As a huge fan of the original WB’s Charmed, I went into the new CW’s Charmed very cautiously. I had serious doubts. Not to mention, I was seriously irritated that the new Charmed was being hailed as a “feminist reboot.” What does that even mean? The original Charmed was already extremely feminist and a positive show about sisters.
So, I went into the new Charmed with low expectations. And, unfortunately, my original setbacks turned out to be true. Instead of the mature feminist subtlety of the original scripts, we were treated to a heavy-handed all men are demons script. It was so over the top and ridiculous. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As I wanted to be objective as possible and see the new Charmed as a separate entity, I decided to watch a few more episodes before giving it a verdict. Thankfully, I can say, Charmed is improving though I seriously doubt it will ever be as beloved as the original. The new sisters (and their love interests) just don’t compare to Prue, Piper, Phoebe, and Paige.
Charmed – The New and Familiar Story
Charmed has definite similarities to the original. The story follows three sisters who discover that they’re witches and the Charmed Ones. The power of three is back, but this time, the show begins with a Paige like twist. You see, the eldest, Macy, never knew her mother. She was given up for adoption. So, when she realizes her birth mother is dead she decides to go see her sisters for the first time.
Now, not only are Mel and Maggie dealing with the tragic loss of their mother (instead of Grams), but they have to come to terms they have a new sister and the three of them are witches! Macy has Prue’s telekinetic power, while Mel freezes time. Meanwhile, the youngest, Maggie is an empath that can read minds. This makes for a drastic change to the storytelling of the series. Several of the stories unfolded through Phoebe’s visions. How they will continue forward without this gift should prove interesting.
In the first episode, the newfound sisters are kidnapped (yes, seriously) and tied up by their Whitelighter Harry who mansplains to them that they are witches. Sadly, unlike the original, the sisters don’t get the chance to figure out their identities on their own, but rather must rely on Harry for information. Ironic in a feminist reboot that the original is actually more feminist. Here, a man does all the work. It’s strange to say the least. I suppose they wanted to combine Charmed with Buffy? Harry really feels like a combo between Leo and Giles although he isn’t as successful as either.
Harry, played by Rupert Evans (period drama fans will recognize his familiar face), should be unlikable. Indeed, he’s bossing the girls around all the time. However, because the actor is good (and because later episodes throw in a lot of characterization), I personally feel like he’s the most interesting character. I would love to see him get a romance (either with a new character or with Macy as the other two sisters won’t work [one’s a lesbian and the other way too young]). I miss my Leo/Piper Whitelighter forbidden romance. At this point though, I’m not sure I’m going to get one.
Once the girls become more accustomed to their witchy powers, the sisters must then defeat their first demon. Of course, he also just so happens to be a professor accused of sexual misconduct. The whole thing’s a bit cringy and funny because Harry does all the figuring out while Mel rants against the patriarchy. How the writers miss this is beyond me…
By the end of the first episode, Macy moves in with her new sisters. And yes, they live in a Victorian mansion. (However, no familiar has shown up yet. Sadly.) They also decide to solve the mystery of their mother’s death. Who tried to kill her and why? Why did she never tell them they were witches? And, why did she give Macy up for adoption?
The Sisters and The Power of Three
While the actresses don’t have amazing chemistry as sisters, they are correcting the lack of chemistry in later episodes. So far, Macy works best as a character. I understand her rational scientist behavior and her coldness. She has a lot of protective walls and that makes her interesting. As for Maggie, I get her. She’s the modern sorority girl that loves social media and just wants to fit in. I don’t relate but other younger girls will.
The character that I like least is Mel. She’s too much of a stereotypical angry feminist barking at everyone. Mel can be so over the top that her behavior can be cringe-worthy. Thankfully, she started toning down in episode four so I hope that continues in the same direction. The writers need to make her feel more like a real person (they’re getting there in episode four) and less like a representation of a political viewpoint. A little tweaking can improve the show tenfold. But so far, Mel is no Piper.
The Charmed Mythology
In the original, the magic mythology slowly unfolded while the sisters learned more about magic, demons, and evil. At first, Piper didn’t know Leo was a Whitelighter. And, the Charmed Ones didn’t know about the Elders right away. They also didn’t have control of their newfound powers. The sisters worked for everything SLOWLY.
As for the reboot, everything gets handed to the new power of three (and the audience) on a silver platter. Harry reveals his identity in the first episode. By episode four, the first Elder arrived. Furthermore, the sisters all seem to have a good handle on their powers. Mel uses her freezing power with ease and a wave of the hand. No big deal.
On a different note, the tone of the show feels drastically different. Original Charmed started out as a campy urban fantasy with detectives (Andy you’re still missed!) solving strange murders. Except for episode four, the detectives do everything off-screen. Again, this is another huge misfire because we feel less invested in the story. Plus, the vanquishing of demons is so much less fun.
At least the writers are attempting to make the show feel new I suppose. The mythology of Whitelighters and the Elders feel particularly foreign. The titles are the same but everything else thus far diverges from the original mythology Indeed, the girls’ mother was an Elder and an Elder that arrives in episode four is very much in the human world. There’s nothing about angels and more an essence of Witch Hierarchy which I’m on the fence about. But that could just be because I’m comparing the two.
On a fabulous note, at the end of episode 4, the always fantastic Craig Parker (Reign and Legend of the Seeker fans rejoice) arrives on the scene as a mysterious demon. Can he be the new Cole? Pretty please? I kind of have this theory that since the girls’ mother had the power of prophecy (Phoebe’s gift) that perhaps in the past he loved her. And now he’s on a Byronic mission of revenge…Okay, so I’m totally just putting my wishes into this because of the actor. I can’t help myself, but that would be pretty awesome, right?
Speaking of romance, I loved many of the swoony romances in the original Charmed. Andy and Prue, Piper and Leo, and Phoebe and Cole were my personal favorites. These were love stories that kept us invested because they were epic. In the reboot, I feel nothing and root for no one. The love interests so far are snores with blank personalities. I mean, how does Niko (she’s a cop) compare to Andy? She doesn’t because we don’t know much about her. And I don’t even know Macy’s lab partner’s name or the two names of Maggie’s 2 college guys so far. The second seems a little better than the first?
That all being said, it’s very possible my initial response and rating will change a few more episodes into the series. Romance needs time to build and bloom. Hopefully, everything will come together in the end. But, as of right now, the romances are fails. Everything just seems hollow, empty and rushed.
As a huge fan of urban fantasy, I’m willing to continue watching the reboot because the genre itself rarely gets time to grow before cancellation. Plus, Charmed does have potential even if it doesn’t compare to the fun witchy show we loved before. I’m at least in this for Craig Parker. I’m curious to see how his character will play out…
What are your thoughts on the new Charmed? Sound off below…
Photo Credits: CW
“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce
me. Aren’t you?”
(room for improvement)
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