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Charmed: Season Seven

"I don't think we're getting out of this one, girls."

Season Seven is one of Charmed's weirdest years. After the mess of Season Six, the series seemingly finds its way again. The first 13 episodes take the season in an interesting and thoughtful direction, after which the show starts to build towards some sort of resolution, though said resolution feels rushed and odd. Despite what is clearly a season begging to close out this seven-year story, there's sadly more aneurisms on the horizon in Season Eight. Before that we do get to experience some surprisingly decent material, with a few crappy episodes thrown in for good measure.

Following the events of Season Six, the Halliwells' lives are still in turmoil after Gideon's betrayal, and the death of future Chris. The most interesting element of this is Leo's struggle to clear his name after killing Gideon, something that gets even more complicated after Barbas' meddling in the premiere forces Leo into murdering another Elder, this one completely innocent. This destructive behavior sets Leo on a path towards the Avatars, a mysterious group initially introduced in Season Five, back when Cole was groomed to join their cause, a cause that was at that point, unclear.

There’s also the introduction of Kyle Brody to contend with, a detective who has a large distrust of the Avatars, thanks to their role in murdering his mother and father when they stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time. His relationship with Paige is interestingly drawn, with her loyalty to him being tested in an altogether different way than Phoebe's was back in Season Four. Brody has some valid reasons for siding against the Charmed Ones, reasons that Paige herself understands. He loses his life while trying to stop the Avatars’ plan to remake the world in their image from coming to fruition, but his death is a powerful moment, and gives Rose a rare chance to make Paige appear likable again. His reincarnation as a whitelighter is completely unnecessary, though.

The Avatar arc is actually one of the more inspired of Charmed's long running stories, mostly because it attempts to tackle something a little “grayer” than would be typical of the series, especially this late in the game. Though they seem to initially offer a better world for the Charmed Ones, one without demons or evil, the Avatars’ "new order" isn’t as clear cut as it seems, with free will eradicated. The girls are left with no other option but to join forces with a demon named Zankou in order to reverse the world altering spell in 'Extreme Makeover: World Edition' (the episode titles are starting to get real wild). The resolution to this whole debacle is a refreshingly tame one, with the girls reasoning the Avatars out of their position of power, and parting ways with Zankou who promises to come face to face with them further down the line. Initially I was a bit underwhelmed by what transpires with the entire arc, but looking back its actually quite poignant, interspersing moments of intriguing mystery with bitter realizations about the world these characters exist in.

The seeds sewn during the girls' reluctant team-up with Zankou are used to great effect later on the season. Some of the episodes in question are plagued by poor execution, notably in 'Death Becomes Them', when the guilt the sisters' are forced to relive when Zankou resurrects innocents they failed to save just doesn't hit home; it's a fantastic idea that doesn't push the boundaries far enough. Zankou himself is still a terrific villain, with Oded Fehr's performance way outshining the bland macho-posturing of the Z-list demons around him. His villainy comes to a head in the finale, with the girls "sacrificing" themselves to stop him from taking control of the Nexus beneath the manor. The episode itself is a tense, exciting ride that gives Zankous's master plan a lot of gravitas, and has a few fun call-backs to elements of past seasons, though it's oddball ending leaves the season in a weird place, with the girls faking their deaths and escaping the potential exposition of their explosive showdown with Zankou at the manor. The ending has some interesting repercussions in theory, and the open-endedness of it is pretty exciting, but it's not exactly where I would want the show to end up. In hindsight, it would seem almost a mercy to viewers to end it here, rather than face the shit-show that is the show's final season. Not to mention how clumsily this is all dealt with after the fact. Ugh.

Outside of the resonance of the Avatar arc and Zankou's generally fun presence, the season feels a little off. 'The Bare Witch Project' is an embarrassing approach to modern day sexism that is unintentionally sexist itself. Any excuse to get Alyssa in her underwear, right? 'Freaky Phoebe’s is another shitty hour that is the perfect example of how tired the possessed sister trope has become. And 'Imaginary Friends' is a bad re-hash of the "let’s turn Wyatt evil" plan that was done to death in Season Six, with the episode further hindered by the black-sucking hole of boredom that is Wes Ramsey's portrayal of an adult Wyatt.

