Cue obscure 90’s pop song intro here.
Charmed (2018) Season 1 Episode 14 took a ride down memory lane, reminding us of all the reasons 90’s TV was so great, yet so gosh darn problematic.
And what a fun ride it was.
There’s nothing better than a good meta episode; the more layers, the better. Throw in some breaking of the 4th wall and you’ve basically got yourself a home run.
“Touched By A Demon” was without a doubt a home run.
The episode was a light one, with the stakes at an all-time low. That didn’t stop it from being one of the best episodes of Charmed Season 1 though, especially from a writing standpoint.
This may be an episode best watched twice, so a viewer can truly soak in all its brilliance.
At the very least, the episode was a ton of fun. There isn’t a single person watching Charmed who hasn’t engrossed themselves in a mega binge session of a popular 90’s drama. Most of us gave Charmed (2018) a chance because we enjoyed the 90's original, so it’s fair to say we all have our TV vices.
It’s nothing to be embarrassed about—some of my favorite shows of all time were based in the ’90s. That doesn’t make them any less problematic, however, and it’s important to take an introspective look at how television has progressed over the years.
By contrasting the characters introduced on "Heaven’s Vice" with their own, that's exactly what Charmed managed to do.
Both Gideon and Levi (played by Jimmy Tatro and Scott Porter, respectively) represented stock versions of male characters from popular 90’s media. Men on TV in the 1990s were one of two things: overly emotional doormats, or bad to the bone misogynists (shout out to Luke Perry, the only 90's actor who managed to be both bad boy and sensitive romantic in his role of Dylan McKay on 90210).
It was a crafty choice to juxtapose Gideon and Levi's characters against Charmed's Harry and Parker. Harry exemplified the type of 2019 man who is able to easily admit when a woman is smarter, faster or stronger than he may be.
Parker, on the other hand, demonstrated the reality that men are a complicated array of emotions—both sensitive and tough, complicated and simple, good and bad. They are, surprisingly enough, just as complex as women are!
To highlight this notion, Maggie’s reason for her inability to go through with sex mirrored Parker’s just a few scenes later: they were both terrified.
A man scared of sex? Something you would never see on 90’s TV!
Today, men are no longer guided by the machismo patriarchal norms they once were, on reality or in television. They are complex beings who possess a multitude of wants, needs, and fears.
They also don’t have to be the one who always saves the day.
Charmed could have easily sent Gideon and Levi back through the portal to save Harry and Macy. The potion was complete, and Heavens Vice is their show, after all. They already know how to defeat the villain.
Instead, the writers kept Macy at the helm of her own destiny, allowing Harry to step aside and ask her “what’s the plan?” She had been following the footsteps of Gideon and Levi the entire episode, but when push came to shove, she found a way to defeat the devil on her own terms.
A better way. A smarter way. Girl power, baby!
Besides just highlighting the laughable characteristics which male protagonists in the 90’s possessed, the show did an excellent job at breaking the 4th wall to make fun of networks, viewers and at times, even themselves.
'Touched By A Demon" may have most prominently focused itself on showcasing how far television has progressed, but it still managed to poke fun at the shortcomings of basic network standards. It’s satisfying to see women use the word orgasm on network television, but saying "shit?" That’s crossing the line, even in 2019.
Can they use the term "masturbation," yet?
Maggie's line about "Heavens Vice" being too heavy handed with exposition didn’t feel like a jab at 90’s TV—it felt like a jab at viewers. As the audience, we are so quick to judge from the comfort of our own homes, peaching about writers who don’t know what they're doing.
It’s easy to critique a show (especially one in its first season). It's a lot harder to write one.
Writing for television is a nearly impossible feat (trust me, I’m a writer) and although I’m the first to call a show out for being overly expositional, sometimes it's necessary in order to build a world an audience can connect with. Especially one with mythology and supernatural based narratives.
We should all take a moment to appreciate the hard working individuals that create the stories we tune in to watch every week.
