Charmed (2018): Sweet Tooth

“As often as magic is the solution to a problem, it can also be the cause.”

Like last week’s episode, ‘Sweet Tooth’ is hindered by attempts to keep the sisters in the dark, while the audience watch on in frustration. Though those narrative constraints are intentionally overt rather than thinly veiled in this instance, the episode lacks any kind of mystery to keep those watching in suspense; we know from the get-go who’s been murdering borderline offensive stereotypes around the Hillowne campus. In a lot of cases this kind of narrative can work wonders (take Cole's role in the OG version, for instance), but the weaker links in this episode make it feel misused.

The writers use the hunt for the “Harbinger of Hell” to cut through the tension that’s becoming more and more noticeable between Mel and Harry, and to test the boundaries of the new sibling dynamic between busybody Maggie and the more reserved Macy. The results of these character beats are mostly fun, though they still feel dripped in an almost juvenile interpretation of who these ladies are, and how they should be reacting to these kinds of situations.

As we discovered last week, Angela Wu was chosen by the Harbinger as its vessel. I’m guessing that choice wasn’t random, and she was prepared for this in some way by Professor Thaine/Taydeus when she was initially attacked. Naturally, the Charmed Ones are in the dark about this discovery, so their attempts to figure out who is hosting the demon lack a huge amount of urgency. I did enjoy the hilarity of Angela’s body slowly revealing the possession amidst the Halloween hijinks around campus, though at times it felt like the issues prevalent in the pilot were still in effect, dampening the terrifying aspects of a demonic possession by opting for a sillier approach a little too often.

The script this week focuses more on the personal pitfalls of a demon hunting life, predominantly with Mel, who is finding it the hardest to hide her secret from the human world. What’s so interesting about this plot is that Mel, who you would expect has had to deal with hiding a big secret for a long time given her sexuality, finds it the most difficult. As Mel explains to Harry, thanks to her mother’s acceptance she never had to hide in the closet. She was always free to be who she was, completely uninhibited. It’s a surprising fact to learn, and something that would obviously make it very hard for her to be experiencing something like this now.

Those struggles are definitely relatable, but Mel remains a largely unlikable character. She’s also still the brashest of her sisters, barely sparing a thought for Macy and Maggie’s well-being when she risks their lives to stop the Harbinger, even though she had already seen how choosing the spell she used could have had drastic consequences. She learns her lesson, though it’s frustrating that it took Macy getting a blow to the head for Mel to get to some kind of epiphany. It’s almost as if the writers have a list of the basic traits of an angry impassioned woman, and do their best to tick as many off as they can each week.

Mel’s behavior did earn her the chance to put a tiny crack in Harry’s armor, though. He’s been pretty one-note so far, but for the first time we finally learn about his life before the Veras, and a previous charge named Fiona who wanted to tell someone her secret but ended up getting committed. There’s still a long way to go before he can be a character in his own right, but it’s a fine start, and Rupert Evans remains a lot of fun on screen.

While Mel and Harry butt heads, Macy and Maggie face a different conflict of interests. As Maggie does her best to help Macy get closer to Galvin, the eldest sibling makes her aversion to such a breach of personal space known immediately. Maggie’s behavior is a little invasive for sure, but her heart is clearly in the right place. Just as Mel learns more about Harry, Maggie learns more about her new sister, who spent her formative years in a boarding school, conforming to an identity to make it easier for her to get by in a predominantly white environment. The subject of race is handled with surprising poignancy, devoid of the belligerent politics that were so unavoidable in the pilot.

The episode goes a step further later on, revealing the eldest sibling as a virgin. It’s ok, though, as Mel made it clear “the concept of virginity is really just a tool of the patriarchy to control our sexuality.” I’m not certain how I feel about this revelation just yet, but Macy is one of the most appealing characters, and this just makes me want to know her better.

