Charmed: Season Six

"It helps to be a sister."

With more plot holes than actual plot, some really questionable character arcs, and frustratingly inconsistent mythology, Season Six is undoubtedly one of Charmed's worst years.

Following the downward trajectory that began in the latter half of Season Five, we enter Season Six with the series in a state of confusion. Piper and Leo's separation is, unfortunately, the crux of the season, and the character responsible for all this - Chris - plays a frustratingly important role in the season as well. Portrayed by an actor with the charisma of a dead fish, and written with very little conviction, Chris is probably the worst major character the series ever introduced. As we watch the more familiar and, yes, admittedly bland Leo slowly grow apart from Piper and the sisters, we're forced to endure a very slow, and very odd reveal of Chris' true identity. Episodes like 'Chris Crossed' try to add depth to him, but the general confusion surrounding his place in the series make it more of a baffling watch than a satisfying one.

Initially coming across as somewhat of a villain, it's obvious that Holy Marie Combs' pregnancy threw the writers under the bus, with Chris' subsequent unveiling as Wyatt's brother raising more than a few questions about what came before it. Like why would Chris kill a Valkyrie with such reckless abandon in the season premiere, and why did he have to go through all the effort of enlisting a demon just to teach the sisters a lesson about their individual wants and desires in 'My Three Witches'? And how the hell did Drew Fuller ever get hired in the first place?

Chris' plan also required him to keep Piper and Leo apart so he could place himself close to Wyatt, but watching the separation unfold is a truly aggravating experience, especially when it felt neither organic, nor appropriate. There are a few parts of the season that try to toy with Piper's role as a single mother, though the inconsistent writing prevents most of these moments from hitting home. There are some admittedly strong scenes that explore Piper's pain over Leo's departure, notably in the premiere where Phoebe's new power of empathy allows her to feel the hurt and betrayal that Piper had been holding back for months thanks to a spell gone awry. Largely, though, the arc is a mess, and it’s a relief when it all comes to an end with baby Chris' birth in the finale.

Chris' plan to save Wyatt from getting corrupted by evil forces leads us to the show's first major antagonist since The Source; the misguided Elder, Gideon. His motives are flimsy as hell, but the presence of a primary villain is welcome in light of the reversion to a stand-alone narrative last season. The story never quite works, with Gideon's reasons for betraying the sisters and attempting to destroy Wyatt feeling a little unfounded. There are some interesting repercussions to his actions, though. Leo's decision to kill Gideon for betraying him essentially ends his time as a fully-fledged Elder, sending him down a dark path next season.

Outside of Piper and Leo's family drama, there are just as many issues to be found, with Phoebe's plots this season continuing her path to full-on narcissism. Gone are the days of the fun, relatable misfit. Now she's much more concerned with sperm hunting and using, abusing and later losing her new power of empathy to find said sperm. Bar a few fun moments, Phoebe is pretty abhorrent this season. It's hard to feel sympathy for her anymore, and most of the beats her arc hits feel like they're driving her character further and further into the ground. This season also marks the first instance of a tradition that lasts through to season eight; Phoebe's annual love interests. Here, it's a carry-over from last season; Jason Dean. He's mostly fine, though he falls squarely into the same category as most male characters on this series and becomes rather disposable. He eventually departs after finding out Phoebe's secret and he isn't missed.

Paige's decision to quit her job as a social worker last season is still causing her to drift from place to place. But rather than mooching around the manor honing her witchcraft as she did in Season Five, here she takes up temping, giving the writers a chance to throw her into a new and absurd situation each week. Some of these fall flat (hi, talking dog!), but some do lead to some genuinely intriguing situations, most notably in 'Love's a Witch', where Paige is caught in the middle of a magical family feud. The episode is decent enough, though it's more significant for its introduction of Paige's semi-recurring love interest, Richard. Initially appearing as a witch with a magic-averse attitude, we soon learn about his addiction to dark magic. There are some cool, dark little moments for Richard, but in general the plot is never fully realized and his addictions eventually drive him away from Paige. I think the biggest problem with Paige's weekly exploits is that each of them seem to emphasize how uneven she's become. At least her early episodes in Season Four are mostly consistent; you could really get to know her. Here she goes from peace-maker, to busybody, to activist, to floozy to a whole host of other things and it’s hard to get a read on who she is anymore, which is a huge disappointment.

It goes without saying that there are very few great episodes, this season. 'Love's a Witch' is one of them, as is the two-part season finale 'It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World'. The idea of dual realities is something that’s done a lot on other high concept shows, and it's explored in a fun and creative way, in this double lenghth episode. It also gives a choppy and dissatisfying season a remarkably poignant ending, with future Chris' death, and the birth of baby Chris. 'Forget Me... Not' is another highlight that has a lot of fun with a broken timeline, and it also features a cool little mystery that drives the hour to a crazy witch/dragon showdown.

Me, a sucker for punishment, re-watching Season Six.
Rare highlights aside, this season is a total mess. 'Witchstock' is a crock of an episode, where a wasted trip to the 60's feels like more of a chance to poke fun at the visuals of that era more than anything else. It's also completely devoid of any of the emotional resonance of 'That 70's Episode' back in Season One. 'Crimes and Witch Demeanours’ is a dull clip-show, that makes a half-hearted attempt to make amends for the girls' abuse of Daryl, who is at this point a walking, talking plot device. 'Prince Charmed' takes the cake, though (literally). It’s an abhorrent hour that features Phoebe and Paige acting like brain-dead bimbos, while Piper makes some really questionable choices about her love life and role as a single mother. It culminates in an embarrassing food fight that is hard to watch, not just because its an awfully written scene, but because it's hard to see three characters who were once so admirable acting like this. I feel so bad for Holly. She deserves so much better than this sub-par material.

Potions and Notions

The Cleaners pop up this season. Their job is to clean up whenever magic is exposed. Where were they when Prue and Piper were exposed on live TV in 'All Hell Breaks Loose'?

There's a weird separation story line that plays out mid-season when Phoebe and Paige decide to leave with their respective beaus. It wraps up without much fanfare when Phoebe splits from Jason, and Paige leaves Richard.

Spells and Chants

Piper: "Okay, neurotic people, can we get back to my neurosis right now, please?"

Piper: "Come to me and be seduced, I have a girl to introduce. Fall for her, you can't resist her, Trust me, mister, she's my sister."

Chris: "I'm Piper and Leo's son."
Paige: "What?"
Chris: "They're my parents. I came back to save my family."
Paige:"You're serious."
Chris: "Yeah. Only now I've gotta save myself. Because if my mom doesn't get pregnant in the next month, there is no me."
Paige: "This is all so wrong!"
I'm right there with you, Paige.

Best Episode: It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World.

Honorable Mentions: Forget Me... Not, Love's a Witch, I Dream of Phoebe.

Worst Episode: Prince Charmed.

It's a shame that the decision to return to a big bad formula is destroyed by clumsy plotting and hack dialogue. At least Chris' death gives the series the chance to move on from this mess next season and try something new.

4 out of 10 Valkyries.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I found Chris less annoying than spoiler person who appears in s8. Much less so in fact. But I crushed on Chris so..
Still this was a weak season. I love your writeups and look forward to the next.
mazephoenix

Panda said...

Honestly hated Chris more than said person but I never crushed on him so maybe that would have helped lol :)