Beyond the meta of it all, Maggie and Parker’s small but poignant storyline struck an emotional chord. It’s rewarding to witness male characters open up about their fears and hesitations—especially when it comes to sex. Beyond that, it's fantastic to watch these two characters have an open dialogue about their complicated relationship.
Maggie and Parker feel like a ship meant to sail for quite some time.
Mel’s story deserved to be in a different episode. It’s not that her storyline isn’t interesting—quite the opposite, actually. But the conflicts she dealt with stem from multi-episode arcs which had much higher stakes than the other stories in "Touched By A Demon."
The Elders being potentially secret villains has been built up from the pilot. Mel’s association with the Sarcona has only intensified that possibility. Discovering Charity may have manipulated Mel into exercising Niko from her life was quite a large reveal, and it felt undervalued by throwing it towards the end of an otherwise lighthearted episode.
Jada and Mel’s themselves are enjoyable as a couple, but the spells Jada taught Mel flew by on the screen, and it was hard to keep up with what exactly was happening.
I found myself asking questions: Who are the witch hunters? Were they connected to Jada’s parents? What were the rings they were wearing and why were they so important? These all may have been answered, but they were explained so quickly that to blink was to miss the answer entirely.
A showdown between the Sarcona and the Elders is inevitable. It's also causing increased tension between the sisters. This will all inevitably come to be one of the largest climactic moments of Charmed (2018) Season 1, which is why Mel’s storyline should have been saved for a different episode. The pacing was too fast for such big moments.
The entire episode had a tone more similar to the original than those before it, and maybe we can thank director Stuart Gillard (who directed some of the original Charmed) for that gift.
It also could have been FX department choosing to use more prosthetic makeup to create it’s demons (and Angels), instead of opting for CGI. Was it a coincidence, or were they paying homage to the shows of the early '90s? Either way, it was much more authentic. Played for comedy or not, that punk rock vampire was scary!
The show must once again be applauded for how they handle Macy’s (now lack of) virginity. It continues to unveil itself in understated moments, and those choices could not be more endearing.
There was no big unveiling of her now swiped v-card. Instead, Macy casually mentions in conversation she is “now part of the [have had sex] club,” as Maggie unloads her boyfriend issues. Maggie responds in a way which makes it clear she's already been told this information off-screen and the two breeze quickly past the topic.
It’s not only pleasing to see an adult female character not make a big deal out of her first time, but it’s also staying true to who Macy is as a character—someone who's not going to gush over her intimate moments with her boyfriend.
Maggie on the other hand…
- I never thought Macy might actually turn IN to a full-fledged demon. What a major bomb dropped in a subtle way!
- Maggie shooting literal rays of light out her crotch? The best thing I’ve ever seen.
- Speaking of Maggie's powers, I love that she actively manifests energy from raw emotion. POWERFUL.
- Did anyone else think Charmed was shading The Vampire Diaries tonight? Two brothers fighting over the same girl? One bad boy, one sensitive romantic? Their tagline is “Oh, brother,” almost an identical famous tagline to TVD's ("Hello, brother)? I THINK CHARMED SHADED THE VAMPIRE DIARIES TONIGHT!
- Scott Porter is absolutely wonderful and I’m disappointed he didn’t get a chance to shine as this character. He is a fantastic actor with impeccable comedic timing. If you're unfamiliar with his work, please go watch Hart Of Dixie immediately.
“Touched By A Demon” got most everything right; it was funny, enlightening, meta and well paced. It moved both the larger narrative and the character dynamics forward, even if it did so unevenly. Mostly, it reminded us exactly why it’s been renewed for a second season.
Over to you, Charmed Ones! What did you think of this episode? Did you appreciate the meta as much as I did? Were you impressed by Maggie and Parker’s open communication? Do you wish you could jump into your favorite 90’s throwback series?
Let me know in the comments below, and remember you can watch Charmed(2018) online, right here at TV Fanatic.
I’m going to go binge watch Dawson’s Creek now.
Kat Pettibone is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.