, so he can’t be their mother's murderer. And a right-winged misogynistic college guy? He only got about 20 seconds of screen time, not quite enough exposure for a payoff at the end.
Thane was blatantly the bad guy, obvious from the get-go.
But for the record, the concept itself is a good one.
Thane represents the villains we as a society are currently fighting against so hard. Giving him a multilayer antagonist role is a unique way to tie real-world controversy into fantasy, especially with the target demographic Charmed has.
I hope if this is a continuous story tactic throughout the season, weaving reality into make-believe, the writers choose to do it a little bit more creatively.
The Character Of It All
I sound like a broken record, but I must reiterate how hard I found it to check my bias about this series when I was such a huge fan of its original. But the reboot doesn’t exactly make it easy at times, especially when it comes to the characterizations of the sisters, as it is incredibly hard to warm up to them.
Maggie was the hardest pill to swallow, and that’s probably because she was the sister emulating an original character most closely.
Thinking back to Alyssa Milano’s unbelievably eccentric yet resolute performance as Phoebe, it’s difficult not to compare her with Maggie Vera, the apparent counterpart to the youngest Halliwell sister.
Played by Sarah Jeffery, the writers seemed to be attempting to capture Phoebe's silly and idealistic nature in Maggie, but instead of her coming off as endearing, she read more as shallow and superficial.
For a show that boasted about breaking through stereotypical societal norms, it seems an odd choice to have one of your main characters be such an oblivious and vapid female, regardless of her good nature.
Pheobe may have been boy crazy and wild at times, but that never took away from her intelligence or dedication to solve the weekly conflict.
We see an extension of Maggie’s world through the sorority she joins, and just like her character, Kappa Tao Kappa plays into unbelievably offensive stereotypes I thought had been thrown away with 1990’s cult movie culture.
Every sorority sister is rich, entitled, and empty-minded, with head sister Lucy being a dead ringer for the “dumb blonde” stock character.
Aren’t we past these tropes, folks? Can’t we be women who love a good mixer, while also being women who devise ways to break through the glass ceiling?
We run into the same general issue with sister Mel, played by Melanie Diaz.
Opposite her rose-colored-glasses wearing sister Maggie, Melanie is an angry grad student who has dedicated her existence to becoming a walking poster board for the Times Up and Me Too movements.
It’s great to have a character who brings those facets to our screens, but what about the rest of her? She, too, becomes a stock character for the angry feminist female.
So I ask you writers: Does the character who wants to end the patriarchy also have to be the one who is gay? Does she have to dress in combat boots and hard, all the time? Is it necessary for her to only attend parties for the sole purpose of commenting on rape culture?
Or, can she wear pink sundresses with heels while also standing up and saying “me too” and “I believe her”?
Must we as women only be written as one note, dynamic-less android versions of ourselves? Why can't we be allotted the luxury of being portrayed as real life, complex individuals?
I mean, isn’t that kind of the whole point?
Thankfully, the saving grace comes with the third and final sister Macy.
If there is one multifaceted individual that is shown throughout the entire pilot, she is the one. Macy (Madeleine Mantock) is biracial, a female within the STEM world, unbelievably intelligent and quick on her feet.
At the same time, Macy also exudes an aura of someone who is extremely kind, fairly insecure and maybe even a little bit lonely.
Without being shown on screen for the first 20 minutes of the episode, we still learn more about who Macy is and what she’s about than we with either of her sisters.
It’s a strange phenomenon really, to have two-thirds of your main cast read in such a flat fashion, while the third is portrayed so dynamically and well crafted.
So, the premiere isn’t downright terrible. I mean, it was a pilot after all, and pilots almost never live up to the task of accurately portraying what a show could and will be. To make a blanket statement on the series so far would be premature, so I’ll hold off for the time being.
Nevertheless, I will say this: if Charmed wants to grow out of its predecessors' shadow, it has some serious work to do.
Plot lines need to be much less manufactured and contrived, but even more than that, the three sisters need to grow into characters the viewers can relate to. We need to see these women as authentic and realistic people.
That’s what made the original Charmed so good. It didn’t have any groundbreaking special effects, the storylines tended to be campy, and the dialogue wasn’t exactly Emmy worthy. But the sisters? Their bond and their complexities, their ability to get a viewer to empathize with them, root for them each and every week?
That’s what made them special.
The new girls? They have the chemistry. They even have the humor. But they need to come alive in their own way.
Charmed has the best bet of succeeding if it steps completely away from its original and paves an entirely new path for itself. Otherwise, it will run the risk of always being labeled as "the reboot," especially for those who were fans the first time around.
I was happy to see a white lighter, but WOW, Harry is so obnoxious. I don’t know if we are going for an “all men suck” theme here, but so far, all the men on this show really suck.
I do however like the idea of a white lighter potentially not being the savior he claims to be for the girls. Leo was such a safety net for the Halliwells; I wonder what will happen when the Power of Three don’t have a good-natured healer.
I hope they delve more into the Latinx culture as the show progresses. I was happy to see the reboot focusing on WOC, but there was absolutely no acknowledgment to it in the pilot. What gives?
- Macy’s claim that she wants to become a witch so she can study it on a molecular level and become a Nobel Prize winner? Best line of the episode!
I want to know you guys. And figure out this whole witchcraft thing on a molecular level and get a freaking Nobel Prize so yea, me too.Macy
Could Maggie kick Brian across the room because of Pilates? Or is that part of her power like it was Phoebe's?
- Prediction: Who wants to bet that Galvin is the trio's real white lighter, not Henry?
So, what did you guys think?! Were you blown away by the premiere, or did it leave something to be desired?
Who was your favorite character? Could you guess that Thane was the villain early?
I want to hear from original Charmed fans and newbies!
Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and if you haven't been able to check out the episode yet, you can watch Charmed (2018) online right here at TV Fanatic!
Kat Pettibone is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.