Plus

I enjoyed Maggie having fun with the conjuring spell. Of course, personal gain came to bite her in the ass, but those lessons were usually fun ones to learn when the Halliwells were new to the craft, so I’d like to see more of that in this version.

The girls stop the Harbinger, but Angela Wu is still possessed and chained up in the attic.

The loser who got in Mel’s face during the Me Too protests is one of the Harbinger’s victims.

Maggie met a nice guy in the diner that she works in, but it turns out he’s her potential sorority sister’s boyfriend. I think Maggie can do better than a guy who flirts while in a relationship, but I don’t think that’s the last we’ll see of him.

Galvin is dull as mud. I hope he ends up being evil just so he has something better to do.

The Elders are described as a council of old witches, which is a change from the OG version of the show where they were essentially angels.

He Said, She Said

Maggie: “I’m pretty sure Martha Stewart is a witch.”

Harry: “When magic is used for personal gain, say, to wallow in the superficiality of the Greek system, or to live your "best life" on the Snapchat, I can assure you there will be personal consequences.”
I really wish Harry would stop with the social media references. We get it, the show is set in 2018.

Mel: “Our mom raised us without judgments. She knew I was gay before I even figured it out, and she made sure I was always proud of who I was. So I have never been in the closet. I've never had to hide who I am from the people I love. It was the biggest gift she gave me. And now, here I am, in the closet.”

So far, Charmed 2.0 isn’t fully utilizing the potential that is so clearly within its grasp. The scripts remain slightly stiff, characters like Mel are mostly hard to take, and the demon drama isn’t taking off in the way that it did back in 1998. There are little moments that are making this journey fun, but I’m not sure they’re enough to keep this ship afloat.

5 out of 10 Halloween cookies.

6 comments:

TJ said...

Great review Panda!:-)

I'm still struggling, but I am with you that this was a 5/10.

Panda said...

Thanks, yeah it’s a bit of a struggle, but it isn’t without it’s better moments. I’ll give it as long as I can before giving up. There’s still potential.

TJ said...

Remember, Panda, we have a 10-episode-deal :-)

Panda said...

Haven’t forgotten ;)

Anonymous said...

I mostly enjoyed this episode though I also think your rating is about right. There is definitely potential here and I'm hopeful, especially after this episode, that they'll be making good on at least some of that. There's movement in the narrative and character development as well, even if it was handled clumsily, and by episode's end, it seemed like the show had finally moved past some of Mel's most annoying traits (at the very least her hostility and unwillingness to listen to Harry just because he's a "white cis male") and gained some depth/growth for all of the main characters. With an improved team dynamic, I'm looking forward to a better focus on showcasing the characters' strengths instead of their weaknesses and perhaps that will make the demon-fighting more compelling to watch.

At this point, I like the characters enough (with the exception of Mel who I hope doesn't forget her development in the next episode) and see enough potential in the show that I think I'm in for the whole season, whatever rough waters may be ahead writing-wise.

Some things:

- It's not just Galvin who's dull, it's Niko too (though she's certainly more adorable and has a little more chemistry with her partner). And Maggie can absolutely do better than Smirk-Face.

- Crossing my fingers that the writers learn how to write the politics and pop culture references better. It's as cringe-inducing in this episode as it was in the utterly groan-worthy pilot.

- Magic shouldn't be the solution to everything so I like that the Personal Gain rule has made an appearance. It's a better implementation of it than in the OG series where the rule was either ignored entirely or too puritanical. Commensurate consequences FTW.

- The SFX is getting better (i.e., more magical-looking) but Melonie Diaz CANNOT sell the time-stopping. It's like she's constantly out of sync with the initiation of the effect. Also, they need to do something about Harry's healing effect - - it always looks like he's just got a flashlight in his sleeve.


- Witches as Elders. I'm interested in that.


Really good review, BTW!


-Nic

Panda said...

Really great points, Nic! Agreed on Mel, I hope they improve her over the next while.