“Fierce, feminist and fun” was what the Charmed reboot based its promotional campaign on, right?
It may be Charmed (2018) Season 1 Episode 4, but beyond the initial “take down the patriarchy” angle that's trickled down from the pilot, I have yet to see anything about this reboot that surpasses the feminism, fun, and fierceness of the original.
Now I know it’s not always fair to compare reboots to their original source material, but there are two sides to every coin. Regardless of if this show is trying to make a new path for itself or not, it already has shot itself in the foot by promising to be more progressive.
In that aspect, it’s begging for comparisons.
I’m not saying I haven’t seen glimmers of progressive ideas within the show. This episode did start with a flashback of Angela Wu deciding to come forward about Professor Thane harassing her, after all.
What I am saying, is that Charmed (2018) has taken very specific fragments of the original Charmed and explored them in ways that transform the series into something even less feminist than it was in the first place.
Every episode so far has centered around Harry (a white male) essentially telling the girls exactly how to be witches. A striking difference from original White Lighter Leo, who only acted as a guide; never a coach or dictator for the sisters.
Sure, we added a female elder that fights poverty into the mix, but the overall sentiment remains the same: the girls aren’t learning the ins and outs of witch-hood on their own.
And for me, that was kind of always the point.
When Charmed OG came on the scene in the late '90s, it centered around three sisters finding out they were witches, and then navigating that path themselves. The Halliwells succeeded, failed, fought, fell in love, and occasionally, they made the wrong decisions.
But when they grew, they always grew together. And they always had autonomy over how to handle their powers.
“Exorcise Your Demons” did have the girls pushing against the decision to kill Angela Wu. It showcased them utilizing their gut instincts over following orders instead. But pushing against the Elders and White Lighters wasn’t something Charmed OG introduced until the later seasons.
Instead, the first few seasons were all about the three of them. For a long time, the sisters weren’t even aware they had a White Lighter, or that what they were doing was part of any “greater good.”
All they knew was their powers were meant to protect certain innocents, and it was their duty to follow through with that job.
It not only organically weaved the idea of female empowerment into the series, but it gave the show a lot more room to develop characters. It allowed the relationships between the three women to blossom.
Forcing Melanie, Maggie, and Macy into a type of “Wicca Boot Camp” instructed by Harry, it causes the structure of the show to flail in too many directions. It leaves almost no time for us to get to know and to get attached to these three sisters.
While Episode 4 definitely improved as far as story goes, tackling one central problem carried over from previous episodes, it still was trying to do too much, too soon.
The show doesn't need to do a hundred things in one hour. All it needs is to showcase it's three main characters; allowing them to figure out their strengths, their weaknesses, and how most effectively help the people around them.
After those basic elements are built, the world can expand.
It’s very hard for me to buy into the “Witches Are Good” premise, if the "teachers" of the Charmed Ones are blindly telling the girls to kill an innocent girl.
That may be a way to create stakes for the main characters, but not the right kind of stakes.
It is a way to create potential villains, however. I mean, what kind of high power jumps at the chance to kill an innocent? Isn’t the point to save them, no matter the cost?
If the show continues with the Vera sisters rebelling against the Elder’s orders (and Harry joining in as well), I can get on board. Put the sisters in the driver's seat from early on and keep them calling the shots. Have them change who gets the final word.
Or, reveal the Elders (or at least the ones we’ve met so far) as actual antagonists. Flip the script on its back completely.
That’s a fresh take on the Charmed universe and one that would deliver a great twist. It's something no one, not even fans of the original, would see coming.
Although there has been very little time invested in character development, it wouldn’t be right to ignore the standout sister, Maggie.
Ironically, in my review for Charmed (2018) Season 1 Episode 1, I was let down by how one dimensional Maggie felt.
However, over the past few episodes, Maggie has grown into the most complex of the three women! I am delighted with how she is being written as the show progresses.
She is clearly in conflict overbalancing her two worlds; figuring out a way to be a college freshman and a world-saving witch at the same time.
She’s also learning to use her intelligence in unique and interesting ways while discovering more about herself with every challenge that presents itself to her.
And although I may not be a fan of love triangles where one woman is purposely being portrayed as unlikeable (especially to justify cheating), I am intrigued by her chemistry with Parker. I'm interested in where the relationship may be leading, and I am always a fan of flawed characters.
Sarah Jeffrey has spoken about petitioning for the writers to make Maggie more well rounded, and it looks like her efforts are paying off.
While none of the sisters are unlikeable, I’m having a harder time investing in Mel and Macy. There isn't a lot of material there.
I am enjoying Mel's solid relationship with Nico. It's a savvy decision to make the stable romantic relationship of the show between two women. Still, I want to know more about Mel’s world beyond her girlfriend and being a witch.
As far as Macy goes, I'm less interested in her relationship with Galvin, which seems to be a placeholder for an actual storyline. Why don't we dive deeper into her past, or explore more of what makes her different; her STEM background, her virginity, etc.?
I still feel like there is potential for a good show here. But the show needs to veer away from telling its audience it’s fiercely feminist, and show us how instead.
A 15-second scene talking about sexual harassment is good, but plotting your whole story structure around three strong women of color saving the world, without anyone else’s guidance? That’s better.
- I liked the comment Nico made about how people of color get uncomfortable around police and guns. It didn’t feel preachy, the dialogue flowed smoothly, and the fact she was telling it to a white male cop was not lost on me.
- With everything else stripped away, the sisters, especially Maggie and Mel, really do have great chemistry with one another. That’s why I’m so desperate to see it on my screen more often.
- Angela Wu as the harbinger of death was genuinely frightening, and I hope that the special effects and villains continue to be of similar quality. I’d like to see things go a little darker
- If the show wants to focus more on the serialized element of the apocalypse and drop the original’s structure of a “weekly demon,” I’m here for that. Anything to help streamline.
- Melanie Diaz can be very funny, and I’d like to see her flex that ability a little more. She’s got amazing chemistry with Jeffrey, and she is definitely the Piper of the sisterhood.
- Adding the secret spell in Spanish for the girls to exorcize Angela was a delightful spin and a fantastic nod to the Latinx community. I hope to see more of this in future episodes.
- There's got to be more to Galvin as a character, right?
What did you think, TV Fanatics? Are you comparing it to the original like me? Or do you think it stands on its own two feet already? I want to hear your thoughts in the comments!
If you haven't seen the episode, be sure to watch Charmed (2018) online, right here at TV Fanatic!
Kat Pettibone is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.