The generally tired attitude is evident in the rest of the guest casting, too. Phoebe's annual love interest this season is the terribly cast Nick Lachey, whose character Leslie steps in as a ghost writer for Phoebe's column when she takes a sabbatical from dishing out useless advice. Of course, the writers use this opportunity to shove them together, even though their chemistry is non-existent. Erica Dane's charm that kept Jason Dean afloat last season just isn't there with Leslie, either; stick to the boybands and reality shows, Nick. Things do look up briefly mid-season, with Billy Zane's brief arc as ex-demon Drake, who momentarily suspends Phoebe's descent into a chasm of whining and self-importance. Zane is ridiculously charismatic, elevating otherwise drab material and injecting life into an increasingly bored looking cast. His exit after just three episodes is sad to watch, but it's more of a tribute to how great Zane was rather than how well Drake was written.

In general, the sisters’ journeys this season are a little uninspired. Paige does find some purpose with her inheritance of Magic School, a job she later passes on to Leo when she fully embraces her whitelighter duties. Phoebe thankfully parks sperm hunt '04 to embrace her role as a source of relationship advice; it’s a nice change of pace from her standard plots revolving around bland love interests but she's just as annoying as she was when she was man-hunting. Piper is still focused on helping Leo, though it’s her role as a mother of two that's one of the few elements that help her to remain somewhat relatable. That aside, there isn’t a whole lot of growth where Piper’s concerned, despite remaining the only tolerable character.

Potions and Notions

Phoebe regains her power of premonition this season. It’s the only of her three powers that she ever gets to use again on-screen, with empathy and levitation remaining too strenuous on the budget.

Death makes his second appearance here, and his first since Season Three. I love that there’s reference to the fact that it was only Prue who saw him last time. One of the rare occasions where the series keeps its continuity in check.

I loved the shots in 'Extreme Makeover: World Edition' that showed all the people going to sleep, with the characters addressing little plot holes like the planes in the sky falling without a pilot to fly them.

Julian McMahon reprises his role as Cole in the 150th episode ‘The Seven Year Witch’. It’s disappointing that he only gets to interact with Piper, who is temporarily stuck in some form of limbo, but he remains a huge talent, and it was great to see him on the series again.

In the season finale, the girls use Astral Projection when trying to trick Zankou. There’s a reference to Prue having taught them the skill at one point, though back in the day it was heavily implied it was one of Prue’s individual talents, not a learned ability.

Spells and Chants

Death: "Which means ending death effectively ends life, throws off the entire cosmic design, the whole point, and for what? A single fleeting life. This is bigger than your sister, Piper. Much bigger."

Paige: "Well, you're gonna go deaf first. Don't forget, you're the older sister."
Piper: "Yeah, I love you too."

Paige: "Last column?"
Phoebe: "Well yeah. How much advice can a world with no conflict need? I may be out of the job."
Paige: "You okay with that?"
Phoebe: "I've got better things to look forward to."

Leo: "I tried to change the world for you ... and I would do it again in a heartbeat. "

Phoebe: "Those demons do have a way of keeping you warm at night."
Piper: "Yeah, but that's only because they have fireballs."

Best Episode: Witchness Protection; a remarkably affecting episode, with Charisma Carpenter's incredibly likeable Kira bringing the show together in a way that hasn't been seen since early season five.

Honorable Mentions; Charmageddon; Something Wicca This Way Goes.

Worse Episode: The Bare Witch Project

There's a general sense that those behind the camera (and in front of it) wanted this to be where Charmed's journey ended, and it's hard not to argue with that. By the time we reach the season finale the series had completely drained the well of ideas and, despite a short lived creative resurgence during the initial Avatar arc, the season was mostly a mere shadow of the series Charmed used to be, and the sisters themselves were starting to grate. Sadly, the WB Elders kept the show plugged in for one more year. The only reprieve of the show's extended life is the potential for the series to craft an ending that feels a little less rushed. In hindsight that still doesn't justify the trash we get fed in Season Eight, but 20/20 I guess...

5 out of 10 world altering spells.

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